Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dry Food by Jeffrey Low

I am often intrigued by the traditional way of feeding softbill songbirds in this region and its proven result of caged birds in tip top singing form almost all year round, that we so often see in the chai arenas. In the 60's, dry bird food was not available over the counter and we all have to make our own from receipies passed down from the older generations. Over the years, I believe that there is little change in the basic ingredients - mainly beans and nuts and heavy reliability on the nutritional values of eggs. This is in great contrast to the westerners approach of using a dried insects and dried fruit mix for softbills (a more scientific approach to providing a diet closer to that of the wild birds). The only similarity between their approach and ours is the feeding of live food in addition to the dry staples. Our diet resulted in having birds in tip top conditions almost all year round (as opposed to their wild cousins that could only come into this form during the breeding season). Hence, my belief that the dried food that we are feeding to our caged birds here are far more superior in terms of achieving our goal than the diet of their wild cousins, once they are able to adjust their digestive system to accomodate the change.

I would like to pay tribute to David's write up on this topic and his unselfish sharing of his views on the shama diet. Regarding the chicken feed : I strongly believe that the chicken feed avaiblable here these days are made from discarded by- products of corn and other grains, mostly grounded up husks, stalks, etc which are of little food value (except maybe for vitamin b complex). I really doubt if they add in fish meals like they use to.

I believe that "chwee bang" is a beneficial addition to the dry food of shama and magpie robin. Some may argue that it is of low food value and contains too much chitin. Regarding Shanlung's comment on the dog and cat food, I would like to point out that these days, the better brands of dog food stressed on using animal proteins over vege proteins (because of the controversies regarding the digestibility and absorption of soy protein in dogs and the cause of bloat). Over the years, I had tried mixing dog/cat food with the dry food of insectivorous birds in different proportions and find it to be excellent, at least in the case of my orange headed thrush. I believe that that it is the sulphur containing amino acids found in the meat proteins of the dog/cat food that aided in a complete and good moult of the thrush and it came into song soon after that (it had a bad moult before and had stopped singing for almost a year).

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