Safely Cook Beans For Your Flock

Beans Are Great For Your Birds-If You Cook Them Safely

Dried Beans Before Cooking
Dried Beans Before Cooking. traveler1116/Getty Images

Sometimes cooked beans are just the perfect thing to make for your pet bird in order to supply her with some much needed vegetable protein. Aside from the protein, they contain phytochemicals. (Phyto is Greek for "plant") The phytochemicals found in beans are antioxidants which help protect your bird's system from free radicals damaging cellular structures and shields DNA. 

Many beans all look different from one another.

There are beans of different sizes shapes and colors but despite these cosmetic appearances, the nutrition of beans is pretty much the same in every type. 

Beans are also loaded with both soluble and non-soluble fiber which is beneficial to the digestive system. Fiber aids the absorption of the nutrients and then helps the waste pass quickly through the digestive tract. This rapid passing of waste helps prevent constipation. One cup of cooked beans contains about 12 grams of fiber. My African Greys get them daily in various recipes I prepare for their twice daily meals. Some of these recipes include Chop, Teeny Weenie Beanies, Grain Bake and other healthy and nutritious dishes. I prefer to begin with the bags of dry beans in the bags you’ll finding the pasta and bean aisle of the grocery store. They don’t contain salt like many canned beans do and they are far less expensive than the canned variety.

I’m also able to control the texture by ensuring the cooking time is long enough to remove the toxins from the beans, yet not so long that they turn to mush. If you prefer to use canned beans, you can. Just ensure that the beans you select are sodium-free and rinse them in a colander thoroughly with fresh water before using them.


The reason you need to soak the beans and change the rinse water often before boiling is to remove a protective toxin found in beans. Nature sometimes installs protective toxins in plants to protect them from creatures eating them or somehow destroying them. Poison Ivy and poison oak are two common plants containing toxins. And beans are another. 

The toxin found in beans is phytohemagglutinin (PHA),  and it is a one of a very common class of proteins called lectins. In this case, the PHA they contain is probably employed by Nature as an insecticide as this lectin has insecticidal properties. 

Once you soak the beans and change the rinse water a few times to keep the beans immersed in clean water and then boil them, beans are safe to eat. Not only are they safe for you and your birds, they are very nutritious.

I’m sure you’ve heard that beans give you gas. Perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself. That is because beans contain oligosaccharides, a type of sugar. The human body does not produce the enzyme that breaks down these oligosaccharides and it causes gas as it passes through the digestive system. I have found no research about a bird’s digestive system being able to break it down so I think it is best that we follow human protocol and soak and cook beans to remove both the toxins and the sugar.

Better safe than sorry. 

This is how I soak and cook beans for my parrots. It’s a safe and efficient method of ensuring that they are not only safe, but delicious and ready to use in any food recipe you care to dream up for your flock:

Place beans in a pot and pick through them to look for any mutant beans or the occasional pebble sometimes found in a bag of dried beans. Once you cover the beans with water, discard the “floaters.” I don’t know why they are floating so I get rid of them.

Add enough water to cover the beans completely. 

Soak beans for at least 8 hours or overnight. I soak during the day so I can change the soaking water frequently as well as rinsing the beans often during the soaking process. You end up with a clean and beautiful product this way. 

Drain beans, discard soak water and rinse beans with fresh, cool water.

Fill the pot of soaked beans with enough fresh water to cover the beans.

Bring to boil and boil and cook in rapidly boiling water for at least 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and drain the water.

Let them cool and add to any bird food recipe requiring the beans or simply serve with cut-up vegetables. 

They are usually a tasty ingredient to add to many recipes for your flock's diet. Once your bird learns how tasty they really are, you will have added another protein-packed nutritional Item to add to their diet!