How to Feed a Bird
Dry bird seed normally provides a satisfactory diet, but many experienced fanciers maintain that a diet of soaked and sprouted seed proves more nutritious. Cheap seed should be avoided since it usually contains a lot of dust and proves difficult to germinate. Birds with young must be provided with ample quantities of good quality soaked and sprouted seeds. The vitamin content of the sprouted seeds is extremely high. Seeds should is soaked in cold water for 24 hours, then washed, drained, and left to sprout in a warm place, until the shoots are about 6 mm ( 1/4 in) long. This can take two to four days, according to the temperature.
The most universally popular seeds are the four varieties of millet seeds: white, panicum, Japanese, and red millet. These are usually mixed. Plain canary seed is the next most frequently used with other seeds fed as required. Maw seed, rape, linseed, and hemp seed (if available), and the black niger seed are useful, particularly during cold weather when body fat needs to be maintained. Hulled oats, groats, and sunflower seeds are usually fed to larger species. Parrot-like birds need adequate supplies of sunflower seeds and many eat maize and peanuts too.
A simple extra is clear honey which may be mixed with water in drinkers or even with seed for birds with young in the nest. Raw- egg yolk may also be mixed with seed. Stale wholemeal bread, which has been well soaked, should be crumbled into small pieces and may have a little milk poured over it to form an ideal rearing aid. Any leftovers must be removed quickly lest the milk turns sour. Alternatively, the bread can be soaked in water, which is better if the remains cannot be removed promptly. Never use fresh bread for this purpose; it is too heavy to digest and can prove fatal to young birds.
Ample supplies of grit and cuttlefish bone are essential. Grit comes in several forms including oyster shell, crushed granite, and slate. Proprietary tonic grit in packet form may be purchased at pet food stores. It contains several vital minerals including salt, iron oxide, calcium, lime, phosphorus, and a little charcoal. This preparation helps birds to masticate seed in the crop and therefore digest their food properly. The calcium in cuttlefish bone is very high. Cuttlefish bone may be given both whole or flaked into small thin slivers.
Chicken egg shells are a very worthwhile source of added calcium, particularly important during the breeding season to help form healthy egg shells. Cleanegg shell should be baked in the oven until very brittle and crushed into fine particles before feeding.
Charcoal is relished by certain seed-eaters, especially Australian finches. All types of grit should be provided in separate dishes to discourage birds from taking only their favorite kind from a selection.
If practical, annual or perennial seed-ing grass should be grown in the aviary. With these semi-ripe seeds available many types of birds successfully rear broods with little more than a hard seed diet.
Fresh green food should be fed regularly as sporadic feeding can cause stomach upsets. New stock should be introduced to green food gradually and quantities increased as they become accustomed to it. Take care that any green stuff has been obtained from areas free from insecticide spray and that the food is always washed carefully. Chickweed (Stellaria media) is an important source of Vitamin E. Lettuce, dandelion, and spinach are all useful. Among suitable seeding, weeds are plantain (Plant-ago lanceolate), groundsel (Seneca° vul-garis), shepherd’s purse, and clover (Trifolium pratense). Thistles, such as Carduus and Cirsizon, are enjoyed by many birds including the goldfinch. Frozen green food should never be given, as it chills the stomach. Some birds use left-over greenstuff in their nests during the breeding season and this damp material often helps in softening the eggshells, allowing the chickens to hatch easily.
Cod liver oil is a highly beneficial addition to the seed during cold weather and particularly in the breeding season to help prevent egg binding in young hens. Add 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of stabilized cod liver oil to Vz kg (2 lb 3 (m) of mixed millet, shake well, and allow to stand for 24 hours before feeding to birds. Any uneaten oiled seed should be removed after a further 24 hours to prevent it from becoming rancid. This seed can then be washed and allowed to sprout before feeding so that it is not wasted. Oiled seeds should be fed about once a month during summer and weekly in winter.
During the breeding season, breeding pairs may be supplied with proprietary brand canary rearing food mixed with finely mashed hard-boiled eggs. This is a nourishing food for regurgitation by the parents for feeding to their young. It is best to start the parents on this before the young arrive, so they become accustomed to the mixture, and to check that they are feeding well. It should be given in the morning and the uneaten mixture thrown away by dusk, or earlier in very warm regions, to ensure it is not tainted. Ground birds, such as quail and small doves, require a seed mixture comprising equal parts of canary seed, mixed millets, and a small quantity of hemp (if available) and groats. Wheat should be added to the diet of larger quail. Since quail are avid consumers of insectivorous food, meal worms, beetles and fresh ants’ eggs should be offered.
For parrotlike species, add sunflower seeds, fresh peanuts, groats, and a small amount of hemp (if available) to mixed
Striped sunflower seeds should be plump and hard
millets and plain canary seeds. Sunfloweriind peanuts should make up about half of the mixture.
Large parakeets enjoy other seeds such as buckwheat, whole oats, barley, wheat, and maize. They enjoy small sweet apples, grapes, pears, and bananas. All should be unbruised fruit of sound quality. They also like raw carrots and fresh sweetcorn (maize). They may also be given twigs to chew. Many types of wood are suitable, except laurel and laburnum, which are poisonous. Boiled sweetcorn(maize), should be fed in a separate dish, or its moisture makes the seed turn moldy. Some birds prefer fruit containing seeds or pips and waste the flesh to reach them. Pomegranates are often enjoyed. Sponge cake soaked in a honey mixture may also be offered.
Parrot-like birds often suffer from a deficiency of Vitamin A in seed diets, so it is wise to provide a nectar mixture to rectify this. Two teaspoons of honey and two rose hip syrup should be dissolved in water. If desired, add a few drops of multivitamin preparation and perhaps alternate this with a meat extract. This provides ample quantities of Vitamins A and D. Other alternatives, such as malt, condensed milk, and honey, may also be offered mixed with water. This should be given in dishes.
Most parrotlike birds love picking over clods of earth with roots and grass attached. The trace elements manganese, iron, copper, and zinc are often lacking in their diet and are provided in this way. It is recommended that cooled, boiled water is always given to small seedeaters, particularly Australian species, such asGouldians, who seem to thrive better on this. It is difficult to prevent birds from drinking front other sources when they are kept outside, but at least the water in their drinkers should be boiled. Australia and the State of California have declared the sale of hemp seed illegal. Sunflower seed provides the same nutrients as hemp.
See more: Home and Garden Bird Feeders