The Hagen Avicultural Research Institute (HARI) has been working
on a formulated diet since 1985 and started feeding it in 1986.
After trying seed diets, seed diets mixed with pellets, and
soft-food mashes, HARI finally determined the most practical
method of feeding a breeding colony of Psittacines was feeding
exclusively a formulated extruded granule.
TROPICAN is an extruded granule and has a greater nutrient
density and digestibility than other products on the market.
This results in; better plumage, weight balance, lower
consumption, greater metabolic water production therefore lower
water intake and lower urination, pleasant smelling feces and
HARI feeds TROPICAN exclusively to more than 350 parrots of
about four dozen different species. The birds have shown no
signs of feather stress bars or poor pigmentation, kidney
disease, thinness, obesity, weak bones or other nutritionally
related problems. Only after confirming our nutritional
philosophies on our own in house birds and raising almost 100
parrots on the formula have we decided to market the diet.
The first phase of our product development research has given
attention to a “High Performance” diet which would meet the
higher requirements for breeding (parental egg laying and
rearing of young) and growth (handfeeding from hatch).
The TROPICAN Breeding Diet is a finely ground up form of the
granules. This is to include the benefits of high temperature
extrusion cooking such as gelatinization of the starches which
improves the water holding properties of the formula,
destruction of field bacteria, and easier digestion.
A lower protein and calcium maintenance or “Life-Time
Formula” has been developed for pet birds who are not molting
or under any other stress such as cooler temperatures. Natural
colours such as those found in carrots and alfalfa add interest
for the bird without being artificial.
One of the major differences between Tropican and other products
is our significantly higher fat level. When we fed other
products to our birds they developed wet, smelly droppings.
These products are basically glorified farm pellets and
probably are least cost formulated like poultry feed (they
actually look like chicken feed). These products have minimal
levels of essential fatty acids and amino acids.
HARI then decided to increase the caloric density of our
formula with more fat, so that the bird would have to eat and
drink less. Our guaranteed fat level in the High Performance
diet is a minimum 9% but we actually run the fat at 10%. This is
about twice the fat found in other pellets. HARI has had no
obesity problem but more importantly has no skinny birds either.
Other breeders who use diets with the lower fat levels report
skinny African Greys and Cockatoos unless they supplement these
pellets with oil seeds such as sunflower. Any pellet that has to
be supplemented with oil seeds or fruits can hardly be called
Birds, like all animals, eat to balance their energy needs. When
comparing the protein versus dietary energy of Tropican with
other diets, the levels are similar. Although the percent of
protein in the diets is different, so is the available energy
level. Since Tropican has a higher caloric density, birds eat
less of it.
The amount of protein consumed and used by the bird is
actually less with Tropican due its higher fat levels. This also
reduces the amount of protein the bird must use for energy.
Metabolic water is a byproduct of fat metabolism reducing water
intake. When protein is broken down and used as a energy source
the uric acid byproduct must be excreted by the kidney which can
Parrots have significantly more taste buds than chickens, so why
do many diets look and taste like chicken feed? Unlike farm
pellets these granules break cleanly and do not explode into
fine powder like pellets do. The parrot is able to hold the rest
of the granule and eat the piece it broke off. Again this
difference results in a benefit to the consumer as significantly
less wastage is associated with TROPICAN.
Some bird owners find it hard to feed their bird uniform,
formulated diets. Tropican's generous levels of important
nutrients allows it to be diluted by the addition of, up to 20
per cent on a weight basis, fruits and veges. After three years
none of our birds has become a feather picker because its bored
of the uniform pellets. TROPICAN is a hard dense granule which
parrots enjoy biting into.
TROPICAN's ingredients also include natural fruit flavours
for increased palatability. The method of application of these
flavours appears to be as important as the types of flavours
used. We have tried many combinations of fruit flavorings over
several years of trial and error feeding to come up with a blend
that the majority of birds liked. The flavours we ultimately
decided on using are natural orange, apple, banana and raspberry
extracts. For maximum stimulation of the birds senses we dust
and spray the outside of the granule with these concentrated
dehydrated fruit extracts. The combination of flavours were
chosen because they were favoured by the majority of the birds
and resulted in the least amount of wastage due to selecting.
The TROPICAN Diets contain a larger variety of ingredients
such as corn, soybean, wheat, sunflower kernel, peanut meat, and
safflower oil. This range of ingredients give the pellet a taste
which birds are accustomed to and also improves the nutritional
value of the formulation.
Some veterinarians say that because the minimum nutrient
requirements for parrots are not known, companies can not state
that they have a complete diet. But precise minimum requirements
do not necessarily need to be known to formulate an adequate
diet. HARI raised 60 amazons, cockatoos and macaws on TROPICAN
Breeding Diet before claiming that the formula was complete. If
the requirements for excellent growth are met then it would be
difficult to say that the formula is not complete. In general
individual plant proteins may be deficient in some essential
amino acids but by using different grains this is minimized.
Also significant amounts of methionine and lysine are
supplemented to the formula. The addition of these limiting
amino acids makes the quality of the protein equal to that of
the best animal sources. There are no narcotics or other
addictive chemicals in sunflower kernel, contrary to what some
safflower seed companies may say.
Products which contain fish meal as a source of protein are
less palatable. Besides producing an off odour to the food, fish
meal could be a source of pathogenic bacteria, and may be
produced by mass netting a natural resource in an unsustainable
and destructive manner.
The rate of growth should not be the only criteria in
evaluating a diet but also should include the health of the
babies, the ease of feeding and weaning and the amount of
wastage associated with the food. The method of feeding babies
and their housing has a lot to do with their health. Some
breeders will too quickly blame the food for disease problems
and not question their own cleanliness or feeding methods. Some
common problems are using the same syringe for different
clutches of babies, and pseudomonas bacteria growing in
incubator and brooder water reservoirs.
We have also included vitamin C to our formula. Although
vitamin C does not appear to be required by most parrots, it may
reduce the chance of disease during stressful periods and lories
may require it. HARI feeds the Tropican Breeding Diet
exclusively to our lories who lick it up just like they would
pollen. Vitamin C does have excellent anti-oxidant properties
thus protecting the other vitamins from inactivation. Many
products are missing this 14th vitamin which acts as a natural
preservative. Vitamin E has a similar affect as well as being
important in fertility and preventing fat oxidation. TROPICAN
has significantly higher levels of these important vitamins.
Even slight microbial contamination of feed is serious since
they are fed to babies with poorly developed immune systems.
HARI performs microbiological tests on each batch of TROPICAN to
assure quality control. An obvious way to reduce the chance of
feed being contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms is not to
use ingredients which may contain them, such as animal by
products and this includes not using fish or egg as an
ingredients. Our low plate count (the name of the test to check
the number of organisms) reflects the benefits of extruding,
that is the killing of organisms naturally present in some feed
This high temperature processing could destroy some of the
vitamins in the formula but this was taken into consideration
when formulating. HARI has worked closely with Hoffmann-La Roche
on the vitamin and mineral premix in TROPICAN. Their expertise
on the stability and suggested levels of these nutrients along
with our product testing has resulted in guaranteed levels of
all vitamins. Methods to assure these levels include the use of
more expensive encapsulated vitamins, the addition of sensitive
ones after extrusion and using levels which are higher than the
estimated minimum requirement.