I have been a huge fan of Parrot Nation‘s own Patricia Sund, not only for her commitment to parrot nutrition but for creating the “Chop” concept and bringing it to the forefront of the avian community. There are not a lot of people, that I know, who would put it all out there. Trust me, writing a blog about your life and opening your veins to let them bleed onto a computer screen just to be judged is no easy feat. I learned the hard way, it’s all about not taking things too harshly and with a grain of salt. It can be however the most rewarding experience that a writer can experience.
Awhile back I ran into a “different” approach to “Chop” on Facebook, actually it was in the Parrot Pantry group to be exact. Emily Swezey author of “Life from Scratch” came up with the idea of flash freezing chop. This is geared to be an alternative to bagging chop, granted, at first I was a little reluctant but now I’m sold. I am the type of person who usually lives by the “if it aint broke” modo especially when it came to “Chop” and feeding my birds, however I am open to improvements, especially when it comes to my animals. A few weeks ago, I began pondering Emily’s logic and research. I decided to contact a professor friend of mine back at Colorado State University Agricultural Experiment Station, who specializes in growing, harvesting and transportation of various crops (including most of the vegetable ingredients in “Chop”). I asked her about “The Flash” and if it was going to be more beneficial than what I was doing. Indeed, I came to find out that flash freezing can be incredibly beneficial in saving the nutritional integrity of your ingredients. It can also help the cell structure of the ingredients not lose their integrity (which causes them to become mushy) while frozen, then allow the thawing process to restore them to their “almost original form”. Hmmm, I was intrigued.
So, what’s “The Flash” freezing process you ask? Ok….Let me tell you. After you put in all of your various ingredients into your “Chop” mix, you take something shallow that will fit in your freezer (I used a casserole dish). Spread your “Chop” into the dish and place the dish into the freezer. Wait about two hours and comeback. You will notice that there will be a nice sheen of ice crystals throughout your “Chop”. Now this is where it gets good. The next thing you need to do is grab a spoon and begin breaking the “Chop” apart. It’s very similar to fluffing rice in a rice cooker. After the fluffing is done, you simply pour the frozen product into your freezer containers. I used small individual freezer Tupperware and I also used a large freezer Tupperware container because I wanted to see if there would be a difference. I will report there was no difference in the consistency nor the quality of product after using both for four weeks. I even put some in traditional freezer bags to see if that would make a difference. Nope. With this experimental batch, I only made ten quarts, simply because I was not sure how it was going to work. But it worked out marvelously!
How do I feed? In the morning and evening both Dexter and Cooper get a tablespoon and a half, while little Hugo (our lovebird) gets a teaspoon. This is the kicker, the birds love the new method of pulling it right out of the freezer and into their bowls. The consistency is crunchy and eventually thaws into something totally different (the thaw only takes about 15-20). As we all know, birds love novelty and anything that is a bit off the beaten path. The bagging method of “Chop” without “The Flash” involved doesn’t really allow to add fruits to your mix because. However with “The Flash” method, you can flash freeze your “freezing friendly fruits” separately and then add them into the containers you feed your birds right out of the freezer. Talk about saving time, if I can just pull it out of a container, scoop fruits and veggies into the bowl and place it in my bird’s cage for a couple of hours, until they are finished ravaging it, then why the hell not. When fed the birds would eat for a bit then give up, with this method I am happy to report, it’s like having a two course meal in one bowl.
Exciting right? Okay, maybe only for us “bird folk” but taking a method and adding a twist to keep our birds happy is worth it in my opinion. Before you abandoned all of you know about “Chop” I still recommend alternating between the original bagged method and “The Flash” because just as I said…..variety is the spice of life!
I think it’s such an exciting time in the parrot community! We can all share ideas and make changes to existing formats to help suit our needs. I have referred to Patricia Sund as the Steve Jobs of the avian community, and I stand by those words. Without her Parrot Nation blog and her conceptualization of her own “Chop” mix formula, we would not be having these conversations today. I also would not have had the courage to begin Parrot Earth and write about the birds that I love so much. I’m also impressed with Emily Swezey for bringing us a different view-point regarding flash freezing fresh parrot foods and “The Flash” method. She had the gumption to see “Chop” a bit differently and try to create her own that would work for her household. Good job Emily.
Whatever your methods for feeding your birds are, remember who has paved the way for your journey into aviculture, tell them how much you appreciate their accomplishments and look to the future. Because with a world of innovative people the parrot nutrition train is picking up steam and who knows where it will go!