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Pelletized Grain Vs. A Well-balanced Seed Diet

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PELLETIZED GRAIN Vs. A WELL-BALANCED SEED DIET

 

By: G. A. Abbate, Sr.

P.O. Box 122

Elizabeth, NJ 07207-0122

 

The paranoia/delusion of the Pelletized Grain Diet for cage birds began in the late 80's. Ironically the delusion about pelletized grain as a complete (?) cage bird diet is still eulogized by a few individuals even these days, close to the Millennium. These few individuals have managed to brain wash some pet bird owners to believe that pelletized grain are the only way to feed a nutritionally complete (?) diet to cage birds.

 

Unfortunately this controversial issue is the subject of many bird discussions at bird club meetings, at bird conventions and lately in the bird chat room over the internet. Let's further analyze in detail the facts about seed eating birds' nutrition.

 

Most of the following article was written in the late 80's and early 90's. Because many new developments have occurred in the last decade, which means the paranoia/delusion have become more intense, I am compelled to revise this article.

 

Bird fanciers, bird breeders and pet bird owners should know that birds are divided into three categories: seed eaters; insectivorous and carnivorous. (This is my definition. Perhaps other bird experts may use different analogy?) I didn't go to any college to learn about birds. This is what I learned from my own practical and personal experience which spanned over 60 years.

 

Seed eaters nourish themselves by cracking and shelling seed. It is their natural instinct. This is what they know how to do best and they are very happy cracking and shelling seed. (Seed eaters hate to crack pelletized grain. If birds are forced to eat pelletized grain, in many cases, they become frustrated, unhappy and most birds in frustration they pluck their own feathers and sometimes they eat their own feathers), while chickens, turkeys, ducks, etc., swallow the seed as well as pelletized grain whole.

 

If pet birds such as parrots, macaws, large and small hook bills, budgerigars, canaries, finches, or any other seed-eating cage birds would eat and swallow like chickens, or even turkeys, ducks, pigeons, doves or quails, perhaps properly made pelletized grain containing not only a variety of grain and seed, but also many other ingredients--nutrients consisting of a variety of nuts, fruits, vegetables, plus animal protein in the form of meat and fish, and of course the proper ratio of vitamins and minerals. Introducing the vitamins and minerals into the diet after the extruding process when everything is cooled off. Then the pelletized or extruded concoction could be used as part of the diet for cage birds. However the pelletized formula must be heavily supplemented with fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. Even a pelletized concoction as mentioned above should not be considered as a complete diet.

 

Remember, for many years pelletized grain has been widely used in the poultry industry, as well as in some animal feeds. Poultry and some other animals in general are allowed to have a very short life span, i.e., from the day they hatch from the egg or the day they are born to the day they reach the consumer's table as food. This process for many species, either chicken or animal, takes less than a year, and therefore, pelletized grain used as their main diet may have some economical advantages?

 

Have you ever noticed over the years that some of the better chicken producers in their advertisements have compared the quality of their chicken meat to the quality of the food the chickens are fed? One specific sales pitch says more or less, "I FEED MY CHICKENS GRAIN AND NOT CHICKEN SCRATCH." Plus other sales pitches in regard to feeding the chicken whole grains. I made some inquiries as to how the poultry meat producers feed their chickens and I learned that the better chicken producers feed their chickens grain and not chicken scratch or pelletized grain feed.

 

Usually, in some cases many varieties of grain and other food products which are not suitable for human consumption are used to manufacture poultry and other animal feeds and in many cases these rejected raw materials are used to make pelletized diets. This perhaps is fine for poultry or animals such as pigs, goats, cows, etc., because once again, let me repeat, the life span of poultry and most other animals mentioned is not like that of cage birds who on the contrary can live several decades.

 

For example, cheap bread crumbs are made from leftover old bread. In fact I observed in some places in the world old bread being ground up with the plastic wrapping, as well as paper wrapping on it. I questioned that method of grinding and I asked the person, "What about the plastic and the paper?" He replied, " We grind it very fine; you won't see either the plastic or the paper." This one particular place was making cage birds' nestling food and hand feeding formula. I told the person at that time, "I don't think that I would have my birds eat that kind of stuff." Grains of all kinds which become buggy, moldy or spoiled get ground up and pelletized and in many cases are used for some animal feed?

