Nutrition and health

The health of our birds is directly linked to the food we provide. Birds in the wild follow the cycle of the seasons and eat what is available at a particular time of the year. The nutrients are then completely in accordance with the need at that time. In winter there are mainly dry seeds in which the fats are concentrated. Sufficient energy is extracted from this to survive the winter. In the spring, more insects gradually become available. This increases the protein share in the daily ration. This is very important to bring the birds into breeding condition. Budding trees, germinating seeds and green plants contain many vitamins, hormone precursors and amino acids, which encourage birds to breed.

It is an illusion that in an aviary we can one day fully imitate nature in terms of nutrition. But knowledge of bird nutrition has improved enormously in the last 15 years. Zoos, universities and suppliers have done a lot of research into proper nutrition. Still, if you were to ask ten bird keepers what to feed to their birds, ten different answers would be given. Some suppliers also want to apply the magic agent (herbs, vitamins, minerals, etc.) and then there is also the ongoing debate about whether or not to provide live insects. I do not want to decide for others what is right and what is wrong. I can only share my own experiences with the reader and tell them exactly what my feeding plan looks like. However, a note in advance. I don't like magic super food. I don't think they exist either. Vitamin and mineral overdose is just as bad as deficiency. Probiotics are viewed with interest but suspiciously by me. Much research has been done into the beneficial effect of probiotics in humans. Much research has been done into the beneficial effect of probiotics in humans. For every scientific study that ascribes a beneficial effect to it, there are just as many that have not been able to observe any effect in the study. It is difficult to keep bacteria with probiotic properties alive at a level where an effect could still be expected. A recently conducted study of dairy products with probiotic flora found that levels in these products were low to very low. If we still assume that this flora has to do the work in the intestines (and thus still have to pass through the stomach) then I am not convinced that the numbers will be enough to have another effect. I am also not aware of any research in birds that has been carried out in a scientifically sound manner that shows an indisputable beneficial effect. A thing! When you have good experiences with a certain nutritional method. If you have really noticed that when you provide certain resources, the birds are healthier, breed better, or have a better color, don't change what you read here. Own experience is much more valuable than what is in the books or in this case can be obtained from the Internet.

I never give living insects to my Europeanbirds. Not even in the breeding season. I do provide a mixture of eggfood and insects during the breeding season. These insects were frozen by the manufacturers or by myself after cooking.

The feeding plan is aimed at ensuring that the birds actually eat everything that is provided. Only then can you assume that there is a good balance between protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. If you give too much, the birds will pick out thy like best and then an imbalance will arise. I give the mixture every day in the morning. For goldfinches this is about 7 grams per bird (a little bit more in winter). I give eggfood all year round. Every three days in winter. Every day in spring in preparation for the breeding season. This eggfood is then mixed with some frozen firethorn berries, some insects and a spoonful of sprouted seeds. I give the food at fixed times. When birds need to be used to egg food, I give it early in the morning around seven o'clock. In the afternoon I give some seed around half past four. When birds are not used to egg food and seed and egg food are given together, there is a great chance that the egg food will remain. In addition to eggfood and seed, I also regularly give fruit (mainly apple, berries (elderberry or firethorn from the freezer when they are not available), sliced carrots and various types of leafy vegetables (chicory, lettuce and endive). I never give leafy vegetables when it rains all day. I have the impression that the chance of loose stools increases. This is a feeling that has developed over time. I don't have a really logical explanation for this. In the spring and summer, I sometimes also give some weeds from my own garden. Shepherd's purse, sorrel and bird's-wall are very much enjoyed. In everything, excess is harmful. More birds have died from too much than from too little food

When there are youngsters I follow a completely different schedule.
Bullfinches can be very trusted. They like to come to the mesh for a tasty snack

Egg food has an important place in the overall diet of European culture birds. The seed mix, which we generally use, however good and varied in composition, can never contain all the essential nutrients that a bird consumes in the wild. The eggfood then offers the possibility to compensate for this lack by adding these nutrients. Seed, egg food, insects and possibly green food together must form a balanced diet, where all essential nutrients are present. The composition of the eggfood must therefore be based on what else is supplied to the bird in terms of nutrients. Good eggfood is therefore indispensable for the breeding of European culture birds. An egg actually contains everything that a bird needs.In it, a cell can grow into a viable bird, which has enough condition to break open the shell and leave the egg without help. As said before, I make my eggfood in bulk and then freeze it.

