Why Are Seeds Considered Unhealthy?
Good Seed Vs. Bad Seed
- Striped Sunflower (~51% fats),
- Cashew Nuts (~47% fats),
- Nyjer (~30% fats), and
- Anise (~21% fats).
Some examples of cereal seeds are:
- Oats (~7% fats),
- Canary Grass (~5% fats),
- Millets (~4% fats),
- Basmati Rice (<1% fats).
Storing Your Seed
Sprouting Your Own Seed
Good Nuts Vs. Bad Nuts
What Are Pulses?
Important for feather colour, as well as eye and immune system health. Vitamin A is the most common deficiency to see in pet birds. Common signs of vitamin A deficiency are weight loss, lethargy, respiratory and digestive complications (including an increased risk of infection), and diarrhoea. Birds with red or yellow colouring may appear paler if the diet is insufficient in vitamin A. Dark leafy greens and bright red/orange vegetables (sweet potato, bell pepper) are rich in beta-carotene, the primary source of vitamin A.
In general the B-complex is used for metabolism, stress relief, and some cellular functions. Birds should be given a B-complex supplement often, as the vitamin is not stored in the body, and any excess is excreted fast.
Necessary for carbohydrate metabolism and maintenance of the central nervous system. Birds who have lost weight, have ruffled feathers, head tremors, and a lack of strength may be deficient in thiamine. Cereal grains are rich in vitamin B1.
A vital part of the enzyme systems in the digestion and metabolism of food, as well as in cartilage and nerve-cell tissue growth. Many grasses are a source of riboflavin.
Required for tissue integrity, cellular metabolic processes, and the nervous system. Birds that are deficient in niacin tend to have a loss in appetite, weakness, scaly feet, and diarrhea. B3 is found in sizable quantities in cereal seeds, quinoa, and acorn squash, however it is recommended to supplement with a powdered form.
Fundamental for protein metabolism. Signs of deficiency are jerky movements. Cereal grains are an optimal source of pyridoxine.
Used for the metabolism of proteins, and in cell division. Inadequate amounts will result in an anemic bird with immune system complications. Poor feathering is a common sign of deficiency, as well as fatigue or loss of appetite. Birds fed high protein diets, or large amounts of cabbage, oranges, and some beans and peas are at a higher risk of being deficient as these foods contain inhibitors. Leafy greens, broccoli, and some legumes are awesome sources of folic acid.
Imperative for the health of nerves and blood cells, as well as the manufacturing of DNA. Signs of a bird that is lacking cobalamin would be fatigue, loss of appetite, or diarrhea. A deficiency in cobalamin may also cause a deficiency in folic acid. B12 is hard to source outside of animal material, but birds do a decent job at obtaining it through microbial synthesis. If a bird has received antibiotics it is advisable to use a supplement to ensure a sufficient intake is happening.
Helpful for the construction and maintenance of cell walls, blood vessels, elastic fibres, and connective tissues. This vitamin is also an amazing antioxidant, and aids in the absorption of some minerals, such as iron. Most birds are actually able to manufacture ascorbic acid, using glucose and an enzyme in the liver. That said, birds which are suffering or have suffered liver disease should be offered dietary sources of vitamin C. Deficiency is very rare, but may result in lethargy and weakness. If necessary, ascorbic acid can be sourced from broccoli, bell peppers, oranges, or kale.
*It should be noted that fig parrots, lorikeets, and softbills will suffer liver damage if too much iron is absorbed, and therefore should NOT be fed a dietary source of vitamin C unless advised by an avian veterinarian.
Crucial in the absorption of calcium and the maintenance of strong, healthy bones and feathers. A bird’s body can make vitamin D using sunlight or full spectrum lighting. Since the windows in our homes are designed to filter out the sun’s rays, a bird will not get a sufficient amount of light to make vitamin D this way. For parrots, sunlight or supplementary light should not be given for longer than 2 hours per day. Finches, canaries, and sparrows require more vitamin D than parrots and parakeets, and can be allowed light up to 3 hours per day. Severe cases of deficiency will result in bowing of the limbs, and a surplus may result in calcification of soft tissues, and eventually hypertension and organ failure.
An antioxidant combined with Selenium mostly used to hunt free radicals during fat metabolism. Vitamin E also protects vitamins A, B-complex, and C. Vitamin E is used in the health of cell walls and blood vessels. Vitamin E deficiency increases susceptibility to the parasite Giardia spp. A bird infected with this parasite may pass undigested, whole seeds in their droppings. A deficiency may also be associated with pancreatic or intestinal diseases. Green plant material is a valuable source of vitamin E.
Plays an essential role in clotting mechanisms and protection against coccidiosis, an infection in the intestines caused by Coccidia parasites. Vitamin K is usually produced by bacteria in the gut, therefore deficiency is rare in most species. The consumption of some plants, such as sweet clovers, can increase the demand for clotting. Vitamin K also is used for the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus in bones, which would be affected by deficiency. A bird deficient in vitamin K will have internal and external hemorrhaging. If a bird has recently undergone antibacterial treatments it may struggle to synthesize enough of this vitamin. Dietary sources can be kale, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.
Especially important in young, growing birds and its requirements are based on the amount of B9 and B12 in the diet. A greater amount of protein or fat in the diet will result in the need for more choline. Birds deficient in choline will not properly metabolize fat, and suffer from fatty liver damage as well as the slipping of the Achilles tendon off the intertarsal joint groove. Choline can be sourced from plant materials like nuts, beans, and broccoli. However in the event of a deficiency, a concentrated dietary supplement should be used to minimize potential damage.
