Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Update on dry food for shamas

Shamas that live in the wild always seem to be in good health and physical condition.  During the molting season when the birds are having a change of feathers and not looking at their best, they are elusive and not easily seen.  Those that respond to the calls of a decoy (picard) have shiny feathers and I have not seen a wild-caught shama with scissors-tails.  This is not so with birds kept in captivity where a great number do not appear to be in top condition when compared to their brethren in the wild.

I am sure that the main cause of captive shamas not being at their best is that the food they get in captivity does not contain all the nutrients that they need and which they are able to get in the wild.  For instance, if our shamas are fed “live” food, these are usually limited to one or more of frogs, fish, crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers or pineapple beetles.  The limited live food just does not provide them with the large variety of insects and other live food that the birds in the wild consume.

For our captive birds to do well, the best that we can do for them is to feed them a dry food that has been found to be suitable and supplement it with some live food.  What is the “best dry food” for our shamas.

There is the food made by John Yim which is an old staple that has proved itself over more than 50 years.  When I first started in shamas, I was amazed at the top condition of his birds.  He fed them his dry food with very little supplementation of live food.  I used to keep him company while he made the food and learnt much from him.  John’s food is nowadays available from only one source that I know of, the bird-shop in Clementi.  Possibly for this reason, it is not widely used in Singapore.

For many years I used the brand “Chee Seng” and my birds did reasonably well on the food.  This is no longer available.

Some of the owners of shamas tried feeding them the commercially available pellets that are formulated for chickens.  The locally available chicken pellets did not prove viable in the long run and the shamas seemed to suffer from feather plucking, lack of form etc.  

A food that seems to have chicken pellets as its main ingredient is “Emas 10”.  I understand it is widely used in Malaysia.  Recently, I have heard reasonably good reports of the use of very dark chicken pellets that is available in northern Malaysia.  I have not tried it on my shamas.

Several years ago, a brand by the name of P28 was introduced to the local market.  The preliminary reports that I came across were favourable and my friends and I tried it over a period of 3 months or so.  Our birds did well and I gave a glowing review of the food on my blog.  Unfortunately, our birds began to do less well after this time and we all stopped using the food.

I think about a year ago, a brand by the name of Molossian was introduced to the Singapore market. The main ingredient was stated to be giant earthworm with protein of 55% and fat 12%.  I bought a tub and tried it on one of my birds. I did not buy another tub. For a time, the bird-shops carried it on their shelves but it does not seem to be available anymore.

Dried insects based food.  I have tried several brands but they were all found to be lacking.  The main problem with such foods is that good quality dried insects is prohibitively expensive and the insects used in such foods may not be top grade.

What then is the best shama food that is available from the shops.  For me, it must be Three Coins.  This food comes in 2 grades with the higher priced food in tubs.  Get the food in packets.  It is lower priced than that sold in tubs but the reason for getting it is that the birds prefer it and do better on it.

Recently, I started using a food that Jeffrey Low recommended that I try.  Preliminary results are good but I hesitate to recommend it without first carrying out extensive trials.

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