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Why Parrots and Birds Need More Than Seed and Pellets

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Did you know that malnutrition and under nutrition is the leading causes of illness, disease and early death in birds? Do you want your birds to be healthy, have beautiful feathers and a wonderful disposition? If these things are important to you, then they need to consume hundreds of nutrients everyday. This means they need to eat foods that are much more nutritious than seeds, pelleted diets, fruit, vegetables and nuts.

In 1998, when I first started taking care of birds, all of the nutritional guidelines advised feeding a wide range of foods. However, I've come to the conclusion ever since that the majority of the foods that people feed their birds lack vital and essential nutrients.

What kinds of nutrients are necessary? Complete protein, enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, carbohydrates, and clean water are among the vital and essential nutrients that a bird requires on a daily basis.

Let's talk about the imbalances in the foods that are typically fed to parrots and other birds before I talk about how important these nutrients are.

A research paper by L. Hess, DVM, G. Mauldin, DVM, MS, and K. Rosenthal, DVM, MS, titled "Estimated Nutrient Content of Diets Commonly Fed to Pet Birds" was published in "The Veterinary Record" on March 30, 2002. In it, the shortcomings of the typical diet for avian pets were pointed out. In this survey, the birds ate a variety of foods, including human foods, seeds, and formulated diets (pellets). According to the findings of this study, 98.5 percent of the birds consumed less vitamin D3 than was recommended for maintenance, and nearly 58 percent of the birds consumed less protein than was recommended for basic maintenance. Nearly 96% of the birds had phosphorus levels below the recommended levels, and nearly 93% had calcium levels below the recommended levels.

Seeds contain little nutrition in typical foods. One of the most common causes of bird malnutrition is feeding a diet based on seeds, according to avian veterinarians. Seeds don't give contend protein, they are an inadequate protein source. Imagine that you would become malnourished and undernourished if you ate only rice every day throughout the year, just like birds that eat seeds as their primary source of nutrition. Seeds contain a lot of sugar and fat. They do have a lot of vitamin E, but they don't usually have any other vitamins or minerals. Antioxidants and enzymes are absent from them.

Pelleted and formulated diets were developed to include a greater quantity of the necessary nutrients that seeds lack. However, they are still insufficient to supply our birds with all of the hundreds of nutrients they require. The majority of formulated diets aim to provide a plant-based source of complete protein. Additionally, they may contain additional vitamins and minerals, typically vitamin A and vitamin D3. The most important thing to know about formulated diets is the nutrients they lack. Unless a small amount of vitamin E has been added, formulated diets contain only the vitamins that have been added, no enzymes, and no antioxidants. The antioxidant properties of vitamin E make it a common food preservative.

Fresh fruits and vegetables do contain some vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and possibly antioxidants when fed raw. Carbohydrates are also present in these foods. There are no complete proteins in these foods.

Nuts contain fats, including fundamental greasy guides. They do, however, lack the appropriate ratio of essential fatty acids for each parrot species.

What else should you feed your birds if pellets, seeds, fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts do not satisfy their nutritional needs? Let's recap the importance of certain nutrients and why they must be included in your bird's diet every day before discussing the ideal diet.

Proteins are essential nutrients for the body of an avian. In order for the food your bird consumes to be considered a complete protein, it must contain the appropriate balance of all essential amino acids from plant sources. Because they supply the body with the fundamental nutrient building blocks necessary to form healthy cells and sustain all body functions, complete proteins are necessary for life.

Every part of the body needs enzymes. Albeit crude leafy foods contains a few catalysts, our birds don't devour sufficiently of these indispensable supplements. Enzymes are destroyed by heat and temperatures above 118 degrees.

Antioxidants have gained a reputation for treating a wide range of conditions. Antioxidants neutralize and shield the body from free radicals, so this could happen. Free radicals degrade and kill delicate body cells and tissues. Free radicals have been shown to be responsible for illness, disease, and even aging itself. Consuming numerous antioxidants is essential for disease prevention. Antioxidants fall into a variety of subcategories, and thousands of them have been identified. Although some enzymes can be found in raw fruits and vegetables, the majority of birds do not consume nearly enough enzymes in their daily diet. Antioxidants are destroyed by heat.

