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I found some interesting information on pellets when I was doing some research on tumors in budgies. Aside from the topic I was researching, this makes interesting reading.





Let's talk about the additives in pellets.


Ethoxyquin: Is listed and identified as a harsh hazardous chemical by OSHA. It was originally used to preserve rubber. This is not allowed in human food and some feel it is not a chemical that they want in their bird food. The FDA has asked manufacturers for voluntary reduction in its use in pet foods and is in the process of deciding whether or not to ban the use of it altogether. Bird’s bodies can not get rid of it like a dog or cat and it then builds up and causes problems. Ethoxyquin promotes kidney carcinogenesis, significantly increases the incidence of stomach tumors, enhanced bladder carcinogenesis and urinary bladder carcinogenesis. Cancers of this type are the most lethal and fastest acting, the swiftest effects being seen among animals.


Artificial Colors: Most people are aware of toxic side effects of artificial colors and flavors from coal tar derivatives such as Red #40, a possible carcinogen, and Yellow #6, which causes sensitivity to fatal viruses in animals. Artificial colors DO cause yellow feather discoloration in Eclectus.


BHT/BHA: These petroleum products are used to stabilize fats in foods. In the process of metabolizing BHA and BHT, chemical changes occur in the body. These changes have caused reduced growth rates and they inhibit white blood cell stimulation. In pets, they can exhibit reactions such as skin blisters, hemorrhaging of the eye, weakness, discomfort in breathing, a reduction of the body's own antioxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase and may cause cancer. According to Dr. Wendell Belfield, DVM, a practicing vet for some 26 years, both BHA and BHT are known to cause liver and kidney dysfunction and are banned in some European countries.


Propylene Glycol: Used as a de-icing fluid for airplanes, this chemical is added to food and skin products to maintain texture and moisture as well as inhibiting bacteria growth in products. It also inhibits the growth of friendly bacteria in the digestive system by decreasing the amount of moisture in the intestinal tract leading to constipation and cancer. It can affect the liver and kidneys and causes the destruction of red blood cells.


Salt: Added as a preservative, salt can irritate the stomach lining, cause increased thirst and aggravate heart and kidney problems through fluid retention.


Sodium Nitrite: Used in the curing of meats, this substance participates in a chemical reaction in the body that becomes carcinogenic. It is used also in pet foods to add color.


Sugar and other Sweeteners: The most common sweeteners in pet/bird foods are beet sugar, corn sugar, molasses and sucrose. They are used as preservatives and have the side effect of creating sugar addicts in pets. They require almost no digestion and are rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. These will provide sugar highs (just as humans experience) and subsequent lows (moodiness), inhibit the proper growth of friendly intestinal bacteria and they virtually shut down the digestive system while being processed. Sugar can also contribute to diabetes and hypoglycemia, cataract development, obesity and arthritis.


Go to your cupboard and get your pellets out and find out how many of these additives are in the brand you buy. If there is something else on the ingredients list and you don't know what it is, FIND OUT.


Here is some that is NOT what a bird would get natually in regular foods and these things build up in the birds system over time and cause harm to your bird,

Ferrous Carbonate, Cobalt Carbonate, Folic Acid, Artificial Colors, Copper Oxide, Propionic Acid (a preservative), Ethoxyquin (a preservative), Sodium with anything attached to the name in front or back is also one as sodium is a form of salt, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride large doses may cause gastro-intestinal upset and chronic administration of large dosages has been associated with adverse neurological effects.


Do your research or ask questions of someone who can find out for you. Did you see the natural ingredients on your pellet ingredients list? Why not feed those items in their fresh, natural state instead?


How do YOUR pellets stack up?

(This list may need updating...check labels!)


