We eat lots of red meat, and processed, pre-packaged foods like crackers, cookies, bread, chips, and snacks. Besides that, we eat fried foods, refined grains, and drink sodas full of sugar. For a parrot, we can also use the acronym SAD. But this time, it stands for Seeds and Death. (or nuts, if you have the bigger guys) Does that sound horrid? I’m not kidding. A bird that eats seed-only will suffer from vitamin deficiency. He will receive plenty of fat, but not calcium or minerals. The food quality of seeds is low; think of it as a kid who eats only a bag of potato chips every day and never much else. If you’ve fed your birds a lot of healthy foods, you’re probably able to recognize a seed-fed bird right away. His feathers are somewhat dry and maybe missing edges as if he’s ready to molt-even if he just molted. That’s because the feathers break easily. In general, his feathers have once you know what to look for, these birds are easy to spot. A dull appearance. Besides low nutrition, he’ll be receiving a lot of fat—which, unless your bird flies a lot translates into an obese bird. He will be much more likely to suffer from liver damage than the healthy-diet flock. He may feather-pick, although that is mainly present in bigger birds. But rather than go into the negatives, let’s take a look at the positive side: What a finch’s body truly needs.
◆◆◆ Nutrition ◆◆◆
think it would be easy to know how to feed a finch. You just go to the pet store, grab whatever the salesperson recommends, and give it to your birds, right? Well, it’s never that easy. For one thing, the big box stores are influenced by the manufacturers to provide whatever they’re making – which may be at odds with whatever finches truly need. The second problem is that birds won’t necessarily eat the first thing you put in front of them. There picky – really picky. And if they’ve never seen a pellet before, they aren’t going to eat it. They’ll I it as suspicious. We like to say, “everything is a monster.” That’s how they act. If you don’t have another bird around to teach them to eat the item, you may have a lot of trouble. So let’s take a look at how the finch body works, and what they need for fuel. Because after all, food is just fuel, right? Birds require carbohydrates, protein, and fat every day. The carbohydrates are the reason we find it necessary to give them fruits and vegetables. Proteins come from eggs, legumes, and insects. And the fat can come from oils like red palm oil or coconut oil. Fat is also provided in nuts. Go online and you mostly see bird forum members trying to convince you to feed your birds vegetables and fruit. These are carbohydrates, and they can be broken down easily for the body to use for energy. Also, some carbohydrates contain a lot of fiber, which is useful for the digestive system. Some breeders believe there is no place in the bird’s diet for carbohydrates at all. They believe that by mixing carbohydrates with protein, we are forcing our birds to eat too many carbohydrates, leaving them deficient in proteins and fats. To me, these birds are granivores, so of course, they need carbohydrates. This is their main source of energy. There are enough scientists who have shown carbohydrates to be useful for finches to make me believe it has some validity, so in this book, we will be using carbohydrates is a necessary part of a finch’s diet. There is one exception: Some carbohydrates are processed: sugars, cereals, and so on. In this book, we will not be discussing those because they don’t have a place in our finch’s diets. We believe in whole foods, raw whenever possible.
The list of vitamins needed is a long one, and the complexity of their interaction is beyond the scope of this article. A quality multi-vitamin can help but take care not to overdose if you are feeding a product that’s been fortified with vitamins. The most common vitamins that are lacking in a bird’s diet are D3, A, and B-complex. But, for example, to assimilate vitamin D, they need calcium. And calcium and phosphorus must occur in a ratio of 2:1. So just giving D3 isn’t enough. Add to that the bioavailability. One writer points out that the calcium content of a seed is cut in half if the hull has been removed. Another states that cooking removes at least half the nutrients.
Protein is necessary to support most of the chemical reactions in the body. It is crucial for feather growth as well as muscle tone. The sad thing about protein is that we often provide the same one over and over, limiting our birds’ health by maybe not providing all their nutrition nutritional requirements. There are lots of proteins that can be used for birds, and we’re going.
Fats or Essential Fatty Acids are necessary for nearly every function in a finch’s body. They’re also necessary so that the body can absorb the major vitamins. Fats can be supplied in the diet, but they’re a little tricky because they break down so quickly. Like humans, birds require Omega -3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega-6 comes from seeds grains and nuts. Omega-3 is found in many nuts including pine nuts and flaxseed. There are also some oils, like flax oil, coconut oil, red palm oil, and primrose oil which supply EFAs. Cod liver oil is another good one because it contains Vitamins A and D3.
Carbohydrates are necessary for energy. Most carbs in the finch diet come from plants, and particularly from grains (oats, wheat, seeds). Just like in humans, carbs can easily be overdone. This is where variety will enhance the diet because a bird that’s busy eating protein or leafy vegetables is not gorging himself on the seed.