Does your pet bird have a penchant for ice-pops, frozen desserts or ice cubes? Strange as it may seem, many birds that would never encounter ice in their natural habitats love it. Because ice is an uncommon treat for birds, do we have to worry about frostbitten toes and birdie brain freeze? What frozen products can you safely feed your bird? What do veterinarians have to say about all this?
“I’ve never seen an adult bird develop problems from frozen foods,” said Elisabeth Simone-Freilicher, DVM of the Veterinary Medical Center in New York, “and a brief review of the literature turned up no mention of problems from this.
“I haven’t encountered many birds that regularly eat frozen foods or ice cubes, but I often hear of birds that really love ice cream. In my experience, the biggest gluttons for ice cream usually are greys, Amazons, macaws and Pionus parrots.”
Robert Monaco, DVM, ABVP of the Old Country Animal Clinic in New York also hasn’t seen any problems resulting from birds eating frozen food, but he cautions that foods containing chocolate should be avoided.
“I can’t think of any potential problems with adult birds eating most healthy frozen foods. Although, it could cause problems for babies,” adds Simone-Freilicher. “I’m not wild about more than a “taste” of ice cream for birds because of the health risk from the high cholesterol, potentially higher bacterial count and birds’ relative indigestibility of lactose,” she said. “Ice cream can be hormonally stimulating because it resembles the high sugar and fat content of breeding season foods.”
According to Simone-Freilicher, if a bird likes frozen foods, owners can create ways to introduce new and healthy foods, or to create foraging opportunities.
Offer healthy alternatives to ice cream. A bird that likes ice cubes might also enjoy frozen vegetable or pellets in its ice cubes, or ice cubes made from pureed vegetables. The texture of frozen broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts might interest them, too. Simone-Freilicher suggests making veggie slushies made from sweet vegetables like squash, a homemade unsweetened fruit sorbet made from berries, kiwi, papaya or mango, or placing veggies or pellet chunks in their iced treats. If you have an ice cream maker, get creative.
A Caution For Young Pet Birds
Because cold food can slow crop function, veterinarians suggest not feeding ice cream or other frozen foods to very young birds, especially those that are still hand-feeding or weaning.
Sick birds or those with compromised immune systems or medical conditions should never be fed unusual foods, including ice cream, except under the guidance of an avian veterinarian. If you make your own ice cream, be sure to clean and sterilize the ice cream maker thoroughly before and after use to prevent bacterial contamination. Avoid salmonella risk and don’t feed your bird ice cream or other cold foods that contain raw eggs. Allow your adult bird to enjoy special frozen food treats in moderation. Use frozen treats as an exciting way to improve your birds’ diet.
Want some recipe ideas?