Fresh Greens

I rarely offer fresh greens. The birds I keep are all seed eaters and while they may eat some insects and the occasional piece of grass, the "ripe seed heads" they are receiving are as close to "greens" they would get - they would rarely eat other greens in the wild. Should you decide to feed greens, read my Greensarticle for another of my fact & research based humble opinions.


Not all birds are equally accepting of new foods or even the same foods as others in the cage.  If you choose to offer fresh greens, you may have to try various types of greens in small amounts to see what they like and will actually eat - literally one small leaf at a time per day is a good start for a pair of birds. All greens should be thoroughly washed and dried before giving to your birds to avoid poisoning from pesticides and build up of bacteria.

If and when I offer my birds green, the following would be my choices -

  • Romaine lettuce (dark green parts only - no hearts), Spinach, Kale (all colors),Small amounts of broccoli (while high in calcium, a small amount is good but vegetables from the cabbage family can inhibit the absorption of calcium in birds), Cucumber, Collard greens, etc.

But if you choose to buy pet store seed, here are a few humble opinions

(you know me, always with the "humble opinions")


First, I personally don't like the looks of some of the prepackaged mixes on the market.  I don't like the food coloring in some of them - the seeds are supposedly coated with "vitamins" - but I have no real idea what is on them or how much each bird is actually eating with the "color" on it.  In all honesty, I don't trust anyone to supplement my birds but me!  I need to know exactly what is going in them and at what quantity!

Mixes with pellets are great if your birds will eat them, but again, I don't like the food coloring or "attractant" fruit flavored additives. My birds won't eat pellets, and because they receive their vitamins and minerals in their soft food or water, I do not add pellet to my birds' feed. Most pellets were designed for and tested on hookbills, with a wee bit of tweaking for other species (such as finches). Why in the world would we give them something that wasn't created specifically for them?  It doesn't make any sense to me.  They may end up nutritionally deficient or get more than what they need and end up with hypervitaminosis, liver or kidney damage! To me, it is better to give them exactly what they need, and not something they don't or won't eat.

If you choose to purchase prepackaged seed, be sure to read the ingredients.  Gouldians are AUSTRALIAN  finches and require a seed mix made for Australian finches. If you are looking for robust, healthy birds with longevity, a basic finch mix isn't going to give them what they need.  After spending YEARS counting seed hulls, recording the amount left in each dish, and paying close attention to when the birds transitioned to their next cycle  (determined by the type of seed they ate), I finally found what I consider to be the right mixes for my Gouldians.  Between the seed mixes I use and the specific supplements, I have also achieved near perfect health in my aviary.


NOTE:  This article highlights what is done in OUR aviary. It may need to differ in YOUR aviary depending on species, genetics, and environment. Use our methods as a guideline only. Should you choose to use them, chances are you may need to adjust them to work properly for your own birds. Sometimes we forget to listen to our own best advice.  Other times we forget to listen to our instincts.  If you are having great success with any mix you are currently using, please do not change it.  If your birds are happy and healthy and produce strong young, don't change what you are doing! If you mess with success, the results can be disastrous!

OUR NUTRITIONAL PROGRAMS & SEED MIXES

KRISTEN REEVES, MEADOWLARK FARMS AVIAN SUPPLY, INC.

When I first started on my birding journey, I used prepared finch and canary mixes.  At that time I had so many different types of birds that if one didn't like a particular kind of seed, one of the others would step up and eat it. Then when I began concentrating solely on Gouldians, I spent many years observing seed hulls daily and hand mixing my own seed.  But what I learned over the years is that there is no one seed mix that will satisfy their every cycle, and no matter what you give them, they will NOT eat every single seed. Gouldians will pick and choose what they need, depending on their cycle and season. It is therefore best and least expensive to choose a high quality seed mix made specifically for the species you keep and stick with it.

If you pay close attention, you'll notice that a breeding Gouldian will more than likely consume more canary grass seed.  Once chicks hatch, the birds will consume huge amounts of soft food if offered and eat very little seed at all until the chicks are about 5 days old. They feed the chicks a fine crop milk that is predigested soft food.  The crops will look as if they are filled with hand-feeding formula.  At approximately 5 days old, the parents will start off feeding the chicks some of the dark oily seeds along with the crop milk (here, niger seed and flax specifically), then as the chicks grow (at about 10 days), start feeding them more of the millets and other seeds.  Molting Gouldians will consume more of the dark, oily seeds.  And resting birds tend to go for the millets. I have many pages of fine details from my research - too many to share here - and results may vary in your aviary depending on light, heat, humidity, and overall environment - that is the norm for any aviary!
 Every single breeder will have different results based on those variables.

So what about supplements?


There are many types of supplements on the market.  Rule of thumb - pick one brand and stick to it.  These supplements are created to work together as a system.  If you mix brands, you run the risk of under or over supplementing. I prefer & use Dr. Rob Marshall supplements for my birds and follow his schedules implicitly. Because I have years of nutritional research under my belt and know what can and cannot be combined, I do keep a few extra items on hand, including my own  MLFAS hand-mixed supplements. Read more about why it's a bad idea to mix supplements from different manufacturers HERE.

Breeding & Molting Seasons

My own mixes are proprietary and sold in my store so I won't share the mix proportions here, but they contain appropriate millets, grass seeds & dark oily seed to give the birds the perfect combination of carbohydrates and protein. For practical reasons, I typically mix up 10-15 lbs of seed at a time, so the below measures are really approximations.  I'm looking for a specific "color" and "consistency" when I mix my seed.


To 10lbs of my MLFAS Breed/Molt seed mix I add 6oz of MLFAS Gouldian Pro-Mix.  Pro-Mix™ (6 oz to 10 lbs of seed) is a high protein supplement of my own creation. It works extraordinarily well in producing outstanding feather quality and healthy chicks. I do NOT recommend offering the Pro-Mix  "free choice" in a treat cup for Australian finches, but it is an excellent addition for Indo-Pacific, African and some European INSECTIVORES.

I have also noticed that here my Goulds consume less canary grass seed during the molt.  You may want to adjust the amount of canary grass seed if you find your birds are not eating as much.  There's no sense in wasting the seed if they aren't eating it!

I then oil my seed with either Cod Liver Oil (the Cod Liver Oil works best for BLUE Gouldians), Wheat Germ Oil fortified with vitamins A, D3 and E,  OR Dr. Rob Marshall's
Turbobooster (not all of them - choose one)!  I allow it to sit overnight in the refrigerator to soak into the seed, then sprinkle my Breed, Beak & Feather Tweak™, Blood Stop & Parasite Control™, Dr. Rob Marshall's E-Powder and F-Vite over the seed and mash it through the seed until totally coated.

WATER/FOOD SUPPLEMENTATION COMBINATION

Please keep in mind that my birds have been offered the
Dr. Rob Marshall system for as long as it has been available (15+ years). I sell and keep the entire system on hand because after testing all the others, I feel it is the best supplement system on the market. I do, however, keep other items such as liquid calcium and iodine on hand for emergencies. I don't always use every item in the Marshall line - it all depends on what my birds tell me they need! If you can learn to read your birds and hear what they tell you, you'll be able to adjust their diet as needed. And while the below is TYPICAL, it is not necessarily set in stone. My birds will tell me when they need a diet change - with the seeds they eat (I read the "hulls"), the amount of water they drink, the amount of grit, cuttlebone, or FVite they eat, and the amount of softfood they consume in a 24 hour period. I adjust on a per-bird basis. Each has different needs, so they receive what they need at the time. Immediately below are the water & mineral supplements by season and day.

During the Resting (Maintenance) Season -

Monday & Tuesday - A liquid multi-vitamin, liquid calcium (with D3 & magnesium to aid in absorption) and liquid iodine are added to the water. I personally use the Dr. Rob Marshall system, so this would be
DufoPlus.    NOTE: Dufo Plus is designed to be used with Turbobooster to round out the required vitamin & mineral needs.
Wednesday - Saturday - plain fresh water
Sunday - Dr. Rob Marshall's
KD Cleanser mixed at a rate of 1/4 tsp per quart - this is used every Sunday no matter which supplement system my birds are on.

Every day of the week they receive our Gould Granules and/or FVite grit mix

During the Breeding Season -

Monday & Tuesday - A liquid multi-vitamin, liquid calcium (with D3 & magnesium to aid in absorption) and liquid iodine are added to the water.  Again, I use the Dr. Rob Marshall system, so this is
DufoPlus & Ioford.
Wednesday - Saturday - calcium and iodine are added to water. (
Ioford)
Sunday - Dr. Rob Marshall's
KD Cleanser mixed at a rate of 1/4 tsp per quart - this is used every Sunday no matter which supplement system my birds are on.

Every day of the week they receive our Gould Granules and/or FVite grit mix

Some hens require an additional boost of calcium.  If you see their Gould Granules, cuttlebone or F-Vite consumption go up, they are probably preparing to lay.  I will sometimes "up" my liquid calcium to 1 1/2 times the normal amount for these hens, but it is literally on a case by case basis. If I feel the need to add calcium to their already available supplements, I’ll add liquid calcium.

During the Molting Season -

Monday & Tuesday - A liquid multi-vitamin, Biotin, liquid calcium (with D3 & magnesium to aid in absorption) and liquid iodine are added to the water (same as above –
DufoPlus & Ioford)
Wednesday - Saturday - calcium and iodine are added to water (
Ioford).
Sunday - Dr. Rob Marshall's
KD Cleanser mixed at a rate of 1/4 tsp per quart - this is used every Sunday no matter which supplement system my birds are on.