Minerals, like vitamins, may not make up a huge part of the diet, but are a huge part of a bird's everyday life. Minerals are used for everything from growth and development, to the manufacturing and maintenance of bones and tissue, and also the transmission of sensory nerve pulses. It is very important that a bird gets enough of each mineral, which can be divided into the macro-minerals (Ca, P, Mg, K, Na, and Cl) which are required in larger quantities, and the micro-minerals, or trace-minerals(Fe, Zn, Cu, Mn, I, Se), which are only needed in “trace” amounts.
Calcium used by the body exists as the ion Ca2+. If the calcium in the body is not in this form, a bird will be deficient despite having “adequate” amounts of calcium. Deficient birds may appear jumpy, and are subject to fits. Bowing of the limbs is also possible, as calcium is used to make and maintain strong bones. Severe cases will result in death. Ca2+ is controlled by vitamin D3, parathyroid hormone, and calcitonin. Calcium works in a ratio with phosphorus where as one increases, the other decreases. A ratio with about 1.5x more Ca than P is ideal. In the event your bird is laying eggs, 10x more Ca than P is ideal. Birds that only eat seed, are laying eggs, African Grey parrots, and those advised by an avian vet are birds that may require calcium supplementation using a concentrated product. Otherwise, a bird that is eating a well varied diet with pellets and lots of vegetables, should be acquiring the necessary amount of calcium. A calcium intake above 1% of the total diet is considered potentially dangerous. Calcium can be supplemented using a liquid form, powdered form, or cuttlebone.
Phosphorus is used in the manufacturing and maintenance of strong bones, as well as the storage of energy as ATP (adenosine triphosphate), and in cell membranes. The amount of phosphorus in the bird’s body is regulated based on the amount of calcium in the body. If the phosphorus level exceeds the calcium level, it is possible that this will cause bone demineralisation and renal damage to the bird. Cereal seeds are high in phosphorus, but must be fed with an additional source of calcium to prevent nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism.
Magnesium is mostly used in the bones of a bird's body, but is also needed for the phosphorus transfer when forming ATP. Magnesium also helps make the membranes of soft tissues, for example, the liver. It is mostly absorbed in the small intestine, and too much calcium will reduce the bird’s ability to absorb magnesium.
Potassium is an extremely important mineral that the body uses as the ion K+. It is used for many intracellular activities. Namely these include membrane potentials, osmotic pressures, and acid-base reactions, such as the buffer reaction that maintains the blood's pH level. Deficiency is rare, but sometimes happens in situations of high stress. Deficiency can lead to heart problems, muscle spasms, and neurological dysfunction. Potassium is controlled by aldosterone in equilibrium with sodium. If deficiency occurs, bananas are a source that is often readily accepted.
Sodium is the main extracellular ion used to regulate and maintain the acid-base balance and osmotic potential. It is used in the form Na+ with K+ for nerve signals and impulses. Deficiency is not common, but is possible after chronic diarrhoea or renal disease, because these disrupt the osmotic potential gradient of the kidneys and lead to dehydration. If the sodium level becomes greater than 1% of the total diet it is considered potentially deadly. Ideal sodium levels are around 0.1% of the total diet, and a bird on a pellet based diet should not receive additional sources of sodium unless advised by an avian veterinarian.
Chlorine is the major extracellular negative ion that exists as Cl-. It works to maintain acid-base balances with K+ and Na+. Dietary supplementation is not necessary as it is almost always found with sodium as NaCl, and excessive levels can cause severe complications to the bird. For this reason water that has added chlorine or chloride ions is not safe to use for birds.
Iron is used in erythrocytes to form the oxygen-binding centre of haemoglobin. Typically birds will not need to be supplemented, as the body recycles iron from old red blood cells very well. Some bird species, like mynahs, are particularly good at absorbing iron in the small intestine, though. This can especially become a problem in the presence of vitamin C, which converts Fe to Fe2+ ions, which are more readily absorbed. This can lead to the liver becoming fatally overfull with absorbed iron. For this reason it is recommended the bird species which do this be fed as little dietary iron as possible.
Zinc is largely used for wound healing, tissue formation, and in a number of enzymes. Young birds fed too much cabbage, wheat bran, or beans are at risk of deficiency. This is due to the presence of phytates, which bind the zinc and prevent it from being absorbed. High dietary calcium can also decrease the bird’s ability to absorb zinc. Deficiency may cause poor feathering, slowed growth, enlarged intertarsal joints, and perosis.
Copper is used in synthesizing haemoglobin, collagen, and maintaining the nervous system. A bird which is weak, jumpy, or suffers limb deformities may be deficient. Copper can be found in some nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.
Manganese is needed for normal bone structure. It is often found in plants, but is not normally usable this way. Proper bile salt production is needed for its absorption, so birds with hepatic and biliary problems are at risk of deficiency. Deficiencies often include flattening of the lateral condyles of the intertarsal joint resulting in perosis, also, the tibiotarsus and tarsometatarsus may become twisted.
Iodine is used only for the manufacturing of thyroid hormone. Deficiencies result in goitre and have effects such as stunted growth and neurological issues. Budgies are especially at risk of deficiency and the enlarged thyroid gland will constrict their tracheal lumen, resulting in a hunched posture when perched. Budgies must have access to iodine either as a liquid supplement or an iodine block.
Selenium functions similar to vitamin E, and both are found in the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. If a bird is deficient in both vitamin E and selenium, the bird will suffer from a case called ‘exudative diathesis’. A complication where the small, subcutaneous blood vessels are damaged and become leakier. Fluid moves out rapidly, causing oedema over the neck, wings, and breast. Often this results in weakness and death. Selenium content is very reliant on the amounts in the soil where the plant was growing. However, a bird eating a good pellet based diet should be receiving enough selenium.