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The Basic Nutrients

The Basic Nutrients

Water - The body is composed of approximately 80% water!  Every cell is dependent upon water for it's very existence.  It is necessary for energy production, transportation of nutrients, and to help regulate body temperature.  It is well known that a body can survive longer without food than without water.  Under extreme conditions, it is possible to lose 50% of muscle mass and almost 100% of fat stores, but a 15% fluid loss could lead to death.

A constant source of CLEAN water is essential for your bird's well being.  Be sure to keep water containers clean and to change the water at least daily.  More frequent changes are needed if the bird drops it's food in the water, since food will contaminate the water quickly.  Also, place food and water cups in areas where droppings will not fall into them.  For example keep them out from under perches. 

Proteins are essential for the health and maintenance of all body issues.  They play a key role in normal growth, reproduction and resistance to infection.  Proteins are made up of small sub units called amino acids.  Every species has it's own requirements for certain amino acids.  These essential amino acids cannot be manufactured by the body and must be provided by the diet.  Common sources of proteins include bean, nuts, eggs, meat and dairy products.

Carbohydrates are the body's primary fuel. They are found in plants and include starches and simple sugars.  Carbohydrates that are not immediately needed by the body are stored in the liver and muscles.  Fiber, often found in carbohydrates, helps maintain normal intestinal function and prevent constipation. Common sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, and cereal grains.

Fats are the most concentrated energy source.  They provide more than twice as much energy per unit than either protein or carbohydrates.  Fats insulate and store energy for the body and are also required for the normal absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.  Common sources of Fats include nuts, seeds, and many dairy products.

Minerals play a crucial role in the maintenance and strength of bone, normal cell function, nerve conduction and muscle contraction. They are also important in maintaining the proper balance of body fluids.  Minerals are required in only minute amounts, but the balance between different minerals is crucial. If this balance is disrupted, it can lead to serious problems.  Therefore, supplementation, if needed at all is is best done with a complete, balanced mineral supplement.

Grit:  While not a food grit is something people think all birds need. They do not,  If it is overeaten, grit impaction can occur in the digestive system.    Chickens and turkeys eat whole seeds and require small bits of sand to grind off the coating of the seed in order to digest it.  Parrots, on the other hand, crack their seeds before they eat them.  This eliminates the need for "grinding stones" in the gizzard.   Finches and canaries do require extremely small amounts of grit in order to digest their food.  Two pieces per week is probably adequate for these birds. 

A danger exists in overfeeding grit to birds.  From boredom or sickness, birds sometimes eat too much grit and they can develop an impaction in the digestive tract. For the same reason, you should not use sand-covered cage liner or sand-covered perch wrappers even if it is not called "grit".  Birds can eat this sand as well. 

.... Gary A. Gallerstein, The Complete Pet Bird Owner's Handbook



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