Have you ever ordered an ice cream sundae and the first thing you sampled was the cherry on top? Ever had a martini and it appeared in front of you very dry, shaken, not stirred and containing a plump green olive? Did you ever make hot chocolate and add little mini-marshmallows or a dollop of whipped cream?
Those little additions make the food item nicer. It adds a little jazz, and a bit of panache to what is a perfectly fine thing in and of itself.
But the addition of the cherry, the olive or that heavenly whipped cream just makes the dish a bit more special. It just seem to be a lot more appetizing.
This is something that can be done with your flock’s meals as well. If you change up the topping or add a bit of something special to their food, they just might take more of an interest in their healthy meal. I refer to this as “baiting” the food.
“Baiting” is easy. It’s simply adding a bit of what your bird likes and adding just a touch to get him interested in a food he might otherwise not even look at.
There are several ways of doing this and all of them are pretty easy. One of those ways is to simply top their food with something you know they like. Don’t go crazy, just add a little bit. This is the bait. They want that item so they get their beaks in the bowl. I tend to think this leaves them wondering if there is more buried in there somewhere.
And being curious creatures, they investigate by rooting around the food. This is what you want.
Now there are a couple of things happening here. If you feed your birds Chop, they are going to get a pretty well-rounded diet despite themselves. Made properly, Chop is a shaggy and rather coarse tabbouleh or coleslaw-like food.
With coleslaw you can’t separate the carrots from the cabbage from the celery because they are too well-mixed. Even if you extract a strand of cabbage, it’s going to have something else stuck to it.
The same principle applies to Chop. Your African Grey may want that bit of carrot. But there is some quinoa or a chia seed stuck to it. This is what I call “The Illusion of Choice.” That Grey chose the carrot piece, but he got more than he bargained for and it was something really healthy stuck to the carrot that he might have otherwise ignore. That’s the thing about Chop: There’s only so much picking they can do.
So the entire idea of baiting their food is to include just a bit of what they like to get the bird interested and hoping upon investigation that he begins eating what is there because it tastes good to him. And if it’s a bowl of Chop, other healthy things are going to be stuck to what he has selected.
Another way to bait their food is to mix the bait through the meal itself. When I make Chop, I use several baits mixed throughout the batch. Most birds go for corn. And I do include a little bit of corn in their Chop. I boil popping corn for about 45 minutes to arrive at a chewy texture and it’s just enough that it entices a bid to try the Chop.
I also use a fine orzo pasta and cooked garbanzo beans that are not only good for them, but they really seem to relish them. Trying different items such as vegetable or quinoa pasta, cooked barley, a sprinkle of wheat germ or a shake of spicy curry might just do the trick.
Hemp seeds are terrific for sprinkling on the top of their food. My Grey Nyla just loves hemp seed and just a pinch on top of her of Chop will cause her to devour the entire bowl. But every bird is different and it depends on what they prefer that will attract them.
Here are some possibilities:
Hot Pepper Flakes
A Drizzle of Coconut Oil
Powdered Flax Seed
Pepitos (Hulled Pumpkin Seed)
Cooked Orzo Pasta
Chopped Jalapeno Pepper
A Small Bit of Scrambled Egg
It all depends on your bird’s taste and what you have on hand. But with a little imagination you can turn a meal into something they really want to dive into.