Size of the eggEnergyprotein
saturated fats
Per 100g61214712.5spsp10.83.1sp140
very big

size of the eggCalcium
Vit. A
Vit. D
Vit. B12
Per 100g572001.91.3531901.750.472.550
very big

The composition for European culture birds is:

30 eggs (large about 50 grams)

1 ½ pack of CEDE eggfood

Cometaves (manufacturer recommended dosage)*

Megabactin (manufacturer recommended dosage)*

Megabactol (manufacturer recommended dosage)*

3 heaped teaspoons of Spirulina

* Belgium company Comed

For other birds, for example canaries and parakeets, eggs and CEDE will suffice.

The eggs are processed "au bain Marie" in a pan while stirring with a whisk over medium heat until a loose mass. It is absolutely necessary to do this in a Tefal pan, unless it is your hobby to sand burnt pans. Per 30 eggs, 1500 grams of CEDE eggfood are now mixed in and after cooling down, Cometaves


Most breeders, in combination with eggfood and insects, use germinated seed for the breeding of European seed eaters. Sprouted seeds are rich in essential fatty acids, contain easily digestible carbohydrates and vitamins. Vitamin B in particular is found in a high concentration. In addition to being a healthy food, it facilitates the transition from soft food to seed. In addition, adults and young birds like to eat the sprouted seed. Providing sprouted seed under the egg food also promotes better absorption of the egg food. Providing sprouted seeds is therefore strongly recommended. When composing your own germination seed, it is important that seeds are selected with an almost equal germination speed. The freshness and purity (absence of dust) of the seed is also of great importance. Germinated seed is when small white dots are formed on the germination site of the seed. It is therefore important to stop the germination process in time. If the germination process is allowed to continue and the seeds grows into a stalk, important nutrients are lost and one can only speak of green vegetables.

In addition to the fact that sprouted seed is a valuable addition to the menu of our birds, the use of sprouted seed is not completely without risk. As with other unprocessed agricultural products, seeds have a high microbial load. During the growth, harvesting and drying process there is continuous contamination with microorganisms. Contact with (contaminated) soil, rodents, insects and storage under less than ideal conditions, contribute to the amount of microorganisms rising to several million per gram of seed. A seed that is undamaged is sterile on the inside. The contamination is therefore entirely on the outside. With properly dried seeds, microorganisms cannot multiply, because moisture is needed to grow. This changes drastically when we add water to start the germination process. The microorganisms, which naturally occur on the seed, can then start growing quickly, because all three important factors for microbial growth are met, namely moisture, heat and the presence of nutrients. When the germination process is complete, there has been a significant increase in the number of microorganisms. Among these microorganisms there may also be some that can make the bird sick. Escherichia coli, the cause of sweat disease or wet nests and Salmonella (salmonellosis), can occur in sprouted seed. In the past period I have researched the degree of contamination of the sprouted seed and also how we can influence the microbial growth during germination. It is known that a lowering of the pH slows down the growth process or even stops it completely.

Escherichia coli

pH 7.2

pH 4.5

Lagfase *

3.3 hrs

7.4 hrs

Doubling time

0.6 hrs

1.5 hrs

Tme to grow factor 1000

9.4 hrs

22.1 hrs

Yersinia enterocolitica

pH 7.2

pH 4.5

Lagfase *

2.1 hrs

26.1 hrs

doubling time

0.6 hrs

1.3 hrs

Time to grow factor 1000

8.4 hrs

56.4 hrs

* The lag phase is a phase in the growth process where no propagation takes place. The micro-organism is adapting to the new conditions. The more unfavorable the environment, the longer it takes for the organism to start growing.

