This article describes a simple and complete system of nutrition for parrots, budgies, and hook-bills in general. Many breeders and pet owners have their own “secret” recipes. Unfortunately, many feeding plans are based more on superstition than on scientific research. The diets outlined here are based on years of research and experience. They have the added advantage of convenience. By using these diets even the beginner will experience success.
Three basic seed mixes are used for hookbills: parrot, cockatiel, and small hookbill. The parrot mix should contain sunflower, whole corn, whole peanuts, buckwheat, safflower, cracked corn, chili peppers, and protein kibble. The mix for the cockatiel and lovebirds consists of canary seed, white millet, whole sunflower, Japanese millet, golden German millet, oat groats, safflower, steel cut oats, cracked corn, flaked corn, buckwheat, thistle, flax, hemp, sunflower hearts, kibbled corn, protein supplements and wheat. The small hookbill mix is made up of canary seed, white millet, Japanese millet, golden German millet, oat groats, steel cut oats, cracked corn, safflower, flax, thistle, sunflower hearts, hemp,protein supplements and buckwheat.
The seed mixes for all birds can be vitamin fortified. Aviculturists should take vitamins seriously. Vitamins are essential for the metabolic functions of all living things. When seed is not vitamin fortified, birds are not able to reap the full benefit from the nutrition present in the feed. Vitamin enriched feed promotes optimum growth, maintenance, reproduction, and health.
The vitamin content of even the best seed is neither consistent or adequate enough to assure optimal nutrition. Natural factors, such as drought, insects, excessive moisture, disease, and molds, make the vitamin levels of seed uncertain. Man made variables, the storage, transportation, and processing of feed, conspire to rob the seed of the vitamins needed by birds. For birds eating only seeds, vitamin supplementation of seed is a must to achieve peak production.
To truly enrich seed in vitamins, it must be soaked in an oil. Vitamin powder coatings are a waste, for the vitamins all fall off when the bird hulls the seed kernel. Be particularly skeptical of “colored seeds.” Many of these simply contain food dye! You can vitamin-fortify the seed yourself by mixing one teaspoon of wheat germ oil and one teaspoon of cod liver oil with ten pounds of seed. Let it soak over night. For fewer birds, adjust the amount accordingly. Since an average parakeet eats roughly one-third of an ounce of food a day, eight pounds will last one bird a year. (A healthy Keet normally consumes an amount of food equal to one-quarter of its own body weight In a cold environment, very likely more will be required.) A batch of oil enriched seed should be completely used in less than a week or refrigerated.
The fat soluble Vitamins, those found in Cod liver oil and wheat germ oil, can be toxic in high levels. Don’t be tempted to increase the dosage. Too much of these supplements will give you very dead birds, not very healthy ones.
These mixes might be slightly more costly. By using these diets the birds will maintain better health, appearance, temperament, and reproduction. The extra young produced will more than pay back the few cents it costs to feed a top quality mix.
A nestling mix should be offered to the birds at all times. This guarantees that the birds will accept the rearing food when young are in the nest. The best course of action is to use a commercial mix. This promotes consistency. Birds need extra protein during growth, the moult and egg production, not just when feeding babies.
Sunflower seed is extensively used in cage bird seed mixes, farm animal feed (where it is a component of pellets), and human diet. Sunflower, both seed and oil, is considered as a “Health Food” item for people. The United States government has tested sunflower and has declared it to be fit for human consumption. All the reasons given against the use of sunflower in parrot mixes have been found to be without any basis in reality.
BUDGERIGARS (AMERICAN PARAKEETS, ENGLISH PARAKEETS)
These birds require the small hook bill mix at all times. A dish of dry nestling food should also be available.
Spray millet is a greatly enjoyed treat. Soak seed, sprouts, and fresh foods are relished by the birds. If your birds will consume these foods, supply them. If not, do not worry, fortified seed supplies all the dietary items required.
COCKATIELS, LOVEBIRDS, AND AUSTRALIAN PARAKEETS
These birds require the cockatiel mix at all times. A dish of dry nestling food should also be provided. Again as for budgerigars, these birds vary in their taste for soak seed, sprouts, and fresh foods. If your birds eat these foods, all well and good, if not, do not worry, for the vitamin supplemented cockatiel mix is nutritionally complete.
The fortified parrot mix is the basic diet. Also offer a dish of nestling food.
Spray millet is a very good supplement. For breeding success, conures must have soak seed, sprouts, and fresh food on a daily basis.
LARGE PARROTS (AMAZONS, COCKATOOS, AFRICAN GREYS, AND MACAWS)
The basic food for these birds is the fortified parrot mix. Spray millet is enjoyed by the cockatoos and the African Greys. For longevity and breeding, these birds must have a wide range of foods. Sprouts, soak seed, and fresh foods must be given every day.
SOAK SEED AND SPROUTS
The seed for soaking or sprouting should not be vitamin enriched. Soak seed is just that. Take a quantity of plain seeds and put them in a jar with about three parts water. Refrigerate for twenty-four hours. Strain and rinse. Give to the birds. Soaking makes the hard shells easier to crack for the smaller birds. Soaking also turns complex carbohydrates into simple carbohydrates, improving palatability and digestibility.
Sprouting seed is the easiest way to provide your birds with fresh greens. Chinese mung beans or a soak seed mix may be sprouted. For one bird only one quarter cup of seeds should be prepared at a time. Place the seeds in a very clean glass jar. Fill with tap water and let stand for twenty-four hours. Rinse and drain completely. Repeat the rinsing and draining completely every twenty-four hours until the seed has sprouted. If a foul odor or mold develops, discard. Preparations are available to prevent spoilage. Rinsing well is very important. Any surplus sprouted seeds may be refrigerated up to a week.
A large variety of foods may be given to birds. Bread, cooked meat, cheese, yogurt, cooked fish, soaked soy beans, soaked or cooked lima beans, cooked kidney beans, cooked rice, raw corn on the cob, cooked corn, soaked or cooked lentils, peas in the pod, cooked peas, raw green beans, grapes, oranges, cherries, melons, cooked potatoes, escarole, bananas, peaches, cooked sweet potatoes, beets, spinach, chard, dandelion, cooked broccoli, mushrooms, raisins, carrots, celery, and cooked chicken eggs. All cooked items should not be fried and should room temperature when served. Most parrots enjoy crushing chicken and other bones. Any food that is used for human consumption may be offered to birds. Never use discarded or spoiled products for bird food. For one or two pets, simply give a small portion of your dinner each night. The breeder will find it necessary to prepare a mix in quantity. It is useful to dice and mix this to make it less easy for birds to pick out their favorites. Only allow these foods before your birds for a few hours at a time. These foods are all perishable, particularly the the eggs.
GRIT AND CUTTLEBONE
Seed eating birds require grit and cuttlebone at all times.
Vitamins can also be given in the water, in addition to the seed.
Birds need fresh clean water at all times. Chlorinated tap water is fine. Spring water is even better. Never place antibiotics or other medications in the water unless prescribed by a veterinarian. Alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, or soda should not be given to birds. Birds will often not drink fruit juice.