Safe for Birds?
Do you offer your birds cereal or toddler snacks as treats?
Check the labels!
Many grain products (such as cereal) and toddler snacks (such as rice cakes) are fortified with iron.
And iron is quite dangerous for birds.
Why is Iron Dangerous?
A diet too high in iron can lead to something called iron storage disease which is deadly for birds.
While iron storage disease is more common for mynahs, toucans and lories it can affect other parrots as well.
Excessive consumption of dietary iron, which accumulates in the liver, is the leading cause for this disease.
Genetic predisposition (hence more likely in certain kinds of birds) and physiological mechanisms birds developed to compensate for the lack of iron in the wild may both contribute to the disease as well.
Signs of iron storage disease are decreased activity, loss of balance, loss of interest in food or general weakness. Your vet may request bloodwork along with x-rays (to see if the liver is enlarged) but the condition cannot be definitively diagnosed without a live biopsy.
While there are treatments available they both invasive and are not terribly successful.
Current recommendations is a daily dietary intake of less than 100ppm iron and less than 100 mg/kg of vitamin C, since vitamin C increases the absorption of iron.
Hence citrus, such as oranges, should not be offered regularly to parrots.
Which Treats are Safe?
I only offer cereal or toddler snacks if they meet the following criteria:
1. NO Iron
2. Low in Sugar (if sugar is present it should be natural and no added)
3. Limited Fortified Vitamins (A, C, D &E)
3. No Artificial Colors
While iron is by far the most important thing to check for, birds can overdose on vitamins as well.
Birds eating pellets are their main diet should never be offered vitamin supplements.
More is not better for birds!
My flock adores toddler treats by Happy Baby. Both the organic blueberry & purple carrot wafers and blueberry & beet rice cakes cause happy dancing.
Note that other Happy Baby items, like their superfood munchies, have iron and are fortified heavily with other vitamins.
Any my flock’s favorite cereal is Freedom Foods original goodness cereal.
Personally I found the taste similar to cardboard but my flock loves the cereal! In the Southwest this cereal can be found in Sprouts Supermarket.
There are many safe snacks besides the three I mentioned by name. Just be sure to check the nutrition panel before offering a new treat to your bird!
Please leave a comment below if your flock has a favorite ‘human’ treat!