In the wild, the food supply varies considerably depending on the season and rainy and dry periods.
Even though the budgerigar is a grain eater , its diet includes a variety of wild seeds, as well as young leafy greens, buds, bark and wild fruits. During periods of increased nutritional demand, such as the breeding season and chick rearing, animal proteins, such as insects, are not spurned.
If you take a closer look at the commercially available budgie food, you will quickly realize that it does not correspond at all to the changing food supply in nature.
Budgies that receive only the commercial grain mixtures can survive for a few years, but such a one-sided diet is anything but species-appropriate.
The consequences of inadequate and inappropriate nutrition are manifold. Some examples are moulting disorders, obesity, kidney and liver damage. In addition, the lack of vitamins and proteins weakens the budgie’s immune system , so that it has little to oppose pathogens.
For the budgie to remain healthy in the care of humans, a wholesome and varied diet is essential.
- Carbohydrate-rich seeds: Millet, glossy or pointed seeds, oats, …..
- Oilseeds (max. 5%): Linseed, hemp, negro seed, sesame …..
- High protein seeds: -/- (too large or hard for budgies).
- Grasses and seeds: Meadow grass seeds, lettuce seeds, herb seeds, ….
- Herbs and leaves: culinary and wild herbs, eucalyptus leaves, …..
- Flowers: clover, marigold, chamomile, orange blossom, …..
- Oils and fats
- Sugar or honey
- Bakery by-products
- Vegetable by-products and protein extracts
- Milk and dairy products
- animal proteins (only necessary for brood and young rearing!)
Despite full-bodied promises, the commercial grain mixtures of known manufacture are usually not species-appropriate. Apart from an unbalanced diet, these also do not take into account that budgies in the care of humans have a significantly lower energy requirement than in the wild. As a result, many budgies then suffer from overweight and the associated secondary diseases up to flight incapacity.
Some of the products sometimes even contain herbs , etc., but then they are often not even recognizable at first glance due to the small amount.
What is usually rarely if ever found are grasses and other seeds, which are an important low-calorie and varied addition to the otherwise high-energy ingredients.
Here are some examples of well-known manufacturers:
Species appropriate feed mixtures
A species-appropriate feed mixture should not only contain a selection of several millet varieties and glossy seeds, but also seeds of various meadow grasses as well as other seeds (e.g. herb and lettuce seeds). Additionally, different suitable herbs ( e .g. for plumage formation) are recommended in addition to eucalyptus leaves .
In addition, different high-energy grain mixes for indoor and outdoor housing should be provided by the supplier of species-appropriate feed mixes.
As an example, grain mixtures that I feed myself:
Each budgie should get about 2 teaspoons ( = 10g) of the grain mixture per day.
I recommend the use of a suitable stainless steel measuring spoon which holds the portion for one budgie.
To avoid unnecessary quarrels, there should be a food bowl for each budgie and at least one drinking bowl for all of them together. With me a so-called feed bar which then still by an appropriate water bowl can be supplemented.
Basically, it is recommended to completely empty the feeding bowls every day and fill them with new food.
Even if it often seems that the bowls still contain food, it is usually only husks ( = shells of the grains) or the remaining grains are under a layer of husks, so that the budgies can no longer reach them. Thus, these could even starve if they do not receive new grains.
Instead of immediately disposing of the old feed, it is also possible to collect it in order to remove the husks later. There are several ways to do this:
- Remove husks by blowing (only recommended to a limited extent)
- Hand vacuum cleaner (partly also sucks up grains)
- Feed cleaning machine (not cheap, but effective)
While the grain mixtures are the basis for feeding budgies, the fresh food is an important, not to say an indispensable, supplement.
The fresh feed usually has a high content of important nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.
Since budgies in the wild regularly ingest green plant parts, buds, flowers, fruits and tree bark, it is important that they also receive appropriate fresh food in human care.
Suitable fresh food
Green food is usually particularly rich in vitamins, minerals and many other active substances that can have a positive effect on the health of budgies.
The various suitable vegetables usually contain no fat, little protein and carbohydrates, which means that they have a low calorific value (calories). Instead, they are rich in vitamins and minerals.
Suitable are many root and fruit vegetables.
Onion vegetables and all leafy cabbage varieties , on the other hand, should not be fed.
