Sprouting seeds, beans, peas and grains are a natural and healthy way to provide nutrition to your birds. In addition to being an excellent source of amino acids found in living plants, they provide variety in the diet (texture, color and taste) and can become favorites of many birds.Sprouting is easy to do, once you’ve learned the procedure. And there are a large variety of grains, seeds, beans and peas that can be used.
You can buy beans, peas, and grains for sprouting from the bulk bins at the health food store or you can get special ones (they cost much more) intended for sprouting. I have found that the ones in the bulk bins sprout as well, at a significant reduction in price.
Some seeds, beans and peas for sprouting include:
- Radish seeds
- Mung beans
- Chinese Red Peas (may be called adzuki)
- Sunflower seeds
- Cabbage seeds
- Green peas (whole, not split peas)
- Garbanzo beans
- Wheat berries
- Popcorn kernels
Popcorn kernels are an excellent addition to the sprouting mix. They are a clean human quality corn product and sprout well and quickly.
Don’t use any seeds intended for planting in your sprouting mix.
Don’t sprout soybeans, lima beans or kidney beans. They have an enzyme that needs to be inactivated by heat.
Buy a sprouting jar from the health food store. “THE JAR” Seed Sprouter by Sprout Ease comes with 3 different plastic mesh tops and is affordable and easy to use. The different size holes in each top allow you to rinse everything from small seeds to sunflower seeds. I run the sprouting jars and the plastic screens in the dishwasher each time before I set the seeds to soaking.
Rinse the seeds in very hot water. Shake and rinse the seeds vigorously several times to knock off and rinse away any grime or other debris. Often the reason that sprouts spoil is that they aren’t rinsed vigorously enough before set to soak.
Soak the sprout mix for 6 to 8 hours. Change the soaking water at least once unless soaking overnight – refilling the jar with hot water after rinsing. Rinse with tepid water several times before serving in the morning. If the sprouts are soaked, rinsed, drained and set to sprout during the day, rinse them several times during the day with warm water. The seeds to be sprouted should not sit in water except when they are soaking. After rinsing, prop the jar at a 45 degree angle – this will allow any of the water left in the jar to drain away but the seeds will still be moist. Gently shake the jar to spread the seeds out onto the side of the jar. Spreading them out will expose more surface to the air. You don’t have to wait until the sprout tails start peeking out. By soaking, you have already begun the life cycle of the seed.
Once the mix sprouts, be very gentle when rinsing so that you don’t damage the sprout tails. Serve them shorter rather than longer – when they get long, they can be bitter. About a quarter inch is a nice length for the sprouts. If they develop roots or leaves, don’t feed them – they won’t taste good.
If you have one medium to large bird, a third cup of a sprouting mix should be enough for a couple of meals. A heaping spoonful of sprouts can be mixed in with a slightly reduced portion of the regular breakfast.
Sprouts are a wonderful food for birds, especially for Amazons if they need to go on a diet.
Doing Your Own Cultures (Save Time and Money)
Being able to do your own cultures and or gram stains can be essential tools to help you determine if and what problems might be brewing in your aviary.
This is especially important in the avian nursery. A sick baby needs help immediately, and being able to quickly and inexpensively do cultures for the major gram negative bacteria adds a big gun to your arsenal in aviary management. It lowers your costs, enables you to culture your birds frequently and shortens the up to week long waiting time that most commercial laboratories take to give culture results to only 48 or 72 hours. It costs about $5 to do your own culture, while it might cost anywhere between $40 to $50 to have the cultures sent out to a commercial lab. It is still advisable and sometimes necessary to use a commercial lab for certain types of tests, but testing for e.coli, salmonella, candida, etc. can be done quickly and easily in the aviary.
The ability to do your own cultures can be especially meaningful to the aviculturist who lives in an isolated area and doesn’t have quick and easy access to a veterinary clinic.