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"
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.
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
Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP)
Coarse Yellow Corn Meal (or grits)
Lactose-Free or Soy-based Infant Formula with DHA &
Soy Isolate Protein Powder
Nutritional Yeast Flakes
Ground Flax & Anise Seed
Wheat Grass Powder
Barley Grass Powder
A small amount of:
Shelled Hemp Seed
Kelp Powder (just a little)
Spirulina (just a little)
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.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:
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
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: