In the wild, a bird can seek the food that best meets its needs. Caged birds are dependent on what you offer them. Their health depends on how well you have familiarized yourself with the bird food needs. As different as the individual bird groups look, their digestive systems are just as specialized.
Therefore, you should thoroughly inform yourself about the eating habits of the bird species you keep. It may seem like common sense, but always check that you are feeding the correct diet for the species of birds you are keeping. Do not simply presume that you know what they eat. Always ask several different people what diet they use and this will give you a realistic idea of what to feed your birds.
There are various types of food dishes and containers that you can use to feed your birds, including earthenware, glass, metal or plastic. Use a metal container for birds with strong beaks, such as parrots. They are likely to destroy any flimsy dishes and may swallow the fragments they have chewed off. A heavy earthenware bowl is advisable for nectar feeders, such as lorikeets, and some softbills. These birds tend to tip their bowl up every day, scattering the contents over the floor, and the extra weight of an earthenware container should prevent this happening. Plastic dishes and glass tube dispensers with plastic spouts are fine for smaller seedeaters. Nectar feeders are not only messy when eating, but they also tend to bathe in their food dish. To prevent this, place a piece of wire grid with a mesh size of 5cm(2in) over the bowl; this will enable the bird to eat but not bathe. It is vital to provide the correct size and style of water dish for your birds, an oversized water dish, for example, can result in your birds drowning.
Most birds need feeding once a day. If you feed your bird at approximately 8am in the morning, most of the food should have been eaten by midday. If no food remains at midday, then you may need to provide half as much again. If plenty of food remains in the dish, gradually reduce the amount until you arrive at the correct quantity. During very hot weather, the type of food suitable for nectar feeders will deteriorate. The best idea, therefore, is to feed them twice a day during these conditions. Suddenly changing may put the bird off eating for a few days and perhaps put it off breeding. If you do intend to change the diet, do it slowly. The best method is to mix a little of the new diet in with the food your birds are already used to, and then slowly add a bit more each day until after about a week the old diet has been transformed to the new one.
Protein is obtained by the bird from both vegtable and animal foods. However, vegetable protein differs from animal protein in the comination of amino acids. Many of these are esential for life and must be accessible to the bird in its food. Animal protein contains often more essential amino acids than vegtable protein. This deficiency in vegetable food can be compensated for to some extent with widely varied diet. In periods of higher protein requirement (molting, brooding, growing), all birds (even grain and fruit eaters) fall back on animal protein such as insects. Carbohydrates, the main components of plants, are used by birds to cover their energy requirements; they are relatively easy to digest. On the other hand, the raw fiber they also contain is mostly indigestible for birds. Therefore, many birds, especially the parrots, hull the seeds and remove the skins from nuts and fruits before consuming them. What the bird body doesn´t use immediately for energy is stored as fat. Fats supply more than double the energy that the same weight of carbohydrates provides. Birds in the wild store up a fat deposit for times of need (winter, long periods of drought), but that is regularly used up. In caged birds, however, this depletion of fat stores often does not take place; thus, severe health problems can result. But fats are also necessary as carriers of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and the essential fatty acids. At brooding time sufficient provision of essential fatty acids is a prerequisite for a good hatching rate.
Minerals and trace elements compromise a list of elements that function in building the body. Some are necessary in larger quantities (e.g., calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, magnesium), others only in traces (e.g, man ganese, iron, zinc, iodine, copper, cobalt). Sources of minerals, such as cuttlefish and musscl shells, or grit should always be available to the birds so they can take what they need.
Vitamins are all irreplaceable for maintaining life processcs. Vitamin deficiencies lead in evitably to malfunctions and illnesses. Birds have a high need for vitamins, especially for vitmins A, D3, and B, and that it increases in heat and cold, with stress, at breeding time, during molting, and with parasitic attack. Fruit juices are valuable sources of vitamins. They can be given regularly to all birds. A vitamin excess would also he harmful, of course, but the main cause of disease in caged birds is an inadequate supply. Providing enough vitamins by means of the ordinary food can hardly be achieved in cage maintenance. The vitamin content of the food drops markedly with long storage, therefore supplementary vitamins must be provided.
Vitamin A deficency can arise through feeding grain exclusively. Deficiency in Vitamin A can cause that body lacks resistanse to infection, upper respiratory diseases and kidney diseases, disorder of bone development in young birds, hyperkeratosis, feather discoloration, eye changes, motor disturbance and reproduktive problems.
Vitamin D3 can arise if no direct sunlight is available. Deficiency in Vitamin D3 can cause disturbance of calcium- phosphorus metabolism, bones: rickets, osteomalachia, paralytic symptoms, thin-shelled eggs.
Vitamin E can arise through rancid food. Deficiency in Vitamin E can cause central nervous system disturbaces, motor disturbances, liver damage and infertility.
Deficiency in Vitamin B can cause motor disturbances, convulsions, paralyses and growth retardation, turned toes, swollen feet fatty liver and poor hatching.
Deficiency in Vitamin K can cause reduced blood coagulation.
Sources of vitamins and protein:
In vegetable food as greens or green food as leaf and flower buds, as well as leaves of fruit trees and all types of lettuce, dandeions, parsley, brussel sprouts, spinach, sorrel, chickweed and fresh sprouts.
Fruits as peeled tropical fruit, such as oranges, bananas, raisins (unsulfured!), figs, grapes, apples, pears, berries, blackberries, raspberries, elderberries, currants, melons, sweet cherries and apricots.
Vegetables as tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and celery.