The above numbers clearly indicate that the influence of the acidification of the substrate is enormous. At a low pH (4.5) it not only takes longer for bacteria to start growing, but they also grow much more slowly. In order to determine whether the acidification of the water has a beneficial effect on the germination process, the following test was performed:

25 grams of a commercially available germ seed supplemented with katjang-itjoe (small soy beans) was placed in 120 ml of pure tap water. The same amount of seed was placed in 120 ml of water acidified with apple cider vinegar. The apple cider vinegar concentration was 20 ml per liter of water, yielding a pH of 4.1. After well stirring, both test samples were left at room temperature for 8 hours. Subsequently, the samples were micro-biologically examined for the total number of microorganisms and E.coli (3M Petrifilm). After two days, the tests were read and an estimate made of the number of microorganisms in each sample.

In the non-acidified sample, such growth had taken place that the test plate was not countable. An estimate was several million bacteria per ml of water. The acidified sample was found to contain a significantly lower number of bacteria about 1000 per ml. In the E. coli test both samples were negative, it should be noted that due to the lack of an incubator, the test had taken place at room temperature, but should actually have been done at 37 ° C.

The conclusion that can be drawn from this experiment is that the acidification of water during the soaking of the seeds significantly inhibits the development of microorganisms. This means that the seeds have a much lower contamination when we start the germination process. It was also investigated whether the acidification affects the germination itself. After the seeds were germinated, a sample was taken from each and evaluated. No differences were found here. In both cases ~ 85% of the seeds were germinated.

My germination process step by step.

1. Soak seeds for 8 hours in water with 20 ml apple cider vinegar per ml added
2. Pour onto kitchen sieves and rinse well under a hard water jet
3. The above is repeated at least 5 times a day
4. After small white dots are visible, a final rinse is done
5. After this, the seeds are well shed to remove the excess water
6. Kitchen paper is placed on a thick layer of newspaper and the seeds are evenly distributed
7. The seeds are scooped several times
8. After about an hour the seeds are reasonably dry and are placed on kitchen paper on a number of baking tins in the freezer. It is important that the baking tins are not overfilled and the seeds have as little adhering water as possible.
9. After being frozen, the seeds are carefully loosened and stored in Tupperware boxes in the freezer. In this way the seeds can be stored for a long time without spoiling or loss of quality.

Essential additions

Stomach gravel, grit, sepia, charcoal, red stone, algae and seaweed.

Seed eaters, insect eaters and omnivores need "stomach stones" to grind up food and, like any other living organism, they need minerals and trace elements. Before the emergence of the beautiful white shell sand as bedding, sharpened masonry sand was used as bedding. This also contain small, sharp quartz chunks. These sharp, hard stones serve as grinding stones in the gizzard of mainly seed-eating birds. They "grind" the food so that the food is better utilized. The well-known shell sand is less suitable for this because it is too fine. Men may wonder why shell sand suppliers add finely ground oyster shells to the product and not a little bit of stomach grit. A seed-eating bird would benefit more! There are some companies that market crushed stomach gravel for small and large birds. Give stomach gravel, possibly mixed with minerals, in a separate container so that the birds can pick it up at will.

