Should I Supplement My Bird’s Diet?

This question comes up a lot, and it’s very valid. Supplements, like all good things can be overdone so it’s important to be aware of how much your bird is already getting versus how much (more) you want to give him.

Let’s take calcium as an example. All pet birds need calcium all year around – not just hens that are laying eggs. They need it for strong bones and a healthy nervous system. It even helps their blood to clot.

If you were feeding a 100% pellet diet, which I am not recommending by any means, and the pellet is fortified with 100% of the minimum daily requirement of calcium, the bird would get enough.

But that’s not what happens. Instead, we feed vegetables and seed and a little fruit and a little pellet. Assuming a couple of the vegetables have some calcium, and the pellets contain that 100% MDR, now our formula might look like this:

Calcium from vegetables: 3%

Calcium from pellets: .25 X 100 = 25%

Total: 28%

You can see how so many birds become deficient, even though the owners feel they are feeding a ‘complete’ diet! And if the bird is laying eggs, it’s even more vital.

So in most cases, it is important to give bird supplements. It can be overdone – so it’s important to check with your veterinarian. Always.

Here’s how we supplement our birds, which eat mostly fresh foods. I sprinkle a powdered multivitamin on their fresh food twice weekly. (here’s why) I also give a separate calcium supplement once a week. Usually I use a powder that contains phosphorus and D3, but if it’s breeding season I’ll use a liquid calcium right in their water.

In addition, because finches and budgies, which I have several of, require more iodine than some birds, I keep a liquid iodine on hand. The other really easy way to supplement iodine is through kelp, but I’ve never seen one eat it. so I use a powdered kelp. Go sparingly on this – they apparently hate the taste! I don’t supplement with the kelp or iodine every week, perhaps every other week.

So far no vet has told me they are deficient in anything.