DIETS FOR CANARIES
As a general rule, canaries eat most heavily early in the morning and again late in the afternoon, logical times in view of the long overnight fast. However, birds that feed on small seeds and insects must eat fairly regularly throughout the day.
IS GRIT REALLY NECESSARY?
There is evidence that if some grain-eaters are denied grit they will lose weight and eventually die. But experiments on Bobwhite Quail by Nestler (1946) showed that young and also adult breeding quail on a gritless diet survived as well birds having grit. The grit in the gizzards may not be indispensable, but at least in the domestic chicken, it increases the digestibility of whole grains and seeds by 10 percent (Welty, 1996)
Very little experimental work has been done on particular dietary needs of birds, but it is known, for example, that a seed-eating Bobwhite Quail must have a minimum of 11 to 12 percent crude protein in its winter diet to maintain good health (Nestler, 1944). Experiments by Halmand Scott (1954) on wild ducks showed that an adults diet containing 18.6 percent protein food allowed satisfactory egg production, and hatchability, but a 17 percent protein did not. Young wild ducklings developed satisfactorily on a diet of 19 percent total proteins or an 8 percent animal protein. Animal protein being the best is usually supplied in eggfood by boiled eggs or the powdered variety in all commercial eggfood mixes. Even during molting periods eggfood is an excellent dietary supplement. Two of the highest seeds in protein values are soybean and sunflower. Because feathers are composed primarily of protein these seeds make excellent supplements in the eggfood during summer months.
In an experiment on 2170 Bobwhite chicks it was discovered that there was a direct relationship between survival time and the level of vitamin A in the diet (Harper etal., 1952). Quail chicks fed on a basal diet lacking vitamin A did not survive to an age of eight weeks. Carrots has some of the highest vitamin A content of any greens and can be shredded in a blender to be fed free style or mixed with eggfood.
Some years ago it was discovered that 70 percent of the wild turkeys of Missouri, lived on a single type of soil, Clarksville Stony loam, derived from limestone. Habitats on other soils which appeared similar supported very meager populations or none at all (Allen, 1954). Subsequent nutrition experiments by Dale (1955) have shown that Ring-necked pheasants, receiving limestone grit produced ten times as many eggs as those eating a similar diet but with granite grit. One year, George Commons tried granite grit with a result of miserable production.
Several seed suppliers offer mineral mixes. Abba Products in Elizabeth, NJ offers Abba mineral that is high in calcium and containing salt, potassium iodide, iron oxide, ferrous carbonate, copper sulfate, copper oxide, nickel sulfate, zinc sulfate, zinc oxide, magnesium oxide, manganous oxide, calcium phosphate, and dicalcium phosphate. Sheep raised on pasture lacking in iodine has resulted in unsatisfactory baby production. Vanodine, an English product can alleviate this problem in canaries by mixing into drinking water. Other domestic iodine products advertised as disinfectant and deodorizer agents are also suitable to alleviate iodine deficiencies as well as preventing the spread of bacteria in drinking water. The customary dosage in drinking water is to color water the consistency of white wine. To accomplish this insert the handle of a spoon one inch into iodine solution and mix into one quart of water. That the problem of supplementary items in the diet is not simple was revealed in an experiment on Bobwhites in which it was found that egg production, fertility and hatchability "were affected by calcium and phosphorous levels in the breeding diet of their parents a year before" (Allen 1954). No doubt even minute amounts of trace elements in a birds diet play a role in its health and survival.
Although salt, even in small quantities, may be lethal to some birds, it is necessary in the diet for various metabolic processes such as nerve-impulse transmission, blood clotting and bone formation. Birds kept on a salt-free diet will eagerly eat pure salt when it is made available. Eggfood for baby canaries should be salted as you would salt your own food.
No single diet has proven superior for American Singers and several of our more successful breeders are being asked to share their feeding methods.
(1) What kind of seed do you feed and is it fed free choice or mixed?
(2) Do you feed vitamins and if so what kind and when do you use them?
(3) Do you have feed supplements other than seed?
(4) Do you disinfect feed and water utensils and if so how and when?
(5) What soft food do you use to feed babies?
(6) Do you vary feeding methods during molting periods?
(7) Do you feed greens and is so when and what kind?
You are being asked to respond to the enclosed questions and return to me by March 1, 1998. I would like to put this in the April Newsletter.