"Can the birds eat this?" is screamed from the kitchen to the computer room on an almost daily basis around the feather dorm. Parrots in the wild will feed on all sorts of fruits, seeds, nuts, and vegetables. They are incredibly inventive when it comes to cracking through to the good part and we are forever entertained by giving them a new treasure from the farmer's market to see what they do with it. A quick internet search is usually required to be sure that there is not a toxicity issue, but sometimes the novel food item can pose more of a threat to the Flock Advisors than to the fragile featherbrains.
This winter, the hot item at the farmer's market has been peppers. Poblano, Cayenne, Jalapeño, and every other variety imaginable has been set out in a firecracker display to tempt shoppers who brave the biting cold mornings. Unable to pass them up completely, I brought home some glossy green Jalapeños to cram in the fridge with the rest of the weekly stock-up. I was imagining them warming up a chicken dish or some salsa, but when I got home I thought I'd give the birds a shot at them.
The parrot food we buy at the store usually has some dried peppers in it, and we have a bag of dried Thai peppers for treats. We have never fed the birds fresh peppers, though, so an internet search was in order just to make sure. With the safety check complete, it was time to offer the spicy treats to the birds. Sprite and Cher dug right into the seeds, but Lennon was a little shy. Coconut fed off of Lennon's timidness, but eventually figure it out. I put a pepper slice in his food dish, and once he figured out there were seeds in it, I thought he was going to topple over into his food dish as he picked wildly at them.
I've done some research since, and it seems that parrots do not have saliva glands and are therefore not bothered by the capsaicin, which is the chemical that makes peppers "hot". In fact, the peppers are loaded with essential vitamins for them and also act as a digestive aid.
The morning after their first taste of Jalapeño, I decided to mix some of the fresh peppers in with their breakfast. As I poured their dishes full of parrot pellets, a few slices of fresh Jalapeño went on top. It was a great treat for them, and I have since picked up some fresh Cayenne peppers to add to their daily diets.
The hot peppers pose no threat to the birds, but as mentioned, they're not as benign toward the Flock Advisors. That first morning as I was preparing their diets, I at some point wiped my freshly shaved face with a hand that had been divvying peppers all morning. The capsaicin is perfectly capable of burning sensitive skin, as it is capable of reddening our eyes. So if you do decide to chop up some fresh hot peppers for breakfast, wash your hands thoroughly lest you be brought to stinging tears.
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