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Why add Vitamins?

 

There are many Vitamins and Minerals. Below we touch the surface of the subject. Further information is available on many websites.
 
In aviculture most birds are fed a convenient diet, seed. It comes in its own little shell for protection, keeps well and you can buy it by the sack load.
Most birds in their natural environment would only eat seed in quantity during the late summer and early autumn time when it is naturally available. The rest of the time their diet is made of plant  matter, fruits, berries, insects and even occasional carrion. Birds also have the opportunity to ingest part or even whole pieces of gravel and stones, often chalk will be taken for its calcium content as can limestone and snail shells.
So what can you do to increase your birds intake of key nutrients?
A  good seed supplier should advise you that a seed mix alone is not sufficient for most birds needs. Even if it contains fruit, nuts and berries the mix will still lack certain important nutrients. So it is necessary to turn to a vitamin supplement.
 
There are two main ways to provide vitamins,
(a) a powder of liquid which can be added to the drinking water. This can be an unreliable method for several reasons, most birds don't  drink the quantities of water required to provide a sufficient intake of the additive, its is also therefore very difficult to gauge how much water they have drunk how much has been splashed away or how much has simply evaporated.
(b) a powder which is dusted over fruit and or vegetables. By picking your birds favourite piece of fruit and dusting a vitamin powder onto it you are able to immediately see how much supplement has been ingested .
So what is the benefit?
 
One thing most keepers agree on is that birds do not receive enough Calcium. Calcium is needed for the maintenance of bones, muscle and nerve function, the production of eggs during the breeding season and is essential for the correct development of chicks. You can present Calcium to your birds in several forms, Chalk, Oyster shell grit, Cuttle Fish, Calcium Carbonate (limestone) or use a multi-vitamin additive such as Psittamix. One of the main reasons for breeding birds to have small and infrequent clutches, soft eggs and poor post breeding recovery is simply lack of readily absorbable calcium. To be absorbed properly Calcium needs a little help from a Vitamin called D3 (cholecalciferol). D3 is normally made within the body from ultraviolet light which is absorbed by the feathers, but if you have a pet bird the cage is not in the window because it is too hot and probably for security reason too. So no direct UV light = reduced calcium absorption. Not all vitamin supplements will have D3 in them. Another idea which is now becoming popular is to place the special UV light tubes above your birds. They can be switched on for a few hours each day. One drawback is the UV light generated doesn't travel very far before it loses its strength so bulbs need to be relatively close to the birds and changed annually as they do wear out.
 
Iodine  is another mineral most bird keepers are familiar with, it is often available as the little pink block attached to the bars of a cage that many parrots will destroy in a single sitting. iodine is good for the blood, its helps with the movement of oxygen around the body and increases the amount of oxygen which can be absorbed by the blood, in turn keeping the heart and arteries healthy.
 
 Vitamin C  has been proven to condition the skin and fortify the immune system. Good sources for vitamin C are Fruit and Vegetables, Supplements and Berries, Rose Hips being one of the most concentrated natural sources of vitamin C available
.
B Vitamins, a whole range of them, look after the nervous system. They are obtained from Green food stuff, yeasts,cod liver oil and milk. Psittamix has seven different ones listed on the tub. They also come from sprouting seeds which are always a good supplement to your birds diet. B vitamins are also required for growth particularly when young, when there are huge stresses on the avian body. Deficiency  can lead to nervous disorders such as feather plucking in African Greys, fits and reduced appetite.
Vitamin A is stored within the liver. Vitamin A deficiency is difficult to diagnose and can then lead to lowered breeding results, gut infections and eye troubles. Vitamin A is especially low in seed mixtures so a good supplement is needed to redress this balance. Junglegold  Parrot Palm Fruit Extract and Psittamix both contain Vitamin A.
 
A Vitamin associated with fertility is Vitamin E, found in Junglegold  Parrot Palm Fruit Extract and Psittamix. It is associated with kidney diseases which quite often can prove to be irreversible once discovered. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant which prevents blood toxicity and balances the metabolism.
 
Most birds at one time or another will injure themselves. Be it a knock on the side of the cage and a bleeding cere, or something more serious. In these cases Vitamin K is the vitamin that has a part to play. Normally produced within the body by intestinal bacteria it can also be ingested via a food supplement. Note intestinal bacteria can be boosted by using a good quality probiotic. Green foods are a good natural source of Vitamin K. Vitamin K helps to clot the blood, preventing haemorrhaging and speeding up the time it takes for a wound to heal.
 
Vitamins need minerals to help in their work. Vitamin E for example may boost your birds libido but unless you have Selenium to help out much of the Vitamin E will be wasted. While on the reproductive front you will also need Sulphur and Magnesium. Iron is for bone growth along is Calcium and Copper. Cobalt is for blood production and Zinc in the correct amounts is essential for just about everything. Too much Zinc however can make a bird very ill.