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Health Articles / Feather Quality
article was written for the Scottish Zebra Finch Society and
is targeted at exhibitors but it is just as relevant to all
owners of pet, breeder or show birds.
Feathers are critical for show birds. They create an illusion
of size and they give much of the shape to the bird. If they
get damaged the bird is useless in the show cage. So anything
we can do to improve feather quality will help us to improve
Most of us know that feathers are largely made of protein so
it is not surprising that this component is a very important
part of the diet of moulting birds. What most people don't know
is that feather protein is very different in its composition
to the other proteins in the bird's body. Understanding this
can help us to maximize feather quality and dramatically shorten
the time taken for a complete moult.
Proteins are made up of about 22 amino acids. Eight of these
the bird cannot manufacture for itself. We call these essential
amino acids for obvious reasons. Of those eight two are particularly
deficient in seed (in fact any plant based) diets. So they are
called limiting amino acids. Because of the deficiency of these
limiting amino acids in the diet birds can only use about 60%
of the protein they consume from plant sources.
It is simple for a manufacturer to incorporate these key nutrients
into a supplement and correct this balance. Unfortunately many
leave them out or put just token quantities into their products.
Amino acid supplements must be given to birds on food as they
smell very unpleasant in drinking water!
Because this sort of supplement improves protein utilisation
so efficiently it actually reduces seed consumption (and your
bills) and prevents obesity which can distort the shape of show
birds and reduce breeding performance.
The limiting amino acids contain sulphur and research at the
Institute of Animal Nutrition in Hanover (carried out on canaries)
tells us that 70% of the sulphur containing amino acids in a
bird are in the feathers. So the demand for these nutrients
during the moult (and for chicks) is extremely high. If there
isn't enough limiting amino acids in the diet birds cannot replace
feathers very quickly so they drop them slowly and the moult
takes a long time. Feather quality can be compromised.
We have found that, by combining large quantities of sulphur
containing amino acids with balanced protein and our unique
"Maxima" source of bio-available sulphur we can give birds the
key nutrients they require for rapid feather growth. Because
these feathers are made from good quality raw materials they
tend to be stronger too.
I cannot quantify the effect in zebra finches but, in the falconry
sector, we are shortening moulting times by six weeks.
Much to the amazement of the most experienced of falconers.
From our product range this effect can be achieved by two different
methods. Either use Feather-Up
or a combination of Daily Essentials3
and half breeder dose of ProBoost
SuperMax. It is a good idea to make sure the birds are getting
enough calcium as well with once or twice a week CalciBoost.
Remember these supplements cannot be used in water so you must
either add them to seed (which is inefficient) or feed a soft
food like Feast (with added health promoting herbal extracts!).