Budgie feeding guide (Info to decide what is the best nutrition for budgies.)
Birds in their natural environment search for food selectively. They know when their diet is inadequate therefore, they forage for the correct food to get the correct nutritional balance. Our captive birds cannot do that and are dependent on us to provide them with a complete and balanced diet. This blog post will give budgie breeders and pet keepers the background information to decide what is the best nutrition for your budgies.
For budgie breeders, it is good to note that the parents are responsible for the offspring’s size and their immune response to illness. During the breeding season, nutrition can influence sperm quality, nutrients in the egg yolk, egg formation, hatchability, and the overall health of the chicks.
Budgie feeding food groups
There are 3 major food groups: Protein, fat, and carbohydrates. These groups are further subdivided into classes of nutrients that are all essential for budgie health. Apart from these, budgies also need energy. Energy is acquired from any of the nutrient groups. The amount of energy and how easily it can be used varies. As an example, starch gives an easily used source of energy, while fats give a more concentrated form of energy that is more difficult to use instantly. The challenge in budgie feeding is, that the energy in budgie diets is plentiful, limiting the energy level whilst maintaining sufficient levels of key nutrients. The list of needed nutrients to maintain their health is big. This article will focus on some of the most important nutrients.
Protein for budgies
Protein consists of building blocks that are called amino acids. Birds absorb these amino acids in their amino acid profile. If this profile of amino acids is wrong in protein, the bird absorbs little of the protein.
Ideal protein = where the amino acid profile perfectly matches the needs of the bird.
There is no ideal protein, but egg is generally regarded as the closest.
To get a good amino acid profile, different foods can be mixed together. Egg food, sprouted seeds, and supplemented seed mixes provide different amino acids to the seed-based diet. If this protein is minimal or not available in the correct amino acid ratio, the female will either produce fewer or no eggs. Or, she will sacrifice her own stores o amino acids to produce perfect eggs.
Protein is required for:
- Growth and breeding.
- The general maintenance of their condition.
Lack of protein:
- Dietary deficiencies in the amino acids cysteine and methionine may cause feather deformities.
- Deficiency in the amino acid lysine reduces feather strength.
Excessive amounts of protein:
The bird has to break down and excrete this spare protein. The spare protein is also an energy source, which will make birds fat if they do not need this extra energy.
Vitamins and antioxidants
Vitamins are natural components of food found in little quantities but are important for health. There are six groups of vitamins that are divided into two types.
Type 1 = Water-soluble vitamins (B and C)
Not stored in the body, therefore daily supplies are essential.
Type 2 = Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
Are well stored in fat and the liver and so daily intake is less critical as long as regular intake occurs.
The concentration of vitamins is measured in international units (i.u.) per kg diet or milligrams (mg) per kg diet or mcg (micrograms) per kg or ppm (parts per million).
Antioxidants – Reproduction causes oxidative stress to the parent birds so diets containing antioxidants are beneficial. Hatching also causes oxidative stress, and it is well accepted that the addition of antioxidant sources to the maternal diet improves the antioxidant status of chicks.
Role of Vitamins
- Vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin and mucus membranes, including the lining of the mouth, sinuses, and cloaca.
- Vitamin B promotes growth, reproductive health, nervous system function, resistance to disease, feather and skin health, and many other functions. It also aids in the digestion of carbohydrates and proteins.
- Vitamin C is a metabolic regulator.
- Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the gut into the body. Birds can make their own vitamin D3 if they have access to UV light (from a UV lamp or daylight).
- Vitamin E is the fertility vitamin. Improve chick quality and boost immunity. Also influences male fertility: avian sperm benefit from increased antioxidant levels in the diet.
- Vitamin K is necessary for blood coagulation.
Table 1: Good sources of each vitamin and 3 key amino acids:
|Vitamin A||Yellow squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, egg yolks, kale, cod liver oil, broccoli, chicory, chard, green peppers, dandelion, carrots|
|Vitamin B||Eggs, cheese, nuts, sunflower seeds, millet seeds, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, bananas, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, liver, and Marmite, (some sources all contain some but not all of the B vitamins)|
|Vitamin C||Broccoli, red peppers, green peppers, tomatoes, peas, kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries, melon|
|Vitamin D3||Egg yolk, sunlight, cod liver oil, oily fish, sweet potatoes, dark green leafy vegetables|
|Vitamin E||Egg yolk and white, green leafy vegetables, watercress, oats, wheat germ, almonds, cashew, corn, sunflower seeds, liver, pumpkin seeds|
|Vitamin K||Kelp, alfalfa, green leafy vegetables, eggs, soya beans, Lysine Legumes (e.g. peas, soya), high lysine corn, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, meat, and brewer’s yeast. Methionine + Cysteine Spinach, green peas, nuts, meat, sesame seed, egg|
Keeping vitamins balanced
All the vitamins have essential roles in maintaining health. Even if you include every vitamin on the list, it is possible for your bird to have vitamin deficiencies. Too much of one vitamin can diminish the uptake of another. Vitamins interact with each other and with other substances such as amino acids and minerals. The most significant relationships between vitamins and minerals are the relationship between calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3 and the relationship between vitamin E and selenium. Vitamin E and selenium perform the same role: if one is deficient, then the other can
make up the difference. The B vitamin niacin and the amino acid tryptophan are also able to substitute for each other.
Current recommendation levels and dietary sources of vitamins are shown in the table below:
Table 2: Recommended level of vitamins in budgie diets:
|Vitamin A activity (total) IU/kg||2000||10000|
|Vitamin D3, ICU/kg||500||2000|
|Vitamin E, ppm||50||unknown|
|Vitamin K, ppm||1||unknown|
|Folic acid, ppm||1.5||unknown|
|Pantothenic acid, ppm||20||unknown|
|Vitamin B12, ppm||0.1||unknown|
The water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the bird’s body so a daily supply is needed. Therefore, overdosing with water-soluble vitamins is less likely. BUT vitamin B overdose is possible and too much vitamin C can cause irritation to the gut and diarrhea.
The fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body and an overdose of these vitamins is much more serious. The above table shows the current recommended levels of vitamins and maximum recommended levels of vitamins A and D.
In order for minerals to be absorbed by a bird, they first need to be transported across the gut wall, mostly by what is known as a carrier protein. The different minerals are believed to compete for these proteins, which is why an excessive level of a mineral can and does inhibit the absorption of another.
Remember: more isn’t always better! Unless dietary protein is well balanced, all the vitamin/mineral supplements in the world are not going to help to breed and in excess, they may harm your birds. All the nutrition facts stated in this blog post are taken from scientific reports.
- Budgies may eat corn as a treat now and then but make sure to include treats that supplement your bird’s nutrition.
- Cod liver oil helps indoor budgies manufacture vitamin D. Add eight drops of cod liver oil to each pound of birdseed.
- A pinch of brewer’s yeast every other day will help them get their B vitamins.
- You can also feed budgies a bit of boiled egg yolk combined with cracker crumbs for protein, or a small amount of bread soaked in milk.
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Reference: AWEBSA and Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition.