The Best Diet and Food for Parakeets: What to Feed a Budgie
The Basic Parakeet Diet
Parakeets are relatively easy to feed. They are curious birds that are generally willing to try out most treats you present to them. Most owners prefer to purchase seed that is already mixed at pet supply stores; however, a seed diet alone does not provide a parakeet with all the essential nutrients it needs.
The good news is that the rest of the nutrients your budgie needs can already be found in simple foods around your home. You may be surprised at how many "human" foods are safe and recommended for parakeets.
Types of Seeds
There are a variety of parakeet seed blends for sale at local pet stores, and generally one is not better than another. Seeds tend to be low on certain amino acids, vitamins and minerals which parakeets need. This is why a purely seed diet is not recommended as it can deprive the parakeet of nutrients.
In addition, parakeets that live a sedentary lifestyle and are placed on a seed diet alone may have excessive fat deposits, which can have the same consequences to the bird as on a human. This is because seeds are relatively high in fat and to an inactive bird, this is bad news. Do not purchase seeds that are not labeled "for parakeets" or "small/medium birds". For example, seeds that can be placed in a bird feeder outside for birds in the wild will have an even higher concentration of fat than parakeet seeds because the birds in the wild use a lot of energy just flying around. You should not feed this type of seed to a less active parakeet.
Below are some common types of seeds which are found in parakeet blends or which can be purchased and mixed separately:
- Safflower: ideal for any small parrot
- Groats: ideal for any small parrot
- White sunflower: given in moderation
- Striped sunflower: common in many small/medium parrot mixes
- Canary seed: suitable for budgies as well
- Millet spray: a favorite treat for budgies
Pellets are designed to mimic seeds, and are often mixed into seed diets to provide the nutrients that the seed alone does not. They may contain several vitamins and minerals the bird needs which is great!
The bad news is that parakeets which are not trained to accept this type of food will generally not eat it even if it is mixed within the seed and the purpose of the pellets is lost. Monitor your parakeet if you can, to see if it eats the pellets or just drops them to the cage floor as most often do.
The best way to integrate pellets into a parakeet's diet is to do so gradually. Most parakeets will reject the pellets entirely if they are switched abruptly from a seed to a pellet diet. Grab six zip-lock baggies (one for each week) and refer to the table below on how to gradually mix and introduce the food to your parakeets. You can stop at 3 weeks and feed your budgie a half seed half pellet diet which will still provide variety but with the added benefits of pellets.
If your budgie needs a stricter diet (e.g. budgies that are bred for shows) then continue on to the 6th week until the budgerigar is on a pellet diet only.
Introducing Pellets Into a Budgerigar's Diet
5 part seed 1 part pellet
4 part seed 2 part pellet
half seed/half pellet
2 part seed 4 part pellet
1 part seed 5 part pellet
Use pellets only
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide natural vitamins and minerals for a parakeet and they also offer the bird a variety of options. Berries such as strawberries and blueberries are very high in antioxidants and as soon as a parakeet gets a taste for the juice of the fruits they will soon begin eating the fruit itself.
Note: Do not feed birds avocado! They contain persin, a toxic and lethal chemical to birds.
Vegetables can be equally as appetizing as the fruits and can (and should) be served with other leafy greens like lettuce (avoid iceberg lettuce since it is sparse in nutrients). Kale or spinach are good to add into a vegetable mix.
However, fruits should not be served to a parakeet every day since they do contain a higher sugar content than vegetables. Two-three times a week should suffice. Vegetables on the other hand, can be given every day along with the bird's regular seed diet. One note to keep in mind is that a budgie's droppings will become more watery when it is fed fruits or vegetables, but do not mistake this for diarrhea.
These should be offered often (every day, if possible) along with the normal seed/pellet mix.
