Essential Parakeet Diet and Food: What To Feed A Budgie (Parakeet)

Updated on June 30, 2015
Sunny, my lutino budgie, with a millet spray
Sunny, my lutino budgie, with a millet spray | Source

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.

A typical seed mixture has several types of seeds blended together with some artificial food coloring added as well.
A typical seed mixture has several types of seeds blended together with some artificial food coloring added as well. | Source
The nutrition label for the seed pictured above. Some vitamins are added into the pellets that are mixed within the seeds.
The nutrition label for the seed pictured above. Some vitamins are added into the pellets that are mixed within the seeds. | Source
Millet spray, a favorite treat for parakeets. Give in moderation (only 1-2 inches a day)
Millet spray, a favorite treat for parakeets. Give in moderation (only 1-2 inches a day) | Source

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. Which 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

Parakeet pellets
Parakeet pellets | Source

Pellets

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

Week
Mixture
1
5 part seed 1 part pellet
2
4 part seed 2 part pellet
3
half seed/half pellet
4
2 part seed 4 part pellet
5
1 part seed 5 part pellet
6
Use pellets only
How to gradually introduce pellets into a parakeet's diet
Offer fruits and vegetables along with a parakeet's normal seed/pellet diet.
Offer fruits and vegetables along with a parakeet's normal seed/pellet diet. | Source

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.

Some fruits that can be fed to a parakeet
Some fruits that can be fed to a parakeet | Source

Fruits For A Parakeet

  • Bananna - high in potassium
  • Grapefruit - high in vitamin A
  • Mango - high in vitamin A
  • Apricot
  • Watermelon
  • Peach
  • Apple
  • Grapes
  • 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.

Some vegetables that can be fed to a parakeet
Some vegetables that can be fed to a parakeet | Source

Vegetables For A Parakeet

  • Tomato - high in vitamin A
  • Cucumber
  • Carrot - very high in vitamin A
  • Parsley - give in moderation
  • Kale
  • Spinach - high in antioxidants
  • Broccoli - high in potassium
  • Cabbage
  • Peas - high in potassium
  • Chili peppers - see note at bottom*
  • Squash
  • Beans - such as kidney, lima, soy, chic peas, lentils
  • Zucchini
  • Lettuce - do not give iceberg lettuce, dark greens only
  • Asparagus
  • 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.

Parakeets can eat a variety of nuts. They can be ground or chopped up finely and added to a parakeet's seed/pellet mix
Parakeets can eat a variety of nuts. They can be ground or chopped up finely and added to a parakeet's seed/pellet mix | Source

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
  • Cashew
  • Hazelnut
  • Walnut
  • Pecan
  • Macadamia
  • 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.

Millet and flavored seed blocks for parakeets
Millet and flavored seed blocks for parakeets | Source

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. More on easily training your parakeet here: Finger Training a Parakeet


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Grass seeds make a natural and tasty treat when there is nothing else around.Cuttlefish bones can be purchased in pet stores or can sometimes be found washed up on shores, although the latter needs to be prepared before being served to a birdMineral blocks can be purchased in pet stores and often come in fun shapes to make them more appealing to parakeets.Oatgrass can be grown from seeds into a small pot and be given as a treat
Grass seeds make a natural and tasty treat when there is nothing else around.
Grass seeds make a natural and tasty treat when there is nothing else around.
Cuttlefish bones can be purchased in pet stores or can sometimes be found washed up on shores, although the latter needs to be prepared before being served to a bird
Cuttlefish bones can be purchased in pet stores or can sometimes be found washed up on shores, although the latter needs to be prepared before being served to a bird
Mineral blocks can be purchased in pet stores and often come in fun shapes to make them more appealing to parakeets.
Mineral blocks can be purchased in pet stores and often come in fun shapes to make them more appealing to parakeets. | Source
Oatgrass can be grown from seeds into a small pot and be given as a treat
Oatgrass can be grown from seeds into a small pot and be given as a treat | Source

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:

  • Avacado
  • 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:

  • Azalea
  • Poinsettia
  • Parsley
  • Lilies
  • Tulip
  • English Ivy
  • Daffodil

Four well-behaved budgies :)
Four well-behaved budgies :) | Source

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Laura Writes

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Michelle 

        4 weeks ago

        Thank you so much! I'm thinking about getting a parakeet and want to know the best pellets to feed are? I've had a few other birds but sadly had to give them new homes, because of moving problems. If you would list the best brand/type of pellets to feed that would be great, thank you!

