Whether it’s a budgerigar, parrot, canary, or any other species of bird, bird owners have a great responsibility towards their animals and should always be aware of this. This refers both to the husbandry of the animals, for example, that the cage is big enough and the birds are allowed regular free flights, are not kept alone, and always have a clean cage.
Diet is also very important and should not be underestimated. So it is not enough to just give the birds cheap bird food from the supermarket. Birds need various vitamins to stay healthy and feel good. In this article, we explain which vitamins your birds need.
What happens if birds get no or too few vitamins?
Birds quickly suffer from vitamin deficiencies, which in the worst case can have life-threatening consequences. Birds most commonly suffer from vitamin A deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, which incidentally often occurs with calcium deficiency, and vitamin B deficiency, with many other important vitamins also needing to be provided.
Such a deficiency occurs when the animal does not get enough vitamins through food.
Vitamin A deficiency:
Birds that don’t get enough vitamin A can often no longer defend themselves against pathogens because the animals’ own immune systems are severely weakened. Furthermore, this deficiency can have a negative effect on the reproduction and the bone structure of the animals, and the respiratory tract is not spared either.
With a severe vitamin A deficiency, your bird may show symptoms of a cold or even have breathing problems. In parrots, vitamin A deficiency often leads to various fungal infections, including aspergillosis.
Vitamin D deficiency:
Vitamin D is very important for the bones of birds, so that an undersupply can cause damage to the skeleton. It is therefore important that the animals receive sufficient vitamin D and also plenty of sunlight to process this important vitamin.
Vitamin B and E deficiency:
A deficiency in these two vitamins can cause the birds to convulse quickly. Various neurological disorders are increasingly occurring, so that the animal can even suffer from various types of paralysis.
How does a vitamin deficiency manifest itself in birds?
Many bird owners are not always sure whether their beloved pets are getting enough vitamins. However, there are signs in birds that can indicate a possible vitamin deficiency.
These appear as follows:
|Type of defect||Typical symptoms|
|vitamin A deficiency||the skin of the animals quickly becomes scaly and dry, which is particularly noticeable on the stand
the birds may show signs of colds
the plumage of animals changes, which can indicate both color and density. It looks unkempt and disheveled
yellow spots can form on the mucous membrane of the animals
Swelling of salivary and/or lacrimal glands
the resistance of the birds decreases
of vitamin D, E, or selenium
|stretch cramps may occur
the bird seems uncoordinated
the animal may convulse
paralysis may occur
of vitamin D, calcium
|Skeletal deformities appear
How can you prevent a vitamin deficiency?
It is important to always provide the bird with important vitamins so that the various deficiencies cannot occur in the first place. This includes, for example, a balanced diet and only giving a high-quality feed. The cage should be positioned so that the animals get enough sunlight and the space should be larger rather than too small.
When choosing the right food, you must make sure that it has been specially adapted to the species of bird you are keeping. So there is special budgerigar food or food for parrots and co.
In addition to the actual birdseed, there are other ways to give vitamins. For example, there are special calcium stones, which should be freely accessible throughout the cage. Chickweed from the garden also contains many important vitamins.
An overview of the individual vitamins and where to find them
The various vitamins are vital for your birds and should therefore always be made available in sufficient quantities. Most bird species can only produce vitamin C and D themselves.
This means that the other vitamins or their precursors must be excluded from the diet. These are divided into fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. How many vitamins and which types of vitamins are particularly needed depends on the bird species, so it is important to inquire about which vitamins should be given and in what amounts. Because not only too few vitamins are harmful, too many vitamins also have a negative effect on the health of your animals.
There is also a higher requirement when the animals are growing or hatching, so that synthetic vitamins will also make sense in this situation.
The fat-soluble vitamins
Vitamin A is only found in food of animal origin, so your birds can only get this vitamin directly from the yolk of a hen’s egg. However, numerous plants contain the so-called pro-vitamin A, which is also known as carotene. Your bird can use these elements to produce vitamin A itself.
More precisely, vitamin D is the vitamin D group, which consists of D2, D3 and the provitamin 7-dehydrocholesterol, which is also known as the so-called precursor of the important cholesterol. This is converted under the skin by your bird to previtamin D3 and then to vitamin D3, for which UV light is very important.
The need for vitamin E is higher in the different bird species than in mammals. This vitamin is stored by animals in the lungs, liver, adipose tissue and spleen. Even if nature has a total of eight different forms of vitamin E, only alpha-tocopherol is important for the animals.
In nature, vitamin K exists as K1 and K2. While the K2 vitamin is formed in the animals’ intestines by the microorganisms present there and is absorbed through the animal’s faeces, the K1 vitamin must be given separately. This vitamin can be stored by the bird in the liver and is essential for blood clotting.