Vitamins are necessary for survival. They facilitate numerous biological processes and regulate metabolism. They are micronutrients on the grounds that the body needs them in limited quantities while contrasting them with carbs, proteins, fats and water. Vitamins are destroyed by heat.

When discussing vitamin A, we must distinguish between rentinol vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin, and beta carotene, a vitamin A precursor that can be converted to vitamin A in a healthy liver. These specific vitamins have been identified as being essential for birds. Normal disease resistance is dependent on vitamin A (rentinol A). By boosting the production and differentiation of immune-related cells, it supports the immune system and enhances its effectiveness.

The body needs vitamin D3 to keep the levels of calcium and phosphorus in balance. Because it is produced in the skin of birds when they are exposed to ultraviolet light from either direct sunlight or indoor full spectrum lighting, vitamin D3 is also known as the sunshine vitamin.

Vitamin E is a well-known antioxidant that prevents cell damage by preventing the formation of free radicals. It also helps to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. This vitamin increases blood flow, is necessary for tissue repair, and helps blood clot normally.

Coenzyme Q10 and the vitamins B complex, C, K, and P (bioflavonoids) are additional vitamins that birds require.

Minerals: The structure and functioning of every living cell in a bird's body are dependent on minerals. Trace minerals are required in smaller amounts, whereas macro-minerals must be consumed in greater quantities. The mineral content of a bird's body is directly related to its chemical balance. Calcium and phosphorus are the minerals most frequently discussed in avian nutrition. Calcium is necessary for strong bones, proper blood coagulation, membrane permeability, regular heartbeats, and normal nervous system function. Phosphorus performs more biological functions than any other element in the avian body. For birds, a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of 2:1 is ideal.

Magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc, potassium, iodine, selenium, chlorine, and sodium are additional minerals that birds require.

Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are also required by the avian body. Every living cell in the body needs them. EFAs cannot be produced by the body; they must be consumed in adequate quantities through diet. They have a lot of positive effects on a lot of different diseases. EFAs are ruined by heat.

The body gets the energy it needs to function from carbohydrates, the nutrient that is found in the greatest quantity.

Water, many people provide tap water for their birds. The water you and your birds drink should always be of high quality. Either filtered at home, or purchase a good quality bottled spring water. Do not drink or give your birds distilled or RO (reverse osmosis) filtered water. Distilled and RO water is completely void of all minerals and must be re-mineralized before drinking. I have done extensive research on this topic. The World Health Organization has complied a comprehensive data base, consisting of several hundred pages, that discusses the problematic effects that drinking RO or distilled water has had on various human populations worldwide. These waters can cause a variety of serious, debilitating health conditions in people, birds and other animals. The body's water supply is responsible for and involved in nearly every bodily process. We and our birds must consume good quality spring or filtered water.

After reading about all these important nutrients you may be thinking about rushing out and buying a multivitamin and mineral supplement - stop. I'm going to teach you how to select foods to ensure you're feeding a nutrient rich diet to your birds.

The Ideal Avian Diet

You can begin improving the level of health and wellness right away by feeding your birds the most nutrient dense food on the planet - sprouts. Sprouts? You may ask... like alfalfa sprouts? There's more to feeding sprouts than this. Let me explain.

When parrots and birds joined my family I began looking for a food that was comparable to the home made, organic, holistic foods I fed my own dogs and cats. I was lead to sprouts. Well nourished birds have a natural resistance against disease and illness and handle stress much better than those who are missing key nutrients in their diet.

Vital Nutrients in Sprouts Every Bird Needs

When any seed, nut grain or legume is sprouted the entire chemical composition changes. Soaking triggers germination. At this phase a sprout's growth has just begun, Germinated seeds, grains and legumes must be allowed to grow for at least two to three days in order for them to reach their peak nutrition.

Properly grown sprouts contain two qualities not present in any other food. First, sprouts are alive. They contain life force energy. Once any other fruit or vegetable has been picked or harvested, the nutrition it contains begins to decay. Sprouts are alive right up until the moment they are eaten. Secondly, because sprouts are alive they are brimming with a rich assortment and volume of nutrients not found in any other single food or combination of foods. The nutritional value in fresh fruits and vegetables is limited when compared with what sprouts offer.

