What I feed
There's always a debate about what the 'perfect' diet is for our birds. The truth, there is not such thing. What you feed your birds should be based on how you keep them. If your birds are kept in smaller cages and get little exercise, then you want to watch the fat content in the diet. If your birds are in a spacious aviary and fly around a lot, you can afford to offer them a higher fat content. Temperature is also an important factor. Birds outside who have to face the winter can make better use of a higher protein and fat content compared to indoor birds at a warmer, more comfortable temperature.
I've really thought long and hard about what I feed my birds since beginning the hobby. I've tried various types of food, different brands, different ratios etc. I've now reached the point where I am happy with what I feed and there's nothing I feel the need to tweak. I offer my birds portions, rather than unlimited quantities. I find this helps prevent them picking out their favourites and encourages a balanced intake.
The white feed bins I use come from IKEA. Each one holds 25kg of seed perfectly!
Aviseed seed mixes
I started using Aviseed mixes in March 2011 and I am more than happy with it. The majority of common mixes for Agapornis contain only 7-9 different seeds, which is far too basic for my liking. I always found myself adding extra seeds like wild seeds and various grass/weed seeds.
If you would like to know whether Aviseed is available in your region, please contact them and ask them.
Aviseed small parakeet complex
This is the main mix I offer all of my birds, all year around.
The mix contains:
Canary seed, white millet, yellow millet, paddy rice, japanese millet, safflower seed, grass seed, peeled oats, hemp seed, red millet, yellow panicum, buckwheat, flax seed, niger seed, rose hip seed, sesame seed, white dari, pine seed, barley, mung beans, clover seed, marian thistle seed, red milo, red panicum, white perilla, rape seed, radish seed, spinach seed.
Aviseed supplement parakeets
This is a supplement mix I add to the small parakeet complex mix. I add this breeder supplement mix when preparing for and during the breeding period. I add appoximately 2.5kg of breeder supplement to every 20kg of small parakeet complex. This mix boosts up the raw fat and protein content, essential when breeding. Resting / non-breeding birds do not get any of this. The breeder supplement could also be added to the complex mix for outdoor birds who have to face cold winters, this is not necessary for me though as my birds are kept indoors.
This mix contains:
Safflower seed, canary seed, niger seed, hemp seed, white sunflower seed, pointed oats, sesame seed, striped sunflower seed, black sunflower seed, flax seed.
Aviseed sprouted seeds for parakeets
Sprouted seeds are really good for our birds! I try to offer them at least twice a week. After seeing the quality of the other Aviseed mixes I decided to give their sprouted seeds mix a go. Naturally I wasn't disappointed. I always soak my seeds for a while before sprouting them, and I find dead seeds float to the surface. Some of the previous mixes I used had a lot of dead seeds, the quality was terrible. This is no problem with the Aviseed mix. Clean, fresh and healthy seeds!
This mix contains:
Yellow millet, safflower seed, wheat, japanese millet, mung beans, niger seed, rape seed, white dari, hemp seed, red milo, buckwheat, sesame seed, quinoa seed.
I like to sprout seeds for my birds. I have just mentioned the mix I use for sprouting, now I will explain how I go about it. The sprouted seeds are at their highest value (in terms of nutrition) just as they begin to sprout - this is the best time to offer them to the birds. A lot of hobbyists use disinfectants or a weak bleach solution to rinse the seeds in order to prevent any mould / bacterial growth. I'm not saying this is harmful, but the idea of adding these chemicals to the food I feed my birds is simply not acceptable to me. I find with a good quality, clean and healthy mix combined with a good sprouting process removes any risk of unwanted mould. This is how I go about it:
Step 1: Put the seeds into a sieve and rinse them very well under cold water.
Step 2: Cover the seeds with fresh, cold water and leave them to soak for 8-12 hours. If possible, rinse and refresh during this period. Remove floating seeds (dead)
Step 3: After soaking, rinse the seeds in a sieve under cold water.
Step 4: Add the seeds to the sprouting trays. I try and put fresh water through the trays at least 6-7 times per day.
Step 5: Once all the seeds begin opening, I rinse them yet again and then put them in the fridge for at least 12 hours or until all the seeds have begun sprouting.
They can last in the fridge for a good 2-3 days.
I tend to offer them on their own, but sometimes mix them with a little eggfood.
Pellet vs Seed has always been a debatable subject ever since pellets were introduced in the early 90's (I think?). Some people are totally for them, some people are totally against them. One thing that bugs me is the way seeds have been given a bad name to promote pellet diets. It's a known fact that an all seed diet is bad for any bird, especially Agapornis. We get that, but this fact has been twisted and turned so many times that people are misled in what they believe, and what they tell others.
