Millet is loved by wild and domesticated seed-eating birds and form an indispensable part of commercially available balanced grain and seed mixes.
Originally from Africa and China, millet species can range from round to oval in shape, and from white, grey, and pale to yellow, brown and red in colour.
Various millet species and cultivars, such as white proso millet, red millet (finger millet) and pearl millet are cultivated for use in seed and grain mixes for caged birds.
The benefits of feeding millet
Seedeaters adore millet
Millet is a firm favourite of wild and caged seed-eating birds, especially finches, canaries, and small- and medium-sized hookbills.
Even ground-feeding birds such as doves, quail and sparrows enjoy eating millet. By scattering millet on the ground you will encourage the natural feeding behaviour of these birds.
It’s packed with nutrients
Millet is packed with nutrients that are good for your bird, including:
- Calcium & Phosphorous: Essential minerals for skeletal development and muscle function
- Potassium: Plays an essential role in heart health and function
- Magnesium: Necessary for strong bones, beaks and feathers, healthy nerve impulses, and heart health.
- Dietary fibre: Assists with gut health and function.
- Proteins: An essential nutrient required for structure and functioning of muscles important for flying
Red millet is good for your bird’s feathers
Although all millet is good for your bird, red millet contains more carotene pigments than white varieties (3.4 mg/kg vs 1.8 g/kg) and is the best option for plume colour support.
Millets can be used to train healthy eating habits in birds
A common problem among caged birds is that they become “hooked” on oil seeds and nuts, refusing to eat any other food offered to them. Such an exclusive diet negatively affects the bird in the long run.
This is where millet can do wonders! Millet contains much less oil than sunflower and safflower oilseeds (4% versus 40%) but still provides a good source of alternative carbohydrate energy to seed junkies.
Since birds relish millet, you can use it to help wean your bird off its seed and nut addiction, and introduce a more varied diet. Furthermore, since millet is extremely palatable and high in calories, it can be helpful when weaning young birds by encouraging them to eat solid seeds.
A teaspoon of millet can be a tasty treat for small hookbills, but remember that birds tend to gravitate toward millet, so you should therefore always offer it as part of a varied diet to prevent your bird from becoming a picky eater.
Use it to attract more wild birds to your garden
Millets, whether sown or scattered in the garden, are enjoyed by wild birds and offers a great way to help lure wild birds into your garden.
In cold food-scarce winter months, non-migrating wild birds appreciate seeds offered in bird feeders or suet in the garden or around the house.
How do I feed millet to my bird
Birds that have evolved to eat seeds need access to a variety of seeds from an early age to help develop their digestive capacity.
It is important to consider this when offering millets to birds as some birds may overeat themselves on certain millet varieties.
However, if hookbills are allowed to de-husk seeds like millet themselves, foraging behaviour is stimulated, and feed intake slowed down, preventing overeating.
Baking millet mixes in cookie or rusk form, or adding it to seed blocks may help limit over-eating or boredom eating.
Low-set tray feeders, small tube feeders, hopper feeders, open platform feeders and dish feeders all work well when feeding millet grains.
Containers must have good drainage to help prevent mould poisoning or germination after rain.
Striking a balance
Millets should always form part of a balanced mix of seeds and grains. Although generally rich in protein, fibre and minerals, it does not provide the nutrition needed for healthy caged birds when offered as the only food source.
Millet must be offered as part of a diverse diet that includes seeds, grains, and other foods such as fruits and vegetables, especially during moulting, weaning or breeding.
Sourcing Good Quality Millet
Always source millet from a reputable supplier and only offer shiny and dust-, insect- and pesticide-free millets to birds. Dusty and mouldy seeds may cause air sack irritation and inflammation that may cause respiratory stress and disease. Mouldy seeds are a relatively common cause of illness and death in caged birds.
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