One of the most important parts of caring for a stud of exhibition budgerigars is the feeding regime, if implemented successfully you are part way to keeping the stud healthy which will hopefully lead to good breeding results.
In the past we had been feeding our birds a simple basic diet, consisting of a seed dish each of the following plain canary, mixed millets and tonic seed. Also available all the time for the birds was cuttlefish, mineral blocks and grit. A rearing food consisting of groats mixed with E.M.P was given to the breeding pairs and young birds recently weaned. Once a week ‘Abidec’ was added to the purified water.
In September 2004 I (Andrew) whilst on work business in South Africa was fortunate enough to visit the stud of Reinhard and Holger Molkentin, a father and son partnership originally from Germany. After being in the bird room for a few minutes I was over whelmed by the quality of the birds. Besides the quality of the birds another key factor struck me, the general health of the entire stud, all the birds seemed really active and very noisy. Why were the birds so active and healthy? My brain was doing overtime thinking of possible solutions, luckily for me Reinhard and Holger were on hand with the answers. Reinhard and Holger went through there entire feeding and care regime and showed me everything they do to there birds, wow I realized I had met a budgerigar genius who was only to happy to share his knowledge and ideas with me. During those few days at the ‘Molkentin’ stud I learnt a lot about budgerigars and the hobby. Thank you to the ‘Molkentin’ family for there great hospitality during my stay.
On my return home I new things needed to change but there was two questions that needed answering, what should we change and when should we do it? The question of when was easy to answer because we were one month prior to pairing up, any changes now may disrupt the breeding season A risk we were not willing to take, so a decision to wait until after the breeding season had finished was reached. Due to this decision we gained over seven months to decide the new feeding program, giving us time to research the possibilities. One thing I was sure of was that the ‘Molkentin’ diet will have a major part to play in the future of our stud.
Research began with an analysis of the basic seeds we were giving the birds, basically the goodness in dry seed is very limited and arguably not enough for the modern exhibition budgerigar, but if the same seed is soaked in water things get interesting the nutrient value goes up by over ten times even more interesting if left to germinate the nutrient value goes up by over a hundred times. The germinating seed is in the maximum growth phase of the immature plant, a kind of chemical vitamin factory. All of the stored food and enzymes needed for the growth of an entire new plant are mobilized as the seed sprouts. Protein, carbohydrates and fats are broken down to free up amino acids, simple sugars and soluble compounds. Essential minerals such as calcium and magnesium are supplied by sprouted seeds in a chelated form for better assimilation. Soaked seeds and germinated seeds are in my opinion a must in a budgerigar’s diet if prepared correctly. Vitamins given in the drinking water is an issue that can be discussed endlessly but it has been proven that the majority of products loose there effectiveness very soon after being diluted. Another problem may be getting the birds to drink these products, due to them not liking the taste. If all the vitamin requirements can be provided in the bird’s diet, then there is no need for these products and fresh clean purified water can be used. Commercially made rearing foods need to be looked at as part of the feeding program, but don’t for me have enough protein, vitamin or egg content to be used as the only rearing food given, other ingredients need to be added.
New to me whilst at the ‘Molkentin’ stud was the use of vegetables as a large part of there feeding program and not surprising when you think about it, they are basically given for the same reasons we eat vegetables because they are good for us packed full of goodness and often very tasty. Organic vegetables are best as the chemicals in none organic vegetables vary and may be toxic to a bird’s digestive system. Remember vegetable chemical contents are measured for human consumption not birds. Imagine eating the same type of food type each day, day after day with no alternatives. Boring after a few days I think imagine the boredom at meal times. In the past we have given this same boring diet to our birds without any thought, basically because most fellow breeders feed similar diets. The main advantage to this diet is the quickness to feed the birds, very little preparation is needed. But will the birds get enough goodness from this diet, I don’t think so, more is needed.
The new feeding program
The same basic seed mix is given to every cage all year round, this is 1 part mixed millet, two parts white milllet, two parts plain canary and one part tonic seed. The three seed types are mixed together and then grated organic vegetables are then added and mixed in. A mixture of at least five of the following given daily Carrots + leaves, Broccoli + stalk, Beetroot + leaves, Chicory, Chard, Parsley, Sweet corn, Celery, Spinach, Peppers Red/green/yellow, Pakchoey, Parsnip, Fennel, Cauliflower (white only), Brussel Sprouts, Asparagus, Cabbage (green/red), Cucumber, Peas (tinned in water or fresh), Courgette, Radish, Kale, Turnips, Green beans, Chinese bean sprouts. The vegetable content is around 20% of the mixture. Variety is very important to gain the most goodness for the birds. A cup of sprouted seed added to the seed/veg mix daily. A mix of sunflower seed, oats, safflower, paddy rice, melon seed, chick peas, mung beans, yellow peas and green peas. Two cups of sprouted oats are also added to the mix
Only enough seed is given so that the birds eat around 90%, the rest is thrown away and replaced daily. The birds should not be short of food, there should always be some in the pot. The replacement of seed daily removes the dust and husk usually found in the bottom of the seed pots and cage after a few days making cleaning easier.
Available to all the birds all year round is the following mixed mineral grit, mineral blocks, ‘Murphy's minerals 'Osmunds Ultimate'. Birds in the flights always have eucalyptus branched to chew and climb on. The branches are used by the birds as a play toy which keeps them occupied and gives there feet a range of different diameters to grip onto. Eucalyptus provides the birds with essential oils which have proven antiseptic qualities. The leaves are also given frequently.
A rearing food is given to the birds all year round but the amount is increased during the breeding season. The mixture is prepared daily to ensure freshness and consists of ‘E.M.P'., 3 cups of groats, 6 hard boiled eggs. One table spoon per pair not rearing youngsters, two table spoons for pairs rearing given daily. All left over mix from the day before is thrown away daily. Birds in the flight also get the same mix.
Chinese red millet sprays are soaked in a weak F10 solution over night then rinsed off and allowed to air dry before being fed to pairs rearing youngsters over two weeks old. A smallish piece is placed in the nest boxes daily. Youngsters also get given a lot of millet sprays when they are in the weaning process until fully weaned. 'Soluvite D breeder' is added to the purified drinking water. The drinkers are washed thoroughly very often to help maintain the waters cleanliness. The new feeding program seems like a lot of hard work but once you get in to a routine the process is very easy and quick to apply. It’s true what they say ‘you get out of the hobby what you but in’. In our case we get the satisfaction of seeing our birds more active and healthier than before that has to be a positive effect and well worth the extra effort. Remember a feeding programme that works for one fancier may not work for others, all changes should be noted and introduced slowly.