Nutrition out of the breeding season
Birds only breed at certain times of year. They select the season when the
food quality is at its best for rearing chicks. But we start our discussion
of breeding nutrition with the non-breeding period because this provides the
foundation on which we build later.
It would be tempting to think that non-breeding birds need less nutrition
than breeders. This is partly true but it is also an over simplification. In
particular moulting birds can suffer considerable nutritional stress and
even die. So supplementation out of the breeding season needs to take
account of the stresses on the birds all year round.
Poor moults stop good breeding
The most critical nutrients for moulting birds are the sulphur-containing
amino acids (SCAs). There are two reasons for this. Firstly, 70% of the SCAs
in the body are found in the feathers. So it is obvious that a moulting bird
needs lots of them. Secondly, these amino acids are the very ones in short
supply in plant food sources!
Very few other supplement suppliers use SCAs in significant quantities but
we regard them as absolutely fundamental to a good cage bird diet. We
incorporate them into all of our on-food Essentials products. For most of
you this means Daily Essentials3. They are not added to our inwater
supplements because SCAs tend to he very smelly in tap water. This is just
one key reason for supplementing via food whenever possible.
Health and vitality
Daily Essentials3 also provides a good level of 14 different vitamins plus
ten key trace minerals to promote health and vitality. The bioavailability
of the minerals in all "Essentials" products is very high due to the unique
Rapisorb ingredients that we use. This means they are easily available for
the birds to use.
There are two reasons why we do not include calcium in our "Essentials"
products. Firstly, solid calcium supplements are generally far less
effective than super-saturated liquids. Secondly, good quality calcium
supplements should not be given daily while the vitamins, trace minerals and
amino acids should.
Calcivet (CalciBoost outside Europe) was the first super-saturated liquid
calcium supplement for birds made in Europe or America. It is still the
strongest and best value available. Remember that inadequate calcium is the
most common nutritional problem in bird keeping and cuttlefish bone just
doesn't do the job adequately!
The final part of the non-breeding support package is the addition of herbal
nutricines. These have three main characteristics:
- they help support a healthy gut flora
- they support the birds natural defenses against digestive parasites
- they support the immune response.
There are two ways to get these herbs into your birds. The most common is to
use Feast as your softfood. Feast is the first true "super premium" softfood
and giving small quantities of it all year round is very beneficial. You
will use more normal quantities in the breeding season. It is an excellent
way to deliver both Daily Essentials3 and Calcivet (CalciBoost).
Birds with diets high in fruits and vegetables can have Feast mixed with
these fresh foods. For some birds a softfood is less appropriate, in which
case the supplement Flourish can be used. This provides all the herbal
extracts without the "food" components that make up Feast.
In northern climates we often feed our birds high-energy seed mixes to help
them through the cold winters. This leads to birds putting on weight which
can be disastrous for the breeding season. Use of Daily Essentials3 actually
improves the birds' ability to use protein so much that they actually
consume less food. This saves you money and stops them getting
My birds won't eat softfood outside the breeding season!
It is our belief that it is both cheapest for the bird keeper and best for
the birds to feed some softfood all year round. This has not been a common
practice for breeders of small birds in the UK. And some people have trouble
getting their birds used to the idea.
Our recommendation is that all new chicks are always fed softfood. They will
never know any different. But for many adults the next best thing is to feed
soaked seeds and add the supplements to this. Remember to soak your seed in
Aviclens (Saniclens outside Europe) to prevent the growth of potentially
Daily Essentials3, Cadavet (CalciBoost), Feast or Flourish are the mainstays
of a healthy diet for cage and aviary birds. These products are both easy
and economical to use.