Voice Card  -  Volume 19  -  Drury Card Number 34  -  Sun, Mar 17, 1991 11:26 PM

Drury R., DVM

2. Does sprouting seed, beans, etc. increase the nutritional value or just make it more palitable to the birds? Does sprouting sunflower or safflower change it from a fatty seed to a sugar or starch?

A: Seeds do change as they germinate. In the case of the fatty seeds such as sunflower and safflower, the fat is the energy supply for the growing plant embryo. Basically a germinating plant increases in water content, produces simple sugars such as maltose and complex carbohydrates such as cellulose, and increases in some vitamins and minerals. Therefore, depending on the time allowed for growth, there will be a change from a "fatty" seed to a sprout with more carbohydrates, water, and vitamins & minerals. An aside; carbohydrates can be described as simple, which are the sugars, and complex, which are the starches and cellulose.

It is difficult to say that sprouting seeds or beans increases their nutritional value. Sprouting changes the seeds and beans. Neither the sprouts nor the seeds/beans themselves are nutritionally complete alone. Another way to view this is by comparing the nutritional value of chicken eggs to the hatched chicken. (I am using this example because while I could find nutritional information on various seeds, I could not find the same information on each as a sprouted plant.) When comparing the egg to the whole chicken, there are significant differences in the water content, percentage protein, percentage fat, percentage crude fiber, and calcium levels. The nutritional value is going to be determined by the other foods eaten to meet an animal's daily requirements (and in large animals, by the cost of the foods). For example, if the animal's daily requirement of fat was met by another food, the chicken (which has lower fat than an egg) may be of greater nutritional value than the egg.

As you can begin to appreciate, nutrition is a complex study. Until nutritional research has progressed to scientifically describing the nutritional needs of each avian species, I recommend offering a well-rounded diet to your psittacine friends. Feed them a "healthy person diet", from the basic food groups. If you can substitute a dry pelleted diet for the seed mixture, this will also help provide a better balanced diet. Use the seeds and sprouts as supplements.

I did experiment with the palatability question. My cockatiels and budgies are on a 75% to 90% pellet diet. When offered a choice, they appeared to race to the sprouts just as quickly as they jumped for the seeds. I also could not determine whether they enjoyed eating one over the other. They ate both with apparently equal gusto.

There are some precautions to observe when using sprouts. The dampness of the sprouting seeds/beans provides an excellent breeding ground for fungus, molds, and bacteria. If the sprouts do not look or smell right, throw them out! Also, use a seed/bean mixture that is marketed as a sprouting mixture. Commercial seeds for growing produce are usually treated with chemicals to insure the growth of a plant. On the positive side, sprouts are a good way to start the conversion from your feathered friend's seed only diet.