Wild Fruits & Fruit
Although fruits contain many vitamins, minerals and other ingredients, they also contain a not inconsiderable amount of fructose. Thus, these should be fed only in small quantities.
Habituation to fresh food
Many budgies that do not know fresh food (e.g. from the breeder) are skeptical about it at first.
So it may be necessary to get them used to it first. This requires a lot of patience, since you have to offer the fresh food again and again until curiosity wins out or they get a taste for it (e.g. by mixing it in).
There are several options available for this purpose:
- Place fresh feed next to perches using a feed clamp.
- Chop or slice vegetables and mix into grain feed.
- Cut herbs into small pieces and mix into the grain feed.
- “Bread” vegetables, such as cucumber slices, with grain food and offer.
Fresh food can usually be offered several times a week or even daily for free intake.
However, fresh food with a high content of essential oils (e.g. kitchen herbs) or fructose (e.g. fruit) should be fed 1-2 times a week at most.
Foxtail & Panicle Millet
Cob and panicle millet represent reward and occupation at the same time. This is usually good for getting budgies used to holding hands or new toys.
Since budgerigars eat cob and panicle millet not only because they are hungry, they should not be available all the time and it is advisable to offer them only in small quantities or only for a limited period of time.
My recommendation is to feed foxtail millet only from the hand. Panicle millet, on the other hand, is suitable for getting used to the finger as a landing point.
Snack bars & snacks
Commercial nibble sticks and budgie snacks are usually not recommended, as they almost always contain undesirable ingredients.
If you still want to use them, you should pay close attention to the ingredients and not offer them permanently for free intake.
As an alternative, it is possible to make snacks for the budgies themselves. Suitable recipes can be found at Budgie snacks .
Most of the commercially available nibble rings are designed for rodents in terms of ingredients and size and are therefore only conditionally suitable for budgies.
Also here it offers itself to make budgerigar-suitable nibble rings. Suitable recipes can be found at Nibble rings .
Even though grit is not actually a food and cannot be digested, it is an indispensable component in the budgies’ diet, as it is essential for breaking down food in the gizzard.
If the budgie does not have enough grit available, digestive problems will occur within a short period of time.
Even though grit is often included in bird sand, it is recommended to offer it in an extra bowl as well for hygienic reasons.
Mineral or pick stones
Mineral or pecking stones not only serve as sharpening stones for the beak, but also provide an important source of minerals .
For budgies you need small-grained mineral stones.
- Sharpening stone for the beak
- Mineral source
- Recording of grit (stomach stone)
For this purpose I recommend the mineral stone “NatMin 65W ” (65g).
Undesirable ingredients in a mineral stone would be gypsum, cement, bone meal (gelatin) as a binder, or even honey.
Clay based mineral stone
In the wild, parrots and parakeets also take clay and loamy soil. This not only contains minerals, but is also able to bind food toxins and harmful metabolic products due to the irregular surface of the smallest rock particles.
Thus, it is recommended to offer a clay stone in addition to a normal mineral stone .
- Sharpening stone for the beak
- Mineral source
- Degradation of food toxins and harmful metabolites
These iodine stones, as the name suggests, provide an additional source of the trace element iodine. Otherwise, this is primarily also a supplier of calcium and other minerals.
Since an iodine deficiency is really only found in budgies with a one-sided diet (only grain food), an iodine stone should not really be necessary.
Cuttlefish shells are the dorsal shoulder of cuttlefish and while they are a good source of calcium , they are also very high in salt. Since these are unfortunately very coarse-pored, they offer pathogens and fungi a suitable breeding ground.
If you still want to offer these to your budgies, be sure to soak this for several hours to lower the salt content and also heat them up a lot to kill pathogens and fungi.
Mineral and vitamin preparations
If the vitamin and mineral requirements cannot be met by fresh feed or if there is an undersupply of certain substances (e.g. vitamin D deficiency due to insufficient UV radiation), it may be necessary to use appropriate dietary supplements to correct the deficiency.
As a precaution, it would also be possible to use a supplementary feed for free intake, which combines grit with appropriate minerals and vitamins.
The sprouted feed can be offered in addition to the normal portion of grain feed. However, it should be only small quantities, because this spoils relatively quickly.