Fat balls are a common part of a garden birds diet, many homeowners with a passion for birds will have a bird feeder with a couple of fat balls hanging in their garden.
There is a reason for this as birds love fat balls- they love the flavour and in the winter where there is often a lack of food, fat balls will ensure that the birds stay fed and healthy.
One would assume that if your average garden bird loves fat balls, parrots would love a good fat ball as well.
However, the truth may surprise you.
Fat balls can be eaten by parrots with no adverse health effects and can form a part of a healthy diet. However, as with anything, fat balls should be eaten in moderation as they are designed to allow garden birds to feed in the winter when there is not as much food about. Most parrots live indoors so they do not face the same problems as outdoor birds will.
With that being said, below are some common questions surrounding fat balls and whether parrots can eat them.
What Actually Are Fat Balls?
Fat balls are pretty much as you would expect, they are balls of fat.
However, they can differ in their composition.
Fat balls are often made up of two ingredients- millet seeds and some kind of fat.
Often times the fat is a type of vegetable fat as this is healthier for the birds than any type of animal fat.
Much like a cake, the fat is the thing that holds everything together- the same concept applies with fat balls as the fat holds the millet seeds together.
A fat ball is as simple as that.
The function of a fat ball is to feed birds during the winter when their usual food sources cannot be found easily.
This is where the composition of a fat ball makes sense as high energy foods such as fat and carbs (from the millet seeds) will keep a bird going during the winter months.
In the summer months, fat balls are not needed as there is more food available and the fat in the balls starts to melt which can make the fat balls go mouldy- something that is actually toxic to birds.
Why Are They Given to Birds?
Fat balls are given to birds, not just parrots, as a supplement to their food during the winter.
Often times birds cannot find food like worms during winter because they burrow deep to get away from the cold.
That is why kind humans put out fat balls during the winter months so birds do not go hungry.
This makes sense for garden birds as they nest and live outside, where they have to bring up chicks in full exposure to the elements.
For birds like parrots, it does not make as much sense.
Parrots, for the most part, are kept inside in cages.
And even if you let your parrot out, as you should do, they still do not require fat balls to the same degree that a garden bird does.
Firstly, garden birds live in the open air so they burn plenty of calories flying around.
Also, in winter the surrounding temperature is a lot cooler so a bird will use a large proportion of its energy keeping its own core temperature at a healthy level.
Secondly, a bird in the wild has no guaranteed food source.
Each and every time they go out in search of food they do not know if they will find any.
This is particularly pronounced during winter when there is little foliage and animals have gone into hibernation.
Therefore, providing those birds with a little help is welcomed.
A parrot lives in a space where the climate is controlled and where their meals every day are guaranteed.
There is no need to add fat balls on top of their diet. If you do, then you may run the risk of affecting the health of your bird’s heart and overall weight.
What Are the Risks Giving Fat Balls To Parrots?
As mentioned above, fat balls in their solid state are not toxic and can be eaten by garden birds and parrots alike.
However, due to the nature of fat balls, they do come with certain risks.
One such risk is that your parrot simply does not need the extra energy and will put on weight and increase its risk of heart problems and cancer.
As talked about in the above subheading, a fat ball is designed to feed an outdoor bird that lives an active life, breading and living in the great outdoors.
This means that its calorie usage and consumption is higher than that of your average domesticated parrot who spends a large proportion of its time indoors.
By feeding your parrot the same calories as an outdoor bird, you increase its risk of obesity (something that becomes more prevalent as the parrot gets older), which in turn increases the parrots risk of cancer and heart problems.
Another risk is one that relates to the time of year that you put out your fat balls.
In winter your fat balls will remain in their solid form and this causes no problem.
However, in summer the fat that binds the whole ball together will melt and the fat ball will start to go rancid.
This on its own can be toxic to some birds. When a fat ball goes rancid, it can begin to rot and go mouldy.
This is categorically dangerous for birds and in particular parrots and could lead to death.
It is very important that you do not give your parrot a fat ball in the summer or a fat ball that you suspect may be melting or softer than usual.
Are There Any Benefits Giving Fat Balls To Parrots?
The issues with fat balls are that they are not necessary for parrots and can lead to complex health conditions.
However, are there any benefits to their use?
Parrots are very intelligent creatures and therefore need enough stimulation in their environment to lead a healthy life.
Their food can also affect this and providing your parrot with a wealth of healthy food will go a long way to keeping up their health.
By substituting a parrot’s daily supply of seeds and nuts with a fat ball, you can vary their diet and not put them in a calorie surplus to bring about negative health effects.
A creative idea that you could try and do is to include some healthier alternatives in your bird’s fat balls rather than just fats and carbs.
You could make your own fat balls, there are recipes on the internet, and include health supplements that will benefit your bird generally or focus on a specific problem.
As with anything, moderation is key and this is exactly the same.
Fat balls can be included in a parrot’s diet and can have benefits, only if used in the right way.
Generally speaking, you should not give a fat ball to a parrot.
This is because fat balls are not designed to be fed to parrots and are instead best suited for garden birds.
This is because they are high-calorie and if given to a bird that does not undertake much activity in a day, a domesticated parrot, then regular consumption of fat balls will lead to obesity, heart problems and cancer.
Also, they are only really suited to winter as in summer, the fat that holds the balls together will melt and the ball will go rancid.
This is a problem in itself and could be dangerous for your bird.
This rancidity could turn to mould which is dangerous for your bird and should be avoided at all costs.
However, you can mitigate these risks and still feed your parrot fat balls by following these simple tips.
Firstly, you will need to substitute a parrot’s meal with the fat ball, if you do not then you run the risk of your parrot eating too many calories.
You will also need to check to see if the fat ball melts in the environment that your parrot will be eating it in- if it does then you will want to reconsider.
You could also make your own fat balls so you can control what is in them and ass some healthier aspects to the balls.