When feeding pet birds, it is important to know that the species of birds we have as companion pets do not all have the same dietary needs. Most pet birds are seed eaters. However, it’s important they receive a number of key nutrients for healthy body function.
Making sure that your pet bird gets a balanced diet is very important and of equal importance is ensuring they don’t get the chance to eat anything that might be dangerous or poisonous to them.
In addition to seed, pet birds need iodine, vitamin A and calcium. The most important essential fatty acid for birds is linoleic acid and deficiencies can cause skin problems and poor feather development.
Minerals are very important to birds to maintain bones, claws and beak. They can be provided in the form of mineral blocks, cuttlefish bones or oyster shells. To ensure your bird receives the correct, balanced diet, look for the words “complete feed” on the food packaging. This means that this particular food has been manufactured to provide all the nutrients it needs to keep it healthy.
Some birds (parrots and related species) are selective feeders so owners need to take great care not to indulge the bird with its favourite bits of any feed as this could mean he’s no longer receiving a balanced diet.
In addition to providing a good quality bird feed, small quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables may be fed as a treat for your bird, but you should take care not to overdo this as it is an additional source of calories. Always ensure that any fruit or vegetables given are safe for them to eat and it should be washed thoroughly and cut in to manageable pieces.
In the wild, birds eat millet sprays fresh from the branches, and millet sprays can offer both a source of entertainment and a healthy treat for caged birds within the home. These should be occasional treats as they are high in fat. Sugar-based treats (e.g. “honey sticks”) should also be kept to a minimum.
Small birds such as finches and canaries need to eat as much as 30% of their bodyweight in seed each day. Care should be taken to always ensure that feeders are kept free of husks and that there is always sufficient seed available.
During the breeding season when seed eaters are feeding young they may take some higher protein manufactured ‘soft’ foods – many of which are egg based. The protein requirement of birds may also increase during growth, or at moulting time.
Always remember, birds need constant access to fresh clean drinking water from a suitable water drinker.