Home | General Bird Care (page 32)

Category Archives: General Bird Care

Feed Subscription

Articles concerning owning pet birds as pets as a whole.

Avian Health Questions: “I’ve been told that Nolvasan (Chlohexidine diacetate) added to my bird’s drinking water will kill bacteria. Is this true, and can it harm my pet”?


Nolvasan is effective in eliminating a wide range of bacteria and other micro-organisms when used as a cleaning agent, and I relied upon it throughout my zoo career.

Many aviculturists utilize Nolvasan as an additive to drinking water and hand-feeding formulas, most especially where the yeast Candida albicans is a concern.  Its effectiveness in this role is, however questionable.  The main problem is that the concentration that is safe for birds to drink (1 teaspoon per gallon per manufacturer’s instructions) may not be strong enough to kill all pathogens.

Frequent cleaning of your pet’s food and water bowl and bath, using hot water and Clorox, is a far better practice than is using water additives.  Be sure to scrub all surfaces thoroughly – JW Pet Double Brush for Bird Waterers is superbly designed for this task.  You can also wipe the interior of these areas (and the cage itself) with Bramtom Bird Cage Wipes.

I also suggest keeping 2 sets of food and water cups on hand.  Air drying after cleaning, in sunlight if at all possible, is an extremely effective disease control measure.  By alternating your food and water cups, you can assure that each will have plenty of time to dry out after cleaning.

Candida albicans is very common in most environments, and nearly always shows up opportunistically when any sort of avian health problem arises.  You can learn more at:


Avian Health Concerns: “My Parrot Seems Healthy, but Sometimes Passes Whole, Undigested Seeds in its Stool. Is this Normal”?


The presence of whole, undigested seeds in a parrot’s stool is cause for concern.  It is usually associated with hyper-motility of the gastrointestinal (digestive) tract — in other words, food is passing too quickly through the system, and digestion is not taking place.  The problem usually centers in the glandular stomach (proventriculus) or the gizzard (ventriculus).

A gram-negative bacterial infection, which may be caused by organisms such as Enterobacter mega-bacteria or various spirochetes, is often involved.  Fungal infections, and parasites such as Giardia or roundworms, are also possibilities that must be considered.  Less frequently, gastrointestinal hyper- motility can arise due to cancer, or to problems in the functioning of the crop and pancreas.  The possibility that your bird has contracted the very serious Proventricular Dilation Disease (PDD, or “Macaw Wasting Disease”) must also be investigated (please see reference below).

You should contact your veterinarian if undigested seeds show up in the feces of any species of parrot that you might keep.  The first step is usually to submit a fecal sample.  This may be followed by a radiograph or, if necessary, a biopsy of the area in question.

Please write it with health-related questions or to share your experiences in caring for sick or injured birds.


You can learn more about Proventricular Dilation Disease at:

Sprouting Seeds at Home: A Useful Method of Providing Pet Birds with Nutritious Treats

Recently I wrote about the nutritional value of seed sprouts, and highlighted Vitakraft’s Sprout Pot, a most convenient way of growing them (please see below). Today I’d like to describe a method of sprouting additional types of seed at home.

Seeds to Use
The seeds chosen for spouting should be fresh and be comprised of as wide a range of plant species as possible. A simple way to achieve this end is to utilize Kay tee’s Forti-Diet Safflower Seed Blend as the basis of your new “garden”. You can also purchase a wide variety of seeds from most health food stores. Particularly nutritious, and favored by many birds, are safflower, lentils, mung beans, sunflower, wheat berries, barley, buckwheat, popcorn, brown rice, oats and wheat – but there are many others as well.

Producing and Using Sprouts
You will need to rinse the sprouts several times each day, so they should be grown in a colander or other porous container. Then simply proceed as follows:

Rinse the seeds and remove those that are broken or damaged.
Soak in water overnight.
Spread seeds on a colander and place in a dark, well-ventilated location.
Rinse 2-3 times each day; discard moldy seeds.
Shoots will appear in 1-3 days.
Drain to dry and serve.

