The budgie diet you choose should be based on what they would naturally eat. The closer to natural that you can get their diet, the better off they will be.
They will have less trouble absorbing nutrients and will be able to deal with the wastes more efficiently than if they were trying to deal with something completely alien to their digestive system. The diet will also stimulate them and work their beak and bodies as they were meant to be.
As you know budgies in the wild feast on various seeding grasses, leaves, buds, fruit and bark. So how do we replicate that budgie diet without sending them back to the Australian grasslands?
The best source of information on a healthy diet for your bird is the book on the left; A Guide to a Naturally Healthy Bird and below is how I feed my budgies.
The basis of your budgie diet should be good quality seed. You can buy budgie seed mixes or get the seeds and make up your own. The mixture I used was as follows:
40% Canary - Phalaris Canariensis) as pictured below, not to be confused with a seed mix sold to feed canaries!
50% Millet – (Setaria Italica) made up of a mixture of White, Panicum, Yellow and Japanese millets
10% Oats – I prefer whole oats to groats or hulled oats, which have had the outer hull removed
There are many other seeds out there that you can research and include (such as amaranth), but the canary and various millets form a very good, cost effective base of your budgie diet. Millets in particular are considered a valuable health food even for humans so I always advise having a mixture of those as the highest percentage of the mix.
I prefer the seed to be offered mixed together so it is more likely your budgie won't pick out its favourite and ignore the rest. This could mean your budgie lived on oats only… until it died of some obesity related disease!
If your budgie is caged for a lot of the time, or is inactive then reduce the oats so they do not become over weight! I also sometimes feed small sunflower seeds, but again these are fatty so they are a treat rather than the norm. Millet sprays are usually readily available and budgies love them, making them a great addition to your budgie diet.
They can be cleverly hung up to provide hours of entertainment and exercise, make it an acrobatic feat to get to them!
Take care that your seed has no dust, moulds or foreign matter in the mixture. I would advise buying from a pet store or seed merchant rather than the supermarket, as the seed is likely to be fresher due to higher turnover. Seed should not smell musty or rancid.
Dry seed is mature seed and has fewer nutrients than the growing seed budgies would normally feed on. You can improve the nutritional value of your budgie diet by sprouting them, as the seeds begin to grow they produce more vitamins and minerals.
This is how I sprout seed:
Place some of your seed mix in a container and cover with water, leave over night in warm weather or for 24 hours if the weather is cold. Tip the seed into a sieve and rinse thoroughly. Leave the seed in the sieve and leave for another 24-48 hours. By then you should see the seeds have swelled and some will have a white tip just emerging. I found my budgies preferred the spouted seeds at this stage rather than when the seed had actually began to grow a shoot. I usually mixed this 50/50 with the dry mix to feed; I would recommend this at least twice a week if not every day.
It is important that the sprouted seed doesn’t ferment or become mouldy as this may make your budgie ill. To prevent this make sure it is not in a very warm area, and feed as soon as it is ready, do not keep it to feed over several days. I also usually spray the seed with a little apple cider vinegar (ACV) after rinsing. ACV is a wonderful natural antibiotic and immune enhancer.
If the seed does not begin to sprout at all then it is dead! Find a better source. For more information check out The Complete Guide to Successful Sprouting For Parrots, seen above.
Budgies can survive on a basic dry seed diet, however they won’t thrive and will probably have a shortened life… I am sure this is not what you want for your pets! So, just as we must eat our fruit and veggies for good health so must our budgies.
The best way to add greens to your budgie diet is to provide fresh greens that you have collected for them. In spring you can gather small bunches of seeding grasses at various stages of development from still very green through to mature dry seeds still on the stalk. You can also feed various ‘weeds’ such as chickweed (Stellaria media) seen below, dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and shepherds purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris). Of course in Australia budgie also chew on eucalyptus trees so if you can find a branch or two of that they will appreciate it.
From your garden you can feed them silverbeet, broccoli, whole carrots including the green tops, apple, orange etc. The main thing is to make sure that the food is not sprayed with anything toxic, and not picked from a roadside where it can accumulate car fumes, and check what it is so you can be sure it is not poisonous!
Offer your bird something interesting each day and vary it so they learn to try out new foods. Sometimes they will ignore a new food, keep offering it until they give up and try some. You can also try sprinkling a few seeds onto it so they have a nibble. My budgies needed this to try out a piece of orange, but once they had they would clean up the orange every time. In fact, they liked it so much I could get them to try a new food by squeezing some orange juice onto it.
Remember that the seed, dry and sprouted, is the mainstay of your budgie diet and these are healthy extras. You do not want your budgie living solely on silverbeet or apple that would be as unhealthy as just dry seed.
If you have organised a well-rounded budgie diet, as described above,
then you do not need a million supplements! However I would recommend a
few to give your bird an extra boost.
Apple cider vinegar is a wonderful antibiotic and immune boost and I usually spray a little onto the soaked seed, or a piece of fruit.
Cuttlefish is usually available from a pet store. It provides calcium and helps keep the beak in order. Hang one in the cage and let your budgie help itself when needed. I would consider this a necessity so your budgie can always get the calcium it needs. Even if it does not touch it for months, you will find that one day it needs it.
Mineral mixes specifically for birds are also an option. These should be offered in a separate dish and the budgie can help themselves as needed. I believe they will have a better idea of how much and how often they need it than we do!
Vitamin supplements these are usually made to be added to the water. I prefer not to do this as then your budgie has no choice but to drink them whether needed or not. If you are offering (and your bird is eating) a mixed diet as suggested above then you shouldn’t need to use a vitamin supplement, however if you are worried you can use one very occasionally.
Oyster grit should also be offered for the bird to help itself to. You can find it in a pet shop, and if you offer greens with soil still on the roots occasionally your budgie will also pick small pieces of grit out of that if it wants.
These things will help provide a budgie diet that will help keep your pet healthy and happy. And if you are a bit adventurous, (and truly owned by your budgies!) you can try giving them your own homemade treats...