When To Use Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

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Q: Is it safe or dangerous to use vitamin and mineral supplements when your birds are eating a pelleted diet? We have read and heard that the manufacturers don’t recommend it. On the other hand, many breeders who use pellets tell us that they use supplements as well and have good results. Do you know what is behind this conflicting information? We are trying to decide on the best diet for our breeders.

A: As in many cases of conflicting information from two supposedly reliable sources, both are correct. That is, both can be correct under different sets of circumstances. Pellet manufacturers have worked for years to try to develop diets that have the optimum quantities of all the nutrients that have been known to be beneficial for your birds. There is a major difference between optimum quantities and minimum requirements. When you supplement a diet that supplies minimum daily requirements, you do so with the correct assumption that optimum quantities have usually proven to be higher than minimum requirements. The problem comes when you begin to supplement a diet that already contains optimum levels of certain nutrients that have the ability to be toxic. If you exceed the optimum levels for these nutrients by too great a degree, you can cause harm to the health of your birds.

Those who feed only pellets are best advised to follow the manufacturer’s suggestions. Birds that are exclusively fed diets that already come fully supplemented should not need further supplementation. Further supplementation can be dangerous unless you have the nutritional knowledge to make these types of decisions.

There are also those who choose to use a diet that consists of only a portion of pellets. They make up the rest of the diet with a mixture that may contain fruits, vegetables, cooked beans, sprouted beans, nuts or seeds. It is common and proper in many of these cases to use supplements. Many professional aviculturists do this and greatly enhance the health and productivity of their birds. These people can honestly say that they feed pellets, as well as use supplements, and have marvelous success. It must be remembered, however, that they are supplementing the part of the diet that does not consist of pellets.

In other words, they are supplementing the part of the diet that has not been previously supplemented. In order to make sure that this remains the case, use supplements that were made to sprinkle on fruits, vegetables and sprouts. In this way, they will have to be eating unsupplemented food in order to get the supplements.