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Breeding bird nutrition

Wild birds breed when the food quality is best for rearing chicks successfully. Mimicking wild diets can improve the breeding results for your birds...

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Good nutrition for successful breeding is very important. The Birdcare Company looks at some of the key nutritional elements and supplements to assist you produce more and better quality healthy chicks.

Calcium for breeding - crucial for egg production and young chicks

Calcium is vital during the breeding season, especially during the egg laying process. The Birdcare Company's liquid calcium supplement Calcivet or new on food powdered alternative Calcivet ON FOOD Powder provide highly bio available forms of calcium which birds can absorb easily. When egg laying commences increase Calcivet to five times a week. You will get more eggs, fitter hens that don’t struggle with egg laying and strong boned chicks. Hens require extra calcium to make good quality egg shells. As most birds only carry enough calcium stored in their bones to make about three eggs Calcivet normally increases clutch sizes, ensures good shell quality and minimises stress on your hens.

Young birds require plenty of calcium for strong bone formation and efficient nerve and muscle function. Insufficient calcium can lead to young birds having trouble flying and perching properly. Calcivet should be continued through the breeding season at the five times a week rate to maintain their natural reserves of this precious mineral. In very hard water areas it may be possible to use Calcivet at lower application rates or less frequently. Calcium is a crucial mineral for brain function and inadequate amounts in the diet can cause both physical and behavioural problems. These range from poor co-ordination and falling off perches to fits and seizures. Feather plucking, fear and aggression are common symptoms of calcium deficiency too.

Protein, protein, protein - critical for top breeding results

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Nowhere in the world has a climate that is totally stable. Whether it is summers and winters, or wet seasons and dry seasons, everywhere has some sort of seasonal variation. This has an impact on the growth of plants. Most animals and birds respond to these seasons by breeding in the good times (summers and wet seasons). “Good” in this sense involves both quantity and quality of food. During dry seasons and winter most plants are relatively dormant. As food sources they are poor - low in protein, minerals and vitamins. When the season improves they start to grow and the level of nutrients in them rises. This makes them much better food. The most important change is the protein level.

Rapidly growing young birds require a lot of protein for good growth. 20% is a fair rule of thumb. So, as the protein level of the diet increases, this sends a message to the adult birds that raising chicks is likely to be a good prospect. Traditional captive bird diets have protein levels between 8% and 12%. At The Birdcare Company we firmly believe these are too low for either good adult breeding stimulation or maximum chick growth. There are two ways to improve dietary protein. The first is to add limiting amino acids to the diet. This guarantees (if you add enough) that the bird can utilise all of the protein in the seed, fruit or pulses that you are feeding it. Without these extras your bird can only utilise about 60% of the protein it gets from plants. To achieve this simply feed Daily Essentials3 or EasyBird in a good quality eggfood like Feast or on fruit and vegetables or on pulses. One of the benefits of this system developed by The Birdcare Company is to help maintain your birds at the correct bodyweight - not too fat! But it does not provide enough protein for maximum stimulation of breeders.

To stimulate breeding the second method is to add ProBoost SuperMax from The Birdcare Company to the same foods or switch from EasyBird Rest, Moult & Show to EasyBird Super Breeder, again both from The Birdcare Company. ProBoost SuperMax is a very high (84+%) protein supplement that works wonders for fertility, chick growth and feather quality. Our objective is to allow the birds to control their own dietary protein by offering them both high and low protein foods simultaneously. So we feed the supplemented feed in one container and the “low protein” seed in another. The fertility and feather quality benefits of these additives are very significant. And, as the birds eat less when the protein levels are higher, your seed bill drops as well!

Peak digestive performance can improve the breeding performance of adult birds

The digestive system of birds is very easily upset. Any slight stress causes a reduction in the blood supply to the gut. The biochemical conditions then change reducing the effectiveness of the gut and increasing the risk of infection by harmful bacteria. Keeping the gut topped up with beneficial digestive bacteria keeps the bad bugs under control and ensures that as much of the food as possible is actually absorbed into the bloodstream. This is the job of a probiotic. Many breeders and vets have now demonstrated to themselves the superiority of Potent Brew over the traditional, freeze dried probiotics. Potent Brew works so well because it contains bacteria that act immediately they get into the gut (they don’t have to rehydrate themselves like dried probiotics do) and it also contains enzyme components for active food digestion. However only buy Potent Brew in small quantities, as it is a live product with a short shelf life (4-6 months) and ideally it should be stored in the fridge.

Because Potent Brew stimulates efficient gut function and so improves the bird’s ability to absorb nutrition it contributes to bringing adult birds into breeding condition. When young chicks hatch they should have no bacteria in the gut. They rely on their parents to supply them with their food. Potent Brew in the food starts the chicks digestive system off very quickly ensuring rapid early growth and excellent resistance to otherwise dangerous digestive diseases. During the breeding season we now give the gut flora even more support in ProBoost SuperMax. Amongst many other things ProBoost SuperMax contains herbal extracts designed to help the good bacteria in the gut and to help the young birds’ poorly developed natural immune system work to the best possible effect. So ProBoost SuperMax (or EasyBird Super Breeder) and Potent Brew are the two supplements that stimulate breeding condition, improve fertility and give chicks a fabulous start in life. EasyBird products also contain probiotics but these are of the more conventional sort found in our BioPlus product.

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