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Nutrition to breed owls and raptors

More fertile eggs and more live chicks are all being achieved with simple supplementation of breeding diets...

As with moulting the major nutritional stimulus to encourage birds of prey to breed is increasing the amount of food fed to the birds. This largely mimics the situation the birds would experience in the wild where the prey population and availability increases during spring. Most people will also improve the quality of the food fed by using fewer chicks and more quail, rats, mice and rabbits.

Try to avoid food that has been so well fed that it is fat. In the wild the early breeding season prey will still be quite lean from the trials of surviving winter. Their early energies would have been put into raising young and not putting fat onto their bodies. Your feeding should reflect this.

As the quantity of food is increased, the quantity of supplement should go up as well. An increase in Raptor Breeder Essentials from The Birdcare Company will provide most of the extra vitamins and minerals that your bird requires for breeding. These extra vitamins leading up to breeding play a role in finishing any previous moults, bringing the bird into good health and starting to bring about the many physical changes that lead to great breeding condition and fertility. However, there are two things that we can do to improve the situation even further.

The first is to add a liquid probiotic to the diet. This powerful modern technology has been widely used in farm livestock applications as well as in cage birds. It greatly enhances gut function and improves the availability of nutrients from the food. In other words, more of the food that is eaten gets absorbed into the blood where it can be used by the bird. This can make a substantial contribution to bringing the birds into breeding condition. Most importantly, it should enhance fertility.

We would also strongly recommend the use of a pre-dissolved chelated calcium supplement to provide the very best possible source of this precious mineral. This approach will increase clutch sizes, improve eggshell quality, see hen birds through the breeding season with minimal stress and finally, ensure that young birds have strong bone growth and do not develop rickets. All too many baby owls, raptors and other birds of prey end up with fragile and easily broken bones.

The major problem with traditional calcium supplements, such as limestone, grit or cuttlefish bone, is that they are very difficult for the bird to dissolve in the gut and are, therefore, difficult to absorb. Calcivet from The Birdcare Company is highly effective and comes in two forms - as a pre-dissolved, highly saturated chelated calcium liquid and also more recently in a powdered form of chelated calcium that is also highly bio-available and highly effective. By tying the calcium to a sugar molecule in this 'chelated' form, we more closely mimic the natural forms of calcium normally available in wild diets and help the calcium to be carried across the gut wall. Supplementing once a week with Calcivet (CalciBoost in North America) from The Birdcare Company prior to egg laying will ensure that bones (the major storage organ for calcium) are full with this essential mineral. When egg-laying commences, increase supplementation to five days a week and continue at this level until chicks are fully grown.

Raptor Breeder Essentials (vitamins and minerals in a combination designed to complement a meat-based diet), Potent Brew (liquid probiotic) and Calcivet (CalciBoost) (liquid calcium supplement) comprise The Birdcare Company's raptor breeding supplementation system.

For further information on supplementing your breeding birds please feel free to contact us.

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