Just like for European seed eaters, many growers have developed their own feeding method and feed composition. The three basic components of a good diet are:

• Universal food

• Eggfood

• Insects

Universal food and egg food can be given daily or alternately. Insects (frozen or live) should of course also be on the daily menu. For most species also in winter, in contrast to the seed eaters. The difference lies in the fact that many insectivores are migratory birds that can also eat insects during the rest period in warmer regions. Many species will also eat other food during the rest period. Certain birds like to eat berries, tree buds, rose hips and green food, sometimes also the seeds. For example, the bearded tit, switches completely to (reed) seed in winter. Not all insectivores will immediately eat universal food and should be used to it. Give a serving of all-purpose food every day, if desired, you can mix in some insects to make it attractive. The feeding of insect eaters is a bit more complicated than that of seed eaters. You should always have an adequate supply of insects, live or in the freezer. Giving frozen insects has a number of advantages. There is a wide range available, so you can vary and always have stock. These food animals are grown under controlled conditions, germ-free and quick-frozen. Of course there is a price tag. Also, because they are mainly bred on grain products, these food animals do not have the ideal composition in terms of calcium content and vitamins. You will have to make up for this shortage with a suitable sprinkle powder. Even with purchased live food animals, the problem is that they are not yet suitable for giving to your birds, because they have been bred on a composition that is too one-sided. You will have to keep them ion a culture medium that contains substances that increase the nutritional value and keep the insects alive.

Mealworms can be enriched quite easily, increasing the nutritional value for the birds. After we have starved the worms for two days after purchase, we offer a mixture of:

125 grams of finely ground dried bread (or rusk flour)

125 grams of (leafy) vegetables (kale, broccoli, chickweed or leaves of dandelion and nettle)

15 grams of chalk

Multi vitamin (follow indicated dosage)

The above mixture must be provided in a dosed manner. The enriched mealworms can be frozen after blanching (heating at 80 ° C)

There are also various types of sprinkling powders available commercially that supplement the vitamin and calcium deficiency. However, this powder adheres very poorly to the skin of the insect, so that the bird gets little of it. You can improve this by treating the insects with a small amount of edible oil. The insects are placed in a sealable canister or bag, after which a small amount of oil is dosed. Sunflower oil is well suited for this. Shaking the bag or the can for some time will cover the insect's skin with a thin film of oil. This will cause the powder to adhere to the surface. Most insectivorous birds feed directly from the mouth. This means that if there are young, you should offer enough small insects. You can easily grind frozen insects finer with a small coffee grinder.

Construction of a Hygienic Water System

The availability of fresh water is essential for the health of our birds. This applies to drinking water as well as bath water. Water may be the source of countless germs when the quality gradually deteriorates. Clean tap water is best.
However, also clean tapwater quickly becomes contaminated with food residue and manure. These contaminants are the food source for bacteria, which can multiply very quickly in the water at higher temperature conditions. The division time of some bacteria can be as little as twenty minutes. That means that when we start with one bacterium at eight in the morning, there will be more than a million at four in the afternoon. Water can also transmit disease from one bird to another. To limit the risk of contamination as much as possible, drinking bottles have been developed that provide hygienic and fresh drinking water if they are kept clean. In addition to these drinking bottles, fresh bath water should also be provided once a day. When I did not have an automatic system, I gave the bath water once a day and removed it after about an hour. All birds had then bathed. Because the availability of fresh water throughout the day is actually ideal, I started thinking about how this could be realized. A few years ago I made a prototype of an automatic water change system. After some experimentation, I finally built the system further and I am extremely satisfied with this. The costs are quite limited, especially if we assume used material where possible.

To build a system yourself, the following parts are needed:

A water valve of an (old) laundry machine
A timer (programmable for 1 minute)
A stainless steel dish diameter 25 cm
A stainless steel dish diameter 30 cm
A drain for a sink
PVC pipe
PVC clamp for electricity pipe
Pieces of plastic or polycarbonate
Waterproof box
A pipe as a supply
Some hose couplings and mounting hardware

Please proceed as follows:
The water supply and regulation

Install the washing machine's water seal in the waterproof box
Drill a hole the thickness of the supply hose
Drill two holes for the hose connection. Usually the water locks are double. It is therefore possible to provide two aviaries with fresh water. The contacts must both be connected to the mains voltage
Connect the hose to the water reservoir
Connect supply to the tap
Connect valve to the mains via the timer