Every day of the week they receive our Gould Granules and/or FVite grit mix

During the Austerity Season -

NO water supplements, NO chitted seed or soft food, NOTHING but dry
Austerity Seed & Gould Granules or FVite grit.

"OTHER" Stuff During BREEDING, MOLTING & JUVENILE -

I “chit” seed in Virkon S or Dr. Rob Marshall’s
KD Cleanser, drain, then mix it with Cod Liver Oil (alternated with TurboBooster every other batch), Higgin's Proteen OR Abba's 92A (choose one, not both) , Brewer’s Yeast OR ePowder, and my Breed, Beak & Feather Tweak. I mix up large batches and keep it in the freezer for up to 1 year, though during the breeding season, my birds go through it quickly so I must make several batches during this time.

The birds receive ½ tsp of this mixture per bird per day during breeding and molting and actually prefer it still frozen. I do NOT offer chitted seed once the birds are resting or on austerity. Uncolored juveniles will continue to receive it daily until they are fully colored.

Mineral Supplements -

Year round I offer my birds a combination of soluble and insoluble calcium grit - our own proprietary mix called
Gould Granules™. This combination is given in a separate seed cup and kept away from the watering devices.  I pull this mixture and any seed mixtures when my birds bathe so that they are not contaminated or wet, AND grit is pulled when they require medication of any kind.  Some medications chelate with the calcium and can cause additional health issues, so read your labels carefully.  Wet food and supplements can create molds that are very hazardous to your birds!

They are also offered shaved cuttlebone and/or F-Vite in a separate finger treat cup year round – sometimes both depending on what each breeding pair “tells” me they need.

Herb Salad may be offered year round as well, though I no longer offer it except as a “treat item” as my birds weren’t eating it, they were just making a mess with it!

Before I go on, I must impress upon you the importance of good nutrition.  Get the nutrition right and you'll have a lot less trouble with your birds! We know eating healthy as humans can be expensive, and it can be the same for the birds. But you will always see better results with higher quality seed and species specific supplements.  Not all seed blends are for all finches, so be sure to know what YOUR species requires and feed them appropriately!

Egg/Soft Food

Due to some recurring bacterial issues for which I'd not found a reason, I had stopped offering ALL wet foods - including fresh egg food and fresh greens.  Now I realize some folks are screaming from the gallery right now, foods, though I must admit there is nothing like a sprout-fed chick! Bigger, healthier, gorgeous.  

If you are not having issues with bacteria in your aviary, and your birds are eating everything you give them - DO NOT STOP OFFERING THEM WET FOODS!!!  If it works for you and your birds, do not change what you are doing!!!  BUT, if you are finding you are having bacterial issues and just can't locate the source, consider your wet foods first!  Heat and humidity all play a part in how fast wet foods spoil - just something to think about!

BUT, I am now offering "chitted" seed - seed that has been soaked in Virkon S for 2 hours, then allowed to drain over night.  I do NOT rinse the soaked seed, merely drain the liquid off.  I have had NO bacterial issues since using the Virkon S. My birds are happy and extraordinarily healthy.  Another option for soaking the seed is Dr. Rob Marshall's
KD Cleanser.  When mixed properly, it too will keep bacteria and mold at bay. If you choose to use these products, read all directions carefully. Read my "Chitting Seed" article HERE.

For those of you who wish to continue using my egg food recipe, I've included it on the site
HERE

Gouldians (Australian finches in general) have three very specific seasons in the wild in which their diet changes - Breeding/Molting, Resting, and Austerity.  Because of this, I change my seed mix and supplements as the needs of my birds change. I literally "read the seed" and change my seed mixes to meet their needs.

Fresh Fruit


Occasionally as a treat I will offer my birds small amounts of fresh fruit. I limit fruit like I limit greens to prevent loose droppings and enteritis or other intestinal issues. Some of the favorite fruits in my aviary are -


  • Apple, Orange, Kiwi, Grapes

MEADOWLARK FARM’S AUSTRALIAN FINCH FEED & SUPPLEMENT PROGRAM

For each "season", we use our own hand-mixed seed blends –
Breed/Molt, Resting (Maintenance), & Austerity  depending on the cycle our birds are in at the time. This particular system is for our Australians only. Africans, Euros & Indo-Pacifics have very different schedules. Opportunistic breeders are held to no more than 3 clutches of chicks in a 6 month period, which means their diets will vary. We try to breed our "other" species on an opposite schedule from our Australians (when the Australians are breeding, the others are resting. When the others are breeding, the Australians are resting). It doesn't always work out that way, so we feed "on demand" by cycle.