budgie diet - a real life example

If you have read the previous Budgie Diet page you will have the basic information to keep your bird healthy and happy. On this page we will discuss a budgie diet example - the one I use for my own birds. This is likely to change slightly over time as I learn more, and observe what my birds need. In the same way you should start with what fits for you and alter to your unique situation and what your birds needs are.

The basics

My birds get a basic seed mix, a vegetable based soft food mix, leafy greens and any seasonal extras I want to add (when breeding/moulting etc.). A pelleted diet would be an easier option, but just as a fresh food diet is considered healthier for humans I believe it is healthier for our birds. Processing ingredients to form a pelleted diet reduces the vitamins, enzymes etc. which then need to be added back in, often in a synthetic form or one that is not the same as in the original fresh food. I also think that such intelligent, curious animals deserve the interest of a varied, colourful, multi-textured diet.

So, for the seed portion of the diet you can buy budgie seed mixes or get the seeds and make up your own. I know that seed mixes vary from country to country, so you will have to research them for yourself. Here in New Zealand only a portion of the seed is grown here with the rest being imported. The imported seeds are heat treated to prevent the introduction of disease etc. This means that those seeds are effectively dead, they can provide the basic nutrients (fat, carbohydrate and some protein) but will never sprout or grow.  I prefer to buy a mix the includes some locally grown seeds as I think live seeds have to be better.  So, the mix I use is approximately:

48% Canary - (Phalaris Canariensis) as pictured here, not to be confused with the seed mix sold to feed canaries.

48% Millet – preferably made up of a mixture of millet types.  Millets are high in important nutrients, including silica, important for healthy bones, ligaments and many  other body systems.  Millet is considered a healthy addition to human diets also and some cultures have it as the basis of their diet.

Chia - this tiny seed is readily eaten and is high in protein and fats. I mix a small amount into the main seed mix probably only about 500g into a 10kg mixture. It also grows very easily in the garden so I also feed the plant as a green and allow it to go to seed so they can have fresh chia flowers and seed also.

Oats – a little every now and then for a treat or in winter if they are in a colder environment. I usually give them whole oats, like they feed to horses, as it still has the hard outer shell. The budgies have to remove the outer hull but I see no reason they shouldn't have to do a little bit of work to eat this high energy grain. Groats (hulled oats) are useful for parents feeding chicks, young birds or unwell ones needing an easy energy boost. A high fat grain such as oats or sunflower seeds is important for such active birds, but if yours is one that doesn't get much exercise or has weight issues then you should manage how much of this sort of feed they get. You may need to buy canary seed and millet and mix it without any oats for parts of the year.

There are many other seeds out there that you can research and include but the canary and millet forms a good, cost effective base of your budgie diet. I prefer the seed to be offered mixed together so it is more likely your budgie will try various ones and not just eat its favourite and ignore the rest. They are less likely to wander over to the canary seed dish if they have a dish of oats in front  of them. It is also good for them to have to look and rummage about a bit if they want a particular seed, just like they would have to in the wild. Mental work is very important to their well being. Fatty seeds provide important oils and fat based nutrients that are vital for brain and nerve health, so should be carefully included but not over done.  Millet sprays are given occasionally and budgies love them, making them excellent an reward during training. They can be cleverly hung up from the cage ceiling 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 somewhere that the seed is likely to be fresher due to high turnover. Seed should not smell musty or rancid.

Soft food mix

The other main part of my budgies diet is a soft food mix made primarily of vegetables and sprouted seed.  I take a few available vegetables, such as carrot, broccoli, capsicum, courgette, beetroot, parsley, oregano...whatever I have on hand which varies from mix to mix so doesn't need every type of veggie every time. These I chop in a food processor until they are a bit smaller than pea sized pieces. To this I add a boiled egg that has been processed with a few slices of whole grain bread (Vogels is what I use, preferably find one that has no added sugar and chemicals and is not high in salt) to make mix of fine crumbly pieces. I mix these together, probably 1/2 egg mix and 1/2 vegetables and then add supplements.  One is a multivitamin called My Beau Avian, made by Palamountains. It is an oil based supplement developed by vets, it contains the necessary vitamins and omega 3 and 6 in a good balance.  I add diatomaceous earth (DE - must be the food grade version) every now an then so that they get it for a few days every couple of months.

This mix is then frozen (if you stir it a couple of times whilst freezing you end up with a free flow mix), and a portion defrosted each day for the birds. To this I add an equal part soaked/sprouted seed.  My birds have dry seed available every day but each morning they tuck into this mix and their daily greens, enthusiastically.  I prefer to feed the soft mix in the morning and remove it after a few hours. If you put it in in the late afternoon and remove in the morning it will be there for more than 12 hours and they will have a meal of it in the morning when it may have spoiled.

