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Nestling Food Recipes

These recipes have been acquired from a variety of sources. Where their origins are known, I have noted them.

(The terms egg food, nestling food, and soft food are used interchangeably.)


Commercial Nestling Foods


Commercial nestling foods provide breeding birds with nutritious food and save the busy breeder time, but they can be expensive and are sometimes rejected by birds. Many breeders mix the commercial preparations with boiled egg, soak seed or grated carrots to make them more palatable and nutritionally complete.


Care must be taken with some of these foods as they are made from bakery products which contain a great deal of sugar, something chicks are reportedly not able to process well for the first three days of life.


A large number of different brands are available and each has its own fan base. I have used nearly every brand at one time or another and personally prefer Witte Molen because itís one of the best of the commercial products I have used- it is not as dry as many nestling foods, nor is it overly sweet. It is readily accepted by the birds and one formulation includes herbs as well.


I use commercial nestling food daily when the birds are breeding - the birds receive moistened homemade egg food once in the morning and once in the early afternoon and then only seed and dry Witte Molen egg food for the late afternoon until the lights shut off...then the birds have it available as soon as the lights turn on in the morning. This way I don't have to worry about food spoilage or that the birds will have no nestling food to feed if I happen to sleep in a little late.


Traditional "One Cup" Nestling Food

Some form of this recipe has been in use for decades... It is not nutritionally complete, but thousands upon thousands of birds have been bred using it! It is the food I began breeding with (my first trio of canaries came with this recipe), although the one I currently use does not include powdered milk or gelatin.

1 c. dry bread crumbs

1 c. high protein baby cereal

1 c. corn grits

1 c. quick oats

1 c. powdered milk

1 c. shredded wheat cereal

1/4 c. raw wheat germ

3 tbsp poppy seed

1 tsp plain gelatin

1/2 tsp avian vitamin powder



Mix all ingredients together; add 1 to 3 rounded tablespoons to one mashed large

hard boiled egg along with one shredded carrot. 

 with one small shredded carrot.


Soak Seed


I include soak seed here as many folks do use it - Robirda's Soak Seed & Nestling Food Diet is an excellent discussion of the use of soak seed.



My Egg Food Recipe


This recipe is very rich, but the dry mix is combined with couscous and finely chopped broccoli and carrot. During warm weather, I leave out the boiled egg entirely to minimize the risk of spoilage.


The lack of a formal recipe will drive some folks to distraction - but I don't use recipes to cook or bake with, either. If you need a formal recipe, try the "One Cup" recipe offered above and tweak it with a few additions...



Shredded Wheat Cereal (process it in a food processor until it is coarse in texture)

Grape Nuts Cereal

Mixed Baby cereal

Quinoa Flakes

Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP)

Coarse Yellow Corn Meal (or grits)

Lactose-Free or Soy-based Infant Formula with DHA & ARA

Spelt Flakes

Rolled Oatmeal

Soy Isolate Protein Powder

Nutritional Yeast Flakes

Ground Flax & Anise Seed

Dried Chickweed

Wheat Grass Powder

Barley Grass Powder


A small amount of:

Shelled Hemp Seed

Poppy Seeds

Spinach Powder

Kelp Powder (just a little)

Spirulina (just a little)

Calendula Petals

Dried Oregano


Mix dry ingredients, place in freezer-safe bags, and store in the freezer until needed.


When needed, place one boiled egg (with shell on) and one and a half cups of dry mix into a food processor and pulse just until the mixture is "crumbly-moist" in texture - do not mix too long! Place this into a bowl and finely chop your broccoli and carrots and mix that into the mixture. Mix about 1/4 cup or so of cooked couscous into the egg food and serve.


I make large amounts of egg food (without the broccoli or carrots) and freeze. When you need egg food, place the container in the refrigerator overnight and mix in the vegetables in the morning before serving.



The protein level in this recipe is higher than normal - an avian nutritionist with over 20 years of experience with all kinds of birds indicated that protein is a much more complex issue than the "canaries require 17% protein in their diet" one normally hears.  He stated that there are a variety of factors involved in determining the protein requirements of birds- one of which is the source of the protein. Animal protein (such as eggs and meat) is highly digestible while vegetable sources (such as soy and quinoa) are less digestible. For this reason, when feeding a recipe containing egg you look for about 17% protein whereas if your recipe is vegetable- based you need about 20% protein. And breeding birds and growing chicks, according to my avian nutritionist source, need 24%-26% protein (from non-animal protein sources).


Even this is an oversimplification - the concept of biochemical individuality suggests that individuals are unique and as such have their own unique nutritional requirements. What this means is that SOME birds may have problems with the level of protein in this recipe - my birds DO NOT. If you offer this food to your birds, watch them carefully. If in any doubt whatsoever - follow the guidelines recommended by the breeder from whom you purchase your stock.


The most important lesson that every bird keeper needs to learn is to know YOUR birds!




More nestling food recipes: Nestling Foods


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Last modified: 06/30/15