On of my first jobs as a fledgling keeper at the Bronx Zoo was distributing grass sprouts at the World of Birds building. Grown hydroponically (in water, without soil) the tiny green shoots were relished by nearly all of the zoo’s vast bird collection, from finches to ostriches. Sprouts were given to the majority of the zoo’s other animals as well, including beetles, tortoises, elephants, squirrels and even supposed die-hard carnivores such as otters and weasels.
Why Use Sprouts?
Zoologists and experienced aviculturists know that sprouting plants are packed with all of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and trace elements that are needed to get the plant off to a good start. What’s more, these nutrients are in an easily digestible state, much more so than later on in the plant’s life. The animal consuming sprouts spends little metabolic energy to reap great health benefits.
I have noticed that sprouts are sometimes overlooked as a food source for pet birds, despite the fact that they represent the easiest way of providing a host of hard-to-find trace elements and nutrients. What’s more, nearly every common and not-so-common pet bird species – parrots, finches, canaries, doves, jay-thrushes, quail, ducks, to name a few – will gobble them ravenously.
Vitakraft’s Sprout Pot
I strongly recommend that you offer your pet birds the Vitakraft’s Sprout Pot. The plantain, grass, garden cress and lettuce seeds it contains will sprout in 5-6 days, and a convenient water reserve will keep them fresh and growing thereafter. The water reserve is a particularly important accessory, as the sprouts’ nutritional value declines after 5 days or so. Providing your bird with continually growing plant shoots is therefore the best route to take. Seed packets to re-fill the unit are available.
Fresh, growing sprouts, as your bird’s reaction will confirm, stimulate the appetite and the foraging instinct. The sprout pot serves, therefore, as a form of behavioral enrichment, allowing your pet to feed in a more natural and, I can’t help but think, “enjoyable” manner.
Another Sprouting Option
You can also sprout a variety of seeds on your own – its more time consuming than using the sprout pot, but is a useful way of increasing dietary variety. Please look for my future article on this topic.
An interesting perspective on the nutritional value of sprouts and other bird foods is posted at: