An ideal source of protein is egg albumen, a portion of an egg white. It is widely available and contains all the amino acids considered essential for Quakers. A good way to serve egg white is to hard-boil eggs and mash them with a fork. Your birds will relish this treat, but be sure to remove any egg they do not eat within an hour to prevent them from consuming spoiled food. Dry beans also provide a good source of protein. Cooking and adding them to vegetables and fruits is an enjoyable treat for any Quaker. Some bean diets can be made in large quantities and frozen in portions to be thawed later. Many bird owners serve half of their birds’ food as a bean mixture.
Seeds, once the mainstay of diets for all pet birds, have become surprisingly controversial. Nature’s way of providing a compact and convenient nutritional source, a seed can remain dormant for many months without spoiling. Also true is the fact that an impressive number of nutrients can be packed into a small seed, including everything that a young plant needs to grow except soil, air and water. But the one thing we must never forget is that this perfect design is intended for the benefit of a plant, which, once it is growing, can make many of its own nutrients. Seed was never designed to be a complete diet for a bird, which would naturally ingest green plant material, insect parts and sweet or bitter fruits as well as the seed while foraging in the wild, nor is the seed’s rot-resistant packaging meant to be an excuse for us not to provide our pets with fresh food every day.
In the past few years as more information is becoming available regarding the best care you can provide for your Quaker, seed has developed an unfairly “seedy” reputation in many knowledgeable bird circles. Yet seed is not inherently bad for your Quaker. It is, in fact, one of the most valuable of foods. Cereal grains (seeds of various grasses) were once the centerpiece of the human diet. To deny a Quaker all access to this wholesome, natural food that it would naturally eat in the wild is a bit extreme.
It is quite true that a bird cannot live on seed alone any more than a human being can live on bread, rice or corn alone. Nevertheless, seed does provide a natural, calorie-rich source of a variety of nutrients that can be stored without the addition of preservatives. It is a small miracle of nature that deserves both our appreciation and our respect.
Sunflower and Safflower Seeds
Sunflower and safflower seeds are two popular oil seeds used as main ingredients in many bird mixes. Both seeds are high in fat and rich in calories. For instance, sunflower is about 55% fat. But do keep in mind that these high-fat seeds were selected only to provide a concentrated energy source to fuel a bird’s fast metabolism. A Quaker who is underweight and undernourished is generally at critical risk for its life. And fat is necessary to keep the skin soft and feathers shiny. So why then do we see such hysteria over high-fat, high-sunflower-seed diets?
In the past, basic bird mixes usually contained only sunflower seeds, corn, peanuts and perhaps some dried red peppers. This was by no means a complete diet, and provided only calories and fats. Serious health problems were observed by owners in birds who were fed such mixes without supplementation. The most notable were diseases related to vitamin A deficiencies.