During part of the year I remove the egg mixture from the sprouted seed and vegetables mix and only give it once a week or so. When my birds are moulting or I am preparing them for breeding then they get the egg mixture added to each days soft food along with another protein source such as whey powder to bring the protein level up towards 20%.

The supplements are important but you may need to look locally to see what is available.  In the Australian outback where budgies live and breed the soil is high in calcium and so the seeds will reflect that.  The budgies have access to calcium rich soil and stones to gnaw on also. It is very unlikley that seeds in most budgie mixes are grown in such high calcium soil and will not provide a useful amount of this vital mineral.  This means you need to find a good source and preferably add it to your soft food.  There are many calcium supplements designed to go in water and these are very popular. Unfortunately budgies are individuals and will drink widely varying amounts of water so you can't tell how much each budgie is actually getting. They can also metabolise water from dietary fats and at comfortable temperatures can use this to go without water if htey don't like the taste.  Mixing your calcium in with food means you can ensure they are getting it.  Vitamin A and D are also vital which is why cod liver oil has been a staple in budgie diets for decades. It is an excellent source of these necessary nutrients and also has Omega 3 and 6. Iodine is often missing in budgies diets and can lead to some of the more common health issues.  You will need to see what is available in your country and follow the feeding guidlines to ensure you are feeding safe amounts.

If your bird has had only seed up til now it may be very reluctant to try anything else.  Greens are usually pretty popular as as starting point, but when I first got my birds they didn't want the soft food. I convinced them by giving them a bowl of dry seed mixed with a little soaked seed each day. Once they ate that I started letting the seed sprout a bit which they accepted. From there I just made the processed vegetable mix but chopped smaller to seed size and gave them a mix of mostly sprouted seed and a little veggie mix and eventually they were eating a 50/50 mix of vegetables and sprouted seed. Then I just increased the size of the chopped vegetables to the size I wanted it.

It can take time but is worth doing to provide a healthier life for your birds.

Every now and then they might get a piece of fruit instead of greens. They are generally high in sugar so are not a regular thing, but it is a good treat and to keep them used to trying new things.  Maybe once a month I will give them a whole lemon, chopped in quarters, instead of soft food and greens.  They tend to demolish this and I feel like it is probably good for their systems. My birds also love orange and so a bit of fresh juice squeezed on to a new food can encourage them to try it.

Greens

Often my birds get some other greens also.  This varies day by day depending on what is about and if they are eating plenty of vegetables in the soft food mix it can be a treat rather than a daily occurrence. At certain parts of the year they get picked seed heads of various grasses, or sometimes the whole plant with roots and soil still attached.  Or they may get a nutritious 'weed' such as dandelion or chickweed. Sometimes it is just a garden vegetable like silverbeet, spinach, turnip greens or whatever is growing at the time.  Be sure to check that it is safe before feeding, things like rhubarb leaves are dangerous.

When the breeding season comes to a close my birds get a reduced nutrient diet (I'll explain that more when I get the breeding information done). During this time they do not get the egg mixture in the soft food mix but do still get greens once or twice a week at the most.

Extras

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 considered to have many health benefits and I put a little in their water about once a month, or spray a little on their soft food.
Cuttlefish (or cuttlebone) 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.  Even if it does not touch it for months, you will find that one day it needs it. The calcium in cuttlefish is not easily absorbed, however, non-breeding budgies do not require large amounts of calcium and chewing on cuttlefish provides both physical exercise and abrasion for the care of their beaks.
Mineral mixes specifically for birds are also an option. I prefer the type that can be offered in a separate dish and the budgies help themselves as needed. I use Piminex but there are many others available. I also offer round seaweed/kelp in a separate dish which provides various elements including iodone. Iodine deficiency is a common issue with budgies so an iodine source is vital. My budgies pick at the kelp now and then as required.
Salt - this is as necessary for our birds as it is for us.  If your mineral mix includes a majority of salt they will eat it to the level of salt they require, meaning they may be having too much or too little of the other minerals, which can be dangerous.  So, offer a small block of salt, or a small dish of pure rock salt separate from the other minerals.
Grit - this topic, it seems, is a real can of worms!  So, I am going to do a separate page on this topic - click here for it.

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...

Budgie Info

Budgie Info has loads of beautiful and helpful images on Pinterest.

Find things quicky by searching here!