Here is a description of the natural diet I use for my finches and canaries. It is not possible to cover every eventuality for troubleshooting with this diet, so feel free to email me with questions. Sometimes adults or babies will not eat certain foods well and need to be trained to eat those foods. Once in a while a breeding pair will not eat all the softfoods well when feeding their young, and so on. In cases like these it is necessary to improvise. For example, if a pair is not feeding their young well, I will place some of the supplements onto spray millet and dry seeds. This seems to work well. But you need to pay careful attention to what is actually being consumed by each bird in order to ensure total success. Usually there are only one or two out of a flock that might not eat these foods well.
This diet works well for me because I do it exactly as described and I do not stray from the specifics outlined below. The biggest problem I see in people who are struggling with their finch and canary aviaries is that they are mixing and matching diets. It simply doesn’t work. Whenever I try to alter this diet with new products, I have trouble. When I try to experiment with another breeder’s system or foods, I have trouble. I strongly believe that you have to pick a proven system and follow it exactly. Morning Bird, Birds R Us, Rob Marshall, the natural diet below – whichever system it is needs to be followed carefully and exclusively. Then, once you have a system in place that is working well, you can modify it to your own needs by altering one aspect at a time and waiting for six months to a year to judge what the effects of that one single change will be. I honestly don’t know of another way to succeed with these birds – and I’ve tried it all!
And the most important precaution I would offer is: do not overfeed fats and proteins.
1. Dry seeds available at all times, blow off hulls twice daily
FINCH SEED MIX: equal portions of red proso millet, yellow millet, white millet, japanese millet and canary seed
CANARY SEED MIX: same as finch with added free access to equal parts of nyger, rape, lettuce, flax in a separate bowl
2. Drinking water changed twice daily
3. Baths whenever possible
4. Cuttlebone in every enclosure
5. Eggshells in every enclosure (Twin Beaks Hatched brand)
6. Kaytee Hi-Cal grit in every enclosure
7. Eggfood twice per week (can be two days in a row/I serve this on Mondays and Tuesdays) 1 teaspoon per pair of birds – recipe to follow
8. Sprouted seeds/vegetables with supplements twice per week (I like to serve this on Thursdays and Saturdays) as much as they will eat – recipe to follow
9. Dark greens hung up each day with a clothespin (kale, collard, bok choy, turnip greens, dandelion (wilts fast), radicchio, beet greens, escarole, frisee, etc etc etc)
EGGFOOD RECIPE FOR RESTING/MOLTING:
Boil 5 eggs for 13 minutes, then let them dry and cool. Mash to very small bits (almost like the texture of seeds) with a potato masher. Add 1/2 cup of cornmeal, 1 teaspoon of Green Powder (recipe below) and 1/8 teaspoon of Primal Defense – can store for three days in the refrigerator.
– 1/3 cup organic alfalfa powder
– 1/3 cup organic kelp powder
– 5 tablespoons eggshell powder (Hatched brand)
– 1 tablespoon Frontier organic garlic powder
NOTE: after mixing the green powder, store in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator.
SPROUTED SEED/VEGETABLE MIX FOR RESTING/MOLTING:
– Each AM soak plain finch seed mix in a mason jar with a spout top
– Use enough water to cover the seeds
– Use 6 drops Nutribiotic grapefruit seed extract per cup of soak water
– Leave to soak for 24 hours
– Rinse well the following AM and serve with supplements
– For every two cups of soaked seeds, add:
1/2 teaspoon green powder
1/8 teaspoon Primal Defense probiotics
1/4 teaspoon Zoo Med Avian Plus vitamins
1/2 cup of food-processed, non-mushy vegetables (healthiest are: carrots, red peppers, all dark leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, celery, zucchini) blended to the size of the seed mix but not a puree as a puree will not be accepted
– Serve immediately, do not store once supplements and vegetables are added
NOTE: these softfoods are all perishable, so not to leave out for more than 8 hours at a time.
In addition to the regular millet and canary seed staple mixes, I offer a bowl of black seeds to every breeding pair consisting of nyger, rape and black lettuce seeds.
Next, I follow steps 1 through 6 as above.
Then, I follow the process below for the breeding schedule.
