I first learnt about chop through the Parrot’s Pantry on Facebook some time ago, and again, later, through Parrot Nation. I’d experimented a little with making it by hand, without much luck. Then my parrots came home from quarantine, and magic – that food processor made all the difference.
My success in getting them to eat it involved four major factors:
- Tasting it in front of them
- Placing it beneath a UV lamp (so they could see the colour)
- Serving it at a time when they were hungry – which happened to be at dinner, after having removed their lunch bowls
Chop is a healthy food for parrots, and should (between pellets and other fresh foods) make up the majority of the diet for most species. My super picky parrots will gladly tuck into a bowl. It’s freezable – you can store it bagged up or divvied into ice cube trays for several months in your freezer. Each day as you need some, simply take out a portion and thaw overnight. Heat it for eight seconds or so in the microwave before serving, and there you have it. Fresh food on the go. Just be sure to check how warm it is before serving!
I judge the success of a meal by two factors: How quiet the birds go, and whether they watch me as I work in their cages or move about the room. Really, really good meals mean they don’t look up at all.
TIP: Instead of adding all the ingredients, I like to make a chop ‘base,’ which I freeze or store on its own. My base involves maybe 8/12 of the ingredients I intend to add (I’ll give you an example recipe below). As the days go on, I can individually dice, slice, or mash different ingredients in, spicing it up and adding a little variety.
My flock are like most birds – they don’t enjoy eating the same thing too many times in a row, and will refuse it entirely if I dare offer a food too often. By leaving out some of the ingredients and adding new things in fresh, daily, I make sure the chop stays exciting to them.
Chop for parrots is a concept, which is what makes it so brilliant – but also intimidating for those who have never tried it before. There are no set recipes. Just ideas. As with a grain bake, you can customise it so your parrot gets whatever it needs or likes most at the time. Vitamin A deficient? Add some pumpkin or baked sweet potatoes. Does your parrot hate, broccoli, and red pepper, etc.? Mix those ingredients in with some of his or her favourites, and some will end up getting eaten.
What goes into chop for parrots? Answer: Just about any bird-safe food that can be ground up in a food processor. I store it unfrozen in the fridge for up to four days.
TIP: Fruits and watery vegetables (such as zucchini or cucumber) are not ideal for freezing. They can make your chop watery when you thaw. These are the kinds of things I like to leave out of my ‘base’ and add in later. Some also recommend cutting these by hand and adding them to your freezable mixture, so that it doesn’t water it down. Keep it dry!
Here are the ingredients I used in today’s big (1 gallon) batch of chop. Call it a recipe, if you will:
- Swiss Chard
- Dandelion greens
- Red Lettuce
- 1 cup fresh sprouts
- 1/2 red pepper
- 3 small sweet potatoes, baked
- 1/2 green pepper
- 5 orange and yellow mini bell peppers
- 3 Carrots
- Half a jalapeño pepper – including seeds
- Half an apple, cored
- 1/4 Butternut squash, baked
- Handful of sugar snap peas
- 3 tsp Hemp seed
- 3 tsp Flax seed
- 1/2 cup boiled quinoa
- Handful of oatmeal
That was my base. I chucked in some of everything – a lot of people add in tons of fruits and vegetables, a ‘whatever is in the fridge and pantry’ kind of deal to use up ingredients. As each day goes by, I add one or two extra ingredients to the individual bowls. For example, day 1: Diced strawberry. Day 2: Lemon slices and blackberry. Day 3: Hard-boiled egg. Day 4: Yellow squash. Day 5: Chopped zucchini and a spice.
Many days, I’ll add in a different spices to the individual bowls (not the whole batch). I’ve been known to use cinnamon, small amounts of mint, basil, or hot pepper flakes, for example, to make the meal taste entirely different to the previous serving.
TIP: I mix hemp seed into the chop to get my parrotlet to try it, as it is healthy (in moderation) and he loves it. As the days pass, I lessen the amount of shelled hemp going in, but still leave the tiniest bit on top and mixed throughout. As he tries to pick it out, he ends up eating more than he plans. Eventually, this has resulted in him just eating the chop! You can do this with any favourite food.
Whip up a batch of chop tonight using whatever parrot safe foods are in the house. As a guideline, the following foods and herbs are off-limits and to be AVOIDED:
- Alcohol, caffeine, or soda
- Sugar and salt
- Fatty and/or processed foods
- Raw onion and garlic
- Fruit pits and seeds (apple, peach, pear, apricot, cherry, plum, etc.)
- Raw honey
To be used sparingly – the following foods are okay in moderation, but many people choose not to feed these:
- Small amounts of cooked onion or garlic (really small!)
If you’re stuck on what to put into your first batch of chop, you can get a few ideas below.Think about colour. Green and red and yellow and orange – this makes a meal interesting. What do you like to cook with, eat, or feed yourself? Choose some green veggies, some orange, some yellow. There is no limit to what can go into your chop.
- Kale, spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, cilantro, bok choy, red lettuce, watercress, collard greens, radish and radish tops, carrot tops, endive, beets and beet tops, turnip, parsnip, rutabaga, Romaine, Swiss Chard, zucchini, winter, summer, yellow, or butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, sprouts, bell peppers, hot peppers, grains like quinoa, barley, oatmeal, and wild rice, cooked beans, whole-grain cooked pasta, fruits like apple or pear, etc., etc.