Living in Las Vegas on Less Than $2 a Week

Madeleine Franco


The first parrot of my adulthood was a previously loved Eleanora Cockatoo named Tommy, who is still an integral part of my flock. Having worked mostly with waterfowl, and not having owned a psittacine for more than 30 years, I was more than a little rusty on the specific dietary needs of parrots. So, I asked a local bird store owner who was worlds more experienced than I, "What is the best thing to start feeding my cockatoo?" She looked at me quite intently and gave menow that I think about it-probably the best advice one can

give anyone starting out with a bird more experienced than its keeper, "Well, first, I'd feed him something he'll actually eat."

The point was that as much as we have tried to make it soand for as many years as nutritionists have analyzed it-feeding a pet parrot is not an exact science. Parrots are, after all, opportunistic feeders and, like humans, they can readily form bad eating habits if appropriate foods are not offered. However, if a familiar food is not offered when trying to correct a diet, a bird can literally starve himself to death. I left the store with several samples of pellets and seed mixes and many suggestions. That was approximately 13 years and 29 birds ago, and now Tommy eats just about everything, as do most of the other members of my flock. It doesn't cost a fortune to feed them, but it does require some creativity and a bit of consumer opportunism to provide appropriate nutrition and to avoid expensive waste.

Now, it has been said that you are what you eat, and I like to keep it interesting. There is not a thing in my birds' diet that I haven't personally tasted, and that includes the pellets, seeds, and even the parrot biscuits, and I try to balance colors and tastes. Pellets alternated from various manufacturers (again, to keep things eclectic) are always available and seed is replenished every other day. However, the macaws get nuts, Nature's original foraging toy, daily. I feed other feature items, including birdy "fried" rice, sweet potato French toast (see recipe for Zoe's Favorite Sweet Potato French Toast at www.premiumpinecones. net/articles.html) and muffins, approximately once a week.

I buy in bulk, though certainly not institutional bulk ... typically 600 pounds of seed mix at a time. The last time I bought was in early May and I'll purchase again in late October/early November; large freezers are key. My own deluxe seed mix contains saffiower, sunflower, buckwheat, cubed dried papaya, pineapple and coconut, date pieces, banana chips, dehydrated carrots, pasta, shelled almonds, in-shell pistachios, pine nuts, large pumpkin seeds, star anise and other miscellany. I serve a slightly lighter, somewhat less expensive, mix that seems more appropriate for the hot Las Vegas summers.


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