Things to consider
Your bird’s size
Smaller birds will need respectively smaller pieces/ eat smaller quantities. Big pieces for bird size create the take-a bite-toss-the-rest syndrome. Regardless of your bird’s size, larger pieces allow them to pick out their favorite bits and leave the rest. The issue here is that they won’t get the full benefit of eating chop (when they eat only their favorites, that they would already eat) and will waste more.
The rule of thumb I use is to have most things small enough to fit in my bird’s beak. Of course, that won’t be necessarily true of all the things you add to the chop and you shouldn’t stress about having everything a uniform size, it’s just a guideline.
How much chop your birds will eat will change. When you first introduce them to chop they will likely eat only a tiny bit until they get a taste for it. When our boys have a new batch of chop they eat more, then they must get burned out on that batch because about the time it’s almost gone they stop eating it as well.
To figure out how much to feed start with a tbs for small birds or maybe a 1/8 of a cup for large birds. Adjust the amount until you find what they can eat in two hours, that’s about the window of time for food to be out unrefrigerated and safe.
Your flock composition and number
Do you have a mix of sizes? dietary needs? eating habits?
You might want to make more than one batch or make one that is a base and add extras for the different needs of your birds. Depending on the size of your flock, what will last you the recommended maximum of 3 months in the freezer will be different.
It’s a great idea to look into specific nutritional needs of the species in your flock, that way you can tailor ingredients to their needs.
I have a large silver kitchen bowl, my batch of chop fills that and lasts us about two months with once a day feedings of about two tbsp per bird- we have two cockatiels.
How much space can you an allocate to chop? What shape containers will be most affective?How fast will your bird(s) eat what you have room to freeze so you can plan to make chop on a schedule.
We use up-cycled plastic containers and wax or other kitchen papers. We portion most of our chop out into individual servings wrapped in little bundles.
|This is parchment paper/ foil, we bought it and realized we can’t use it in our oven so we are trying to use it up
It’s really important that you remove as much air from the container and make sure it’s airtight before freezing. If you decide to freeze in ice cube trays I highly recommend moving them from the trays into another airtight container. The chop will get freezer burn quickly being uncovered in the trays. Also make sure you have a really nice set of trays, ones that you never have trouble getting ice out of because the one thing you don’t want to have to do is run the trays under hot water to get the chop cubes out. Melting the outer layer will invite freezer burn. Personally, I used trays in the beginning and quickly decided there had to be a better way. Experiment until you find containers that work for you.
Three days is about the maximum that my chop lasts in the fridge. I go off how it smells; once it smells at all weird it gets tossed.
I rarely refrigerate our chop at all anymore. I discovered a while back that our birds will eat chop while it’s still frozen/ thawing out. Now their little chop balls go straight from the freezer to their bowls, no thawing at all. I think this allows them the freshest chop I can give without making it every day. Check out this post on flash freezing and this one that’s even more applicable to food for birds. This is how I freeze all our chop now and I will not be going back! It lasts longer, thaws faster and retains better quality and it works better since I can just remove what I need for the day from a large container in the freezer.
Birds current eating habits/ diet
Are you dealing with a seed addict? Do you have special dietary considerations? Are your birds already familiar with and enjoy eating the things that will go in the chop?Are your birds usually more interested in large or small pieces?
I am feeding two cockatiels one of which is a recovering seed addict. So I add more sprouted and soaked seeds/legumes/grains then you will need to if your birds aren’t seed addicts.
If your bird has any health conditions you should talk to an avian vet who understands the chop concept about possible modifications.
If you are introducing chop to a bird who has little to no experience with fresh foods you need to first find a few things they like. Offer little bits of different veggies, fruits, greens and grains. When you make their first batch of chop have the things they liked best in higher amounts than the other ingredients so they will recognize some of the ingredients and be more willing to try the chop. Then they have a chance to learn to like the other things as well.
I also add fruit. Many people advice against adding fruit because it doesn’t freeze well, adds wetness to the chop and makes it spoil faster. I add it because it’s something that gets my boys to eat their chop better. I only add one type and one piece, so either it’s a banana, mango apple or pear. Just enough that the taste is there and only their most favorite fruits.
Wetness of chop
Increased wetness from:The smaller your veggies are chopped, the more fruit you add, the less dried goodies adding hot, not thoroughly drained cooked legumes/grains
|These are all home dried
Make it drier by:
dried peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, veggies
*adding dried fruit is generally not advised since they are so high in sugar and usually treated with sulfate to maintain color. Make sure whatever dried goodies you use haven’t been treated with sulfate*
oatmeal, or other rolled grains
flax and chia seed ( when these get wet they make a gel, so they work great to soak up liquid)
nuts, they can help but won’t as much as the other ingredients and you have to be careful not to add to much since they generally add a significant amount of fat.
Methods to make drier chop:
allow your cooked things to fully cool before adding them.
cook the night before you make chop so everything can cool in the fridge- starch -which the things that you will cook are high in- can soak up a lot of water when it’s cooled. Think about how much liquid you have to add to reheat pasta, rice or beans without turning them into dry scorched nastiness- yep, they can help out with wetness issues a lot.
