Author: Rob Marshall – Avian Vet
Vitamins for the Budgerigar
The modern day exhibition budgerigar is much larger and has a greater feather mass, grows more slowly and requires more energy and nutrients to develop.
When the vitamins and minerals are not provided, the breeding birds tire easily becoming more susceptible to illnesses and the babies weaken.
Although budgerigars can survive on grain and grit alone, they cannot reach the level of health required to withstand the pressures of breeding and eventually their breeding performance and health fails.
The vitamins lacking in the seed must at some stage be given to the birds in some form or other.
Vitamins are a necessary part of budgerigar life and nowadays vitamins are given in the soft food mix or water. All of the B vitamins, especially Thiamine, accelerate the recovery of ill birds by reducing stress.
The signs of a vitamin deficiency in the budgerigar are subtle. Often the vitamin deficiency relates to a bowel infection and can be confused with an illness.
Vitamin A is particularly important vitamin for the budgerigar
Seeds are particularly low in vitamin A. vitamin A promotes appetite, digestion and also increases resistance to infection and to some parasites.
The signs of a deficiency are subtle, but look carefully at the feather color intensity, the cere color and condition.
The feathers are pale, rough and lack luster, the cere roughened not smooth, and there may be an accumulation of a yellow dry scale on the sides of the mouth in budgerigars with a vitamin A deficiency.
Look for signs of bumble foot and scaly face mite, which are both thought to be associated with vitamin A deficiency.
The most obvious sign of a vitamin A deficiency is a feather stain above the cere. The staining of the feathers above the nostrils reflects a discharge from the nostrils.
As with all of the other vitamin deficiencies birds with a vitamin A problem respond quickly to the supplementation of the vitamin in the water (DufoPlus)*.
Within three days the feathers color up and shine again and the birds become erect and alert. Vitamin A supplements are helpful in stimulating the appetite of overcrowded young and breeding birds.
- Note: Vitamin A occurs naturally in dark, leafy greens and orange-colored produce, such as apricots, cantaloupes, carrots, red peppers, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. To resolve Vitamin A deficiency, try adding foods like sweet potatoes (either cooked or steamed until soft), mashed up with other fruits will be both loved by your pet bird, as much as it is good for her or him. Many birds also enjoy fresh carrot juice – or try offering shredded carrots. Natural sources are preferable over synthetically produced nutrients, which may not be absorbable and could easily be overdosed).
Vitamin D3 is produced by natural sunlight
Vitamin D3 has an intimate relationship with the calcium metabolism. Calcium is vital to fitness and vitality through its role in muscle and bone health. Vitamin D3 is incredibly important for egg laying, strong babies and vitality in the young birds and breeding flock but an excess of vitamin D causes kidney damage and retards growth. Vitamin D is naturally formed by the action of direct sunlight on the bird and breeding birds do better when the aviary is flooded with natural light. (Full-spectrum lamps can be provided at those times or instances when natural sunlight is not available).
Egg binding and soft shell eggs are rarely encountered in sunlit aviaries. Bent keels, splayed legs and beaks abnormality are the most common signs of a vitamin D3 deficiency. It is almost impossible to reverse these abnormalities.
Vitamin E promotes natural health and vitality
Vitamin E functions as a biological anti-oxidant that may be important during the stress of overcrowding and during breeding when the formation of free radicals is increased.
Vitamin E also has a positive effect on the immune function and any improvement in immune function must potentially benefit the breeding budgerigar and stressed young bird in the overcrowded aviary.
Vitamin E deficiency may occur when rancid oils are fed excessively to the breeding pairs. All oil preparations must be refrigerated and tightly sealed.
The signs of deficiency in budgerigars include twisting of the neck, stiff legs and leg weakness. Note: New research shows that eating foods rich in Vitamin E (such as nuts, seeds and vegetable oils) is far safer than taking supplements.
The B vitamins are energy vitamins used against stress
The B vitamins are all involved in the energy metabolism as cofactors in enzymatic reactions. They are extremely beneficial when the energy expenditure increase nine fold during the heavy feeding of the chicks.
They aid in the continuing vitality of the feeding parents and maximize the growth of the chicks.
Thiamine (vitamin B12) is an extremely important vitamin. Although seeds are a rich source of Thiamine, it is destroyed in budgerigars with enteritis.
Thiamine supplements are given to accelerate the recovery of budgerigars during an enteritis outbreak.
A cultured yeast byproduct (Energy supplement) is an excellent source of Thiamine and B vitamins and is recommended for all breeding budgerigars on a daily basis.
Eucalypts have a special place in the life of the budgerigar
The wild budgerigar has evolved alongside the Eucalypt tree and over a million years has developed an intimate bond with the tree and its leaves.
Wet eucalypt leaves excite and invigorate both the wild and aviary budgerigar into a frenzy of joy. They love to bath in the wet leaves and breeding hens destructively chew the bark searching for trace elements and lysine, the breeding protein.
The eucalyptus oil from the leaves has medicinal properties that stimulate the immune system and promote a strong natural resistance to disease.