From what was originally breadcrumbs and food scraps offer the public now demand and use a whole range of prepared diets from mixtures to a multitude of different feeds such as so-called fat or suet balls.
Unlike other areas of the Pet and Animal Food Industry the wild bird market sadly remains very unregulated. In recent years we have seen a marked alteration in the demand by consumers for high-quality pet products which in turn require the requisite high-quality ingredients.
Recent careful examination of wild bird foods by Feldyfare Limited identify some potentially alarming elements in the product offers and at times all is not what it seems. This is particularly true in the area of Fat Balls where it is very easy to include materials which one might otherwise not wish to see used as they have very little benefit to the birds eating them.
Careful examination of the Ash content of Fat Balls demonstrates that many products are at levels as high as 30% which in simple terms means that virtually one-third of the product is of zero value to the bird as it is excreted very quickly. This, in turn, leads to a very interesting potential danger in severely limiting the appetite and intake of the bird.
Research shows that birds will consume circa 35% of their body weight as food per day so for example, a Blue Tit weighing 18 grams could eat 6 – 7 grams of food daily. If one-third of this is of no value the bird eventually will go into a negative weight loss which in adverse weather is a real problem. We do not see this from the kitchen window so we must be absolutely certain that what we are feeding is perfect. Failure to do so will mean that bird health is affected and you will lose your bird population to a neighbour who is prudent with their feeding regime.
In general terms, we should probably be very aware of fat balls which cost less than £5.00 per bucket as it is virtually impossible to formulate a wholesome product to sell at this price. Suet balls continue to be an enigma as they are unlikely to contain more than 15 to 20% suet but this is sufficient to satisfy Trading Standards. A quick look at the world price for suet and certain fats and oils demonstrates this point.
Responsible feeders should look towards the use of a complete food ball balanced for energy and protein with levels of both these elements in excess of 16%. Colour recognition is important to the bird so buy something that is a yellow to orange tint rather than dull grey and you will be surprised at the results.
Finally, consider the trend to feed products containing calcium for eggshell quality? Whilst one could just about claim a benefit for female birds at breeding time what happens when the other half of the bird population which is male eats such a product. It has no use at all for this excess of calcium and it will excrete it immediately as well as limiting its intake.
Also, make sure that at times of water shortage that you supply a dish of water as this will encourage dry food intake and digestion. Water intake varies considerably depending on the weather but a rule of thumb is that a bird will drink its own body weight in one day.
Feldy address the issues outlined in this article by producing a colour matched Complete Food Ball perfectly balanced for oil and protein from 12 human food grade materials. Daily use of Golden Balls will ensure perfect bird health, increased numbers to your garden and continuing fun for you in watching them return daily.