Abba = ethoxyquin, artificial color, artificial flavor

Avian Special Needs = fish solubles, mineral oil

Avi-Sci =ethoxyquin

Breeders Blend=artificial flavors, salt

Hagen =salt

Harrison's = salt

Kaytee =ethoxyquin, artificial color, salt, BHT or BHA

Kellogg =ethoxyquin, artificial flavor, salt

Lafeber Pellets=ethoxyquin

Lefeber Nutriberries=ethoxyquin, propylene glycol

L&M Pellets=ethoxyquin, artificial color, artificial flavor

Pretty Bird Pellets=ethoxyquin, artificial flavor, salt, added sugar, BHT or BHA

Roudybush Pellets=ethoxyquin


ZuPreem=artificial flavor, BHT or BHA


Additional information:-

'Pellets, on the other hand, are not part of a bird's natural diet. Additionally, it is very easy for a grain miller to add poor quality grains, including those that are moldy, dirty, and insect infested, into a pellet mix.

Once everything was ground up and pressed together, who would know?

The purchaser also has no idea if the quality control is in place. Too much or too little supplementation can be added by a careless mixer and you won't know until your birds start dropping dead or getting ill.


The fat in a pellet mix is more likely to be rancid than the fat contained in fresh unhulled seeds. It is much more difficult to hide poor seed quality. If the seeds are dirty or if they are moldy, you can reject them. You don't have to feed them to your birds.

With pellets, you can only hope for the best. There's no telling what they contain.

If you feel a need to add supplements to a natural diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, and seeds, you can tailor the amount and kind of supplement to the needs of your bird. When you feed pellets, you are stuck with what has been added by the manufacturer.''


****Protein levels in pellets are usually to high for some cockatiels to handle and can result in renal disease and gout for this breed of bird and some other breeds as well.

Iron toxicity and vitamin D toxicity have both been connected with feeding of pellets also, these problems have just started to have started surface with in the last couple of years.


We do not hear often enough concerning young parrots weaned to pellets with not the proper amount of some nutrients have resulted in perosis or more commonly know as a twisting of leg bones.

Low levels of choline in the pelleted manufactured diet can be the cause of this.

Edited by budgiebird
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:wub: Additional note.....my father was a superintendant / manager of a flour mill. The sweepings of the flourmill floor and the mouldy and rubbishy wheat, bran and pollards were highly sought after by petfood companies, and others for processing into their various products. Rat poison residue and rat faeces would have been a part of the floor sweepings. My father told me that the worst posssible quality of wheat products were bought also by the people who made CRUMPETS :) ......and we all love them :)
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:P i'll stay with my crumble mix and high quallity seed mix . :D
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Guest LadyMoon

These are not just found in pellets. Take a look at some of the seed packages. They can contain ethoxyquin, salt, sugar and so on. I feed a mainly pellet diet with seed and fresh food as recommened by my vet. I try to buy organic pellets, seeds and veggies.

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Great post budgiebird. Here I have been trying to add pellets to my birds diet and they have been chucking them out. Maybe they are smarter than we are. What is your crumblemix Daz? And what type of seed do you use?

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Great post budgiebird. Here I have been trying to add pellets to my birds diet and they have been chucking them out. Maybe they are smarter than we are. What is your crumblemix Daz? And what type of seed do you use?


Hi Shawna My Crumble Mix and I use Goldern Cob mix from an other breeder I know. :bluebudgie:

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I was told when I was buying pellets for they meyers that zupreem causes problems with organ function with long time use. When I was at the vet she didn't say anything about them when she asked about Buster's diet. So I'm looking for an alternative for Buster, does anyone have a suggestion? I'm switching Amira to the harrison's. They also get cooked veggies, seed mix, and some apple sometimes.

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Oh my! Why oh why do manufacturers have to load food, pet and human, with chemicals? I'm so glad I don't feed pellets

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Guest eterri

Many seed mixes carry these very same things. Many fruits and veggies carry things that can be harmful as well. If you want to be as safe as possible feed organic seed, organice fresh foods, and organic pellets.


I feed organic veggies from the grocery, Newsong Organics seed mixes, and have just switched to Harrison's organic pellets.


Also, how recent is this source? Even the pet store brand pellets have now smartened up enough to leave out many of those additives, especially ethoxyquin.


Pellets should never be used as a complete diet, no matter what the packaging says (same with seeds or any other food for that matter). Yes, if used as the base of a budgie's diet (90% of it or more, roughly) it CAN lead to renal failure. Of course, if you base their diet on most things they'll have issues in getting too much or too little of something.


