According to pop culture, parrots and crackers go hand-in-hand. One of the first sayings you might teach your parrot is, “Polly want a cracker?” You see it in movies, books, and TV shows, so believe that crackers are safe for parrots.
Crackers aren’t toxic to parrots, but they’re usually empty calories with no added benefit to your parrot’s diet. Depending on the brand, they may also contain high amounts of salt, sugar, and corn syrup.
Cream crackers are less harmful due to their simplistic ingredients, but they’re still empty calories. Animal crackers are high in corn syrup and salt, which are unhealthy. If you feed crackers to your parrot, only do so occasionally.
Are Parrots Allowed Crackers?
Crackers don’t contain any dangerous chemicals that would harm your parrot’s stomach. No parts of a cracker are poisonous or deadly to birds. If you make crackers at home or use plain varieties, then crackers consist of:
Since flour is a plant product, this is safe to consume. Shortening, despite being a dairy, is limited in crackers, so this will be fine. However, there are other ingredients to consider.
Can You Feed Parrots Crackers?
Being non-toxic doesn’t mean crackers are healthy. Store-bought crackers are made with extra ingredients:
The sugar and salt make the flavor more appealing. Some crackers are even deep-fried in oil. None of these ingredients are healthy and may lead to weight gain or related illnesses, such as fatty liver disease.
A parrot should only be given a small number of crackers a month. If they’re sugar-rich or salt-rich, they’ll be damaging in large quantities. If they’re plain crackers, they’ll lack nutritional value. Instead, feed your parrot fruit and vegetables.
Is It Safe To Feed My Parrot Crackers?
If your parrot eats too many crackers, it may develop illnesses for the following reasons:
Excessive sodium (hypernatremia) has various negative effects on the body. Since the most popular brands of crackers are cooked and coated in salt, this can lead to the following conditions:
Polydipsia is defined as excessive or abnormal thirst. It comes from the Greek word polus, which means many, and dipsa, which means thirst. This is a common symptom in parrots that eat too many crackers.
As sodium builds up in the blood, the body will want to thin out the blood and dilute the salt. To do this, your parrot will start to drink more water to restore balance in the blood.
Like polydipsia, the term polyuria also comes from the Greek language, with uria meaning ‘the presence of urine.’ To purge extra salt, the body will use water to dilute the blood. While parrots don’t urinate, they do produce uric acid.
Hypernatremia is an electrolyte problem. When a parrot has consumed too much salt from crackers, it may experience damage to its muscle. Musculoskeletal problems include:
- Losing balance
Sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup
Depending on the type of cracker, your parrot may be adversely affected by these ingredients:
- Too much refined sugar, such as with graham crackers
- High fructose corn syrup, such as with animal crackers
High fructose corn syrup is comprised of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Glucose is the more common type of sugar that comes from starch. Compared to fructose, it’s a healthier sugar. It is easier for the body to transport and can be used by cells in the body.
Fructose needs to be converted before it’s used. It can be converted into usable glucose. However, it’s also converted into stored carbs or fat in the liver. Unfortunately, they have negative effects on parrots:
The most common effect on the body of high fructose corn syrup is obesity and weight gain. The Lancet observed 548 schoolchildren and found that consuming sugary drinks with high fructose corn syrup increased the schoolchildren’s BMIs. The same thing will inevitably happen to parrots, with other health consequences.
Fructose corn syrup consumption has been linked to diseases related to inflammation. According to the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, this ingredient makes inflammatory diseases worse due to uric acid production. It has also been linked to an increase in advanced glycation end products or AGEs, which are harmful to a parrot’s cells.
Whether it’s from flour or high fructose corn syrup, crackers are mostly ‘empty’ calories. Calories provide energy but few nutrients. Depending on the brand, crackers may have no nutritional value at all.
Can Parrots Eat Saltine Crackers?
Saltine crackers are lower in fat, calories, and additives than other crackers. They’re made from a refined grain, so they’re just white flour. Saltine crackers have a high salt content (929 mg per 100 grams), which can lead to:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Constant thirst and the higher production of urates
You can safely feed your parrot 1-2 saltines every few weeks.
Can Parrots Eat Prawn Crackers?
Around one-third of each prawn cracker consists of fat. Because they’re so light, this gives the impression that they’re low in calories. A large bag of prawn crackers has about the same calories as a 50g bag of crisps.
Prawn crackers may contain slightly less sodium than saltines, but there isn’t a significant difference. According to the USDA, 100 grams of prawn crackers contains 906 mg of sodium. They may have other unhealthy ingredients, such as artificial food colorings, alongside flavor enhancers like monosodium glutamate.
However, the occasional prawn cracker won’t harm your parrot as a one-off reward or special treat. Always check the list of ingredients as some brands contain more natural ingredients than others.
Can Parrots Eat Graham Crackers?
There is 371 mg of sodium per 100 grams of Graham crackers. This is to be expected as the main feature is sweetness.
Graham crackers are high in calories due to their sugar content. According to the USDA, 100 grams of Graham crackers contain 25.81 grams of sugar. This is due to the added sugar, brown sugar, molasses, and honey.
You can find recipes online to bake your own version. Cut out most of the sugar from the recipe, and you’ll have a cracker that’s slightly healthier but not healthy for parrots.
Can Parrots Eat Ritz Crackers?
This is another savory cracker made from white flour, oil, sugar, salt, and flavoring. While Ritz crackers are a tasty snack for parrots, they contain little in the way of nutritional value.
Ritz crackers still have a high sodium content. According to the USDA, there’s 882 mg of sodium in 100 grams of Ritz crackers. That’s not much different from saltine crackers or prawn crackers. They make a delicious one-off treat.
Can Parrots Eat Cream Crackers?
Cream crackers are one of the safest crackers to feed parrots. With 533 mg of sodium per 100 grams, they contain less salt. These savory, crispy foods only contain:
- Wheat flour
- Vegetable oil
- Black pepper
- Baking soda (sodium hydrogen carbonate)
Cream crackers don’t have cream in their ingredients. Instead, the word comes from how these crackers are prepared. Creaming refers to the process of blending flour and oil.
Cream crackers are made from wheat flour or oats, so they do contain some B-complex vitamins and dietary fiber.
Crackers are harmful if fed long-term as they’re high in fat, sugar, calories, and preservatives. While it’s better to give parrots fruit, veggies, grains, leafy greens, and seeds, you can feed your parrot the occasional cracker.