 

Many times over the years I visited feed mills in many parts of the world. The primary reason for visiting these mills was to learn what they do; sort of snooping around. In many of the mills I visited they manufactured, among other things, well-known brand names of chicken feed and pelletized grain feed. Some of the ingredients that I saw in some of these mills that make pelletized grain feed were simply disgusting. In my opinion, some of those ingredients were only good for making garden compost. I would not want to go into detail as to what else I saw in some of these places because the details could make your stomach turn. However, keep in mind that throughout the world, and especially in North America, there are many good mills that are clean and use genuine ingredients.

 

Now, I must ask the question, "Do the pelletized grain diets assure cage birds the long life span they deserve to live???

 

Over the years numerous articles dealing with the negative effect of pelletized grain have appeared in cage bird magazines and lately even on the internet. I would like to quote from a few of the numerous articles that I read over the years on the subject of cage bird diets, but it will take a tremendous number of pages so therefore I am limited to make just a few quotes that make a lot of sense and straight to the point. Alicia McWatters, Ph.D, who wrote in the AFA Watchbird magazine, "Synthetic Bird Feeds: Do they Promote Health or Disease?" I suggest anyone who cares about birds to read that article. Among other things she said, "Today a bird owner can go to any bird or pet shop in town and purchase a dry convenience diet out of a bag or canister. It is that easy. The majority of bird owners feed these diets to their birds either as a portion of the diet or as a total diet on a daily basis. The sad part of this is that bird owners are taught to believe that this is the proper diet to feed their birds and that these diets are actually superior to a diet made up of natural whole foods. GASP!"

 

Another article published on the internet by Katheleen M. Greaser entitled "The Problem With Pellets". Microsoft Corporation ®. Greaser, among other things, states: "In the last two years I have lost 17 adult breeder birds and two of my own babies (6 Lovebirds and 13 Cockatiels). They all died from the same thing, crystallized kidneys and Vitamin D toxicity. The pathology reports consistently sited diet as the most likely root cause."

 

Another lengthy article, again published on the internet by Dr. Alicia McWatters is: "Avian Nutrition with Dr. Alicia McWatters. Why Food is Better Than Pellets." I suggest everyone who reads this article to retrieve Dr. McWatters article and read it very carefully. Following is an excerpt from her article:

 

"Provide complete, balanced nutrition to all of your feathered friends by serving a pelleted bird feed." This is what many of the advertisements are saying. We are told that all the essential nutrients our birds will ever need are to be found in a bag or canister and by simply pouring these crunchy morsels into our birds' feed bowl we have done our job as good bird owners. We are happy because we think we have just provided our pet bird with 100% nutrition. Sadly, we have been deceived. These days, many birds have been weaned onto a pelleted feed and so they think that these dry fabricated diets are a natural food for them. Sadly, they have been deceived. These diets consist of a few fractionated grains and seeds, followed by a very long list of synthetic enrichment nutrients which enables these diets to provide the minimum levels of nutrients to maintain health for some birds."

 

I fully agree with Dr. McWatters. Let me also state that the natural seed that the seed eaters eat in their natural habitat, either in the milky stage or fallen on the ground partially swollen by moisture, are loaded with nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. When the seeds are fractionated with the addition of synthetic vitamins and minerals the heat during the pelletizing or extruding process nearly destroys not only a good percentage of the natural nutrients, including the vitamins and minerals that the natural food contain, but also the added synthetic vitamins and minerals. A good percentage of the above are lost during the pelletized or extruding process.

 

Let me repeat again that pelletized grains during manufacturization go through an extruding process which generates very high heat thus possibly destroying many of the added vitamins and other nutrients. If you were to read any vitamin label, among other things, the label always says, "Store in a cool, dry place." Now imagine the same vitamins going through steam/moisture in the extruder where the temperature in some cases is well over the boiling point. At this point, I am asking, "Do pelletized grain feed really fully deliver all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that some manufacturers and some experts suggest?"

 

In my opinion, pelletized grain feed are also more subject to spoilage and deterioration than well-balanced seed diets because the pelletized or extruded grain contains a higher percentage of moisture and also the surface of the extruded morsel are porous, i.e., absorbing humidity like a sponge. Fungus and other deteriorating factors occur very quickly, even more so in areas where the humidity tends to be high at all times. Remember, feeding spoiled pelletized grain feed to cage birds may be very detrimental to their health. Cage birds who receive a well-balanced seed diet often retain a more beautiful looking healthy plumage and when bred will reproduce themselves very well. On the contrary, cage birds which are fed exclusively a pelletized grain feed usually retain very poor plumage and always look unhealthy, sluggish, very inactive and very unhappy. Again, I would like to ask, "Are the many 'Synthetic Cage Bird Diets' responsible for the many fancy named diseases that have popped up in the last decade that the experts have been working very hard in trying to cure?" A good balanced seed diet composed of whole wholesome fresh seed blended with well made nuggets and other morsels, including dry fruits and vegetables, assure the birds in captivity a healthy, happy life. Birds that eat well stay healthy! Remember prevention of diseases can be achieved by providing the birds with a well balanced diet.

