Parakeets, called budgies in their native Australia, make fantastic winged companions. Cute and colorful, they come in a variety of shades and color combinations and are also friendly and tend to be very vocal. They’ll love to sit on your shoulder and try to steal your food. But you shouldn’t let them eat off your plate!
While parakeets are omnivores that will eat pretty much anything small enough to fit in their beak, if you want them to thrive, you need to feed them a diet of natural foods that are highly nutritious for budgies.
In this complete parakeet feeding guide, we’ll go through exactly what your bird can and can’t eat, and how you should balance their diet for their best possible health.
What To Feed Your Parakeet
Budgies in the wild are omnivores, so they eat pretty much everything and anything. They’ll nibble on seeds and legumes, take bites out of fruits and veggies, gobble up nuts, and even chow down on the occasional insect.
But when they are in your care, you’ll want to feed them a balanced diet based on either seeds or pellets and supplements with nuts, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
For most parakeets, seeds make an excellent base for their diet. Seeds are great because they are rich in fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and omega 3 fatty acids. But while seeds contain lots of the nutrients your bird needs, your budgie won’t thrive on seeds alone.
Seeds can form up to 75% of your parakeet’s diet, though that can also be split with pellets and legumes. Depending on the size of your bird, they will need between 0.5 and 1.5 teaspoons per day.
Parakeets can eat all kinds of seeds, but among the best are millet, sunflower, safflower, canary, and pumpkin seeds.
Some parakeet parents prefer to give their bird pellets instead of seeds, but a better choice is a combination of the two. Pellets look a lot like seeds, but they are actually made from grains.
Pellets are usually formulated with a variety of ingredients to try and round out your budgie’s diet, so they contain small amounts of fruits and vegetables as well as a nutrient supplement.
But the reason it’s not a good idea to feed your parakeet too many pellets is that they don’t stimulate digestion well. If your parakeet just eats pellets, they can end up with liver and kidney problems plus some bad cases of gas.
It’s a better idea to feed your parakeet both seeds and pellets as the core 75% of their diet.
Among the best and most popular formulas for parakeets on the market is ZuPreem Natural Pellets, which is made primarily from ground corn, soybeans, and millet, with lots of fruits and vegetables including celery, carrots, parsley, beets, and blueberries, plus a nutrient supplement including calcium and various vitamins.
Legumes are another food that can be included in that 75% core of your parakeet’s diet. Legumes are great because they are high in fiber, but again, they aren’t complete when it comes to the nutrients your bird needs, so should only form a small portion of their diet.
Among the best lentils for your bird are chickpeas, pinto beans, and split peas. All should be cooked before giving them to your parakeet.
Nuts make a great supplement to your parakeet’s diet since they are high in protein and rich in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids. But they are also high in fat, so your bird shouldn’t have them too often. One or two nuts a week is more than enough.
Parakeets can eat a large variety of nuts including walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, acorns, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, horse chestnuts, and more. Cut them into edible pieces around the same size as the seeds they eat, to avoid a choke hazard.
But just a warning not to give your parakeet peanuts! This is because peanuts, even human food-grade peanuts, are often contaminated with mold. This can result in a toxin that can be lethal to your budgie. Yes, the toxin also isn’t great for you when you eat peanuts, but you’re pretty big by comparison so your body can manage and deal with the toxin. But it can quickly overwhelm your tiny winged friend.
Parakeets tend to enjoy fruit and it often makes a great treat. Fruits also contain many of the vitamins and minerals that your bird needs to thrive. But they shouldn’t eat too much fruit due to the high sugar content. Fruit should be limited to 5-10% of their diet. Make sure you buy organic fruit and wash it thoroughly to ensure that your bird is not also absorbing pesticides.
Among the best fruits for your parakeet are tangerines, apples, bananas, mango, coconut, melons, pineapple, watermelon, blackberries, and peaches. The only fruits they really shouldn’t eat are avocados and tomatoes as both contain compounds that can be toxic to your bird.
Also avoid giving your bird fruits with pits or seeds as these are a choke hazard. But they can still eat these fruits if you remove the seeds and cut them down to size first. The occasional piece of dried fruit won’t hurt them, but it shouldn’t be a diet staple due to their high sugar content.
Parakeets can pretty much munch away on most vegetables with the exception of onions and garlic, which should be avoided by most animals. This is because they contain oxidizing agents that cause oxidative hemolysis of the red blood cells. This basically means that the concentration of oxidants in the blood is too high and becomes toxic.
With that in mind, there are many vegetables parakeets can enjoy. Try to buy organic and wash produce thoroughly to avoid your bird ingesting pesticides. Feed them leafy greens, asparagus, carrots, zucchini, squash, pumpkin, broccoli, beets, bok choy, brussel sprouts, and more.