      • profile image

        Vijay 

        2 months ago

        Thank you sooo much

      • profile image

        sonya 

        2 years ago

        I've had my bird since August and the still act scared is this normal

      • profile image

        Lucy M 

        2 years ago

        We had a cockatiel live to 33 years and she ate baked chicken and tuna as well as her regular food. Don't birds need protein?

      • profile image

        sakinah 

        3 years ago

        I enjoyed reading your hub. I grew up with parakeets myself. The article was very thorough and easy to rrad.

      • Elsie Hagley profile image

        Elsie Hagley 

        3 years ago from New Zealand

        Love Budgies (that is what they are called in New Zealand).

        My parents had hundreds of them in a bird aviary, they used to breed them, also showed them at bird shows, and won many ribbons and cups.

        They also had one called Peter, my father taught him to talk and he was good, I could understand every word he said.

        Sad they were all sold when my parents died.

        Thanks for the memories.

        Congratulations for HOTD.

      • Londonlady profile imageAUTHOR

        Laura Writes 

        3 years ago

        It doesn't have a flavor to them so as to whether they like it, they probably don't care. They definitely don't "need" the artificial coloring, it's added just to make the product look nice just like a black color is added to Pepsi to give it a classic color, but consistency wise the pellets are the same nutrition wise.

      • poetryman6969 profile image

        poetryman6969 

        3 years ago

        Do parrots like or need that artificial coloring?

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 

        3 years ago from Germany and Philippines

        That is a beautiful bird. Congratulations on the HOTD! Thanks for sharing this very interesting and informative hub. Well done!

      • VirginiaLynne profile image

        Virginia Kearney 

        3 years ago from United States

        Terrific advice. We love having parakeets at our house. We haven't had a lot of success in getting them to eat fruits and vegetables but you are giving me motivation to try again.

      • Londonlady profile imageAUTHOR

        Laura Writes 

        3 years ago

        Thank you, they are very fun birds to own, super cute and always cheerful.

      • Londonlady profile imageAUTHOR

        Laura Writes 

        3 years ago

        Thank you! And yeah hopefully it provides ideas for some variety for the little budgies.

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        3 years ago from sunny Florida

        This is so thorough. I had parakeets as a child and we did feed them a variety of foods. My Momma saw to that.

        At present the only birds I have are the many in my yard but if I do purchase another Budgie I will refer to your article.

        Congrats on HOTD.

        Voted up++++

        Angels are headed your way this afternoon ps

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Great hub, Londonlady. This is so helpful and useful to all parakeet owners. Congrats on HOTD and voted up!

      • florypaula profile image

        Paula 

        3 years ago

        My aunt had a couple of parakeets. I used to love visiting them just to be able to watch the sweet little birds. They are so beautiful. I never new they need so much attention in choosing their food

      • Suzanne Day profile image

        Suzanne Day 

        5 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

        Useful hub, voted up! I particularly liked the full list of fruits and vegetables for parakeets, which was very helpful.

      • lindajot profile image

        lindajot 

        5 years ago from Willamette Valley - Oregon

        Great article with important information. It is amazing how many bird owners don't know the best diet for their bird - thank you for sharing!

      • Londonlady profile imageAUTHOR

        Laura Writes 

        5 years ago

        No problem, I hope you found some easy foods to give them from this article. Especially when you have leftover salad or anything like that, they could definitely eat it. Grass seeds are also really tasty

      • CraftytotheCore profile image

        CraftytotheCore 

        5 years ago

        I have three parakeets. I got them seven years ago! We feed them a parakeet food from the pet store, along with millet and cuttlebone. I had no idea they could eat all of the food you provided in here. Especially the grass seed! That's so interesting. Thank you for the tips.

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