 

Since the late 80's to even the days approaching the Millennium the cage bird diet market has become even more saturated with lots of new name brands of pelletized or extruded bird feeds. By reading the labels accompanying these pelletized diets; many of them list the following basic ingredients: GROUND CORN, GROUND OATS GROATS, and WHEAT MIDDLING. Some labels also mention ALFALFA MEAL, CORN GLUTEN MEAL, SOY BEAN MEAL, plus some other minor ingredients, and of course the usual ceremonial list of vitamins and minerals.

 

 

In my opinion, most of these so-called pelletized grain diets are not suitable as complete nutritional diets for most seed-eating cage birds. Through my personal experiences and in the many years I have spent thousands of hours observing most of the above mentioned species in their wild habitat, I have learned that the diet of seed eaters in general, is in no way near the one composed in many of the so-called "Pelleted Grain Diets." No cage bird pelletized grain diet is nutritionally complete if same requires to be heavily supplemented with other nutrients such as fruits and vegetables, etc.

 

All birds in their wild habitat eat a variety of seeds and grains including, wild seed in the milky stage. Practically all of the previously mentioned birds plus others in their wild habitat feed on insects and their larvae, grubs, a variety of wild berries, wild fruits, wild nuts, plus other natural foods available in nature. I haven't seen in any bird wild habitat any pelletizing and extruding tree or plant.

 

In no way can ground corn, wheat middling, corn gluten, alfalfa meal and sometimes fish meal substitute what mother nature offers them in their wild habitat.

 

 

Again, in my opinion, and I am talking about over 60 years of personal and practical experience with cage birds of all kinds that seed eating birds live happier in captivity with a complete well-balanced seed diet. A seed diet not only composed of various dry seeds and grains but also with the addition of pelleted nutrients and kibbled biscuits composed with ingredients such as animal protein derived from fresh meat, fresh poultry meat, fresh fish, a wide variety of edible fruits and vegetables, plus of course, vitamins and minerals in the proper ratio with the proper percentage of protein. A complete well-balanced diet as mentioned above will assure the cage bird in captivity a happier, healthier, disease free life.

 

Remember also, that some vitamins if not properly integrated with the proper percentage of protein, will not be properly assimilated by the cage bird's delicate digestive system.

 

It is frustrating for many seed eaters to accept pellets as their complete diet; no matter how good the pelletized diet may be. You might force a parrot to eat the pellets and he might in fact eat the pellets for a whole year, but in many cases the poor creature will become frustrated by being forced to eat what he doesn't want to eat. Perhaps, even more so with a pelletized diet because pellets offer no satisfaction to many species of seed-eating birds who have a natural tendency to crack and shell seed.

 

Anyone can be a witness to the above by trying a little experiment. Before you start any bird on pellets, take a sharp color photograph of the bird. Choose any of the pelletized diets on today's market. Feed ONLY these pellets to a bird for a week, month, or even a year, then take another sharp color photograph of the same bird, if the same bird is alive, and compare the difference in the plumage, health and vigor. You will be shocked by the negative results. If the bird is unhappy, unhealthy and sluggish and you are also unhappy with the results, then, put a good seed diet before the same bird-you will witness the bird devour the mixture. His eyes will look at you with a sense of appreciation and gratitude.

 

I have done many such experiments in our own research laboratory. I won't mention any brand names; however, a few years ago one reputable company came up with something in the form of pellets. Because of the highly appealing sales pitch in the advertising I too was fooled. I switched a beautiful, almost 4 foot long green wing macaw to their pelletized grain feed. I literally forced the bird to eat this food. Nearly facing starvation, he finally accepted these pellets. He frantically ground them in the seed cup until finally he reduced the pellets to dust. Continuously, he would pick them up and place them in the water cup, thus creating a big mess. I don't know why he tried to saturate them with water. Perhaps it was a way to release his frustration or maybe in a hopeless effort to make them taste better?

 

After I forced this bird to eat these pellets for about a week, the room where the bird was kept smelled like a railroad station latrine. He developed a form of diarrhea and the smell of the excretion was simply unbearable. Under the impression these pellets would eventually be a good diet, I skeptically continued this experiment despite the first negative results.

