In a previous article I outlined some of the unusual foods that have been used with success for five years. Here I will describe more unconventional foods for canaries. These foods are also good for budgerigars, finches and wide variety of other seed-eating birds.
These items are all being used as ingredients in a mash. This mash was used as the nestling food and as the only
addition to the seed for the adults. The most important question is palatability. The most nutritious diet is useless if the birds refuse to eat it. Two things motivate canaries to consume a mash. If the mixture is sweet the birds will most often relish it. Canaries are afraid of new foods. A small amount of thistle and hemp is used in the mixture. At first the birds will scatter the soft food to get at the treat seeds. Once the canary realizes that the rest of the ration is sweet and pleasant to taste, the bird will readily consume his new food.
Adults, when not breeding or moulting, eat mainly for energy. At these times we can use a diet that is lower in protein. The hen requires protein for the production of eggs. The explosive production of the young necessitates protein. Feathers are mostly protein. To replace them during the molt, the fare must be high in protein.
The point of this digression is that a mash does not need the same percentage of ingredients year round. For maintenance we may use mostly cheaper carbohydrates. During times of stress it is imperative to make use of the more expensive proteins. We will see that there is a way to cut costs here also.
Rice is very valuable I use the regular brown rice as sold for human consumption. A broth made from soup greens can used to prepare the rice, In this way the rice becomes nutritionally charged.
The bird breeder who lives near a bakery is very lucky. Day-old or slightly burned bread can often be purchased very cheaply. I must issue a warning. Bakeries grade these seconds. Products that are not visually perfect but that are still wholesome are sold at a large discount. This is what the bird fancier is looking for. Dirty refuse is also sold to pig farms. Do not try to feed garbage to canaries. Only use fresh products intended for human consumption. Food is no bargain if it kills your birds.
Levi states in The Pigeon that bread crumbs are equivalent to corn in feed.
Molasses can used to sweeten the mash
I tried orange juice as a beverage for canaries. After inadvertently drinking some water containing the chemicals for color-feeding Red Factors, I thought that canaries would surely drink anything. Strangely enough, the birds would not drink orange juice. I am certain that some would have died if the water had not been returned. Now frozen orange juice concentrate is added to the mash. In this way the supplement is vitamin enriched.
Wheat germ also was not eaten when offered straight. Deep dishes were filled with wheat germ and placed in the flights. The
birds would not touch it. When mixed in the mash it was quickly consumed.
Beans are a cheap source of protein. Soy beans are soaked overnight and then chopped. Lima and kidney beans are cooked as for the table and then chopped. These chopped beans are mixed into the mash as a protein booster. I started adding beans after reading John Stoodley’s account of feeding Amazon parrots. He raises these birds on a diet that consists of a large percentage of legumes.
Potatoes are among the cheapest vegetables. I boil potatoes in the skin and then mash the whole tuber. When mixed well into the mash, canaries enjoy potatoes.
Like most canary breeders I often gave my birds apples. Unfortunately they seemed to waste more than they ate. I now chop up cored apples. In a food processor, apples render down almost to a liquid. This pulp and juice is also blended into the mash. This way, the amount of fruit that actually gets into the bird is maximized.
Some maintain that canaries will overeat soft food and die. That a bird will die from a nutritious meal is not true. Birds can be killed not by over eating but by over feeding. Fresh foods are perishable. The birds should only be offered what they can consume in one hour. If a surplus is given and allowed to spoil, fatalities can result. This mash could possibly constitute a complete diet but would have to be replaced many times a day. Though not a replacement for seed, mashes are great as a supplement and as a rearing food.