Thursday, November 26, 2009

You Don't Know What You've Got Until You Sprout It

Offering our birds the best diet possible is a top priority. Just a few considerations:

1. Of that which is offered, what is actually consumed?
2. How varied is the diet (in taste, texture, appearance and nutrition)?
3. How fresh is the diet?

The third item above is one that I have chosen to write about today. My utmost concern is that every part of my birds' diets is ultra-fresh, including the selected seeds I offer.

I've read much about how "fattening" seeds are.... nuts too... *sigh*

Yes, they contain oils - that is, essential fatty acids and healthy oils amongst other goodies. While certain
all seed diets are rightfully implicated in nutritional deficiencies, illness and shortened lifespans, seeds themselves are not something we must avoid at all cost. They provide valuable nutrition, especially when sprouted, and can be an important part of a well balanced birdie diet. Our birds also love them (dry or sprouted), and it is nice to be able to take advantage of this to increase their nutritional intake.

While many commercially prepared seed mixes contain only 3 or 4 different types of seed (I am writing a post that will compare the seed contents of many popular commercially available mixes), we can easily provide our birds with so many other seeds! Variety is the spice of their nutritional life!

So, the Budgie-Boys' diet includes select seeds ("a quality, fresh seed mix"... hang onto these words), a pelleted diet and Beak Appetit (grains, veggies and fruit).

The Beak Appetit (now, unfortunately out of production) was a huge key to unlocking their desire to eat grains and veggies. But once all the Beak Appetit I have hoarded from every pet store within a 100 mile radius runs out, I will happily make my own. (And, you can count on me sharing the recipes with you!)

One change I have decided to make (for all of my feathered companions) is adding freshly sprouted seed to their diet. Sprouts are easy to digest and packed full of high-octane nutrition. Sprouting seed is also a method to determine if a mix is its freshest. The last thing we want to do is serve old, stale seed.

So the words "quality seed mix" or "fresh seed mix" are directly related to their ability to be sprouted.

If they don't sprout, they ain't fresh.... nuff said.

So, it was with some hesitation that I began a sprout project. We can all recognize bug-infested, moldy food as "not so fresh", but what about food that smells nice, isn't moldy and is in a pretty package with healthy looking birds on the outside? It must be fresh, right? Especially if it is a recognized name brand sold in a clean pet shop, right?


Well, we don't know what we've got until we try to sprout it. Time to find out and let the results speak for themselves.

For Coco, I pick through a commercially prepared parrot mix for certain select items used as treats. The remainder of her diet is quite extensive, especially as compared to the Budgie-Boys. She's such a good little eater! From Harrison's Adult Lifetime Pepper Formula, Harrison's Power Treats, nuts such as organic peanuts, walnuts (one of her favorites), almonds from time to time (not one of her favorites) and cashews, to home cooked meals, Beak Appetit, cracked corn and just about anything else I let her get her little beak on, she has a well developed palate. It is important to know that the treat pickings from the store-bought mix are fresh.

Time for the results!

Selected From Coco's Mix
Sunflower Seeds - sprouted
Safflower Seeds - sprouted
Hard Corn - sprouted

Selected From the Budgie-Boys' Mix
Canary Grass Seed - sprouted
White Proso Millet - did not sprout
Sesame Seed -
did not sprout
Red Millet - did not sprout

Disappointing, I must say. But, the science speaks for itself.

I am now on the path of creating my own Budgie-Boy Mix, one that I am able to confidently serve both dry and sprouted. One that I know is fresh, preservative free, nutritionally varied and organically grown. Virtually every packaged bird food on the market has some sort of preservative, and some even contain ethoxyquin.

So, off to the organic health food store I went! There, I have access to seeds and grains (some that I have never heard of!), all grown organically, without pesticides and dated for freshness. (However, they will still need to pass the sprout test.)

For the same amount of money as the average bag-o-food, I was able to create my own mix to fill this 1/2 gallon mason jar:
This organically-grown, pesticide-free mix (at just over $6.00) contains the following:

Soft White Wheat Berries
German Golden Millet
Golden Flax Seed
Hulless Barley
Sesame Seed
Oat Groats

And there were so many others to choose from! I look forward to mixing and matching and discovering which rank as Budgie-Boys' favorites.

Most important: it has been taste-tested and approved by the boys!
And yes, as you might suspect, the golden millet is a real favorite!

Next order of business: I've begun sprouting this mix.

Sprouting Instructions:

1. First, I soak the seeds overnight (8-12 hours) in an ample amount of water. For example, I use enough seeds to cover the b
ottom of the cup and then fill it with 2/3 cup of water. This will provide sprouts for Coco and the Budgie-Boys.

2. After soaking, I pour into a tea strainer, and rinse very well.

If they don't sprout, they ain't fresh.... nuff said.

3. I then place the tea strainer on the cup, and place a saucer on top of strainer.

4. I keep them moist by wetting them at least twice a day or as needed in a 70 degree room. The cup catches any water that drains off.

5. After sprouting, they are rinsed and drained very well prior to serving.

They may be refrigerated (best to have them as dry as possible first) for a day or two. Since they are so easy to sprout, I will always have fresh on hand. They can be served as soon as they sprout or after the sprouts are a bit longer.

Always rinse well and drain before serving each time, and check to be sure they are still fresh by tasting them!

Coco will certainly not be left out of the fun - I bought her a big batch of raw sunflower seeds in the shell when I was at the store. There I also have access to safflower seed as well as dried banana (without preservatives such as sulphur dioxide), dried peppers, raw pumpkin seed, hard corn and everything else imaginable from grains to nuts. Once I begin making my own version of Beak Appetit, the shopping trips will become even more extensive as I have access to everything organic from cous cous to rolled oats and barley.

Sprouting is not limited to seed; beans are excellent sprouters as are grains. If you decide to do some sprouting for your birdies, you may want to check one of the many
excellent sites that provide information and recipe suggestions, such as:

Sprout People
The Kitchen Physician
Cele Birds
Avian Web


1 comment:

wolfgirl1987 said...

Yay for sprouting!

I did it hardcore for awhile, but havent lately. Thanks for encouraging me to go at it again! :D

Any pics of the boys enjoying their sprouts?

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