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PEAS AND PARROTS – Why we feed cooked mixes

By Bronwyn Fulton and
Walter Scharlach from Avi-Products.

Peas for parrots

The question of feeding raw or cooked cooking mixes has come under question at recent club meetings. We felt that this warranted a comprehensive article to inform you all on the inherent dangers of feeding raw peas to parrots.

There are a few basic principles of nutrition that need to be understood before we proceed. Any food taken in by the bird needs to undergo the process of digestion and absorption in order for the nutrients in that food to supply the body with life support (energy, tissue building, egg production).

* Digestion is the process where large food particles are broken down by enzymes in the digestive tract
into small particles.
* Absorption is when these small particles are absorbed into the body’s cells.

Peas are a rich source of protein/ amino acids and have a good potential nutritional value. Hence their use in almost all cooking mixes. They do however contain various anti-nutritional factors (ANF’S) which interfere with digestive processes. The major ANF’s are trypsin inhibitors and, although levels are 5 – 20 times lower than in raw soya beans, these amounts are significant and are responsible for reduced protein digestibility by inhibiting or interfering with the functioning of specific digestive enzymes. The levels of ANF’s are also highly variable and it has been shown that the ANF’s of wintertypes was twice that of those sown in spring and that smooth peas had higher ANF’s than wrinkled-seeded varieties.

Parrot eating peas

The presence of ANF’s results in food not being broken into particles and therefore not being totally absorbed. The heating and cooking process actually destroys these ANF’s, as well as breaking down particles in the food, and in so doing, starting the digestion process before the food is even eaten. It is also important to realize that these ANF’s will not be destroyed by soaking but only by cooking. Mild processing is adequate to destroy ANF’s, in practice bring your cooking mix to boiling temperature, boil for 5 minutes, then allow to cool before feeding.

One then asks the question: How much does such a small part of my bird’s diet affect the overall performance of my aviary?

The answer lies in the fact that the reproductive process, i.e. egg formation, fertilization, healthy embryo’s and ultimately the production of healthy weaned chicks, is dependant on a number of factors and the probability of a favorable outcome is determined by multiplicative effect of these factors. This is best illustrated by the following example: (see table below)


Feed x Physical environment x Bacterial environment = Weaned, healthy chick

If we give each factor a score, where 1 is perfect, then we have the following under perfect conditions: 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 or as a percent: 100% weaned, healthy chicks

Realistically nothing is perfect, so try this:0.9×0.9×0.9=0.729or73% weaned, healthy chicks

Now reduce feed quality due to the presence of ANF’s: 0.5 x 0.9 x 0.9 = 0.405 or 40% weaned, healthy chicks

Production of only 40% is not what most are aiming for! And this can happen with only one, relatively small mistake. In short, we need to get as much right, as often as we can, to have a productive aviary.

Species differences in birds are sometimes not all that important, at other times these differences are critical. For example, racing pigeons are often or routinely fed raw soaked cooking mixes. As already discussed, this is not advisable in parrots, especially when it comes to the sensitive parrot baby! The reason for this is the production of crop milk in pigeons. This crop milk serves a similar function to mammary milk in mammals in that it supplies the baby pigeon with protein and fat over and above the other food that the baby pigeon is taking in. Baby parrots do not have this luxury. Their diet consists of regurgitated adult food, and they have to do all the processing of that food on their own.

The bottom line really is this: Parrots and raw cooking mix DO NOT go well together, and in the interests of producing strong, healthy baby birds, that will go on to produce healthy chicks of their own, your cooking mix should be boiled prior to feeding, or you need to use a precooked, rolled and roasted cooking mix. Literally, what you put in is what you get out!

parrot food

Klasing, Kirk C. Comparative Avian Nutrition

Al-Marzooqi, W; Wiseman, J. Effect of extrusion under controlled temperature and moisture conditions on ideal apparent amino acid and starch digestibility in peas determined with young broilers

Brenes, A; Rotter, B.A; Marquanrdt, R R; Guenter,
W. The nutritional value of raw, autoclaved and de-hulled peas in poultry diets as affected by enzyme supplementation

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