Seeds vs. Formulated Diets
Not so long ago, seed mixes were the only commercially available diet option for pet birds. We now know that providing a seed only diet results in malnourishment and dramatically shortened life spans for our birds.
Many captive parrots suffer from malnutrition in captivity because they exist solely on commercial seed diets.
The good news is that today we have a wide variety of healthy and interesting choices available to us commercially including:
- Formulated diets (pellets and extruded diets)
- Soak & Cook diets
- Dehydrated fruits
- Dehydrated veggies
- Birdie Breads
- Seed Mixes
The vast majority of avian experts recommend a formulated diet over a seed diet. Pelleted & extruded diets have been formulated to include a balanced selection of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and proteins all compacted into one easy form.
The primary advantages of formulated diets are:
- Consistent and balanced nutritional content in every bite.
- Less mess to clean up (no seed hulls)
- No need to add supplements such as vitamins and minerals.
- Less waste
The major downfall of a pellet-only diet is that it is B-O-R-I-N-G.
Seed diets are relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain at the local grocery. However, many bird owners have unfortunately made seed the only choice for their birds diet. The major problem with seed diets is the relatively high fat content of the components typically contained within those mixes. Sunflower seeds, safflower seeds and peanuts all have fat content levels approaching 50%. Since domestic birds get a fraction of exercise that their wild counterparts do, they can not burn off the fat. A high fat diet leads to obesity as well as other health problems such as; heart disease, fatty liver disease, fatty tumors and skin and feather problems. Seed diets also lack many of the necessary nutrients (vitamins and minerals) required by your bird.
Within the seed category, there are certainly healthier choices that can be made such as supplemented mixes and mixes with lower fat content seeds. Supplemented seed mixes are those that contain some fortification via the addition of pellets or sprayed on, baked on or powdered vitamins, minerals or amino acids.
Even though popular consensus is that pellets are nutritionally advantageous over seed diets, this doesn't mean that seeds should be entirely eliminated from your bird's diet. When used as a component of your bird's overall nutritional plan, seed can be beneficial and add to your birds enjoyment. Birds enjoy cracking open seeds and foraging through the mix, searching for their favorites. We recommend that seeds be used as only a minor (i.e., <10%) component of your bird's diet. If you do choose to supplement your bird's diet with a sprinkling of seeds, be sure to choose a healthy seed mix.
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