HAMILTON & DISTRICT BUDGERIGAR SOCIETY INC.

CANARY FEEDING


Staple food of canary birds are seeds. Usual in the trade is a mix of canary seed, rape, flax , niger, hemp and maybe groats and poppy. Here, the best way to buy it is to go to a specialized animal feed store, seed supply depot or farm supply depots. Seeds bought in super markets often are more expensive and not the freshest quality. Canaries like to eat, for example, dandelion, rape, comfrey, cucumber, zucchini and chicory. But you should be sure that the green is free of possibly toxic spray residue. The birds need fresh water every day. Well- tried are special tubes, that are put through the wire screen from outside the cage. The seed mixes of all birds should be vitamin fortified. Aviculturists should take vitamins seriously. Vitamins are essential for the metabolic functions of all living things. When seed is not vitamin fortified birds are not able to reap the full benefit from the nutrition present in the feed. Vitamin enriched feed is a must for optimum growth, maintenance, reproduction, and health. Some counter that vitamin enriched seed is not "natural." The natural diet of seed eating birds is very rarely dry seed. For the better part of the year, all seed eating birds consume the milky seed directly from the plant. This seed is at its nutritional best. The vitamin content of even the best processed seed is nether consistent or adequate enough to assure optimal nutrition. Natural factors, such as drought, insects, excessive moisture, disease, and molds, make the vitamin levels of seed uncertain. Man made variables, the storage, transportation, and processing of feed, conspire to rob the seed of the vitamins needed by birds. Research has proven that the vitamin supplementation of seed is a must to achieve peak production. Pelleted feeds, seemingly an answer, fall short of the mark. Pellets have a place as supplements and in commercial production. If by a "complete diet", the manufacturers mean that birds are able to survive and raise young on their products, then they are correct. If by complete is meant being able to rear vigorous show winners, without the addition of vitamins, fruits, vegetables, or eggs to the ration, then pellets fail miserably. No one knows all the elements that are required in any cage bird diet. Canaries fed on pellets alone, particularly red factors, show rough plumage. The droppings of canaries on pellets are often loose.

The seed should be given to the birds in a deep dish. Fountain style feeders encourage the birds to pick out their favorite seeds. This is wasteful and leads to an unbalanced diet. The mix should only be changed when all the seed is consumed. The hulls should be blown off the top daily. The birds should also get a small amount of fruits, vegetables, and greens. I use apples, oranges, bananas, green peppers, canned corn, fresh corn on the cob, cooked broccoli, raw spinach, raw dandelions, raw collard greens, raw Swiss chard, pears, peaches, strawberries, and cherries. The various berries are very good, especially for red factor birds, but these fruits are very expensive. Lettuce is useless and should not be fed. Ideally, all produce should be home grown. Organically grown fruits and vegetables are free of dangerous pesticides, Any insects add an extra touch of protein and the birds relish them. Rinse store bought fruits and vegetables to remove all chemicals. Soaked seeds are an absolute necessity for the feeding hen and for the newly weaned young. They are a treat for all birds. Cracked corn, wheat, buckwheat, and safflower, normally too large and hard, are made acceptable to canaries by soaking. Soaking breaks down complex carbohydrates rendering the seed more palatable and more highly digestible. This is done by taking a special soak seed mix and adding two parts, or more, of water and refrigerating. Soak for at least twenty-four hours. Rinse well and strain before feeding.

Sprouts are not the same thing as soaked seed. Not all seeds can be sprouted. Most bird seeds are treated with preservatives and vitamins and will not germinate. Seeds for sprouting should be kept separate for various species of plants have different germinating times and requirements. In addition to the regular bird seeds, many seeds for sprouting are available in health food stores. My favorite is the Chinese mung bean which is very easy to sprout and possesses a high degree of palatability for the birds. You can also used soy beans for sprouting. Sprouting seed is the simplest way to provide your birds with fresh greens. For a few birds only a quarter cup of seeds should be sprouted at a time. Seeds increase in volume tremendously when sprouted. Place the seeds in a clean glass jar. Fill with tap water and let stand at room temperature for twenty-four hours. Rinse and drain completely. Repeat the rinsing and draining completely daily until the seed has sprouted. If a foul odor or mold develops, discard. Preparations are available to prevent spoilage. Rinsing and draining well is very important. Any surplus sprouts may be refrigerated up to two weeks.

A proper nestling food is very important. The best bet for the beginner is to purchase a good quality dry nestling food with which many local fanciers are experiencing good results. I have found it economically infeasible, as well as time consuming to mix it yourself. A treat dish of dry nestling food should be before the birds at all times. This serves as a treat and protein supplement out of the breeding season. In this way the birds are also trained to eat the nestling mix. Whenever given a new food, birds will ignore it for a few days. If you wait until the nestlings hatch before giving the rearing food, the babies will starve by the time the parents sample it. When the birds have young, give them as much dry nestling food as they want. Nestling food can also be mixed with egg. To four cups of dry nestling food, add one pound grated carrots, and one dozen grated hard boiled eggs. Chop the eggs in a food processor shells and all. This is for about fifty feeding hens. Boil the eggs for twelve to fourteen minutes to ensure that no fowl diseases are transmitted to the canaries. This mixture is given in an amount that the birds will eat in one hour. All birds get one treat cup per day of this egg mix. The supply for birds with feeding young is constantly renewed during the day. The nestling food with egg spoils very rapidly, particularly during the Summer. It would be best to prepare the egg mix fresh every day. If this is not possible, refrigerate the excess immediately. It has been stated that birds will die from overeating soft foods. This is nonsense. That birds will be killed by fresh, nutritous foods is the height of absurdity. It is true that birds will die from eating rotten nestling food. Just like tropical fish, birds die not from overeating but from overfeeding. Grit and cuttlebone are before the birds at all times.

It is emphasized that there is not one diet for the adult bird, one for the nesting hen, one for the young bird, and yet another for the moulting bird. Each and every bird must get a balanced diet each and every day of the year. It is foolish to think that birds may be bred on a diet of seed and water. Try living on bread and water yourself! It is ridiculous to keep a bird on a plain seed and water diet for nine months and then to "gear up" for the breeding season. This misplaced economy is responsible for the majority of breeding failures; hens not coming into breeding condition, eggbound hens, dead in the shell young, and non-feeding hens. The percentage of protein in the diet will increase during moulting and nesting, but the list of items in the diet should not vary. The addition of yoghurt to the nesting egg food is a good idea. Bread soaked in milk is a very primitive nesting food. I question that birds can completely digest milk. The original staple of the captive canary was freshly gathered milky seeds and seed heads. Plaintain, Chickweed, Shepherd's Purse, Anne's Lace, Charlock, Smartweed, Dandelion, and Thistle have all been recommended as canary foods. The old time poverty stricken British miner or farmer, our ancestors in the Fancy, maintained their beloved pets in perfect health solely on such a diet. Only by gathering these foods were they able to afford to feed the birds.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca

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