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Seeds, Pellets, and Crumbles for Cage Birds
By C.R. Grau and T.E. Roudybush
For Exotic Bird Report Number 3 (1/1/1985)


As foods for cage birds, seed mixtures have much to recommend them. They are traditional, widely available, clean to feed, evoke interesting bird behaviors, and their use is esthetically pleasing to the pet owner. Seeds present problems, however. The residual hulls are dusty, messy, and may mask an inadequate supply of whole seeds. Seeds provide most nutrients for maintenance of adults but for reproduction they require supplementation with minerals, vitamins, and soft foods. In contrast, mixtures of ground foodstuffs and supplements in the right proportions, in pelleted or crumbled form and without further supplementation, are potentially valuable for both reproduction and maintenance of those psittacines and passerines that normally eat seeds.


In order to determine nutrient requirements of birds, the diets must be of known, controllable composition. One such diet is that for hand-rearing as discussed in the foregoing article of the Exotic Bird Report. A similar diet prepared in crumbled form is the basis for ongoing research on nutrition and reproduction. Another diet, which contains a mixture of practical feedstuffs, purified materials, and supplements, serves as a general diet for our flock of 350 cockatiels and 46 Amazon parrots. This diet has also been used to feed yellow—naped Amazons, society finches, owl finches, canaries, and lovebirds.


Details of the development of the diet have been reported elsewhere (Roudybush et al., 1984). Briefly, we found that a mixture of ground yellow corn, soybean meal, methionine, vitamins, and minerals was satisfactory for egg production and maintenance of cockatiels, but nest boxes became fouled from the wet droppings produced by the chicks. When the soybean meal was replaced by isolated soybean protein and the total protein content of the diet kept constant by adjustment of the level of corn, the volume of the droppings decreased sharply and the nest boxes remained dry, requiring no cleaning or special ventilation. The reasons for the different effects of the diets can be attributed primarily to differences in the fiber contents of the soybean meal (5% crude fiber) and isolated soybean protein (0% fiber).


The formula for this general diet for cockatiels is presented in the table. Salt was not added because the particular protein we used contained a significant amount of sodium. The ingredients were mixed and pelleted, and some pellets were crumbled to particles sized to pass through 6 mesh screen holes but not through window screen. The pelleted diet has been used for Amazons, the crumbled diet for cockatiels, finches, and canaries. In finely powdered form the diet has also been used successfully for hand-feeding of cockatiels.


Reference: Roudybush, T.E., C.R. Grau, T. Jermin, and D. Nearenberg, 1984. Pelleted
                and Crumbled Diets for Cockatiels, Feedstuffs 56(43):18-20.

 Table: Composition of a general diet for cockatiels

                                                       per l000g diet

Corn, yellow, ground                                            817.7 g

Soybean protein, isolated, 87% protein                  144.6

Calcium carbonate, CaCO3                                       6.4

Dicalcium phosphate, CaHP04•2H20                       25.7

DL-Methionjne                                                         2.6

Mineral mixture (see below)                                      1.2

Vitamin mixture (see below)                                      1.8

Total                   1000.0 g



Mineral mixture                                                                            Vitamin mixture

Potassium chloride, KC1                    990 mg                 Vitamin A                   2500 IU

Manganese sulfate, MnSO4•H2       141.2                   Vitamin D3                    500 IU

Copper sulfate, CuS04•5H2                 5.4                   Vitamin B12                0.009 mg

Potassium iodate, KIO3                          0.6                   Vitamin K                     0.8 mg

Sodium selenite, Na2SeO3•5H2          0.25                  Niacin                         30 mg

Zinc oxide, ZnO                                   39.6                   Riboflavin                       3 mg
                                                                                       Folic acid                       0.3 mg

Total                        1177.05 mg            Biotin                          0.015 mg
Pantothenic acid                7 mg
Choline chloride           1020 mg
Total          1800 mg