First I take two to four weeks to condition my breeding pairs – no nests while conditioning. Lights are lengthened appropriately: 12 hours during rest increased to 14 to 15 hours during breeding. Next I increase the nutrient density of the diet as follows:
– Eggfood is served three times weekly, can be Mon, Tues, Wed.
– Sprouts are also served three times weekly. I usually serve the sprouts Thurs, Fri and Sat.
– Twice a week only, I add 1/4 teaspoon of Arbico fly powder (see below) to every two cups of sprouts. This makes ALL the difference in terms of growth of chicks and fertility of eggs, I simply can’t get over the difference it makes. But not to exceed twice weekly during the conditioning period.
Add nests after two to four weeks and continue with the conditioning diet.
When birds are actually laying, I make sure they have either eggfood or sprouts at all times that they are awake. They can get more eggs and sprouts at this time than any other time, but I make sure they don’t run out. I also make absolutely sure they have greens at all times as well as a fresh supply of eggshells and grit. As soon as all the eggs are laid, I go back to the conditioning diet so as not to overfeed while they are incubating.
Once babies hatch, I use both eggs and sprouts at all times if possible. If it’s not possible, I make sure they have one or the other at all times, and enough so they never run out.
When babies are eating on their own (and eating well), I slowly taper the foods back to the schedule for conditioning so as not to overfeed the parents.
4. SPRAY MILLET:
I use spray millet for sick birds, stressed birds, babies until their first molt, thin birds, etc. Not an all the time food. But it is an important food any time there is the slightest problem, so I use it freely. It is a healthy millet, the same as any other millet nutritionally, but finches will eat it in preference to all other foods, so with babies especially, I make sure that they are eating other foods as well.
5. FUSSY FEEDERS:
Anytime an adult canary or finch, breeding pairs, or babies are not eating the softwoods well, I will add the Primal Defense, Zoo Med Avian Plus (twice weekly only for the Avian Plus), greenfood and Arbico fly powder (only twice a week for the fly powder) to the foods they are eating, i.e. sprinkle these on spray millet or dry seed if necessary. This is especially important with breeders who won’t feed their babies properly: in this case you MUST supplement the dry seeds and make sure the powders stay coated on the seeds by fluffing and stirring the seeds. Adding supplements to dry seeds is not ideal, but sometimes necessary. However, I am careful not to overdo these supplements and follow the restrictions mentioned in this paragraph closely. A few times I have exceeded these recommendations while parents were feeding chicks with disastrous results in terms of malformed babies.
NOTE: When a laying hen is not eating the softfoods (and only in this case), I will put all four supps onto her dry seeds during the laying period.
6. DO NOT OVERFEED:
When you overfeed birds, they get sick. They can’t process deficit or excess. So I make sure not to overuse the fly powder as this is extremely high in protein, and I don’t overfeed the Avian Plus. The Green Powder won’t hurt them terribly if overfed, nor will the Primal Defense. But too much eggfood and too much sprouted seed (as well as too much fly powder and Avian Plus) will cause beaks and toenails to overgrow at a rapid rate and can alter the wing bone development of chicks in my experience.
EXPLANATION OF SUPPLEMENTS:
GREENPOWDER (kelp/alfalfa/eggshells/garlic – recipe above):
This mixture is a natural vitamin mineral formula to reproduce the types of natural minerals and vitamins that birds would find in soil, plants and waterholes. It contains a wide array of nutrients in a highly bio-available form, unlike synthetic vitamin supplements which are difficult to absorb and can easily create imbalances in the blood.
Kelp and alfalfa are well-known blood and organ detoxifiers, very helpful in eliminating and neutralizing heavy metals and other blood contaminants. Kelp and alfalfa also have immune system strengthening properties. Eggshells provide calcium carbonate as well as other trace minerals for egglaying and overall health. Garlic powder is an immune tonic and can prevent bacterial and fungal infections when used daily.
– purchase organic kelp powder, organic alfalfa powder, and Frontier organic garlic powder via Amazon; Twin Beaks Hatched eggshells are available via numerous online vendors
GROUND FLY LARVAE AND PUPAE POWDER:
This powder replicates the type of animal protein finches and canaries find in the wild during their breeding seasons (i.e. bugs:) It is easy for them to utilize and absorb, and provides a highly effective protein supplement. Store in freezer for up to one year. Keep small amounts in sealed glass jars at room temperature when in use.