I see MANY times on forums and chat groups, where people tell others that it is wrong to offer so much seed, and a lovebird should never be fed more than 20% seed etc. Complete and utter tripe that is! I have actually read people who have said "seeds are bad for lovebirds and should only be offered as a treat". Bloomin' heck, come on!?
Seed can play a big role in your lovebirds diet, they key is a good variety of seed and supplementing them with other foods that will fulfil their nutritional requirements. I also believe an all pellet diet can be just as dangerous as an all seed diet.
I see it like this, most of these pellets target a wide range of species. Not every species have the same nutritional requirements ... I mean, I believe the ideal diet is slightly different between roseicollis (peachface) and personatus (masked). Then there are environmental factors like exercise, temperature etc. So unless there is a pellet diet for EVERY species out there, how can one pellet be a complete diet for so many different varieties of bird? I also believe the majority of pellets are too overloaded to be the bulk of a diet in smaller birds such as Agapornis, especially if the birds are supplemented other foods like fruit and vegetables. If a bird lacks something in its diet it will impact their health, but the same can go for an excess of something. I do also think all these factors can vary with different brands of pellet.
Having said all that, I do believe there is a place for pellets in the diet of an Agapornis. I have found my birds do better when pellets make up no more than 40% of the birds overall diet. This is simply my opinion based on what I have witnessed with my birds. Many top bird keepers/breeders offer more or only pellets and claim fantastic results. For anyone out there who is deciding what's best for their bird I can only recommend trying it for yourself and come to your own conclusion.
Egg food / Soft food
I find soft food, or egg food very important. It makes the difference between big, healthy chicks and small, stunted runts! I often see breeders missing out on the benefits of a good egg food, more often than not because their birds won't eat it. If your birds don't eat it, then switch it up, try something different. Mix it with their seeds, make it damp, make it more dry, add some honey or grass seeds. There's lots of ways you can get your birds into their egg food and it's very important that you do this. Don't sit back and basically throw money away because they won't eat it. Not only are you wasting money but you're also losing out on the benefits of the most important food source breeding birds have!
During the 2016-2017 season I have been using a Spanish product called Bipal Power. It's a sweet-smelling soft food that is very oily. Boosted with vitamins, minerals, probiotics and amino acids etc it has become very popular recently. I mix Bipal Power 50/50 with a standard egg food from Wittemolen. I had great success with this food. All my birds loved it, the scoffed it down! The young thrived amazingly well and I actually had the best season I've ever had. First round gave me 40 young from 8 couples, which is an average of 5 young per nest. The second round has given an average of 4.2 young per nest. Can't complain with them results! However - I have stopped using it now because it kept turning moldy. Now this is a sign of natural product that's not rammed full of artificial conservatives, but when I'm throwing away 6-7kg of food it soon begins to feel like I am throwing away money. Once I opened the big sack it came in I transferred it to an air-tight bucket for storage. Nobody else I know had this problem - maybe it's because it gets quite warm in my bird room? Maybe I needed to stir it up on a routine basis? Who knows! Anyway, I'm no longer using but rest assured as soon as I build my new bird house (which will be much cooler) I will be going back to Bipal for sure!
The mix I am currently using is a tried and tested favourite. It comprises of a 50/50 mix of standard damp egg food from Wittemolen and Frutti Patee from Orlux. Frutti Patee is another sweet-smelling, colourful soft food. It's quite fruity and the birds love it! I mix the two together and often dampen it ever so slightly (even though both core ingredients are already damp). I find the birds prefer it this way. Breeding birds get it every day, as do young birds. They have a full cup next to the nest box and I also sprinkle a spoonful over their seed mix for good measure.
I used to offer fresh foods once or twice a week, but as of the 2016 season I will begin offering it 3 times a week minimum.
(see the 'supplements' section below as to why I am making this change)
As usual, variety is spice of life! I like to make my fresh foods un bulk and freeze them. I don't believe this takes anything away from their nutritional value. I don't really have a set rule as to what goes into the mix, it can vary depending on the season. They are really fond of carrots, peas, peppers and their ultimate favourite - broccoli! Once prepared and mixed, I bag it up into portions and freeze it, usually making enough to last me a month or so.
I take it out the freezer the day before and leave it to defrost in the fridge before offering it to the birds. I don't mix it with anything else, although sometimes I will add a bit of millet and/or eggfood.