 

Within a month or so, the poor bird chewed the feathers from his wings and tail, probably due to frustration? Or perhaps, even for food? In less than a month, his plumage looked like a dust mop. At times he was even bleeding from his own chewed up feathers.

 

 

After a couple of months of feeding this supposedly well-balanced pelletized feed diet, I said to myself, "This is enough of this stupid experiment." I began to feed the green wing the GOOD SEED DIET which he was fed before the experiment began. You should have seen this bird devour the seed! The sight was simply indescribable. He ate and ate non-stop for days. It took over two years for the bird to recuperate and regain his original beauty and health. I tried other pelletized diets which I have received many free samples of. Needless to say, the results were similar or even worse.

 

This is just one of my personal experiences. However, I can certainly turn your head with stories from other bird fanciers throughout the United States who have had similar disastrous situations. In fact, I know of a couple of bird fanciers that by feeding these pelleted feeds actually lost tens of thousands of dollars in birds (actually the birds would die or just stop breeding).

 

During the same year that I experimented with pellets on my macaw, I also fed my offspring canaries the same brand name pelletized feed. Unlike the large hook bill, the canaries accepted them very readily (canaries will eat almost anything). Guess what? I lost half of that year's production. The baby canaries simply dropped dead -a few every day. Due to the fact that someone else was feeding my birds, the man didn't realize that the pellets were the cause of the problem. Upon my investigation as to what was the cause of so many dead baby canaries, I pin pointed the problem to the pellets. This was occurring during the hot, muggy months of July and August. The cause was obvious-the pellets absorbed humidity like a sponge. They were soggy, almost wet, actually spoiled. As a result, when the baby canaries ate them, within a few days they simply died. The pellets were practically poison to them.

 

To make a long story short, I had the pellets removed from the canary cages and replaced them with a good seed diet. Believe it or not, the mortality simply stopped. It was just like a light switch-turned on and turned off.

 

I have talked to hundreds of bird fanciers as well as breeders throughout the world and I have yet to hear anyone admit they are achieving good results by feeding ONLY a Pelletized Grain Feed. However, some breeders that I have spoken to do feed some brand name pelletized grain feed and they achieved results, but they heavily supplemented the pelletized grain feed with a buffet of other nutrients including fruits, vegetables, vitamins, minerals, etc., etc.

 

On the contrary, fanciers and breeders who have used ONLY PELLETS have expressed negative feeling. Ironically, one fancier remarked, "When I say my birds are on pellets, I mean it is their basic food. I give them extras everyday. In fact, for everyday of the week, I feed something to the birds OTHER THAN PELLETS." He feeds milk sop, egg food mix, a variety of greens, a variety of fruits, a variety of cereal, and on Sunday the birds get all the seed they want to eat.

 

Obviously, PELLETS ALONE do not fit the fill. I happen to agree with all the successful bird fanciers and breeders who feed their birds a complete well-balanced seed diet. In fact, the ones that use a well-balanced seed diet are the more successful ones! I am ever more convinced that CAGE BIRDS THAT ARE KNOWN AS SEED EATERS NEED SEED - THEY ARE SEED-EATERS! AREN'T THEY?

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I have no opinion I have heard both sides and get tugged both ways but I did add this to the Pellet Diet FAQ so it will link there here to read more :rolleyes:.

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Kaz you'll be happy to know that Charlie and Henry are now back on a seed diet. (I'm sure they thank you too (Laughing out loud)) I'm also off to shop to get the stuff to make your seed treats, thanks a bunch!!!!

 

:wub:

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Kaz you'll be happy to know that Charlie and Henry are now back on a seed diet. (I'm sure they thank you too lol) I'm also off to shop to get the stuff to make your seed treats, thanks a bunch!!!!

 

:wub:

Good job Andrea.

Here is what my birds get each week

Seed always available to them replenished morning and night.

Natural peppermint tree branches and leaves ( young leaves ) and gum leaves branches at least twice weekly.

Hibiscus branches, leaves and flowers once or twice a week.

Corn on the cob 4 times a week

Bok choy, pak choy endive, silver beet, spinach and grated carrot....daily.

Homemade eggfood with vegies twice a week.

lentils twice a week

soft food...soaked seed ( wheat, or oats and mung beans ) twice a week. Daily to breeders.

Budgie starter and extra vegies for the breeders feeding babies.

 

I am firmly of the belief that since my birds started on natural branches and leaves like the peppermint....they have natures medicines and are healthier.