Another good organic pellet is TOP (totally organic pellets). I've never tried these with my birds but I know of people who have and their birds really like them.


In the end, variety is key. Pellets are wonderful ways to simplify feeding birds as they pack a lot of needed nutrition into one little form. Your bird can't pick and choose with them the way they can seed. Most birds will eat the millet, safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. out of a mix before touching anything else. Sometimes they don't touch anything else at all. Take a look at your seed dishes at the end of the day. Unless your mix is all or nearly all one or two types of seeds (usually white millet) you'll probably notice a lot of things getting left behind.

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Unfortunately, a lot of the variety of products you have access to over there....we don't. Would love to try out a lot of things I hear mentioned but our supplies and types available are very limited. So, I will stick to as natural a diet as I can get ( for pet type budgies anyway ) . All this really tells us is to read the packet ingredients and research the ones we don't know.

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Guest eterri

Yeah, my biggest point really was that unless it's organic, it's likely to have tons of things in it that aren't necessary and can cause problems. I just don't like seeing it painted as "pellets are bad" when this is a major problem with ALL food, human as well.


A natural diet is a good idea, probably the best you can do without having good organic products available. Hopefully they'll become more popular and hopefully more research will be done on proper natural diets as well.


(Also, upon reading that list over again, it is well out of date. I know that Kaytee and Lafeber in particular no longer add ethoxyquin to their pellets or nutriberries. I don't think they use it in their products in general anymore.)

Edited by eterri
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Great to hear that they are making changes. Pays to read labels doesn't it though. When I used to feed my chooks layer pellets and they had free run of the yard.......everyone commented on how lovely and yellow the yolks were. I thought it was down to the natural things they found to eat. But the side of the layer pellets sack showed that a colour additive was one of the ingredients thereby making the lovely orangey yolks :D They went back to old fashioned bran and pollard mash and vegies and yard foraging. :blush:

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Guest eterri

Yeah, no matter what pellet you feed, it's always best to avoid those with artificial colors (like Zupreem fruit blend). Thankfully, that's becoming more well-known as well. Zupreem now makes a natural pellet without the added colors and crazy fruity smell (smelled nice though!). I fed the natural for a while and the birds liked it okay. Kaytee now makes a natural-colored pellet as well but I can't remember the name of it. Basically, it's the one that isn't colorful and shaped funny. :blush:


Another problem with colorful pellets is that a lot of parrots will just pluck out the ones they like better, even if it's just because of the color. Kind of makes for a lot of waste!

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Guest karma-k

Oh I just got so much more confused :) The breeder I am getting my baby from feeds her birds Roudybush pellets. She also recommended Zupreem. It seems by the list that these aren't very good. I need something that I can get at a store (I don't like to buy things over the internet). After reading the list, i'm still not sure what to buy. Can anyone in the US (I am in Pennsylvania) recommend the pellet and seed that would be the best that you can buy at a store? Thank you so much.

Edited by karma-k
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Guest eterri

Zupreem sells a natural pellet with no dyes added and it's fine to feed. As far as seed mixes go, Ecotrition, Nutriphase, and Pretty Bird are okay. All of these can be bought at most large chain pet stores. On the other hand, none of them are without additives. The only seeds and pellets (and fresh foods...) you're going to find that are completely free of such things are oganic and usually have to be bought online.


On the other hand, if you're interested I can find you some recipes for seed mixes that you can put together yourself by getting the ingredients at a local health food store.


Feeding birds properly is tough and at this point, mostly guesswork. Provide plenty of variety and the best foods you can manage, never stop searching for information and you will be able to say that you're doing the best you can. And that's all we can do! :) But never stop studying. These things are ever-changing, especially when it comes to diet.


Forgot to add that Kaytee sells a "natural" pellet as well as Mazuri. Many people have moral issues with buying from Kaytee (google "Kaytee Preferred Pets") but I've found that the pellets aren't bad as far as quality goes. Not as far as I could tell, anyway but I haven't fed them in quite a while and back then I didn't know very much.

Edited by eterri
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