Animal protein as living animals like worms, pill bugs, fruit flies, mealworms, fly maggots, crickets, smooth caterpillars, spiders, aphids, insects of conifers, tubifex, water fleas, grasshoppers, and snails, eggs (hardboiled only), skim-milk cottage cheese and good soft food and mixed foods for poultry.
Important: Always take the nutritional status of the bird into consideration when you are fixing its food. The most common feeding mistakes is overfeeding, food that is too rich in energy-producing elements, with too high a carbohydrate and fat content, coupled with too little exercise leads to excess weight and monotonous diet as it quickly leads to deficiency conditions. Both kinds of feeding errors sooner or later re sult in a severe illness or the death of the bird. Provide a broad spectrum of plant and animal foods; then your bird can seek out what is right for him on his own. To get birds that have been fed a monotonous diet to change over to a varied one can sometimes demand patience and a number of tricks.
Offer only freshly skinned animals in small quantities. Earthworms are too tough for small birds, and, besides, during the reproductive season from May to July, they are poisonous. Snails and earthworms serve as intermediate hosts for parasites of birds (tapeworm and gapeworm).
Greens and animal protein must always be served fresh because they go bad very quickly. But grain food can also be spoiled by being kept too long and by dust and moisture. Oily seeds and fats very quickly become rancid. In addition, food mites can nest in food or fungus can spread through it. Spoiled food must not be used because it can cause severe health problems.
Each bird group has special preferences as to food on which to raise their young, but they all feed a lot of animal protein (insects). When your birds are raising young, offer them a feed of fresh skim-milk cottage cheese that is mixed with insects and good soft food, possibly skinned mealworms, a hard-boiled egg, and finely grated carrots, besides vitamin and mineral supplements. Don't feed too much at once, but rather, give less at shorter intervals. The nestlings will stop eating immediately with noise or if they are startled.
Water. The quantity varies widely according to their origins and their diet. Fruit eaters take in much fluid with fruit, Even seeds contain about ten percent water. Some species are able to go all day long without additional water if necessary. If the water offered them is not to their liking, they simply leave it there.
Monitoring your birds' feeding and drinking habits can provide useful pointers to their general health. If your birds are always eager to feed, you should have no problems, but if any of your birds suddenly goes off its food, this could very well be the first sign that something is wrong. If your bird tends to be rather timid when it comes to feeding, which can happen when you change its diet or food dish, an effective technique is to scatter a little of the food around the dish. Continue to do this until the bird is familiar with the new food or dish. It is also important to stop bold and audacious birds inhibiting any timid birds from feeding. The most constructive way to handle a this problem is to provide several water and food dishes around the aviary. Since smaller birds particularly can rapidly suffer from dehydration, make sure that they have easy access to a constant supply of clean water.
Seedeaters are very wasteful, often scattering their food all over the place. It is fortunate, therefore, that this type of food does not tend to spoil. The birds for which feeding hygiene is essential are softbills, which eat a variety of different foods, and parrots feeding on pulses. With these birds, the food they eat deteriorates very quickly over a short period and so it is important to collect all the waste food from the floor each time you feed them. Otherwise, your birds may he eating food that is two or three days old, and this is obviously very dangerous. It is often a good idea to put their feeding dish inside a larger dish so that any food escaping falls into the second dish, making it easier to clean up.
Many diets available today are advertised as being complete diets. Many of these diets are perfectly acceptable, but it is advisable to avoid those that claim to provide substitute fresh fruit and vegetables, since there can be no substitute for these. Commercially prepared diets such as lorikeet nectar are particularly convenient and offer a safe alternative to the home-made option of mixing 10-15 ingredients together. Not only is this an extremely messy business, but bacteria could easily enter the food in the process. Complete premade diets are ideal for softbills. These ensure that they do not miss vital nutrients, but do add other foods as well.
Although birds, especially parrots, love being given treats from their owners, this is usually a bad idea. Giving your parrot a grape or your softbill some livefood is fine, but snacks intended for humans, such as crisps, contain a high level of salt and other additives that perform no useful function in the welfare of your bird. The majority of softbills will be very eager for livefood. Try to provide this in moderation, however, for if they become addicted to livefood your birds will reject other foods and create a dangerous imbalance in their diet. In any case, it is a good idea to provide some form of mineral and vitamin supplement. Supply this in accordance with the instructions on the packet; too much can prove dangerous.
Finches: feed yellow millet, white millet, red millet, canary grass seed, rape seed. Fri access to grit. Supplementary food as livefood and greenfood.Vitamins.
Canaries: Feed canary seed mixture, plus a little supplementary greenfood and grit for their digestion.
Budgerigars: Feed with ready made diet or prepare a mix of three parts white millet, three parts canary seed and one part panicum millet. Supplementary food such as chickweed, lettuce, carrots and fruit. Cuttlefish and musscl shells, or grit should always be available to the birds so they can take what they need. Supply vitamins.
Cockatiels, Parakeets and Lovebirds: Feed good quality budgie mix supplemented with milo ( red dari), sunflower seed and safflower seed. Daily supply fruit , vegetables and ground white oyster shell or cuttlefich. Supply witamins.
Conures, Macaws, Cockatoos, Amazons, African gray parrots: Good parrot mix of large seeds and nuts, grains, and wheat, unsprayed, easily digestible green food, fruit, and vegetables, fresh wood with buds and bark, animal protein like cottage cheese, boiled egg, snails, worms, laying hen mash is also suitable.
Lorie and Lorikeets: They feed by crushing flowers and fruit in their beaks and sucking up the juice. Seed eating is difficult for them and can be dangerous. Feed commercial diets of nectar and add a little fruit and vitamins. You must provide fresh nectar every day.