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with the braches/leaves do buy them or pick them?? (silly question I know (Laughing out loud)) It's just I don't live in an area where I can pick them

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andrea what you do is wait for really strong winds and then collect all the broken branches... :D

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I feel like an idiot asking where to get branches from (Laughing out loud). In my yard I have an apple and lemon tree (another one but I have no idea what it is)

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with the braches/leaves do buy them or pick them?? (silly question I know lol) It's just I don't live in an area where I can pick them
Parks and bushland and country roads. Make sure there is no evidence of roadside weed spraying....i.e. dead grass all around. A lot of schools and parks have perppermint tree growing.

http://forums.budgiebreeders.asn.au/index....peppermint+tree

Edited by KAZ

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okay I'll have a look next time I'm out. Do I need to put them in the oven or just wash them?? Before I put branches in the cage as perches I wash them then put them in the oven just to make sure there is nothing living left on them

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okay I'll have a look next time I'm out. Do I need to put them in the oven or just wash them?? Before I put branches in the cage as perches I wash them then put them in the oven just to make sure there is nothing living left on them

The idea of this is to give them fresh leaves ..........the oven will not help. I wash them down with the hose and put them in.

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O_O i dont give my budgies a quarter as much as you kaz!!

thing is there is no pepermint and few gum tree's where i live and having just started gr.10 it's hard to fit everything on top of taking my birds out to feed them fruit since they dont eat it in the cage i'm emabaressed now!! :rip:

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One issue that goes against pellet diets is that budgerigars change their diets to suit there needs. I have noticed my birds eat more canary and oat when raising chicks that if they are in the flights. They are looking for higher protein and fats.

 

A pellet diet can not give the birds an opportunity to increase or decrease their intake when required. Every pellet has the same vitamins and mineral.

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Very good point to make Daz. The birds themselves have no options in the matter on a pellet diet. Where as with seeds they know which they want/need. Same as when they want/need calcium when it's provided

Edited by *libby*

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Same a grit.. I find that when I bring the birds back from a show they attack the mineralised grit. They take what they need when they want it.

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:D

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Very interesting article. I hadnt seen this (it was originally posted before I had a "feeding" problem so it didnt really sink in!). Thank you Neat for bringing this back to the current forum.

 

I can only speak from my personal experience and Charley seems a lot happier since I "gave him back" his seed and took away the pellets. I will however take the advice of the forum and make sure I get him the best seed, I will try canary and/or finch. I am also giving him more natural branches, at the moment he has a branch from a bottle brush which he's having fun with. He normally loves anything new, but hated the pellets idea!!

 

Thanks again Neat, I would never have found this article on the forum. :D

Edited by thk

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Very interesting article. I hadnt seen this (it was originally posted before I had a "feeding" problem so it didnt really sink in!). Thank you Neat for bringing this back to the current forum.

 

I can only speak from my personal experience and Charley seems a lot happier since I "gave him back" his seed and took away the pellets. I will however take the advice of the forum and make sure I get him the best seed, I will try canary and/or finch. I am also giving him more natural branches, at the moment he has a branch from a bottle brush which he's having fun with. He normally loves anything new, but hated the pellets idea!!

 

Thanks again Neat, I would never have found this article on the forum. :D

I actually posted the link to this article in your topic thk ;)

Edited by KAZ

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Commercial Bird Pellets Good Nutrition??

Contribution from the Dr Jeannie Thomason at Au Natural Bird Notes Blog.

By Dr Jeannie Thomason Copyright © 2008

Finally, I have noticed an ever slowly but increasing amount of skepticism among my bird owning friends towards the many commercial bird foods available these days. Many of the manufactures of these pre-packaged and processed foods claim that their diets duplicate nature or even boast that they are an improvement over nature itself. PLEASE!!!

Is it really realistic to think that we finite humans could duplicate nature in its wholeness and complexity? Improve upon nature?? Are they serious??? How in the world could a dry, processed, fabricated diet ever match or exceed the outstanding quality that can be found in foods God produces in a natural foods diet?

With all the pre-packaged, prepared food choices now on the market, many bird owners have become somewhat dazed about the dos and don'ts of good avian nutrition. From the comments and emails I get, it is clear to see that confusion and frustration abound! While most feed products are touted to be "balanced" or "complete". (just like processed dog and cat food) the manufactures all say that their products are superior in quality. But, are they really?