The germination and sprout growing process transforms whole foods into a superfood. Sprouting causes the formation of vitamins and an increase in all vitamins present. Because of this they are a rich source of beta carotene (the vitamin A precursor), C,E and the B complex.

During the sprout growing process any minerals that are present become chelated, making them easier for the body to assimilate and use.

Sprouts also contain an overwhelming abundance of antioxidants. Important antioxidants found in sprouts include vitamins beta carotene, C and E, flavonoids and superoxide dismutase (SOD). Bean and legume sprouts contains anthocyanins, a powerful flavonoid. More than 4,000 flavonoids have been identified in nature.

When sproutable foods are germinated and allowed to grow they become an abundant source of enzymes. By nature enzymes are catalysts - substances that induce hundreds of thousands of biochemical processes in the body. In fact, enzymes make every single biochemical process in the body possible. The brain, nervous system, vascular system, cell regeneration, growth, immunity, the digestive system, and al the vital organs - the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs all depend on enzymes to function. Although all raw foods contain enzymes the amounts present in sprouts can be 10 to 100 times greater than the amounts that are present in raw fresh fruits and vegetables.

Like enzymes, proteins are also essential to life. Proteins form the structural basis of the chromosomes. Each DNA strand contains the genetic code that is the formula for making that cell's unique protein chain. Proteins are the primary building blocks that make up every cell in the body. In order for proteins to be able to build healthy muscles, blood, skin, feathers, nails and vital internal organs they must be complete proteins - they must contain all the essential amino acids in the proper amounts.

So where can you find a fresh supply of sprouts that provides a balance of all the essential nutrients your bird needs? The best source of fresh sprouts for your birds is to grow them yourself. And if you're new to sprouting it's important to learn how to grow them in a manner that is right for your climate and the unique conditions in your kitchen.

The Benefits of Feeding Sprouts

Some of the health improvements being documented from feeding a sprouting blend that has been formulated to contain complete protein include the complete reversal of avian cataracts, the prevention of arthritis and arteriosclerosis and indications that the immune system of these birds is significantly supported so that bacterial and candida infections have been eliminated.

Sprouting Blend Essentials

Since birds joined my family I've come to understand that there are certain qualities to look for in a sprouting blend if you want to nourish good health and wellness in your parrots and other birds.

1. The blend must have been formulated to provide complete protein.

2. The blend must have a compatible germination rate, so that it can grow and reach optimal nutrition levels.

3. For optimal nutrition, the blend must be allowed to grow for 2 to 3 days. If you've seen the claims that 'Soaked is More Nutritious", please know this statement is false.

4. The blend should be a USDA Certified Organic sprouting Blend. Research continues to link pesticides in our food and water to illness and disease.

5. Look for a blend formulated by a person who is knowledgeable in avian nutrition.

Now that you know what to look for in a good, quality sprouting blend you should be able to start feeding your birds this super food right away.

Putting it All Together

After you've found a sprouting blend that meets the criteria outlined here, and learned to sprout then you can begin creating health producing meals for your parrots and other birds. I suggest that the complete protein, properly grown, sprouting blend make up 50 to 80 percent of your birds diet. This will vary depending upon the type of diet your bird has been on, and their overall condition. Their overall condition should be determined by your avian vet.

After you have a freshly grown batch of sprouts then you can add some fresh fruit, raw or steamed vegetables, and a few nuts, appropriate for your species of bird. I suggest that parrots be weaned off of seed because of their poor nutrient content. I also suggest that you avoid feeding your parrots pasta, breads, and some of the other cooked foods available for birds. These items contain very little nutrition, mostly carbohydrates. I do suggest that a good organic pellet can make up a portion of a parrot's diet.

As far as portion sizes, if you feed 50 percent sprouts, then the remaining 50 percent can be a combination of fresh fruit, vegetable, nuts and pellets. In the beginning it's a good idea to measure the amounts of food you serve so that you gain a realistic view of how much of each food to feed. For example, if you feed 1/4 cup of sprouts then you can combine other healthy foods to measure 1/4 cup, and then you have a highly nutritious and well balanced meal for the birds under your care.

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