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Seed only diets do not produce healthy birds. Dry seeds do not have the necessary protein and essential vitamins and mineral levels required to successfully breed and raise healthy birds. Pelleted and extruded diets don't offer variety and are often not accepted by birds. Avian breeders have been successfully raising birds in captivity for generations by following the techniques of the European immigrant breeders. Immigrants brought their birds and their techniques with them when they came to this country. European aviculturists have been successful for centuries, using egg or soft food as the foundation of their feeding programs.
Protein for successful breeding
In nature, insects provide the additional protein requirement during the breeding season. Initially breeders replaced the insects with crushed boiled egg mixed with bread or biscuit crumbs during the breeding season. Over time, additional protein sources became readily available (protein cereal, powdered eggs, wheat germ) and were added to the egg food. Observant fanciers changed the soft food recipe further by adding more bread or carbohydrate products based in their experience of feeding parents leaving some of the egg food uneaten in preference for the biscuit or bread crumbs. Others combined the soft food with soaked seed producing further improvements in breeding outcomes.
Egg Food or Soft Food
Commercial egg food mixes are made by crumbling a high protein egg enriched baked cake. Because of the high egg content, the egg-food is high in protein and amino acids necessary for healthy birds in breeding condition. In some soft food mixes the protein is derived from dairy products-lactose removed. While this is a more expensive than just adding dry egg, it is better for the birds. It is not as quick to spoil and does not contain the high fat levels of dehydrated egg.
The main difference between the egg food and soft food is that egg foods are considered supplements to a seed diet, while the soft foods serve as the main diet. Many clients say they tried adding egg or soft food but their birds will not eat it. Sometimes it takes awhile. See Teacher Birds, introducing new foods, for some helpful hints.
The European approach is to serve a prepared commercial mix. Other fresh ingredients such as carrots, chopped fresh fruits, greens, sprouts, vegetables and fruit juices are added to the egg/soft food mix to moisten and balance the diet.
In the U.S. we tend to focus more on the preparation of the food rather than simply serving it from a prepared commercial mix. I shared recipes with many breeders over the years based on what works in each individual species situation. I always considered my time spent in preparation of my special egg food mix diet was one of the pleasures of raising birds.
Cycle of Seasons
European or U.S. aviculturists both recommend adjusting the egg food diet to fit the birds' needs. When birds are molting, breeding or raising young, they have higher nutritional and protein requirements than when they are resting. The egg food mixes are also an excellent medium for administering seasonal supplements, vitamins & minerals and or medication. In the breeding season protein levels of the mixes can be adjusted by sprinkling Breeders Blend into the egg/soft food to help bring the adults into breeding condition or adding Feather Fast during the molting season.
Commercial or Home Made?
One of the problems I found with many of the commercially prepared egg & soft food mixes was they contained lots of sugar, wheat, honey, soya, preservatives and artificial fillers such as starch and artificial colorings or dyes. If you don't have time to prepare your own soft food mix here are four we have used over the years and found great substitutes for home made!
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