Unused sprouts will keep well in a refrigerator for several days. You can also dry the sprouts in an oven (use lowest setting) and later re-hydrate or feed to your pets as is.

Additional Notes and Cautions
A wide variety of animals relish sprouts – try them on cats, tortoises, herbivorous lizards, red-eared sliders, hamsters, gerbils, chipmunks or other pets you may have.

I have not experienced any mold-related problems while sprouting seeds, but if this or bacterial contamination is a concern, you can add grapefruit extract to your soak water.

Ventilation is extremely important…the sprouts will invariably develop mold if kept in a closet or similar location. Try using a shelf blocked off by a cloth if you have difficulty finding a dark, well-ventilated site.

Popcorn needs to soak for 18 hours before being set out for sprouting; buckwheat only ½ hour. Overnight works well for most other seeds.

Some hobbyists have reported that fava, black, kidney, lima, pinto, navy and similar beans have caused digestive upset in pet birds, while others note no problems at all. I have used lima and kidney beans for eclectus parrots without incident.

You can read more about the nutritional value of sprouts, and how to grow them using the VitaKraft Sprout Part in my article entitled Product Review: Vitakraft’s Sprout Pot – a Convenient Method of Supplying Your Birds with Valuable Nutrients.

Product Review: Alternative Bird Foods – Yesterday and Today, Part I

Eggsnack Bird Food

The nutritional needs of some of our most colorful and interesting pet birds are not met by seed-based diets. Lories and lorikeets, for example, require a soupy mix of fruits and nectars. Many gorgeous softbills, such as the shama thrush (Copsychus malabaricus) and Peking robin (Leiothrix lutea) subsist largely upon insects, and require a high-protein diet if they are to thrive in captivity.

Dietary Specialists
Such birds were, in earlier times, considered to be “delicate” captives, and hence were largely ignored by aviculturists, or left to well-heeled experts.Providing them with a balanced diet required painstaking daily efforts, and usually involved gathering a variety of uncommon ingredients and a good deal of cooking.

I well remember preparing, twice daily, meals for the Bronx Zoo’s rare Tahitian lories (Vini peruviana).Breakfast was put together at 5:30 AM, and consisted of a blended shake containing fresh papaya, blueberries, nectar (apricot, pear, peach and guava), yogurt, vitamins and mineral powder.Their second meal was comprised of several types of commercial nectars (designed for hummingbirds and sunbirds), each containing several ingredients and mixed separately, as well as various tropical fruits and insects.

Commercial Diets for Picky Birds
In time we learned that many birds formerly thought to be difficult captives were actually quite hearty and long-lived, given the proper diet. Commercial, pre-mixed diets evolved, and now we are in the happy situation of being able to keep a wide variety of interesting species in our homes. Pretty Bird Species Specific Food for Lories and Goldenfeast NectarGold for Lories and Lorikeets serve well as basic diets for the specialized lories and lorikeets. Pretty Bird Softbill Select and Higgins Egg Food are of great value in maintaining toucans, barbets, tanagers, bulbuls and a host of others.

Many seed eating birds, especially the various finches, consume insects and fruit in the wild, and nearly all will benefit from a bit of Softbill Diet and Egg Food from time to time. When such birds are rearing chicks, these foods are vital.

Live, Canned and Collected Insects

Live crickets, mealworms, waxworms and other insects will be appreciated by nearly all softbills. A very useful innovation to appear recently has been the Canned Insects (marketed for reptile pets) by Exo-Terra and ZooMed.

ZooMed Bug NapperI urge you to give these a try for finches and other softbills. Zoo Med’s Bug Napper Insect Trap provides an easy (and interesting!) means of collecting wild insects – trust me, your birds will consider moths, beetles and the like a very special treat indeed.

Next week I’ll describe what was involved in feeding the Bronx Zoo’s huge collection of insectivorous birds before the advent of commercially-prepared diets.

Please see my article Providing Insects to Pet Birds…Useful Products Designed for Reptiles, on this blog, for more information on feeding softbills and other birds.

Product Review: Vitakraft’s Sprout Pot – a Convenient Method of Supplying Your Birds with Valuable Nutrients


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:


Scroll To Top