Milk is one of my all-time favorite drinks.
In fact, I drink a glass of milk with every breakfast meal that I have and I couldn’t imagine replacing it with anything else.
But while I have no allergies or difficulties drinking milk, there are some people that do.
Which led me to ask the question – what about parrots?
Can parrots drink milk?
Or is it harmful to them?
The answer to this question is yes, parrots can have milk. With that being said, any dairy products that you feed your parrot should be limited due to their high fat content. Though they are not considered “toxic” like some other foods, they aren’t considered especially beneficial either, nor are they particularly healthy.
Of course, there is not just one type of milk out there.
So this leads to a variety of other questions:
Can parrots drink soy milk?
Can parrots drink chocolate milk?
Can parrots drink flavored milk?
Can parrots drink coconut milk?
Today we’ll take a closer look at each type of milk to help you determine which milk is okay to give your parrot and which milks you should avoid.
So let’s not waste another minute!
Can Parrots have cow’s milk?
Before we jump into the different kinds of milk, let’s elaborate a little bit more on the idea of parrots drinking cow’s milk.
We mentioned above that it’s okay to give your parrot small portions of cow’s milk, but it’s not necessarily beneficial.
Unlike us, birds are not mammals – they are birds and they hatch out of an egg.
Most mammals will produce milk for their young when they are born.
This milk provides a variety of essential nutrients for the baby including water, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and so on and so forth.
But because parrots are not mammals, they do not do this.
Birds are incubated in an egg until they are born.
During this time, the egg contains all of the essential nutrients that they need to grow and survive.
Once the baby is hatched, the mothering parrot does not produce milk.
Rather, she regurgitates her food for her young.
Because parrots do not produce milk for their young, milk really isn’t a part of their natural diet.
In fact, milk is something that is foreign to them.
Instead of milk, parrots receive nutrition in the wild from things like nuts, fruits, seeds, flowers, and vegetables.
Nowhere in their environment would they ever be disposed to milk or milk related products like cheese and yogurt.
As a result, they do not have the enzymes that are necessary to digest the lactose (or sugars) within the milk.
So while milk is not particularly toxic to birds, it’s not beneficial either.
What will happen if my Parrot has milk?
If your parrot has had a small amount of milk, there is little to worry about.
Sharing a small amount of oatmeal with milk or cereal with milk in the mornings is unlikely to cause your parrot any harm.
With that being said, while small amounts of milk are unlikely to cause any harm to your parrot, large amounts of milk could.
Because your parrot does not have the proper enzymes needed to digest the sugars within milk, it can draw fluids into the digestive tract.
The main symptom of this will be diarrhea.
What about Chocolate milk?
Chocolate milk is a favorite among us humans, but by no means should we ever give our parrots chocolate milk.
In fact, any type of chocolate is considered to be extremely toxic to parrots and should be kept well out of their reach.
Unlike regular milk that is okay in small amounts, even tiny amounts of chocolate milk can be harmful to your parrot.
When chocolate is ingested, the digestive tract of the parrot is affected immediately and the result may be vomiting and diarrhea.
What is so toxic about chocolate milk?
Chocolate milk contains an alkaloid known as theobromine that cannot be metabolized by parrots.
As a result, it is considered extremely toxic.
If you are concerned that your parrot may have had even a small amount of chocolate milk, seek veterinarian attention immediately.
How do you give your parrot milk?
Should you decide that you want to give your parrot small amounts of milk, it’s not recommended that you do so in a bowl or bottle.
The reason for this is because you may end up giving your bird too much.
If you want to give your parrot milk to drink, do so out of a syringe so that you can monitor how much you are giving them.
With that being said, even the syringe method is not recommended.
Because milk holds no real benefits for parrots, giving it to them as a drink is almost pointless.
In return, the best way to give your parrot milk is to combine it with other foods (ie. Cooked grains, cereal, or oatmeal) that provide your parrot with the nutritional benefits that they need to thrive.
Can Parrots have Soy Milk?
Yes. Parrots can have soy milk in small portions, as long as it is labeled as organic.
Non-organic soy milk may contain bacterial genes that can activate BHT within your parrots system, leading to unwanted side effects and symptoms.
Can Parrots have Coconut Milk?
Yes, parrots can have coconut milk but like other types of milk, it should be extremely limited.
Just as cow’s milk is not natural within a parrot’s diet, neither is coconut milk.
Furthermore, it’s extremely high in calorie and fat content, which needs to monitored in parrots.
As an occasional treat, coconut milk will be just fine, but it should not be included within their regular diet.
If you do choose to give your parrot coconut milk, avoid buying it in cans.
The lining of the can could leach into fatty foods like coconut milk, which can expose yourself or your parrot to BPA (a compound used to make plastics).
Though it will be difficult to find fresh coconut milk outside of the tropics, you can still opt to buy it in cartons or bottles as opposed to cans.
Can Parrots have flavored milk?
No. Any type of flavored milk (Strawberry, banana, vanilla, etc.) is extremely high in sugar content.
Although sugar is not necessarily considered toxic to parrots, large amounts of it can lead to serious health problems.
Not only that, but refined sugar (which is used in flavored milks) is heavily processed and stripped of any nutrients that it would have initially had.
As a result, there are no nutritional benefits to giving your parrot flavored milk.
Can Parrots have Almond Milk?
Yes. Like most other types of milk, almond milk is safe for your parrot in small quantities.
Just remember that your bird does not have the proper enzymes required to properly digest the milk, so any large quantity could cause digestive issues.
If you are going to give your parrot almond milk, do so only as an occasional treat.
Can Parrots have Milk Thistle?
Milk Thistle is a type of herb that is closely related to daisies and ragweeds.
It’s often called the “holy thistle” and is well known for its healing properties.
In humans, milk thistle is commonly used to treat liver problems like hepatitis, jaundice, and cirrhosis.
It’s also been known to lower cholesterol levels and aide in the management of diabetes.
But what about for parrots?
Can parrots have milk thistle?
Yes, they can. In fact, it’s commonly given to parrots for the same reason that it is given to humans – to help treat liver conditions.
Though milk thistle has been used for over 2000 years to treat liver problems in humans, it’s benefits for bird has just more recently been discovered.
With that being said, liver disease is not uncommon in parrots and is often caused by things like a poor diet or toxin intake.
When the liver becomes damaged there are several measures that a veterinarian may take, and one of those is to provide your parrot with milk thistle supplements.
Dosages should be determined by your vet only.
In conclusion, most types of milk are safe to give your parrot in very small quantities.
With that being said, chocolate milk and flavored milks should never be an option – even as a snack.
These types of milks contain ingredients that can be toxic to your parrot and that could have serious side effects.
If you are going to give you parrot other types of milk, combine it with foods that will hold nutritional benefits for them.
And remember, your parrot doesn’t have the same digestive enzymes that you do, and has much more difficulty digesting milk.
So while you can enjoy an entire glass of milk at breakfast, your parrot’s intake should be monitored and limited.