Drain your ingredients well after washing and/or cooking. Some people also advice draining your chopped veggies but I think you loose a lot of nutrients from that. I try to soak that good juice up with the dried goodies. Concentrate on preventing liquids from the cooked things, sprouts and washing veggies from getting in the chop.
Dry your ingredients. You can use paper/ real towels to dry things or a blow-drier that you know isn’t coated with none stick, such as this one
. I use a blow drier all the time since I rarely plan ahead enough to cook the night before. I use a salad spinner for any of the veggies that need drying.
Wet chop is a concern because it will freezer burns faster, spoils faster and some birds aren’t as interested in eating it.
In mine, all the veggies are either minced by hand or with a food processor. You will need to start your sprouts at least two days in advance for them to be nicely sprouted for the chop. As with the cooked goodies, if the sprouts are well drained they will soak up liquids as well.
The Don’ts of Chop:
Don’t cook anymore of the ingredients then you have to.
Don’t add dry seeds- besides flax and chia- all seeds should be sprouted. BUT if you are trying to convert a seed addict to chop, mixing chop with their seeds can get them starting at least tasting chop.
Don’t add a ton of fruit
Don’t give up if it’s too wet-add more dry stuff!
Don’t give up if they don’t like it the first time! Try feeding it again; sometimes if you spread it out in a thin layer or mound it up or change the feeding container, that’s all it takes. If all else fails, make it into birdie bread.
Don’t let the seeds/grains/legumes outnumber the veggies, it should at least be equal to a 1:1 ratio by volume.
Foods You should never feed:
tea- herbal teas without actual tea leaf in it are fine and often beneficial.
human junk food
unfermented dairy products
All of these are undigestible and or toxic to your bird.
I won’t take sides on these because I haven’t researched them enough but if you want to feed them please do your own research otherwise just avoid using them.
All the Alliums leaves/bulbs- garlic, onion, chives, green onions…
peanuts/ peanut butter
Things to use with thought:
spinach, parsley, rhubarb, cranberries, celery, beet root and greens, swiss chard
These have high levels of oxalate, a compound that binds calcium and other minerals, that are then excreted in the urine. They can contribute to kidney stones, kidney disease and low calcium levels. Their possible ill affects can be easily mitigated by feeding foods high in calcium, such as:
kale, collard greens, watercress, almonds, okra, chinese cabbage, broccoli, mustard green, beans green or dried, sesame and chia seeds, quinoa.
If your bird already has low calcium levels or kidney issues I would avoid the high oxalate foods until you can talk to an avian vet about a safe level of oxalate consumption for your particular bird.
sunflower seeds– they are very high in fat, maybe that’s why they are so addictive to pretty much anything. Feed them sparingly and mostly sprouted.rice– recently, much of it is has been shown to be highly contaminated with arsenic. Try to check current contamination in the variety you are using if you want to feed rice. At the moment humans are advised to limit their consumption of rice; if it’s a high enough contamination to be a concern to humans we should be very concerned about feeding it to our birds. Read this article and this one for more information.
A note about Beans
The only legumes that can be fed just sprouted are:
lentils (Lens culinaris)
mung beans (Vigna radiata)
adzuki (Vigna angularis)
chick peas (Cicer arietinum)
and peas (Pisum sativum)
I include scientific names so that if you are in a country besides the US you might have an easier time figuring out what they are and if you can get them where you are.
All others for the most safety and health benefits should be soaked for 12 hours, then boiled uncovered for a minimum of 15 minutes, then simmering until fully cooked-tender.
This is because legumes contain complex sugars called oligosaccharides and toxic proteins called lectins. Most mammals and birds cannot digest the oligosaccharides, they are part of the reason why you sometimes get gas and bloating when you eat legumes. Your gut bacteria can digest those compounds. Your bacteria get really excited about the feast you just sent them and eat a whole bunch, making an unusually large amount of gas. Lectins are more of a health concern though; they interfere with normal digestion and metabolism resulting in food poisoning like symptoms. Lectin poisoning does have the potential to be fatal. The “safe five” that can be eaten without cooking still have those compounds but they are able to be deactivated/ digested to safe levels by sprouting. Read my Cooking Legumes post for more information.
My Recipe (this time)
1/2 cup Flaxseed
1/2 cup dried mixed (sulfate free) tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos
1/4 cup mixed ginger powder, red pepper flakes and dill , could also include many other herbs!
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup each mung bean and lentils
1 cup ( after chopped) mixed greens
1/2 cup (after chopped) spinach
1 mango’s fruit
1 inch wide round each of purple and green cabbage
half a sweet pepper with seeds
one whole jalapeno
1/3 bunch cilantro
1/4 of an average head of broccoli
1 medium carrot
1/4 cup wild rice
1/2 cup each bean soup mix and quinoa
what’s in a bean soup mix?
pinto, white,black, kidney (Phaseolus vulgaris)
peas (Pisum sativum)
lima (Phaseolus lunatus)
black eyed peas (Vigna unguiculata unguiculata)
chick peas (Cicer arietinum)
lentils (Lens culinaris)
The actual mix differs with brand and what not but these are the ones I see regularly.