Bird Food & Nutrition
When it comes to food, your pet needs a balanced diet as well as lots of clean water to stay in tip top shape.
Feeding your bird correctly for maximum health has never been easier than it is now. For a long time, the standard way to feed pet birds was to buy a seed mix, and possibly supplement the seeds with some fresh greens and a piece of fruit. Most kinds of pet birds see seed mixes as tasty, but the mixes are fattening and lack many essential nutrients. As a result, many pets died young from preventable diseases.
In the past couple decades, research into avian nutrition has made huge strides. This research has resulted in excellent pellet foods and ready-to-serve mixes for many species of bird, which will help ensure a long healthy life for your pet.
BIRDS NEED FRESH, CLEAN WATER
All types of birds need to have fresh, clean water available all the time. In the wild, some flocks of doves travel for more than sixty miles every morning and every night to get to water. The trick is keeping the water fresh and clean. Your bird will get food, and feathers, and possibly droppings in his water dish, even if you use a hopper instead of an open bowl. Clean the dish and replace the water twice a day.
PREMIUM BIRD FOOD MAKES A DIFFERENCE
Pellet foods combine all or most of the components needed for a healthy diet into little biscuits, so they bird won’t just pull out the pieces he likes and leave the rest, like a child faced with Brussels sprouts and chocolate. High-grade pellets are carefully formulated based on the latest research in avian nutrition. These should be the basis of a healthy bird’s diet.
Mixes of fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and other items are available for most species or families. Combined with some fresh produce, and perhaps some “bird treats” and insect patés, these mixes round out the diet and help prevent boredom. Insect patés are sold in ready-to-serve packages, just like any other standard pet food. All you need to do is pour some into the dish.
Nectar-Eaters are the exception to the rule of thumb, by the way. These birds also need a high-grade pellet in their diet, but the pellet portion will be less than half of their food.
Some kinds of birds rely on “grit” in their diet to break open and crush their foods after they swallow it. Doves, for example, require grit. Any pet store sells boxes of “budgie gravel” and this will get the job done for most of the birds that need grit. Generally speaking, parrots do not need grit.
CALCIUM IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST
A healthy bird needs a large amount of calcium in his diet. Calcium is even more important if the bird is a “she” because there is always the possibility that she will lay eggs. Laying eggs can kill a bird, if her calcium levels are low. Crushed cooked egg shell and cuttle bones are popular sources of calcium.
SNACKS AND TREATS
Most people enjoy a nice snack from time to time, and perhaps even a bit of cake or an exotic fruit. Birds are the same way. They like snacks and treats.
A well-known example is the breadcrumbs which are often fed to semi-wild ducks and pigeons. Regular bread isn’t really very good for birds, but many of them like it, much like we might like chocolate or a glass of wine. There are mixes available to bake healthy bread specifically for pet birds: these are fast and easy, and the resulting loaf may be broken apart and frozen for use over a period of weeks.
Pieces of fresh fruit appeal to many birds, as do julienned strips of carrot. Some birds are very fond of non-sugared breakfast cereals, such as “Cheerios” (preferably the all-oat variety, if you can find it).
CAREFUL FEEDING IS THE KEY TO A HAPPY BIRD
What’s the next step? Check out the specific nutritional needs for your kind of bird. Have you been missing anything?