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 with the most locally grown seeds as I think live seeds have to be better.  So, the mix I use is approximately:

45% Canary - (Phalaris Canariensis) as pictured here, not to be confused with the seed mix sold to feed canaries.

50% Millet – (Setaria Italica) 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.

5% Oats – These have the hull removed but if I decide to offer extra I usually give them whole oats, like they feed to horses. They 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 a great addition to your budgie diet. 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...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 about 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 1/4 egg mix and 3/4 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.

For parts of the year I remove the dry seed in the evening after they have had dinner.  In the morning they get soft food and greens, then the dry seed is given back when that is removed. That way they are starting the day with fresh foods and having the staple seed mix in the afternoon. This is useful if you have less active birds who carry extra weight. I do not do this whilst they are breeding, for the fledged chicks that are still growing or during the coldest winter months. At those times constant access to high energy seed is important.

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.

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 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. Birds are good at balancing their calcium needs if they are allowed.  So, I would only offer calcium in water if you know what you are doing and are sure it is needed (such as during breeding). If you have it in the water they are unable to avoid it if there is more than they need.  Too much calcium is not healthy, just like too little.  For a pet budgie a cuttlefish is all they should need.
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.
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, which means 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...

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