Monday, June 21, 2010

Vitamin B Complex

I received the email below this morning from an old friend.

"It is with great sadness that I'm writing to you to inform you that [XXX] has pass on. 

It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote to you that XXX has gone into a serious molt. I was looking for a good one, giving him a buffet of live food supplemented with vitamins. The feathers were growing out fine and he is still in a very aggressive form, posturing and singing when I open his cage cloth.

Last week I ran out of B complex tablets that I usually crush and mix with his live food twice a week.  Due to heavy work commitments. I did not go to Guardian to purchase the usual vitamin B tablets. I simply used a B complex liquid that was prescribed for my son several months ago. Last evening, I saw XXX being fluffy and did not touch his live food buffet. I soaked a white meal worm in the liquid B complex but he refused to eat it. Knowing that he had a history of fits, I attempted to catch him to feed him the vitamin but that immediately set off the fit. I managed to feed him a little of the liquid B complex and place him in a small open box to prevent him from flopping around. I immediately rushed off to Guardian to purchase the tablet form B but when I returned home XXX has passed on. On hightsight, I guess that the liquid Vitamin B complex was either past its expiry date or the dosage was not sufficient. When he was molting, he obviously needed a lot more supplements than normal. 

XXX  has been a great pet and will be greatly missed for his song and display. I would like to take this time to thank you for giving me the opportunity to keep XXX, a shama of your fine breeding."

XXX (its real name has not been used) was about 10 years old at the time of his death.  Reading the email, made me think of the large number of shama owners who still do not know or appreciate the importance of vitamin B for shamas.  Only last Saturday, a visitor to my home was asking why his shamas would sometimes have fits.  He said that the fit tended to occur when the bird was being transferred from its cage to the bath cage.

I would like to take this opportunity to explain when and why vitamin B complex should be fed to shamas.

Vitamin B is required for the proper functioning of the nerves.  Without sufficient vitamin B, the nerves   are unable to operate fully.  In the worst case, the bird has is unable to control its movements and this is manifested in the form of fits.  This results in the flopping around that is common with a vitamin B fit.

Apart from its effect on nerves, vitamin B is required for protein digestion.  Birds that are fed dry food where the amount of protein is not high, say about 20% or less of the total food intake, have a lesser requirement for vitamin B supplementation.  During breeding or molting, the captive shama is often fed more live food.  In other words, the protein intake is substantially increased.  There is therefore an increased need for vitamin B.  Some vitamin B is no doubt obtainable from the live food itself but this is apparently not sufficient for birds in captivity.  I suppose, the limited types of livefood in the form of crickets, mealworms frogs fish, pineapple beetles and grass-hoppers do not contain sufficient of the B vitamins.

If the health of the bird is monitored on a daily basis, you will be able to tell when the bird is beginning to suffer from a vitamin B deficiency.  A healthy shama will always appear alert.  Even a very tame bird that does not fly when you approach its cage will look at you with interest.  A shama that is suffering from a deficiency of vitamin B will show little or no interest when you approach its cage.  It will be lethargic.  If it flies, you will observed that it seems to do so with some effort.  Its eyes will also seem dull.

As vitamin B is required to assist the bird to process protein, a deficiency of this vitamin will cause the bird to eat less as it will have difficulty digesting its food.  Therefore a good indication that the bird is approaching a vitamin B deficiency type of fit is that the bird starts to go off its food.  A bird in good condition should eat a lot.  If it starts to eat less, take care.  I have a full day at the office but I try to check the health of my birds at least once or twice a day.  This is easier with the birds in cages.  I remove the previous day's newspaper in the morning so that whatever the bird passes out during the day can be seen.  When I return from work in the evening, I check the newspaper.  If the excreta is not of the amount or type that I expect, I try to figure out why and take remedial action which may involve giving vitamin me.


  1. You are so right about the important of vitamin B complex to the shama. Not only the shama vulnerable and need lots of vitamin B complex during molt, but during grow up as well. Two of my chick (less than 2 months old) got this fits (I believe what you describe fits is another name for "stargazing" where the bird can't control its neck muscle which cause the head tilt back, wing muscle can't work properly and feet can't perch). A few drops of concentrate vitamin B complex liquid can cure this fit in less than an hour if caught early. Thank you for sharing this story and hope the owner find another shama to keep soon. Best Regards.

  2. I have a female shama and it's getting bald everywhere. It's seem that the feather doesn't grow anymore. The feathers color become dull and stiff. This bird doesn't sing or even make a little sound.

  3. it happened to my female shama also but now it's recovery. It seems that the bird have bug disease and also she got wormy disease. Give it more live food, antibiotics for bird directly 2-3 drops for a week and cover the cage. This kind of bald because the bird is not molting perfectly.

    I have 2 breeding cage and last month both lays their eggs.