I've always been a big fan of the idea of chop ever since I got into parrots. Recently, though, I was presented with an article that looked at the feeding of parrots in a zoo setting. Like many of us at home, zoos typically prepare a "salad" of sorts with for their animals, part of the reason being the same as ours - to offer a greater variety of food at once. However, chopping vegetables and fruits takes time to prepare, and introduces its own potential issues, such as bacterial contamination and loss of nutrients.
A small study was done with two pairs of Blue and Gold Macaws to see what, if any, differences in behavior and eating habits they would observe between feeding their normal preparation of food cut up into 2cm pieces, or offering them whole foods.
What they found was that the birds spent more time eating, chewing, preening, and engaging in allofeeding (feeding from one bird's beak to the other) with the whole foods. They also found that the birds had less "rest" time and less vocalizations on days they were given the whole foods.
They also found that the macaws ate more of the fruits when offered a whole fruit vs little bite size pieces, though they did say it was not statistically significant.
More formal studies will need to be done, but I decided to try this out on Ripley, my Jardine's. He has been with me since August 2018, and I have only observed him eating chop a handful of times. He is just not very interested in it. Therefore, I was interested to see if such a radical change of presentation would be more appealing to him. I did not offer him entire vegetables and fruits simply because he is so small, but I did make sure to offer large chunks and leave the skin intact.
I offered him green pepper (both part of the top and the inside with the seeds), a navel orange, cucumber, and two green grapes as my test. I do not normally offer this much fruit but I wanted to test the theory and I really need to go grocery shopping!
Later, I also gave him a piece of sweet potato that had been microwaved to inactivate the trypsin inhibitors that make it harder to digest. (Cooking also makes beta carotene more bioavailable.) He happily started to chew it as if to say finally - you figured out how to make food!
Obviously this isn't a scientific study and I will be trying this again more in the coming days. However, I am pleasantly surprised that my "won't eat fresh foods" bird spent so much time today proving me wrong. Hopefully this is the start of more fresh foods in his diet! I would encourage anyone who hasn't tried this yet to do so! If nothing else, you will save yourself a lot of prep time!
James, C., Nicholls, A., Freeman, M., Hunt, K., & Brereton, J. E. (2021). Should zoo foods be chopped: macaws for consideration. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 9(4), 200–207. https://doi.org/10.19227/jzar.v9i4.507