For some reason, people think that just because a food product is advertised in a magazine or is on your favorite store's shelf that it is safe and healthy to feed your feathered companions. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. If you haven't already done so, it is time you take a closer look at these feed product labels and make sure you can define each ingredient for the future welfare and love of your birds. I will warn you though; you may be very surprised and not very happy with what you find.

The way in which you feed your birds is of course a very personal choice. However, this choice should be based on information gathered from many sources and some research on your part. I know that you have heard from your bird's Breeder, your veterinarian and even your well meaning friends, as well as advertisements in avian publications that will all influence your decision. Just remember though, while you may receive advice on feeding from well-meaning individuals, you need to do your homework and research this advice before putting it into action.

Many bird owners have decided recently that they do not want to feed their birds a dry, fabricated diet (pellets), as it does not meet their standards as a quality or a "natural" diet. Some bird owners have never fed a fabricated/processed diet to their birds, but have always fed a whole foods diet that is fresh and varied in content. This natural diet usually consists of fresh sprouts and organically grown foods when they are available. Certified organically grown produce is usually your best option and can supply your bird(s) with the top quality nutrition they deserve. Why would anyone want it any other way?

Along with the invention of the "scientifically" formulated feeds ("meals in a bag") so in demand these days, more and more bird owners, with good intentions, are relying on pellets and manufactured handfeeding formulas. They have come to believe these to be the proper source of all nutrients and are so convenient. Sure, the manufacturers promote their products in a very convincing manner with the "nutritionally complete" written in bold print on the label and after all, a pellet diet is a neat, convenient meal in a bag, sure to stay fresh for months while waiting for you to purchase it off the pet store or veterinary office shelf. And of course, they claim that this bag consists of wonderful ingredients that could not be found anywhere else on earth and includes everything your birds will ever require for health and a long life. Come on people! Really! Some of these meals in a bag are also very pretty in color, they are sure to brighten up any birdcage with their presence, even if they don't brighten your bird's appetites. Sheesh!

Do you ever stop to wonder what on earth made them so colorful? Could it be fresh fruit and vegetable juices? Or, maybe it's the chemical dyes so commonly used in these products to make them so eye appealing. Was that the color No. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 40, or all of the above? Shouldn't you also be questioning what magic trick was used to keep these foods fresh on the shelves for who knows how long?

Then finally, don't forget that they have to make sure those little shapes in the bag taste good. Is artificial flavoring used as well? Or perhaps just a scoop or two of sugar is added to each "healthy" batch of feed. Yes, that will make the product complete! almost... whoops, now don't forget to add all those synthetic nutrients and vitamins since any true nutrition that may have been in the ingredients in the first place has now been cooked away. Just a scoopful of pellets a day keeps the doctor away. Again, PLEASE! This is certainly not what I would put my faith in for a healthy avian species appropriate diet.

There are surely, many bird enthusiasts that use commercial diets and therefore, the manufacturing of such "food" is BIG business. But does their "guaranteed adequate nutritional balance" automatically come with the convenient pellet form? How many wild parrots you have seen on T.V. fly down to their local pet shop and buy pretty colored pellets for the week?

There are so many nutrients, live enzymes and natural medicinal components that have been discovered in fresh foods, so many more that are currently being investigated and some that we aren't even aware of yet. So to call a commercial feed complete and even close to nature is a huge exaggeration to say the least!

Here are just some of the risks involved in feeding your birds some of the commercial bird feeds available.

It is nearly impossible to provide your birds a healthy diet out of a bag, jar or canister. Extruded and heat-treated diets leave much to be desired. Most all of these feed products undergo extreme high heat in order to kill any bacteria that may be lurking in the ingredients used. The heat-treatment destroys the naturally occurring enzymes contained in the original food, which had they remained would have assisted in the digestion of those foods. Food enzymes are an important factor in your bird's diet and they come from fresh raw, uncooked foods.

Feeding a dry, fabricated, pellet diet is kind of like feeding a crushed vitamin and mineral supplement without the fresh foods required for digesting and assimilating it. No enzymes will lead to impaired digestion and in turn lead to a weakened immune system and disease.

Remember,that in order to maintain a shelf life, the majority of these diets contain potentially toxic chemical preservatives, i.e., BHT, BHA, and Ethoxyquin. BHT and BHA are used in rubber and petroleum products. Ethoxyquin is used as a pesticide for fruit. These synthetic antioxidants are used in human and animal foods to preserve their fat content. They help break the chain of "free radicals" and prevent microbiological spoilage and rancidity.

