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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.

Weight control

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 overweight!

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 dangerous germs.


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.

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