While it’s healthy for vegetables to form as much as 20% of your parakeet’s diet, take it easy on the leafy greens. This is because their high water content can affect your bird’s digestion, and that can get quite messy.
Vitamins And Minerals
As much as you try to feed your bird a balanced diet, it can be challenging to ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need. They need a good amount of calcium, especially when growing or laying eggs, plus vitamins A, B, C, D, and E. You will probably notice if they are deficient in something because their plumage will look dull and they will show a lack of energy.
You can buy a bird-specific supplement that can be fed to them mixed with water or sprinkled on most foods. One of the most popular on the market is UnRuffledRX FeatherUp! Bird Multivitamin. It contains vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, essential fatty acids, amino acids, and essential minerals including biotin, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and more.
Of course, your parakeet also needs to stay hydrated, and access to clean water is all they require. While you may see caffeine-free bird teas on the market, they don’t really need these. However, they will benefit from drinking filtered or bottled water rather than tap water to avoid consuming excessive chlorine. Again, while your larger body can deal with the amount of chlorine in tap water, the dosage can eventually be lethal for your budgie.
What Not To Feed Your Parakeet
While your parakeet is an omnivore and will probably be more than happy to have a nibble on pretty much anything you offer, that doesn’t mean they should be eating everything. There are a number of foods your bird should avoid because they can be toxic.
While delicious, chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, plus caffeine. Both of these can be harmful to your parakeet even in small doses.
Onions And Garlic
As already mentioned, onions and garlic can elevate the concentration of oxidants in your bird’s blood to toxic levels. This is one of the main reasons why you should never feed your bird human food, because it is very often made with onion, garlic, and other seasonings that can be dangerous for a parakeet.
Avocados contain persin, which is toxic to the heart of most birds. All parts of the fruit, including the skin meat, pit, and leaves, are dangerous for your parakeet. If they eat it, they may become lethargic, collapse, and die quite suddenly.
As already mentioned, peanuts often contain mold, and this mold produces a toxin that can be dangerous to your parakeet even in small amounts.
High Sugar, Sodium, Or Fat
A diet with too much sugar, salt, or fat isn’t good for any species. But small birds like parakeets have a much lower tolerance for these than humans and larger animals, so you need to be extra careful when it comes to watching what they eat.
Xylitol is a sweetener used as a sugar replacement in many human foods. It is toxic to many animals and isn’t great for humans either. But parakeets are small and have a faster metabolism, so even a small amount of the chemical in their system can hit them quickly.
Birds aren’t good at digesting lactose, which is plentiful in dairy products. It can cause diarrhea and dehydration.
Coffee Or Caffeinated Tea
Caffeine increases the heart rate, which gives humans energy but can cause arrhythmias and hyperactivity in birds. In higher doses, it can even cause immediate cardiac arrest.
Comfrey is a leafy herb often used in teas and is even a popular supplement among some bird breeders. But studies have now shown that comfrey can cause liver damage in humans, and the effect can be even more pronounced in your small feathered friend.
Generally speaking, if a mushroom is safe for you, it’s probably safe for your bird, but only if it has been cooked first to eliminate toxins. You should never let them peck at unknown or uncooked mushrooms as it can cause liver failure.
While tomatoes aren’t toxic, they are highly acidic and can irritate your parakeet’s digestive system, so they are best avoided when there are so many other fruits they can eat.
The seeds of apples, pears, cherries, and the like aren’t just choke hazards; they contain cyanide, which can cause fatal toxicity in sufficient doses. If your bird accidentally eats one or two, you probably don’t have to worry, but the seeds should not be part of their diet.
Parakeet Food FAQs
Can you give your parakeet bread?
White grains won’t hurt your parakeet, but they don’t contain much nutritional value for your bird so should not form part of their regular diet. They could occasionally have a piece of whole grain bread if they enjoy it, but bread from sandwich loaves are best avoided as they tend to contain quite a bit of sugar, preservatives, and other things not great for your bird.
How often do parakeets need to eat?
Parakeets have a fast metabolism, so they can start to feel unwell if they go for more than 24 hours without food. It’s fine to keep their seed or pellet dish full so they can eat when they wish, and then feed them additional items such as fruits and vegetables just once a day or every other day. Make sure to rotate the food in their dish as they will just eat whatever is on top.
Feed Your Parakeet Properly
You are what you eat, and the food that you choose to put into your body will make a big difference to the way you feel. The same is true for your parakeet. A balanced diet full of the vitamins and minerals they need will leave them energetic and with brilliant and colorful plumage.
Give them the best possible health by feeding them a varied diet of the foods that you know are healthy options. This means about 75% seeds, pellets and legumes, with 20% vegetables, 10-20% fruit, and a few nuts as treats each week.
Do you love birds? Read how to attract wild birds to your backyard here.