Chop or Whole Food?

Chop or Whole Food?

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!

A Jardine's parrot next to a bowl of large chunks of veggies and fruits
I honestly was surprised to see that he was immediately engaged with the bowl, and after I got the camera out of his face, he happily chewed on most of the food he was offered for much longer than he normally would. Usually he will pick at a few things in his chop bowl and I throw the majority away, but this time he kept coming back to the bowl and continued to eat a large portion of what he was given. 
A bowl of mostly eaten veggies with a piece of orange still intact.

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! 

A Jardine's parrot eating a piece of lightly cooked sweet potato with the skin still on.


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 Research9(4), 200–207.

Kiran, K Sasi, and G Padmaja. “Inactivation of trypsin inhibitors in sweet potato and taro tubers during processing.” Plant foods for human nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands) vol. 58,2 (2003): 153-63. doi:10.1023/a:1024476513899



Maloney, K. P., Truong, V. D., & Allen, J. C. (2014). Susceptibility of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) peel proteins to digestive enzymes. Food science & nutrition2(4), 351–360.


Livny, Orly et al. “Beta-carotene bioavailability from differently processed carrot meals in human ileostomy volunteers.” European journal of nutrition vol. 42,6 (2003): 338-45. doi:10.1007/s00394-003-0430-6


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