Celery is a powerful vegetable with long fibrous stalks which taper into edible leaves. It is well known for weight loss because of its low calorific value. 1 cup of chopped up celery (110 grams) has only 18 calories. High water content further adds to its popularity.
Celery is also used as a natural remedy to manage high blood pressure and reduce arthritis pain. It is clear that celery is great for you. What about your bird? Can he have some too? Is celery safe for parrots?
Nutritional Value of Celery
Celery contains a wide variety of nutrients which are beneficial to your bird.
Vitamin C. This vitamin is essential to maintain your bird’s immunity. Interestingly, when birds lack vitamin C, they often engage in self-destructive behavior like excessive preening.
Vitamin A. This is an essential vitamin in your parrot’s diet. It helps to maintain good eye sight and maintain smooth, healthy feathers. It is vitamin A which is responsible for the bright orange, blue, green or red colors on some parrots.
Vitamin K. This vitamin serves to ensure proper blood coagulation. Your bird may bleed excessively after a minor injury if this nutrient is lacking. Vitamin K is also associated with strong bones and strong or harder egg shells.
Folic Acid. Also known as vitamin B9, folic acid serves to ensue healthy cell growth and metabolism. Birds with vitamin B9 deficiency may suffer from anemia, malformations or stunted growth.
Parrots can eat celery but it is not highly recommended because it has the potential to cause digestive problems in your bird.
What Is Risky About Celery?
Celery in itself is great for parrots. The risk is in the stringy part of celery stalks. The long, tough thread-like bits running along the length of celery stalks can be quite irritating when you are trying to enjoy a celery salad or munch on a healthy snack. They get caught in your teeth and generally pass through the system undigested. For some people they are annoying enough to skip the vegetable all together.
While these are simply annoying and nothing else to us, they can be dangerous for parrots. If your parrot swallows these stringy fibers, they can clog up his digestive system. This leads to crop impaction or constipation.
What is crop impaction?
The crop of a bird is a muscular pouch near the throat. It forms part of the digestive tract. The crop’s function is to store food temporarily prior to digestion.
When your parrot suffers from crop impaction, food ingested does not move along the digestive tract as fast as it should. A barrier is created and it prevents smooth movement through the tract. Some complications which could arise as a result of crop impaction are dehydration, hypoglycemia and fungal, yeast or bacterial infections. In severe cases, crop impaction causes death in birds.
Crop impaction is very similar to intestinal obstruction in humans which can be very serious if not addressed immediately.
Symptoms of crop impaction in birds include frequent vomiting, inactivity, dehydration, loss of appetite, agitation and depression. If you notice any of these symptoms in your bird, take him to a veterinarian immediately.
How to Destring Celery Stalks
To make celery stalks safe for your parrot, the first option is to destring them. Once all the strings are removed, you can give the stalks to your parrot whole. Large parrots will love that. Here are a few ways to do it.
Use a peeler
Perhaps the easiest and fastest way to remove strings from celery stalks is to use a vegetable peeler. Swiss peelers or ‘Y’ peelers are best.
Position the peeler blade at the base of the stalk while maintaining a firm grip on it. Pull the peeler continuously along the length of the stalk. This strips off the fine top layer of skin and removes the strings along with it. Repeat the process making sure the entire surface of the stalk is peeled and stringless.
If you have more than one peeler, try them all and identify the one which removes the thinnest layer of skin.
A paring knife
Paring refers to cutting away the outer layer or ends from a vegetable or fruit. That is exactly what the paring knife is used to do with celery. Start at the root end of the stalk. Slide the blade under the threads to make about ¼ of the string lie on the blade. Press your thumb on the end of the string and lift it as you pull it along the length of the stalk. Repeat the process until all the strings are removed.
A mandolin slicer is different form a knife because the blade is permanently mounted on a frame. You use it by moving the food over it instead. Some mandolin slicers allow you to set the thickness of slices made. Set yours for the thinnest slicing possible to avoid wastage. Rotate the stalk and repeat the slicing until the entire stalk has no strings left.
If destringing will take more time and energy than you have, chopping the stalks is another option. Chop the stalks finely and feed them to your bird alone or add them to a vegetable chop. This way, no large strings will enter the bird’s body and no blockage can occur.
Are Celery Seeds Safe For Parrots?
There is more to the celery plant than the stalk. Celery seeds are not as common as the stalk but are still a good, nutritious option for you and your bird.
The small, light-brown seeds have an earthy scent and are somewhat bitter taste. Despite their small size, they are also packed with nutrients and are low in calories. They are particularly rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium.
Some health benefits of celery seeds in your bird’s diet include:
- Improved bone health. Celery seeds are rich in calcium which is the main mineral responsible for strong and healthy bones. 1 tablespoon of celery seeds (6 grams) contains 115mg of calcium. Many birds don’t get enough calcium in their diet.
If one or all your birds are African Grey parrots, it is important to keep in mind that this species is especially susceptible to calcium deficiency. African Greys have particularly high calcium dietary requirements. Celery seeds and other calcium rich foods will definitely do them well.
- Antibacterial benefits. Studies have shown that extract from celery seeds ca be used to fight off H.pylori bacteria which is often found in the digestive tract. This same extract has been found to be effective in combating certain types of yeast and mold.
- Antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are compounds which help the body get rid of harmful molecules known as free radicals. Your bird’s body requires a perfect balance of free radicals and antioxidants in order to stay in good health.
Though there is little information on the role of celery in elimination of free radicals, studies have shown that it indeed has some positive effect. This is attributed to the presence of polyphenols, a common compound in antioxidant foods.
Celery seeds can be incorporated into your bird’s diet by offering them on their own on a bowl or sprinkling them onto a mix of fruits and vegetables. Celery seeds are sold as whole seeds or in crushed or ground form. Birds love to eat seeds so it is best to let him have his celery seeds whole.
It is generally recommended that 15% to 30% of a parrot’s diet should constitute fresh fruits and vegetables. Juicing is a great way to add texture variety where these are concerned. Veterinarians recommend identification of your bird’s favorite vegetables and making a nutritious drink.
You can juice celery stalks on their own and give your bird the juice. Alternatively, select a few other vegetables like kale, carrots and spinach and add them to celery. To give the juice a slightly sweet taste, add bits of apple to the mix.
Upside and downside of juicing
Juicing removes fiber, a very important nutrient in vegetables. This removal is advantageous because it makes it easier to the bird’s digestive tract to absorb all the other nutrients. On the other hand, your bird still needs a good amount of fibre in his diet.
The solution is to keep the fibre-rich pulp left after juicing and offer it to your bird later as a separate snack. You could also use the pulp in baked foods such as bread and offer pieces of it to your parrot.
Celery is a nutrient-packed vegetable which is low in calories. This makes it an ideal food for your parrot. However, you have to be careful to destring celery stalks before feeding them to your bird. These strings could affect the bird’s digestive system and cause crop impaction.
Other forms of celery available are celery seeds and celery juice. Seeds are best given whole because this is how birds eat their seeds in the wild. If you opt for celery juice, let your bird enjoy the juice and then give the remaining fruit pulp as a snack later. This way he gets all the nutrients from the juice as well as the fibre from the pulp.