The water-soluble vitamins
The water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored by your birds, so there is no risk of overdosing. For this reason, it is important to constantly supply the body with the various vitamins so that there is no deficiency.
Vitamin B1 is particularly sensitive and can be quickly destroyed by too much light, too much heat or too much air.
Vitamin B2 is also often referred to as a growth vitamin and is a component of many different enzymes. Furthermore, the B2 vitamin is involved in the formation and breakdown of fatty acids and promotes them.
Vitamin C is found in many different plants, fruit, and also in animal feed and should be given in sufficient quantities. If your bird is ill or in stressful situations, you should pay particular attention to the vitamin C content and support your animals with synthetic vitamin supplements over a period of time.
In which products are vitamins found?
The following table provides you with a good overview of the most important vitamins and in which products they can be found so that you can provide your birds with an adequate supply.
|Vitamins||What foods contain it?|
|Vitamin A||contained in food of animal origin
contained in plants with yellow, red and orange coloring
|Vitamin D||UV light promotes vitamin D3 (direct sunlight or special bird lights)
synthetic vitamin supplements,
Balanced calcium and phosphorus content which should be 2:1 in the feed
is also contained in chicken eggs
|Vitamin B1||plant food
|Vitamin B2||animal products
|Vitamin C||in most birdseed
For this reason, the vitamins are needed:
- to protect the skin;
- to protect the mucous membranes;
- for growth (here vitamin A is needed in a higher dose).
- regulates the calcium-phosphorus metabolism;
- preserves the bone substance;
- important for education;
- prevents egg failure.
- protects the fat-soluble vitamins;
- protects the unsaturated fatty acids;
- enhances the effect of vitamin A;
- important for the muscles.
- important for carbohydrate metabolism;
- important for the nervous system.
- important for growth;
- important for the plumage.
- strengthens the immune system;
- important in diseases;
- important in times of stress;
- affects cellular respiration;
- affects the hormonal balance;
- important for bone formation;
- important for blood formation.
What should be done if there is a vitamin deficiency?
If the bird suffers from one of the vitamin deficiencies mentioned above, it must be reacted to directly and quickly. Now it depends on the extent to which the consequences are already occurring and how advanced the deficiency is. The missing vitamins are now administered to the animal. Depending on the deficiency, the veterinarian injects the vitamins directly into the bird in high doses or administers them through feed and/or drinking water.
Of course, it is important to see why a vitamin deficiency has occurred, so that the feeding has to be adjusted. However, it must be noted that too many vitamins can also be harmful and that consequential damage can also be expected in such a case.
Furthermore, it is checked which symptoms are involved so that these can also be treated. For example, he can inject an anticonvulsant and stabilize the affected animal with various infusions.
Posture is also very important for the veterinarian. For example, a vitamin D deficiency mainly occurs when the animals do not get enough UV light. However, it is important to know that direct sunlight is important for this, as the UV rays are destroyed by a window. For this reason, it is important to put the animals outside on the balcony or in the garden. In such a situation, it is important to change the location of the birdcage. If the animal does not get enough sunlight, its body cannot convert the precursor of vitamin D into the active form, so the body cannot process the actual vitamin D.
What is the prognosis for an existing vitamin deficiency?
How your animal is doing when it is already suffering from a vitamin deficiency depends on the actual deficiency and how far it has progressed. If your bird suffers from a vitamin A deficiency, this can often be treated by adjusting the diet, so that the prognosis is good and positive.
This also applies to a vitamin D deficiency and a calcium deficiency, because the prognosis is still good here, but only as long as they are recognized early. If the parathyroid gland is already affected, the prognosis is unfortunately not quite as good.
The prognosis is also negative if the animal suffers from a vitamin E or vitamin B deficiency because here the nerve cells of the animals are damaged, so that the animal develops neurological problems.
The vet is the right contact person
As soon as you notice a vitamin deficiency in your animals, it is important to go straight to a veterinarian who can take a closer look at the bird and then either identify and treat the deficiency or give the all-clear.
Because it is clear that the earlier the vitamin deficiency is detected, the better the chances of avoiding the worst consequences of a deficiency and of doing something about the deficiency so that your bird gets better quickly and it has the chance of a happy and healthy life again receives.
Other important nutritional components for your birds
In addition to vitamins, you should also make sure that you give your birds enough minerals, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sodium because these are also important for the development and health of your animals. When buying bird food, pay attention to the ingredients and which vitamins are already included, and in what quantities. Always give your birds something green and fresh from time to time, because a balanced diet is guaranteed to make your animals feel very happy.