A Fun Way to Offer Fresh Foods
One of the healthiest snacks you can give your birds is fresh chop. What is chop? It is a mixture of fresh vegetables which can also include fruits, beans and grains. Some birds are super picky, as we all know! But they can often be tricked into trying new fresh foods by mixing them into a chop with other familiar flavors and smells. There is no one right or wrong way to make fresh chop. Just like any recipe, it can be adjusted and customized to what your birds enjoy most, what’s available for the season, as well as what you can find at your local market. Chop is also a great soft food to help incorporate any supplements into your bird’s diet.
We have a large list of excellent ingredients that work great in chop, and we include whatever is available within that list as you are making it. A bonus to most chop recipes is that it can be mixed in large batches (the more variety of ingredients the bigger it gets!) and then frozen. Once frozen it can be thawed as needed to feed your birds any time and as often as you choose.
How often do you feed chop?
The real answer is… as often as you want and can financially afford to! Many owners enjoy offering fresh chop daily, maybe even having a variety of recipes already frozen to offer to their birds.
What types of chop do you recommend?
We have a variety of chops we have used that our birds enjoy. A vegetable only variety, a fruit salad style, a bean and grain mix, and then a mixture of any and all of the above. We like having a selection of types just to add variety to our bird’s diet and introduce new flavors all the time. My favorite mixes include vegetables, fruit, beans, pasta and grains.
How to make your own Chop:
Here I will include general directions for any basic chop, using whatever ingredients you choose. Check out our other posts on various chop recipes we love to use!
Always start with fresh, organic ingredients whenever possible. If unavailable, you can use frozen vegetables as long as you don’t allow them time to thaw out while mixing and re-freezing them. If organic isn’t available, check your local farmer markets for fresh ingredients, then make sure you thoroughly wash your ingredients to remove any pesticides remaining on the outside of your foods.
Make sure to cook your beans, rice, pasta, quinoa, etc a day a day in advance. Only adding them into your chop mix at the end once cooled. The reason is to give them time to cool in the refrigerator before adding them to your cold ingredients and then freezing once mixed. When cooking a variety of beans, we recommend cooking them separately to keep them from turning an unappetizing monotone grey color. To cook dry beans, pre-soak them, and then boil them for about 30 minutes to an hour depending on the type (see instructions on the packaging). Then rinse them in cold water to allow them to retain their coloring (similar to blanching a vegetable) before allowing them to cool in the fridge.
With small birds (finches to cockatiel sizes), you are best to use a food processor to finely chop the ingredients into small pieces that are more manageable to nibble at. For any water-heavy ingredients, you will also want to use cheesecloth to squeeze and drain any extra liquid from them before freezing to prevent them from getting freezer burn and mushy once thawed out. If you are using this chop as a traveling source of extra hydration, don’t drain the liquid and serve fresh only.
For medium to large birds, it’s best to chop the ingredients by hand wherever possible using a chef’s knife, into the size of chunks preferred by your bird. For smaller ingredients, leave whole.. like beans and rice!
As each type of ingredient is prepared, mix with similar ingredients. For example wet, dry, or cooked. Allow to stay cool in the fridge while moving on to the next type. Once everything is cooked and cooled, then washed, chopped and drained; you’ll want to mix each batch together into it’s final mixed variety. You can even make multiple varieties in one batch if you have an excess of one type (especially notable if you cook too many beans, simply make an extra bean and rice mixture!)
I recommend several ideas depending on what works best for you and based on how big of a batch you need to store. In small batches, you can use ice cube trays to make small portions in the fridge (cover with plastic wrap) or freezer (cover with foil). I have one friend who takes a gallon freezer bag and uses chop sticks or wooden skewers to make squared portion separations while laying flat in the freezer to form small blocks to later thaw out.
In larger batches, I recommend getting snack baggies and filling them up. Then fill a gallon sized freezer bag with the filled snack portions inside. This allows for easy thawing of smaller batches while keeping it freezer safe. I keep out my excess in any sized baggie in the fridge to use fresh.
As long as your frozen chop is properly stored at a constant temperature, preferably in a deep freezer (and not freezer burned), it can last up to 12 months while retaining it’s best quality of the ingredients.
When ready, only thaw out a portion that will be used within a week at most. I usually prefer to thaw out only 3 or 4 days worth in advance for the freshest meals to my birds.