Barking Mad

You may have noticed that your birds are crazy abut wood and they are not always fussy about whether it is the wood they should be eating (such as branches that their owners have given them to wreck) or the brand new dowels that have been provided for perches that they attack.

Of course you if you can give them natural branches for their perches, these satisfy both needs and can be replaced when they have both been eaten through. It can however be difficult to find strong straight branches of the right dimensions to suit your aviary.


Having read several articles expounding the value of bark to provide cellulose (roughage) to the birds' diet I collected some fallen bark from my neighbour's trees and gave it to my birds just before I put them to breed this year. The went mad burrowing into the bundles of bark and turning it into sawdust almost as quickly as I provided it for them. It was a very good indication of which hens were ready to go to nest. (A hen  that shreds the newspaper on the bottom of the breeding cabinet within minutes of being put in there is usually ready to go too). Some will also do a good deal of "renovating" in their nest box with masses of shredded base or nest box wall being swept out of the box.

The digestive system of the budgerigar is especially equipped to convert cellulose into nutritional elements such as amino acids. The variety of micro-organisms contained in the gut assist it to do this., Unfortunately the do not get this cellulose from the "bird seed" that we feed them because that is the part that they discard when they remove the seed from the husk.


By extracting minerals from the wood and bark provided, they may rely less on other forms of calcium, such as shell grit. This is important for hens as they require extra calcium for the production of eggs and need optimum nutrition if they are to produce quality crop milk to feed their young.

Fresh branches allow the birds to strip off the bark and then attack the wood underneath as well Soft branches such as hibiscus will be stripped right down in less than a day. Harder ones take longer but they are also enjoyed by the birds.

This need for cellulose is possibly why they also get such good value out of bunches of grasses, such as the "Geraldton" grass that many of us grow and also "swamp grass" (which resembles bamboo, but is not a bamboo and is not as invasive). Even when they are not seeding these provide strong fibrous that the birds can shred and devour. Buffalo grass that has gone wild also provides fibrous stems (runners)  that can be used in the diet.

There are many plants that can be grown at home and fed to our birds, and with a bit of planning we can have fresh food available all year round in one form or another and our birds will really appreciate it and benefit health wise.                               

                                                                               B. M. Rea 2008