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Seed for Parrots

The amount of seed a parrot requires varies depending on species. One look at a parrot beak in action will tell you that it has evolved specifically for opening seeds, grains and nuts. Seed will form between 15 and 50% of your pet’s diet.

Mealy Amazon eating
Mealy Amazons enjoy a variety of seed

As with formulated parrot mixes, seed should be organic and (theoretically) fit for human consumption – clean and fresh. Unless you’re already confident of the quality and freshness of your supplier’s seeds or seed mixes, put them to the test by leaving a few sprinkled over soaked cotton wool in a dish. Within a couple of days the seeds will sprout, if they’re fresh. Anything that fails to sprout is old, and most of its nutritional value will have died with it.

Some parrot seed mixes offer a more ‘complete’ ingredient list, mixing the seed with dried fruit and veg. As long as this is high quality and organic, it is a perfectly acceptable option. Your birds will still appreciate fresh food, though, so don’t use these mixes as a substitute for a rounded diet.

If mixing your own seed, use the following as a guideline.

  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Canary
  • Corn (dried)
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp seed
  • Millet (red, yellow, white)
  • Milo
  • Oats (whole)
  • Poppy
  • Pumpkin
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sesame
  • Spelt
  • Sunflower
  • Wheat groats

Sprouting Seed

In the wild, many species of parrot feed on sprouting grains. These contain lots of good nutrition. In the summer and autumn Nature does some of the hard work for you, offering a ready supply of seeding grasses. Otherwise, you can sprout common seed like sunflower and canary at home.

Eclectus parrot food
An Eclectus Parrot beak makes short work of seeds

To get the DIY germination going, rinse a small batch of seeds under a tap in a plastic sieve and then soak in a bowl in fresh cold water for no more than 8 hours. Any longer than this and they will begin to ferment. Rinse the seeds again in a sieve, and then suspend it over the bowl and cover it. Between 24 and 48 hours later the seeds will start to sprout. Rinse them every 8 hours or so to prevent mildew forming. Once sprouted, dry the seeds on a tea towel before giving them to the birds. Never offer them too cold (i.e. from the fridge). The sprouts can range from just-germinated (a favourite of budgerigars, parrotlets and smaller parrots), to ones that have sprouted a little more. This ensures catching all stages of the seed’s various enzymes and goodness. If you offer a batch of sprouted seeds over a three-day period you’ll catch the different stages of sprouting.

(Note: grains, especially oats, are not suitable for this home-sprouting method, as they soon go mouldy. Another one to avoid is flax, which goes slimy as part of the germination process.)

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