Fruits for a Parakeet
- Bananna - high in potassium
- Grapefruit - high in vitamin A
- Mango - high in vitamin A
- Orange - all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C
- Blueberry - high in antioxidants, may stain droppings
- Blackberry - high in antioxidants, may stain droppings
- Papaya - high in vitamin A
- Cantaloupe - high in vitamin A
- Strawberry - high in antioxidants, give in moderation
- Passion fruit
- Cherry/Sour cherry - may stain droppings red, but this is normal
This is not a complete list, but it does contain the more common fruits that are likely to be found around the house. Generally all fruits are safe for parakeets when given in moderation with the exception of avocado.
Also, remember that if a parakeet refuses the food once, does not mean they will refuse it always. Try presenting the food in a different form next time. Chop it up more finely or mix it in with seed and other fruits all at once.
Vegetables for a Parakeet
- Tomato - high in vitamin A
- Carrot - very high in vitamin A
- Parsley - give in moderation
- Spinach - high in antioxidants
- Broccoli - high in potassium
- Peas - high in potassium
- Chili peppers - see note at bottom*
- Beans - such as kidney, lima, soy, chic peas, lentils
- Lettuce - do not give iceberg lettuce, dark greens only
- Beans - break the pod halfway and let your budgies pick at them
Just as the fruits list, this is not a complete list but they are more common vegetables. Do not give parakeets vegetables from a can, these are often stripped of nutrients and contain preservatives and additives in the juices which may be harmful to a bird.
One way to introduce vegetables to a budgie is to steam or boil them. For example, carrots can be boiled, and cut into tiny pieces. This can be topped with some leafy greens and some millet spray to tempt the birds to pick at the treat.
*Budgies can safely be fed hot chili peppers because the VR1 receptors, which are responsible for detecting a hot/spicy food, in their mouths do not "respond" to the hot/spicy taste like our VR1 receptors, so they do not taste the chili pepper the same way we do.
What Nuts Can Parakeets Eat?
Parakeets can eat quite a few types of nuts. They are nutritious but also high in fat, so make sure to give sparingly; two-three times a week is enough. Just remember to never feed your parakeet slated, or otherwise flavored nuts, and stay away from any "Party-mix" varieties which almost always come roasted and salted.
Nuts Suitable for Parakeets
- Almond - avoid the roasted variety
- Peanut - take them out of the shells first, or wash and inspect the shell to ensure there is no mold growing
- Pistachios - the same as with peanuts, if they are in their shells, wash and inspect the shell first
If you find your parakeets are not eating the nuts as is, then you can crush a few and mix them in with their regular pellet/seed diet. If you chop up all their fruits and vegetables into a mix, then you can also add chopped nuts into the mix as well.
Other Types of Treats
Parakeet treats can be purchased at any pet supply stores and even at most large commercial stores. Your parakeet will probably enjoy store bought treats and be more willing to accept seed-type treats rather than a healthier fruit/vegetables alternative. Because of this, treats need to be given sparingly. Just as with any balanced diet, "snacks" should be only a small portion. You can also use treats as rewards if you are trying to train your parakeet. There's more information on easily training your parakeet here: Finger Training a Parakeet.
Treats and Snacks for a Parakeet
- Millet spray - can be fattening, give no more than 2 inches per day
- Flavored Seed Sticks - sold in most pet stores
- Cuttlebone - (also, cuttlefish bone) a natural calcium block, helps to trim a bird's beak
- Mineral block - a source of minerals that also helps to trim a bird's beak
- Grass seeds - you can find these in any field of flowers or even in your back yard. This can be given often
- Oat grass - you can grow your own!
A Healthy Mix for Any Bird
Toxic Foods to Avoid in a Parakeet Diet
Some foods that are safe for humans are harmful to parakeets, make sure NOT to feed your parakeet any of the following foods:
- Onions and Garlic (harms their red blood cells)
- Tomato leaves
- Rhubarb or potato plants (contain solanine which is lethal)
- Caffeine containing foods: coffee, tea, chocolate
Some common household plants known to be toxic to parakeets:
- English Ivy
Setting Up a Bird Cage
- How To Set Up A Bird Cage For A Parakeet or Cockatie...
This set-up method is fast, easy, and foolproof for any bird. Make your birds feel at home with a quick and easy tutorial on how to set up a bird cage for parakeets, cockatiels, or other small birds.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2013 Laura Writes