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Some favourite, early grasses
Practical Aviary/Breeder Pages
Freshly picked seeding
grasses are a budgerigar's favourite food, and the season is -- with luck -- May to September in England.
Seeding Grasses give the birds hours of pleasure. There is no
surer way to make your budgerigars happy than to provide a
generous supply of under ripe, succulent grass seeds. When the
seeds are given to my birds, they stop whatever they are doing,
fall silent, descend on them, and absorb themselves in eating!
The effort of gathering the food is more than rewarded by the
touching sight of the birds' deep contentment.
My budgerigars gnaw the
juice from the soft stems as well as rummaging through the seed
or flower heads, and they can often be seen skillfully
manipulating hard to reach grasses, then grasping them against
the perch with a foot -- behaviour which there is little other
opportunity for in the cage or aviary. These skills would be in
constant use in the wild. Some birds seem close to ecstasy, and
it is such a joy to watch!
Well, grass grows everywhere, and if it is left uncut for a few
weeks in the growing season it begins to seed. The seeds can be
gathered from any clean source where you have a right of access,
and the opportunities will be different in each locality. Likely sources in England may include country parks, public footpaths across fields, wasteland (except with an industrial history), moorland, playing field margins, rough lawns in public places -
possibly including college/university campuses, woodlands, and of
course your own lawn following your summer holiday or other
neglect. If you want to pick grass from a hayfield, ask the
farmer first because this is an actual crop with a value. It may
be worth considering growing grass deliberately as a crop
yourself, just for your birds, and an allotment could provide the
answer -- so long as the person in charge of the allotments is
made aware that the grass is a crop, and not a sign of
abandonment! For getting started, grass seed sold by an
agricultural merchant may suit your purpose at least as well as
Different habitats offer different grass species, and although
most individual species only have a short seeding period, the
full spectrum of grasses can provide green seeds for your
budgerigars for some 5 months in a good season. I rarely collect
fully ripe grass seeds as my birds are unenthusiastic about them,
but your birds may respond differently so try everything on them.
They may become bored if you give them the same grass species for
weeks on end, but ringing the changes with lots of different
varieties will keep their interest alive.
The reaction of other people to the sight of an adult
purposefully picking grass is rather interesting! First they look,
then they walk on, then they stop and look again. Then curiosity
finally gets the better of them and they ask you why you are
doing it! Children, in particular, just can't resist being nosey.
Strangely enough, everyone seems to be satisfied with the
explanation that the seeds are for budgies!!! Some even like to
continue the conversation by telling you all about the wild foods
they have picked for their own pets, of whatever sort.
My favourite, ungrazed, unmown field, is a handy source of many varieties of seed.
Obviously, the seed must be free from contamination, the main
hazards being dogs, pesticides and lead from car exhausts. I
suggest keeping in mind the following points:
- Avoid grasses that grow right by paths
popular for dog-walking.
- Don't pick from the vicinity of crops -
- Don't pick from wasteland that has been
an industrial site in the past - general risk of poisons.
- Don't pick from around trees and fences
in the upkeep of your Council - weedkiller and dog risk.
- Avoid picking from the verges of busy
roads - lead risk - And because lead can be absorbed from
the soil, the risk will continue even when lead is phased
- Avoid the banks of polluted rivers -
these will have been soaked in chemicals when river was
- Watch out for moulds on the stems or
seeds. For instance, some grass species develop rusty
mould if very dry at the roots.
- Avoid certain uncommon grasses which feel
noticeably scratchy to the touch. I once had a minor
problem with a very tall-growing, scratchy grass, because
it caused irritation and vomiting in susceptible
individuals. The birds were fine afterwards, so this was
no big deal.
- While picking, smell your bundle every so
often to check for unhealthy odours such as dog or --
turps! - Yes, I did say turps!!! I once found that very
substance on grass growing on a small patch of wasteland
between houses, and I was glad I'd used my nose!
- Wash all grass thoroughly,
and shake dry.
That's quite a list,
but don't panic!
While taking precautions, it is important to remember that
budgerigars are not particularly at risk from fresh foods, wild
or otherwise. I have never lost a bird because of any sort of
fresh food, but dirty commercial birdseed has caused two deaths.
How Much Should I Feed?
I'd suggest as much as you can provide, whether they have young
or not! This is the most natural of foods. The spent grasses dry
up harmlessly and create a pleasant litter that encourages
fledglings to root on the floor. (NOTE: cages and aviaries should
Can Seeding Grasses Be Stored?
Yes, they are okay for up to 5 days in a plastic bag in the
fridge; or for up to 3 days standing in water - if all right way
up and un-broken.
But don't sneeze just to please!
Hay fever sufferers, and those without access to this food,
should not feel guilty about depriving their budgies of grasses!!
There are many other good foods for them, and other ways to keep
them occupied and happy!
© Helen Day 2000