Bonnie Grafton is the team leader at Best Friends Animal Society’s Parrot Garden.  We met years ago at a fundraiser we arranged for Florida Parrot Rescue (FPR) and our team raised over $10,000 for FPR. Ever since then, we’ve been friends. Several years ago, Bonnie and I, as well as several other people traveled to Kanab, Utah to volunteer at the Parrot Garden.

When Bonnie saw Angel Canyon and Best Friends, it was all over! She and her husband Ed picked up and moved to Kanab.

Bonnie is a devoted parrot person and is quite talented in the kitchen. She developed a parrot cracker for her birds as well as the birds at the Parrot Garden that are nutritious as well as delicious. I talked to Bonnie about these crackers she makes as well as a little bit about her.

PS: Bonnie, can you tell the blog readers here a bit about yourself?

BG: My first word was “duck” and I’ve had birds since I was 7. I started my career in animal welfare as a humane officer at 25. Two years later, I opened the first of  four retail pet shops spanning almost 25 years, with three of those being avian only. My focus shifted to rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing in 1999 when a blue-and-gold macaw named Elvis was left on my doorstep with a note. (Elvis also began my lifelong love affair with macaws.) In 2012, my business partner and dear friend, Rebecca took over our retail enterprise in southwestern Florida so that I could follow my dreams to Utah. I am currently team lead at Best Friends Animal Society Parrot Garden.

Now, about those crackers! How many attempts before you got them to come out right?

We were looking for something healthy that parrots would be able to hold and enjoy. A “Polly wants a cracker” cartoon crossed my feed one day and I was off and running. It took me several weeks to formulate a tentative recipe. My first attempt came out pretty well. Not as crispy as I wanted but the birds all seemed to enjoy them. The trick is to create a dough that will roll very thin. Think sugar cookie consistency.

Here is the basic recipe for Bonnie’s Parrot Crackers:

  • Approximately 4 cups of cooked sweet potato.
  • Added a generous portion of chia and flax seed (approximately 1/2 cup each).
  • Ground Roudybush rice blend until I had a consistency to roll out.
  • Roll dough out and score with a knife into squares.
  • Dehydrate this batch in a dehydrator for 14 hrs at 115 degrees.

You want the dough to be fairly stiff and easy to roll. It’s not really an exact science. Think sugar cookie dough.

If you are using canned pumpkin instead of sweet potato ensure it is plain canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling.  When using pumpkin, add 1/3 can coconut milk or an apple processed to sauce consistency. This is to add the extra moisture, not necessary with sweet potato.

Any other tips on this?

I’ve also used cooked quinoa as a base, also don’t need extra moisture for this. I use Roudybush rice blend ground in the food processor until it’s a flour, but they could use any bird-healthy flour. I use the pellet flour because it’s a familiar flavor for birds that have not really had this kind of thing before.

After they are removed from the dehydrator, store in an airtight container.

Bonnie also “riffs” on this recipe by adding other ingredients to change up the flavor. Give them a try!

Patricia Sund is the creative director of Bird Talk Magazine, and has written for a variety of avicultural-themed publications, including Bird Talk, the Bird Talk Annual, Birds USA, Phoenix Landing’s Phoenix Beakin’ and Watchbird magazine for the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA). She lives in Florida with her three African grey parrots, Parker, Pepper and Nyla, stars of the popular column, “Memo to Parker & Pepper.”

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