This one really cracked me up, one of the major brands BRAGS the following: "Extrusion cooking enhances carbohydrate bioavailability. More digestible than cold-pressed pelleted diets or seed mixtures, and offer maximum digestibility and nutrient absorption". This is nuts! Birds were not designed to eat cooked foods, ever seen a parrot roasting grain or frying a bug with some flowers? Cooking grains may enhance carbohydrate bioavailability for a human but not for a bird!

Have you looked at the ingredients used to make the pellets? Listed below are the ingredients of the most popular pellets on the market today. While you read through the ingredients, remember, these are not only cooked ingredients but ask yourself if these are things a wild parrot would seek out and eat in the jungle:

*Ground Shelled Sunflower Seeds, *Ground Hulless Barley, *Ground Soybeans, *Ground Shelled Peanuts, *Ground Green Peas, *Ground Lentils, *Ground Yellow Corn, *Ground Rice, *Ground Toasted Oat Groats, Psyllium, *Ground Alfalfa, Calcium Carbonate, Spirulina, Montmorillonite Clay, Ground Dried Sea Kelp, Vitamin E Supplement, Sea Salt, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, d-Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Sodium Selenite. *CERTIFIED ORGANIC INGREDIENT

Ground corn, soybean meal, cracked wheat, wheat germ meal, vegetable oil, sucrose, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, iodized salt, DL-methionine, choline chloride, ascorbic acid, natural mixed tocopherols, rosemary extract, citric acid, natural and artificial colors, artificial flavors, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D3, vitamin K, vitamin B12, thiamine, niacin, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, rib

Ground Corn, Ground Wheat, Peanut Meal, Soy Oil,Soy Meal, Hydrated Sodium Calcium Aluminosilicate, Yucca schidigen Extract,Salt, Calcium Carbonate, L-Lysine, DL-Methionine, Mixed Tocopherols, Rosemary Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Lecithin, Silicon Dioxide (carrier for liquid antioxidants), Sodium Selenite (on Calcium Carbonate), Niacin, Alpha-Tocopherol Acetate (Source of Vitamin E), Biotin, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Zinc Oxide, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vit. A Acetate, Thiamine, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vit K), Cyanocobalamin (VitB12), Vit D3 Sup. Folic Acid, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Propionic Acid, Ammonium Hydroxide, Acetic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Tartaric Acid, and natural apple flavoring.

Now looking at these ingredients, please consider these questions.

"Do YOU know if the feed package ingredients you are serving your birds lists chemicals?" (If not, it is time to read the label.)

"Do you know whether or not chemical preservatives were added to the ingredients BEFORE the manufacturer purchased them and created the final feed product?" (If the manufacturer didn't add the chemicals to the feed then they do not have to list them on the label.)

Were you aware that sugar is often added for palatability in the form of sucrose or corn syrup and artificial coloring to please YOUR eye? Did you realize that artificial colors are derived from coal tar dyes or petroleum. Both refined sugar and chemical dyes can cause short term as well as long term damage, by weakening your bird's immune systems and compromising their complete line of defense. For example, over the short term, sugar can cause illnesses, such as yeast (Candida) infections and long term has the potential to cause other health threating diseases.

Since most of the ingredients in bird foods are actually foreign to them in the wild or even toxic to the body, your bird's body attempts to expel them through the process of detoxification and elimination in the liver and kidneys. Over the long term these nonnutritive ingredients and synthetic as well as chemical additives can cause enlargement of vital organs, hormonal dysfunction, immune system disorders and degenerative diseases, thus a shorter lifespan.

Why take chances to begin with when much safer and more natural foods and diets are available. The important thing to do, is to look for a natural alternative rather than figure out what the acceptable chemical level might be.

Since all products are not created totally equally and there are different levels of quality, you are responsible to your bird and its health to take a careful look at processed packaging and question these products before you buy them. If you are interested in providing a preservative free, species specific diet to your birds, then check all labels of products before buy and not only define each ingredient for yourself but ask yourself if it something your parrot would find and eat in the wild.

This whole dilemma over bird diets began several years ago when exclusively dry seeds were compared to pellets. Why not compare a whole foods diet consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, sprouts, flowers, and insects to seeds and/or pellets? Certainly the whole foods diet is superior!

After all is said and done, you, the bird owner must form your own opinion about what is best to feed your birds and have confidence in the choice of bird food you decide to feed.

I personally feel that the best diet in the world for birds is one that emulates their natural diet in the wild; I mean, doesn't it just make sense that these are the foods that God created for our birds to be biologically correct?. A natural home-prepared diet is really not difficult to do correctly and efficiently, and the health rewards for the birds are both great and obvious.

