Guest Author - Heather Thomas
Birds require variety in their diet. In the wild they would forage for their food, providing their own variety. However, pet birds are completely dependent on their owners to provide variety for them. Commercially produced seed blends or pellet diets provide a good foundation for your bird but lack variety in nutrition, taste and texture. Add fruits, vegetables, whole grains and sprouts to round out your birds diet. Many people are familiar with sprouts but donít know how to provide them for their bird.
Sprouting is the process of transformation from seed to plant. These young plants provide a broad spectrum of nutrients such as Vitamin E, C, A and B Complex Vitamins. Chlorophyll is produced in sprouts exposed to light, increasing their benefit to include the same nutrients found in leafy greens. Because these sprouts are living plants, their enzymes are still alive, providing even greater benefit to your pet bird.
Most seeds, beans and grains can be sprouted. Ideally, you would sprout organic seeds. You can purchase these in bulk at many health food stores.
Organic dried beans can be purchased in most major grocery stores. Some of the more commonly sprouted beans include adzuki, lentil and mung. Beans are by far the easiest to sprout. Soak beans overnight then drain. Place soaked beans in a strainer, and cover with cheesecloth. Covering produces the darker environment sprouts love and deters fruit flies. Rinse your sprouts 2-3 times daily to avoid bacterial growth. Most beans require 4-6 days to produce sprouts.
A variety of seeds and seed blends are available as sprout mixes. Some varieties such as alfafa, clover and radish may be available in your local health food store. Other more exotic varieties are harder to locate. Soak seeds 6 hours, drain and rinse. Place your rinsed seeds in a fine mesh strainer or preferably a sprouting bag (these are also called nut milk bags). If you use a strainer, cover your seeds with cheesecloth. The mesh, in your chosen option, needs to be fine enough to retain the small seeds. Rinse your seeds two times each day. On the last day, place your sprouts in a sunny spot in your kitchen. This will allow the chlorophyll to develop and your sprouts to green up. You should have useable sprouts in 4-5 days.
Grains are not more difficult to sprout but they do require more rinsing, or they will develop a gelatinous coating that promotes bacterial growth. If you choose to sprout grains, choose quick sprouting varieties like buckwheat, millet or wheat. These are also easy to find in most health food stores and even some grocery stores. Soak your grain for 8 hours or overnight, rinse and place in a strainer. Cover with cheesecloth. Rinse your grains well 3-4 times per day. Even though grains require more rinsing, the varieties mentioned here sprout very quickly, these will produce usable sprouts in 1-2 days.
How To Feed
When your sprouts have achieved their desired size, simply feed an amount in proportion to the size of your bird. One of the nice things about sprouting for your pet bird is that you can also benefit from the addition of sprouts to your diet, and share the fruit of your labor.
Store finished sprouts in the refrigerator. Fresh sprouts easily keep for one week when refrigerated. Throw sprouts away if any signs of spoilage occur.
Sprouts offer variety, vitamins and minerals to your birdís daily routine. With a little work you and your bird can enjoy nutritious sprouts as a part of a healthy diet.