The majority of health problems in pet birds stem from malnutrition. The best way to ensure good health in pet birds is by ensuring that they eat a good diet.
It is important to keep in mind:
The theory of good nutrition is to provide birds with a diet that will deliver adequate levels of macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates and proteins) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), in an accessible, palatable and digestible form.
Many veterinary experts believe that good nutrition is best achieved through a diet based on formulated foods. This page will outline why you should feed formulated foods to the birds in your care, and the problems with other approaches to their diet.
A seed-based diet can lead to a number of nutritional problems. It is worth noting some key points...
• Many seeds commonly fed to parrots are extremely high in fats which can adversely affect the bird’s health.
• Seeds are not produced to be eaten and are not designed to be a complete diet. Most seeds are deficient in a wide range of the essential nutrients (over 30 have been identified) required to ensure the correct functioning of the bird’s metabolism.
• As seeds are high in energy most pet birds do not eat sufficient volume of a seed-based diet to avoid further micro-nutrient deficiencies. When compared to wild bird, birds in captivity generally have:
a much lower energy requirement (they are more sedentary; there is a more constant ambient temperature)
◦ a similar need for other essential micro-nutrients (and in some cases a higher need due to the stresses of a captive life)
Birds eat to satisfy energy needs above any other nutrient requirements. Eating a high energy (seed) diet will satisfy a captive bird very quickly, so they are likely to eat less than their wild counterparts.
Birds fed on a primarily-seed diet can therefore develop further micro-nutrient deficiencies as they fail to eat sufficient volume of food to obtain enough of any of the essential that seeds do contain.
If you recognise the deficiencies and imbalances of a seed-based diet you may try to rectify this by providing vitamin and mineral supplements.
Whilst these can halt a temporary decline in micro-nutrient reserves - so may be recommended by a vet when addressing a specific condition - supplements are generally ineffective at 'balancing' a deficient diet, and often unsuccessful in the longer term at preventing deficiency diseases.
Supplements are difficult to accurately administer - whether in the water, or added to the food, there can be little certainty how much of the supplement has been consumed, and whether it is too little or, equally importantly, too much. There is also the issue that aqueous solutions of vitamins and minerals are very unstable.
Also, remember that vitamin and minerals have no effect on the excessive intake of facts which can result from a diet which is predominantly seeds.
Dietary correction should not, and indeed cannot, be a top-up of presumed deficient nutrients within a bird's diet. It is always the right approach to provide a nutritionally complete diet, rather than one which is deficient and then try to correct it.
Fruit and vegetables can be a worthwhile addition to a balanced diet. But fruit and vegetables alone cannot correct deficiencies in the main part of an inadequate diet.
Most fruit and vegetables are lacking many of the essential nutrients which the bird needs, and which are also missing from seeds. And if fed alongside other foods such as seed the bird will likely eat more energy-rich foods (as mentioned above they eat to satisfy their energy requirements, and not their nutrient needs), rather than the fruit and veg, thereby meaning they won't eat enough of those to meet their macro- and micro-nutrient requirements.
Fruit, vegetables, sprouted pulses, and certain 'human foods' can be good additions to a nutritionally complete diet, but cannot compensate for deficiencies in a predominantly seed-based diet.
are some owners who have well-nourished birds by providing a wide range
of foods, including seeds, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and more. But they
are a rarer occurrence than might be realised due to a key factor - the
It is important to appreciate that good nutrition comes from the nutrients in the food that the bird actually eats, and not from what they are served.
there are owners who manage to get their pets to eat the assorted
elements that they serve, in the correct proportions, in the majority of
instances the bird adopts a buffet-style feeding practice, eating some
items to excess, and insufficient of others. The bird is eating to meet
an energy requirement, selecting foods based on routine and
'favourites', and not with the knowledge of what you intend it to eat to
create a nutritional balance. So even if what is served might be ideal,
what is eaten is often far from optimal.
Even if a
nutritious range of foods are provided, selective eating patterns can
still put the bird at risk from nutritional disease.
feeding a formulated diet specially developed for pet parrots you can
ensure that the bird's in your care receive an optimal diet. Leading
avian veterinarians around the world agree that the feeding of
formulated diets is the biggest advance in the health and welfare of pet
birds in the last 40 years.
The benefits of feeding formulated diets are:
Formulated foods should form the majority of the bird's diet - but not
all. Fruit, vegetables, and certain other foods can be served, so long
as the bird is eating enough of the formulated diet to gain the required
levels of essential nutrients. These additions provide some nutritional
benefit, and also add variety - though 'eating' should not be seen as a
substitute for environmental enrichment and mental stimulation. See 'Feeding additional items' for more information on serving other items alongside Harrison's.
Although based on the fundamental principles above, all formulated diets are not the same, and vary considerably in composition, palatability and quality. When choosing a formulated diet you should therefore consider these key points:
If you choose Harrison's Bird Foods you can answer an emphatic yes to all these questions. For more information see the 'Why Harrison's' page.
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