To achieve the best long-term health results, fresh natural foods should make up the majority of your bird's diet. For those who feel they must feed a commercial diet, I personally do not recommend that it make up any more than 10-20% of any bird's diet total diet and of course, find one that is freeze dried or dehydrated vs. extruded and has whole food ingredients, not just cooked cereal!

If one is going to supplement a bird's diet with pellets, then I recommend BirD-elicious.

Let's get back to nature and offer the fresh foods that our parrots were intended to thrive on. By doing this, you can keep your parrot's immune systems strong and its body resistant to disease and infection. The basic truths of nutrition are simple, and easy to apply once the understanding is gained. A natural fresh diet has no nutritional competition and is part of what only nature can provide us. After all, God's gifts of nature are the ultimate gifts we can offer our birds.

Edited by KAZ

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Well I don't think it's as simple at that! Having working in one of WA's feedmills for a reasonable time some years ago I think I have a little insight into pelleted feeds!

 

Most pellet feeds contain mainly grain as their prime ingredients with some extras such as amino acids and minerals made to mimic what scientific research of many years has laid out as the nutrient requirements for that species of animal. As an animal nutritionist you can purchase books specifically titles "The Nutrient Requirements of ........" (Insert whatever animal you want here). Having worked with the raw ingredients (I worked at the lab at the mill) I can tell you there is nothing terribly scary added - maybe the most unusual you might see is fish meal or tallow. Testing is carried out on ALL raw ingredients to make sure that they meet specs for that ingredient and that they are have no toxins.

 

The ingredients are then basically ground up, mixed together and pushed through a pellet mill (a big plate with holes in it) with heat to make pellets. Pellet batches are sampled at the other end and batch run samples are kept for a couple of years to ensure that IF something goes wrong then a sample is still available for testing.

 

The DRAWBACKS for pellet diets from the experience that I have had with them both at the mill AND working with many different production animals since is as follows:

 

If animals are not familiar with them, it takes some time and training for them to recognise the pellets as food.

Pellets, if manufactured poorly, can be dusty leading to health problems (ruminants especially) and wastage.

Ingredients can change, even though the nutrient specification stays the same. Some sensitive animals (dairy cattle to name one) notice the change and temporarily go off feed - very bad for a high production dairy cow! This is because a computer program called a "least cost ration" program is commonly what is used to formulate a diet. So say if a mill has purchased a protien source that is cheaper (say lupins as opposed to soya meal), so long as both ingredients are acceptable for that animal, the program will substitute one for the other based on cost per % protien.

 

The ADVANTAGES are that generally pelleted feeds ARE a better representation of the requirements for that animal than what we can "guess at" as being appropriate for the animal. And if you are feeding a mix of grains plus random other things based on the fact that someone told you they are good, you ARE GUESSING.

The heat used to process pelleted food (needed to bind and make the pellets themselves) generally improves the digestability of grains, compared to if they were fed in the natural form.

 

BUT not all feedmills make good pellet feeds either. One mill who shall remain un-named was producing a "backyard layer pellet" this mill assumed that it could save money (or make more money I should say) by producing a lower spec pellet based on the assumption that people would feed table scraps to their chooks. This however was poorly outlined on the label and many people I knwo compainted of chooks not laying well whilst being fed it. So the lower spec pellets could not on their own support the chooks egg production.

 

AND free choice diets (where the animal chooses what to eat based on the ASSUMPTION that the animal knows best) have been proven in many different species to not work all that well. Trials done with dairy cattle disproved this for that species, showing that the cows liked to eat some essential nutrients but ignored others even when they were deficient in those nutrients. So a totally free choice diet for them is unsuitable. Humans are another example, we favour sugary foods above foods that may contain essential vitamins and minerals even when we are deficient in those nutrients.

 

Actually the ingredients listed on the parrot pellet diets look pretty damn good to me! Maybe save the aritificial colours (I never understood artificial colours in dog food either except to attract our own little brains to the stuff - but maybe that's the whole point of that one) but everything else looks pretty good. Lots of amino acids and good grain ingredients.

 

AND Personally I HATE an unbalanced and emotively based arguement. CHEMICALS, well yes SALT is a CHEMICAL - don't let some bimbo pannick you out of rational thought. Not all CHEMICALS are bad and not all NATURAL ingredients are good either - ARSENIC is NATURAL!

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That is a good article Kaz, and one I agree with.

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