Can Birds Eat Cheese? Pros and Cons of Cheese For Birds

Most people would never think of feeding cheese to birds, but can birds eat cheese? Is it actually good for them? Let’s investigate it further

Yes, birds can eat cheese – and it’s safe for them. 

Cheese is made of milk but unlike other dairy and animal products, it is low in lactose.

While dairy products are not technically toxic, studies show that birds cannot digest lactose properly.

Small amounts of lactose can be good for a bird’s digestive system. But anything with more than 3.5% lactose can lead to digestion issues in birds.

Can Birds Eat Cheese

Most hard cheeses such as aged cheddar cheese and swiss cheese contain lactose between 0.4 to 3.4%.

Cheese is also a low-sugar food, which is good for birds because many bird species can be prone to obesity.

What Kind Of Dairy Products Can They Eat?

Birds lack the enzyme lactase – the enzyme that helps break down and digest lactose.

Hence it is difficult for them to digest lactose. But they can eat fermented milk products.

Fermentation reduces the amount of lactose in dairy products, making them safe for birds. 

Therefore, most birds can safely eat most types of fermented dairy products such as cultured buttermilk, kefir, and yogurt 

On the other hand, dairy products with high levels of lactose such as milk, whey, butter, curds, and other nonfermented milk by-products are a big no-no.

Can Birds Eat Cheese

But What About Cheese?

Cheese is a fermented milk product. Most cheese varieties come with little to no lactose. Hence, most cheese is safe for birds. 

Some of the most common types of cheeses that birds can eat include:

  • Swiss
  • Parmesan
  • Gouda, and
  • Cheddar.

These are rich in proteins and packed with calories, which makes them perfect for birds that need energy. 

You should avoid giving soft cheese such as:

  • Ricotta,
  • Mozzarella,
  • Cottage cheese, and
  • Cream cheese

These cheeses have high lactose content

How To Feed Cheese To Birds

Prefer Hard Cheese To Soft Cheeses

While most kinds of cheese are technically ok for birds, you should prefer hard cheeses over softer varieties. 

Soft cheese can stick to their feathers and restrict their movement. Hard cheese is also lower in lactose than soft – another reason to prefer hard cheese for birds.

Can Birds Eat Cheese

Cheeses such as cheddar and gouda are aged for months and sometimes even years. The longer a cheese is aged, the more lactose can the bacteria get rid of.

Break The Cheese into Smaller Pieces

When you use hard cheese as food for birds, make sure that you don’t keep an entire block of cheese in front of them. Break the cheese into smaller pieces that are more manageable for them.

Avoid Flavored Cheeses

Make sure that you don’t use flavored cheese. Many kinds of cheese come with a flavor such as onion or garlic.

Both, onion and garlic can be highly toxic to birds.

Use Cheese Made from Grass-Fed Cow Milk

If you’re looking for a nutritious snack for your birds, consider cheese made from grass-fed animals. Cheese made from grass-fed cows’ milk is the highest in nutrients and proteins.

Can Birds Eat Cheese

Grass-fed cheese has a deeper flavor than cheeses made from cows that are fed a diet of grain. Not only are they better for the birds, but they also have a more interesting texture.

Specific Recommendations For Some Birds

Parrots enjoy a small amount of hard cheese with peanut butter occasionally.

Cheeses that are devoid of lactose, and low in sodium and fat, can be given to parrots once in a while.

Birds such as robins, wrens, and dunnocks are attracted to mild grated cheese. They will readily eat stale, hard bits of cheese. 

Keep Switching Things Up

Try out varieties one by one, and give your pet birds time to grow used to each type.

Cheddar cheese is usually the best to start off with. But make sure that you keep mixing things up every few days.

Over time, you will be able to figure out which ones they prefer.

What Are The Benefits Of Feeding Cheese To Birds?

Seed-Only Diets Are Not Enough

If you feed your bird seeds and seeds alone, it could shorten their lifespan, because most seeds do not fulfill their daily nutrition.

Just like humans, birds need certain vitamins and minerals, which many seeds do not have.

Cheese Helps in Healthy Bones & Reproduction

Cheese contains a high amount of calcium, which is beneficial for the bone development of birds.

Calcium helps prevent fractures in birds and is also important for their reproduction. It is the most essential nutrient required to produce the hard shell of a bird’s egg.

Can Birds Eat Cheese

Cheese Helps In Boosting the Immune System

Feeding probiotic cheese such as cheddar to birds can boost their immune system.

The calcium and other nutrients in cheese help the birds’ immune systems work better.

Cheese Is High In Protein, Vitamins, and Minerals

Cheese is a great source of protein for birds and helps in balancing their diet. Birds take favorably to cheese.

Feeding birds cheese can provide them with the essential protein they need to stay healthy and strong.

Cheese contains all of the essential amino acids, which are the building blocks for muscles and other tissues in the body.

Cheese is also high in vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is essential for the production of red blood cells in birds, and a deficiency can lead to muscle weakness, lethargy, and neurological damage.

Cheese is a also good source of vitamin A, which is good for your birds’ eyesight and bone health.

Apart from cheese, cranberries, raisins, and currants can also be a good source of these nutrients for birds.

When these building blocks are lacking, it can lead to a variety of health problems among birds, including a weak immune system.

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods are toxic to birds?

Apart from onion and garlic which we mentioned earlier, foods like avocados, green potatoes, tea and coffee, apple pits and seeds, and sugar substitute Xylitol are all bad for birds.

Can birds have mozzarella cheese?

Yes, mozzarella cheese has one of the lowest lactose contents among the cheese family and is safe for birds

Is popcorn safe for birds?

Yes, popcorn is safe for birds. You can boil the kernels to soften them up before giving them to your pet bird.

Can birds eat bread?

While birds can eat bread, it does not give them any nutrition per se. If you really have to, give them what bread, instead. Moldy bread can be toxic for birds and you should never give any moldy food products to them.

How do I know if my bird is hungry?

There are many body language signs that birds will show when they are hungry. For example, frequent and fervent head bobbing might be such an indicator.

Wrap Up

Feeding your bird’s cheese is completely fine as long as you do it in moderation. Hard cheese with low lactose levels such as cheddar, gouda, and swiss cheese should be fine for consumption.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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