In the human diet world, we see “carbohydrate” as a bad word. We think carbs are responsible for excess fat, and we want to eliminate them altogether.
In the finch/pet bird world, carbohydrates are useful. They’re where our birds get the energy to fly. Their bodies convert carbs into simple sugars. Some carbs are not soluble/ digestible, so they are what we call fiber — they are useful for digestion. Therefore we want to provide good, healthy carbohydrates to our birds. One way to do this is by providing grains.
Most finches like grains, and they are easy to prepare and feed. They can be sprouted, served raw, cooked, or soaked. Many times I soak seeds and grains like quinoa or barley overnight, rinse them, and offer them in the morning. They aren’t sprouts yet, but the nutrition in them is more available because of the overnight soak.
Here are a few grains that finches will eat, and how to prepare them. In all cases, organic is best.
Found at your local grocery. A tri-color quinoa consisting of red, black and white might be the healthiest. Quinoa can be soaked for 30 minutes in warm water, drained, and served. It can be cooked according to package directions. I have never served it dry. Health benefits of quinoa include magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin E, plus it’s high in fiber.
Most of us don’t think about rice as bird food, but it’s quite nutritious. Brown rice is preferable, and no quick-cooking rice. Cook with a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part rice; simmer until liquid is absorbed. *My finches do not eat rice unless it is chopped very fine after cooking.
Rice can be sprouted – try wild rice. Here’s how: Rinse thoroughly in a strainer. Put in a glass jar or dish, add 3 drops Grapeseed Extract or 1/2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar. After about 15 minutes, rinse and cover with clean water. Soak overnight. Sprout over the next 48 hours; feed to your birds as soon as you see a tail sprouting. This is called “chitted” and it is the healthiest stage of sprouts. Rice contains B vitamins, Magnesium, and Iron.
You may have already noticed buckwheat in certain parrot foods – my parrotlet loves them and will pick them out above everything else. What we call ‘buckwheat’ from the grocery doesn’t have the outer hull. It can be served raw, sprouted, or cooked. To sprout, soak 15 minutes and allow to sprout for one or two days. To cook, add 1 part buckwheat to 1.75 parts water and simmer about 20 minutes. For finches I sprout it or cook it.
Buckwheat is a great source of Potassium, Manganese, Magnesium, Protein, Iron, and Vitamin B6.
Whole barley can be fed raw, soaked, sprouted, or cooked. Hulled or pearled barley won’t sprout. To sprout whole barley, rinse thoroughly. Place in glass container and add 3 drops Grapeseed Extract or 1/2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar. After about 15 minutes, rinse and cover with clean water. Soak overnight. Soak 8 hours/ feed in the morning or allow 1-2 days for sprouting.
For cooking, pearled barley is faster but hulled (which still has the bran layer, hence fiber) is healthier. Cook 1 cup grains to 3 cups water for one hour (pearled) or 90 minutes (hulled). My finches won’t touch barley unless it is thoroughly mixed into a chop recipe. Barley is full of micronutrients that are not found in too many other foods – it is worth the long cooking time.
There you have it! A few grains for finches to get you started improving their health. You might also be interested in:
Our free download, Feeding the Lady Gouldian Finch
Our free course, Revamp your Finch’s Diet
Article: How to Sprout