Obesity can develop in all types of captive birds. But canaries, budgies, cockatoos, and amazon parrots are more prone to obesity than others. When it occurs, it can cause several health problems, such as fatty liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and many others. Obesity can also cause other issues during the breeding season, such as egg binding and low fertility.
Causes of obesity in pet birds
The causes of obesity in pet birds are not different from humans. A combination of an unbalanced diet and lack of exercise and movement will cause obesity in pet birds. And just like humans, some birds within the same species are more prone to gain weight than others. When I fed my juvenile canaries the same diet over a year, some of them gained fat, and others were fatless.
Treating overweight pet birds
The treatment of obesity in pet birds is also no different than what we do as humans to lose weight. A combination of low-calorie intake and exercise would do the trick. In most cases, we can treat obesity in birds by changing the diet and lifestyle as follows:
The diet must be balanced and contain low calories. Low-calorie intake is achieved by reducing fatty or oily seeds, such as flaxseed, niger seed, rapeseed, almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, etc. or by increasing non fatty seeds such as millet seeds as they contain relatively low calories. The type of seed provided depends on bird dietary behavior.
Some international companies offer customized seed mixtures aimed at preventing obesity or reducing weight in pet birds. Below is the breakdown of seed mixture for managing obesity in canaries taken from one of the leading companies of avian feed:
- Canary seed 76% non- oily
- Rapeseed 12% oily
- Peeled oats 5% nonoily
- Linseed flax 4% oliy
- Hempseed 2% oily
- Niger seed 1% oily
- Total oily seeds 19%
- Total nonoily seeds 81%
- Total seed percentage 100%
Seed mixture selection and percentage weight may not be enough to manage overweight birds. Sometimes it is necessary to stop offering an open buffet of seeds. So, the bird will only get a specific quantity of daily seeds depending on how much it weighs. For example, canaries eat 30 % of their weight, and a normal-sized canary weighs 15 grams on average. Therefore, it would eat 4.5 grams of seeds daily. Hence, this is the maximum daily seed the canary should get to limit food and calorie intake. The bird should never have to starve, and it is a good idea to add supplements such as multivitamins during the weight loss program.
A balanced diet with low-calorie intake can also be achieved by routinely adding fruits and vegetables to the bird’s diet. But be careful of foods harmful to birds, click here. For the best fruits and vegetables for birds, click here. Lettuce and cucumber are a good choice to manage obesity as they contain low calories, but you should know that these foods provide minimal nutritional value, and they also make birds drooping loose as they contain high water content. Other more nutritious fruits and vegetables and yet have a low-calorie profile include apples and boiled zucchini, and carrots.
So offering a limited amount and specific type of seeds as well as providing fruits and vegetables should help your bird lose weight over time. Please note that birds lose fat during the breeding season as it takes so much from their energy. The breed will gain fat again after the breeding season ends. Keep in mind that it is good to gain a bit of fat before the winter to withstand cold temperatures. However, birds will perform poorly during the breeding season if they become and remain obese or overweight up to this period.
For more effective results, you should make your bird burn more calories by letting it move and exercise more. So, you should allow your bird to roam in a big cage or preferably in a room.