– purchase ground dried fly larvae and pupae powder via Arbico online (if they don’t have powder you can buy the whole bugs and grind them in a coffee grinder before storing in the freezer)
GARDEN OF LIFE PRIMAL DEFENSE PROBIOTICS:
Primal Defense is a soil-based probiotic which is composed of micro-organisms that are found in soil and are similar to the types of organisms birds ingest in the wild to protect them from disease. Probiotics out-compete pathogens in the gut and prevent infections even after exposure to pathogens. Use PD as a means of controlling infectious disease without having to kill anything:)
– available from Amazon; make sure to buy the formula in the blue 81 gram jar as the other formulas are not safe for birds
ZOO MED AVIAN PLUS VITAMINS/MINERALS:
This is a food grade synthetic vitamin and mineral supplement to complement the Green Powder. When used sparingly. it fills in any nutritional gaps in birds that might not be getting quite what they need from other foods/supps. But use sparingly as per my instructions as it causes over-supplement symptoms readily when over-used. Very high quality supplement, extremely effective when used correctly.
– readily available online via Amazon
NUTRIBIOTIC GRAPEFRUIT SEED EXTRACT:
Potent, highly effective, non-toxic antimicrobial
– available via Amazon
TWIN BEAKS HATCHED EGGSHELLS
– available via multiple vendors online
KAYTEE HI-CAL GRIT
– available via Amazon
– in stores or online vendors
See the article in the herb link for how to use and make this tea. I use it to eliminate pathogens such as parasites, bacteria, fungus, virus. It appears to work on ASM after three weeks when treating a bird with no symptoms in quarantine, but appears to need six weeks to work on active infections. Neem leaf works deeply in the body, targeting the gut in particular but also penetrating deep into the blood and tissues to eradicate serious illness. Works slowly but surely.
– I buy dried neem leaves in the bulk botanicals section of Neem Tree Farms online
YOUNG LIVING THIEVES ESSENTIAL OIL:
This is a powerful antimicrobial oil, targeting bacteria and fungus. It works via the air sacs from which it is absorbed into the blood directly – not good for gut issues. It tends to lift birds up when they are puffy and dragging, stimulates appetite very well, and works rapidly. I place five drops on a kleenex three times daily to treat a cage or aviary. If a bird is critical, I will reapply drops five times daily.
– I buy Thieves via Ebay or a YL distributor
This oil is a bit more powerful than Thieves, working more broadly to include viruses and parasites. If mixed with olive oil it can be used internally for gut issues, but this needs to be done very carefully as this oil can cause severe burning to the mouth and face when not diluted correctly. Also stimulates appetite. I use this oil when birds are dying and need something to work within the hour. Also when birds have stopped eating entirely. Can be tube/gavage fed. Some brands are bird safe, others are not, and all brands need to be well diluted before use. Please consult with me before using this oil. It saves lives!
– I only use Nature’s Answer oil of oregano purchased via Amazon online
ECHINACEA AND GOLDENSEAL IN GLYCERIN:
I use these two herbs, only in glycerin, and in combination, to prevent bacterial infections in otherwise healthy birds. IE when I have one bird who comes down with something contagious in a flight and I want to protect the flock, or when I realize that I have left the eggfood out too long and it may have spoiled, or when I find a dropping in the water of a breeding cage with babies, or when I find a huge poo in a bucket of sprouts, and I just want to make sure nothing bad happens – in all of these cases I will use this combination to prevent infection.
I mix the two herbs together at 1/4 part goldenseal and 3/4 part echinacea in a glass bottle with a dropper. From there I use forty drops per eight ounces of water as the only water source for seven to ten days.
– I use Gaia brand and purchase online
NOTE OF CAUTION:
I ALWAYS watch birds closely when using any herbal remedies to make sure the birds are not having a bad reaction. Bad reactions can be quick or can take a few days to develop. I have seen birds become dehydrated slowly over a period of weeks simply because they were not drinking quite enough of an herbal tea (although sometimes they won’t drink at all and will become dehydrated in a couple of days). I make sure birds are drinking and eating well anytime I administer supplements on food and water. If in any doubt, I immediately stop the supplement or treatment.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, or by any veterinarian. All information, including any product or technique mentioned, is for educational purposes only. None of the information is intended to diagnose or treat any disease.