Saturday, June 9, 2012

Operation Mash in the Details

Since Suzanne asked several very good questions in a comment on my last post, so I decided just to answer them here!

Her comment:
"I have never made mash before so I have a few questions...
How much water to mash mix do you use when cooking?
About how long should it cook for?
How much mash do you feed the birds a day? My smallest bird is a green cheek Conure, my largest is a Green wing Macaw.
Do you feed any pellet or seed or does the mash replace all of that?"

I do not measure the water for my mash anymore. Since I soak everything first, it takes much less water than is recommended on the package. By now, I just have a feel for how much water I need, covering the legume/grain mix by about 1-1.5" of water. The first time you cook it, start there, but monitor it and add more as needed. Bring the mixture to a boil, and keep it at a steady simmer until done. I bring it to a boil with the lid on, of course, and cook it with the lid cracked. If near the end it has a lot of water, I may take the lid off and bring it to a boil to get rid of the water. On the other hand, if it seems hard near the end, I may put the lid on fully to steam it a bit more. If you seem to have a lot of extra water when you are near done, you can try boiling it off, which will get rid of some of the water, although will give you a slightly mushier texture- which many birds prefer, anyway! Never worry about having too much water, since you can always strain the extra as you would pasta. I have done that in the past, works very well, so if you are nervous about it, take that route.

Cooking Time
I would say that mine is done in about 40 minutes, but I do not time it. I check after about 25-30 minutes, to know how close I am and when to add the quinoa. Test the largest legume you have, which in my case is chickpeas. They are done when they still have texture, but smash easily and are no longer white in the center, but light tan. Try smashing one after 10-15 minutes of cooking time if you want a comparison. They can take extra cooking, although I would not feed any under-cooked legumes, so if you are unsure, err on the side of caution and give it a few more minutes.

Amount to Feed
The amount to feed will vary not just depending on size but also your individual bird's activity level. My ekkies get about a 1/4 cup at a meal, while Linus, my single tiel, gets about 1.5 teaspoons. Feed a bit more than you think they will eat, and see how much is left at the end of the day, including that which is tossed. Gradually decrease (or increase, if needed) until you are feeding a few small crumbles more than they will eat. This way, you are not wasting any, and you know they are getting as much as they need. As a bonus, this puts more value on the food, so far less is tossed, and you know they are getting all that you are feeding, and not just picking out some of it.

What Else is Fed
I feed mash as one meal a day, although you can certainly feed it as both meals. Since mine is just one meal, the other meal is dry mix, fresh foods, and perhaps some special treats like birdie bread, etc. If your parrots are picky about the mash, try putting the whole thing, veggies as well as legume/grain base in the food processor until it is quite fine.

Anything that can grow a plant is a seed. This includes grains, legumes, things like sunflower, safflower, canary seed, and nuts. Yes, all of those are seeds, and not all are that high in fat. So actually, the grain/legume base could count as part of a "seed mix".I personally would never knock fattier seeds out of the diet completely. If you feed mash twice a day, they would already be getting the grain portion of seed mixes, but all parrots, just like people, still benefit from the nutrients in things like human-grade sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, canary seeds, nuts, and so on. How much of those you offer as treats will depend both on species and an individual parrot's needs. Since I feed mash once a day, I have a basic grain/seed mix, and a larger grain/seed/dried fruit/veggie mix. The cockatiels get more dry mix than the ekkies, who get very little. I leave sunflower seeds, hemp seed, nuts, etc, separate, and feed those as treats or in foraging toys, so I can more easily monitor how much each parrot gets.

I do not feed pellets to my parrots. There, I said it! I found through personal experience that my particular parrots, though they improved initially with pellets as part of the diet, do far better getting a very nutritious whole food diet. If you are unable to prepare, or your parrot will not eat, a good diet, I say include pellets, by all means. Keep in mind, though, that if you do not include pellets, it is a good idea to give a *small* amount of egg every week as a B12 boost (modern soil is often depleted of nutrients even in organics, so any B12 is very minimal), and you need to be able to get them outside for Vit. D. Vitamin D is stored in the liver for 20-30 days, so you do have some lee-way on how often they get out during cooler months. Try to get them out as much as possible whenever you can. There are also supplements with Vit D for parrots you could try during the winter, but do not go overboard. Here is another post you might be interested in, along with those two I just linked to, about pellets and vitamins.

Hope that helps, and feel free to ask any more questions you may have! I also highly recommend you check out the Feeding Feathers yahoo group for more information (read the files) as much of my mash is based on that, with a few changes.


Suzanne said...

Thank you for taking the time to post this. I think I may have to try my hand at Mash, I already make them bird bread and most of them gobble it up, so I think the mash will be a hit as well.

Meg said...

No problem! I would leave to hear how it goes, though!

Anonymous said...

This is very useful!! Great job on the article and the mash you made! I also, don't feed pellets to my parrots. I'm just not that comfortable with the ingredient list of them and I've looked into many brands.

Suzanne said...

Another quick question, when we went around trying to get the mash ingredients this weekend we could not find any black rice, where do you get it?

Meg said...

I have found black rice at Whole Foods, although I also get mine online from Lundberg Farms. Black quinoa is a bit harder, it is online, though, might have it if I remember correctly. The black lentils I get at Whole Foods. Hope this helps!