Are Human Snack Foods REALLY Bad For Birds?

Camelot macaw

Camelot macaw

Q: I was on another bird site and someone said that potato chips were toxic to birds. I have given chips to my african grey many times and he has never gotten sick. He loves chips and I don’t want to have to take them away from him unless they really are bad for him. Are they safe or not?

-Michelle B., St. Petersburg, FL

A: There is a big difference between something being toxic and being bad for you. If you look up the word toxic, it is defined as something poisonous, so in that regard, potato chips or other humans snacks are not toxic. However, they are far from being good for your parrot either.

Snack foods, by nature, are all about indulgence and play no role at all in delivering nutrition. In fact, many of our snack foods really shouldn’t be called food at all as they are concocted in a laboratory and made from ingredients that we can technically ingest without causing immediate harm. Their excessive use of processed sugars, fats and salts are, instead, slowly killing anyone who eats them regularly. They are something that we supposed to “allow” ourselves only on occasion for a very good reason, but they taste so good that it is hard to deny yourself.

Parrots are not unlike humans in their eating habits. The “wisdom of the wild” that should be evident in every parrot is nowhere to be found when it comes to the eating tendencies of a captive parrot. If you gave most birds the choice between a potato chip and a green bean, they would choose the chip. However, if you offered that choice to a parrot that had never tasted a potato chip, he would naturally be inclined towards the healthy food.

Is a potato chip going to kill your parrot? No…not today. The risk lies in a lifetime of chips – and that process has already begun with your bird.

Some birds who are allowed human snack foods reach a place where they lose interest in their healthy foods and will only accept the better tasting junk food. Every time you give your bird another chip, you are running the risk that this will be the result for your bird and then you will have to do what needs to be done to get him back on track with a proper diet. Indulging your parrot today will definitely not have been worth it if your bird tests positive for fatty liver disease in the future.

If your bird have never tasted a potato chip, or any other human treat, don’t set a precedent by offering it. If you have a bird that is all about the snack foods, our cookbooks include recipes for parrot safe “french fries” and other healthy snacks that are designed to help get your bird off the junk food without them even realizing it: Cooking For Parrots.

Cooking For Parrots

10 comments

Lolita Austin

I got a green cheek conure on Saturday from my neighbor that someone gave her a month ago, I got everything, food, peanuts, and a cage completel with bed, and toys; she know I love birds I have 2 teils and have never owned a conure; whenever I try to touch her cage he/she trys to bite at me, I know NOTHING about conures .I know the bird is not been handled/tame; I keep her in my room away from my cockatiels ; I need help PLEASE, I don’t want to keep him/her in the cage forever, that would be cruel.

Lolita Austin
Susan Crane

There was no mention of salt in this blog. I was under the impression that birds should not be fed salty foods, that they didn’t have a way to excrete salt the way we do. The exceptions are the sea birds like flamingos that have a gland on their face to excrete excess salt. Am I wrong about this? I recently received two cockatoos that needed rehoming and I just found out that their previous owner fed them tostitos as a treat which are pretty salty. They just go wild over them, so they would make a great training aid. I need to know if this is really ok or not. Obviously, it would be just small amounts at a time.

Susan Crane
Felicity Moore

Great article. I think we need to wrap our head around the idea that just because it doesn’t make our birds ‘sick’ (or us for that matter) doesn’t mean that it is not going to slowly poison our birds (or our bodies).

Felicity Moore
Gene Brown

No one has brought up that roughly 90% of the potatoes sold in the US are genetically engineered. Higher than that for corn. That is why we feed our blue front neither. She really likes corn on the cob, but doesn’t get it unless it is certified organic from a source we trust. As for the fry oil, organic coconut or palm for us. Soybean and corn oil are over 95% genetically engineered. We get plenty of glyphosate and insecticide accidentally without eating oils known to contain them. BTW our bird got an eye infection that would not clear up until we eliminated all non organic food from her diet. Thanks Bird Tricks for selling organic pellets.

Gene Brown
Michael and Cookie

Anything like this for us or our parrots and is it bad, depends on how much and how offten. The answer would be, not too much and not too offen. As a treat. I’ve been giving my yellow nape 2 fries once a week for 30 years.. I heard a few years ago that parrots can’t process salt. If I were to stop giving her fries I have to have dinner in the garage because she knows, she smells it and wants her fries. So I brush off the salt, and use a napkin to soak up the grease. Something I should do for myself as well, but don’t. Chips thats not so easy since they’ll just break apart. For chips which I have never given to Cookie, I would consider stopping or cutting back on. They don’t smell like fries do so as long as you don’t eat them in front of your parrot he won’t know. Hopefully. Sill, theres the risk factor, something we have to decide for our parrots. I was told years ago by a vet, they eat what we eat, which is old school today but thats why I started giving Cookie fries. Its not could they eat what we eat, rather should they eat what we eat. Even a dog and get sick eating our food.

Michael and Cookie
Marina

ANY potatoes chips SO BAD for people! How it can be good for birds????

Marina
dan sziber

Thanks for the info

dan sziber
Amanda

Why does it always have to be junk food to taste good? I guess I just don’t get that connection. There are truly good alternatives that taste better and are not junk. What about organic salt free blue corn or kale chips, plantain chips?

Amanda
Yousef

Dood Day I find it difficult to get my bird out of the cage .. note: very approachable outside the cage Bird type Amazon Blue Fronted. Regard

Yousef
Mattie

Cut potato and cook in oven with no oils only way to be safe more f a potato wedge ( no seasoning whatsoever )

Mattie

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published