What constitutes a balanced diet?

Our Finch Diet

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Introducing New Foods

Eggfood Recipes



What Constitutes a Balanced Diet?

Okay, here it comes. You know we've got to say it, right? Brace yourself:

Bird Does Not Live By Seed Alone

Phew, glad that's over with. If you're a finch owner, you've probably heard it a million times by now and so I guess that makes this a million and one. But there was a first time for all of us, so we repeat it to make sure no one misses it. Regardless of whether this is the first time or the millionth time, it merits repeating over and over again (even at the risk of being boring and redundant) if it comes as news to just one potential finch owner out there (if you're that one, you've made my day!).

Perhaps you've got a bird or two or four or ten and they seem to be getting by just fine on seed and water. Try some of these dietary ideas anyway. After all, finches do not bond to their humans. One does not adopt a pair of finches to snuggle up with, pet, or play with them. Finches entertain us by reacting with each other and with their environment. The greater variety they encounter in their environment, the more entertaining they can be. Watching a bird investigate new foods can be one of the most entertaining acts of all. From a leaf of lettuce, to a head of broccoli, to an ear of corn - it's all one big giant carnival to a finch. And if you are entertained, imagine how much more interesting their lives have become! A varied diet can contribute more than balanced nutrition to your birds' lives.

And don't even think about what might happen if you want your birds to breed on a seed-only diet. Or if you have a female and she starts to lay eggs (never mind she doesn't have a partner - females will lay eggs without the presence of a male). Or what might happen if they become exposed to an illness.

So you tried it and they didn't touch it? Be patient. Sometimes it takes awhile. See the section on Introducing New Foods for some ideas. Or visit Finchworld's Finch Forum and ask others for some advice.

A balanced finch diet may consist of some of the following foods:

Seed and/or Pellets
Live Food
Egg Shells
Oyster Shell
Millet Spray
Soaked Seed
Sprouted Seed
Vitamin Supplements

Okay, so far, nothing too controversial being said here. I think I can safely report that a well-balanced diet is a universally accepted concept. But that's probably where the "universal" part ends. What is a balanced diet? What nutrients do finches need the most? What are they most lacking? What foods best supply them? How much do they need? There are so many different philosophies on what constitutes a balanced diet (and so little research to back any of them up), that it is hard to know exactly what and how much to offer your birds.

I wish I could tell you. But I just plain don't know. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a veterinarian. I don't know the science and biology behind it all. I don't know who's opinion is based on the best possible information. I can't even try something out for a few weeks and look for positive results, because the benefits of a good diet are seen in the long-term. So somewhere along the line, I have to make a leap of faith.

Many people emphasize greens and veggies because some are high in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and calcium. Some people play down the importance of veggies because they contribute mainly water and carbohydrates, in favor of a higher protein diet. In an article published in the NFSS bulletin, Robert Black claims that protein deficiency is the most prevalent dietary problem he's seen in finches. Many people believe in offering soaked seed and/or sprouted seed, claiming this changes the nutritional content of regular seed. And calcium supplementation is often talked about, particularly with regard to preventing egg binding. Some people believe in offering vitamins, others believe that if the birds receive an adequate diet, vitamin supplementation is not necessary.

So what do I say? In my humble opinion, it is my responsibility to expose my birds to as great a variety of (bird-safe) foods as I can, making sure I cover all the major nutritional groups. I encourage them to try new foods (see Introducing New Foods). I trust the birds to know what they need and when they need it.

We encourage everyone to do as much research on this topic as they can. The following is the diet we feed to our birds. It's evolved over time and it will probably continue to evolve in the future as we learn more and find new foods our birds take to.

As for how much, I generally offer what they will eat in a day. If I have lots left over at the end of the day, it was too much. If the food is all gone relatively quickly, probably not enough. Through trial and error I have adjusted the amount I feed until it comes out about right. The exception to this rule is for foods that spoil. I try to only offer as much as is eaten in a safe amount of time (although I've noticed that the birds will usually avoid foods like egg after they are no longer fresh anyway, so I don't worry too much about it).

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