The popularity of sprouted seed, or soaked seed as we tend to call it, seems to ebb and flow over the years. The benefits of sprouting seed are that the early stages of germination increase the amount of trace minerals, vitamins and proteins, but, not by much. More significantly, the carbohydrate components are changed into simple fructose and glucose and the hard dry kernel is softened which means it is more readily digested by nestlings.

When young Australian Finches reach five days of age the parents begin to feed seed in increasing quantities so that by the tenth day the contents of the crop can be as much as two-thirds seed. Also, when nestlings are very young the parents will digest food for up to an hour in the crop before feeding. However, as the demands of the growing nestlings increase, the feeding becomes more regular with consequently less time for the parents digestion process to modify whatever is being fed.

This means that by the age of ten days a large proportion of the diet could be hard, dry seed, if it were not first soaked. This unnatural state does not happen in the wild as the older nestlings are fed and weaned on half ripe seed. To avoid the hard seed being fed to nestlings the only alternative is to feed sprouted seed. However, this also has its hazards as the sprouting process requires moist, warm conditions which also encourage the growth of bacteria. Even worse, graniverous seed naturally carries a fungus which, under the right conditions To sprout seed, simply cover with a mixture of bleach and water and keep in a warm place for 24 hours. Then pour it into a flour sieve and rinse under the tap. Finish the rinse with warm water and place back in a warm area for a further 24 hours. At the end of this period the seed will just be beginning to "chit". Put the soaked seed in a container which will hold at least two-thirds more volume. Add at least twice the volume of water as there is of seed and add enough bleach to make a very strong solution. Using a mixing spoon, stir the seed into the chlorine (bleach) mixture ensuring that every seed comes into contact with the chlorine solution. Chlorine (bleach) is a contact bactericide and fungicide, i.e. it kills immediately on contact and does not need any dwell time. But you do need to mix thoroughly to ensure "contact" has been effected. Once you are satisfied that the seed is well chlorinated, tip it into the flour sieve and rinse thoroughly under a hot or cold tap, allow to drain and then use. Now let us cover the bits that worry people which I have never explained well.

The bleach to use is the common cheap bleach, not the thickened variety. Bleach is just a solution of salt and water through which chlorine gas has been passed. As soon as it comes into contact with air the gas evaporates leaving behind just salt. Inadequate rinsing just leaves behind more salt, that is all. Many people do not chlorinate adequately because they believe that the bleach may harm the seed or the birds. You may as well not bother at all if you do not use a strong bleach solution. The bleach cannot penetrate the seed as the molecules of bleach are bigger than the pores in the husk of the seed. Seeds have pores in the husk the same as our skin. Because the pores in our skin are smaller than the molecules of your blood, your blood does not leak out. Similarly you do not wash away or become bloated when you get caught in a shower of rain. Seed is a little different in that the water molecules are small enough to pass through the pores and provide the trigger and means of germination while filtering out the large bleach molecules. This means that you could soak the seed in neat bleach without it being able to penetrate the seed and maybe harm the birds. All you would be doing is using more bleach than necessary and wasting it.

From Cage & Aviary: Dec. 9, 1995

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca


Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.