“I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”

— Rick Blaine, “Casablanca”

That quote is probably the most famous movie quote about beans. And despite this, a hill of beans can be a very valuable asset to your flock’s diet.

Beans are as old as the hills. Their use has been documented as far back as pre-biblical times and archeologists have found evidence of their use has been found worldwide. So it’s a pretty good bet that beans have been a staple in diets in many cultures over thousands and thousands of years. Bean consumption by humans is primarily concentrated in the southern and western areas of the United States; however, ironically, the states that don’t consume as much beans are the very regions where most of them are grown. North Dakota and Michigan are the top producer of beans and yet they don’t have as large a place in the diets of that region.

What Makes Beans Great

Beans have a lot of advantages to both humans and birds alike. For one thing, they are an inexpensive source of high-quality, low-fat vegetable protein. So not only are they delicious and nutritious, they’re easy on your wallet. And aren’t we all looking to save some money here and there? When you add beans to your flock’s diet, you are adding an inexpensive food item that happens to be loaded with many terrific attributes.

Beans are rich in protein, loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants and are bursting with fiber. A cup of cooked beans has about 12 grams of fiber and fiber is a wonderful aid to your parrot’s digestion.

You also happen to be on the bonus plan in the fiber department because beans are rich in both soluble and insoluble fibers. The soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol and the substantial amounts of insoluble fiber help draw water to the stool softening the waste allowing it to pass more easily through the colon. Because of all of that fiber, these guys are slow to digest! But it is indeed the fiber that keeps the digestive system ticking along in a healthy mode.

Not only do they contain high levels of protein and fiber, they are packed with carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. They’re also low in fat. Because they are a plant, they are cholesterol-free, have plenty of vitamins and minerals and are an excellent source of thiamin and folic acid. They are also a good source of riboflavin and vitamin B6, copper, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium.

But wait! There’s more! Beans are really high in antioxidants and these antioxidants fight free-radicals.

What are free radicals, you might ask? Free radicals are oddball gunslinger atoms with one or more unpaired electrons that cause damage in your system’s cellular structures and your DNA. They have been the likely suspects in everything from cancer and aging to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants inhibit this oxidation caused by these gunslingers free radicals.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture did a study and measured the antioxidant capacities of more than 100 common foods. Three types of beans made the top four foods on the list.

Needless to say, beans are a wonderful food for your flock. I feed my three African Greys beans in several recipes that I make for them and they seem to really chow down on them. Parker likes to peel his beans. Don’t ask me why he does this. I just tend to look at it as a foraging exercise.

Cooking Beans the Safe Way

Cooked beans are a marvelous food item for parrots as there are many nutritious properties contained in them. Beans are extremely rich in nutrition and while dry beans vary considerably in flavor, size, color, and shape, the composition and nutrition is similar from bean to bean despite their differences in appearance.

I prefer to use dry beans which require soaking for at least eight hours before boiling. You can use canned beans, but ensure that the canned variety you select is salt-free.

Dry beans also contain oligosaccharides, a type of sugar. They also have a chemical toxin called phytohaemagglutinin. Soak dry beans before cooking. This eliminates many of the sugars as well as the phytohaemagglutinin and you don’t want either of these in your beans.

It is the sugars that cause the bacteria in your intestines to produce gas commonly associated with beans. You can remove the sugars by soaking beans overnight, or for at least eight hours and then boiling them for at least 15 minutes. This will remove any toxins and unwanted naturally occurring sugars found in beans.

I have found this method to be a safe and efficient way to soak and cook beans for my birds:

  • Place beans in a pot and pick through to check for any mutant beans or the occasional pebble sometimes found in a bag of dried beans.
  • Add enough water to amply cover the beans.
  • Soak beans for 8 hours or overnight.
  • Drain beans, discard soak water and rinse with fresh, cool water.
  • Fill the pot of soaked beans with enough fresh water to cover.
  • Bring to boil and boil in rapidly boiling water for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and drain.
  • Let them cool and add to any bird food recipe requiring the beans.

You’ll find them to be a welcome ingredient to many applications and recipes for your flock’s diet and once they learn how tasty they are, you will see them dive right in!

P.S. Know someone who would love Bird Talk? Tell them they can subscribe here.

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.”

Leave a Reply