Thursday, July 23, 2009

Feathers Are More Than Fluff

Good Nutrition Makes A Big Difference in Feather Quality

When we admire our birds, at least 90% of what we see is feathers! Although the intended principal functions of feathers is flight, insulation against heat loss and waterproofing, but what we really admire about our birds is their beauty. It is feathers that make them beautiful! It is the feathers that are beautifully colored and lustrous and it is feathers that conform to natural body contours to give a bird its beautiful shape!

Feather Formation

A birds first molt is actually when it loses it down feathers which still a nestling. In its subsequent molts, each bird produces approximately 2,000 new feathers, feathers that are around 90% protein. During molting, the bird's metabolic rate increases 30% and body temperature raises one degree. This energy-draining process reduces vitality and significantly increases nutritional demands, especially for protein.

To make good quality feathers, provide a nutritious diet supplemented with vitamins especially B vitamins for protein metabolism and extra attention to essential amino acids either from Miracle vitamin supplement or food such as bee pollen granules or brewer's yeast and in addition, liquid or water soluble calcium.

When the diet is as described, the feathers are strong enough to penetrate the skin rather than grow under the skin as a feather cyst. The majority of feather cysts can be prevented by a diet high in multiple amino acids especially methionine.

Malnutrition can impact feather quality and even the speed of molt. Insufficient protein may even result in a partial molt where the bird never completes it full molt and is stuck in a loose partial molt.

Feather Condition

Feather condition is improved by frequent bathing or spraying. This encourages shedding the old feathers and feather shafts so that new feathers grow unhindered.

But what really makes a feathers look finished is its luster. Low fat diets, such as feeding an exclusively pelleted diet, result in dull feathers where higher fat diets produce feathers with a glowing sheen, it is sheen that makes a good bird strikingly beautiful! To get a good sheen, provide a higher fat foods such as some flax (linseed) seeds and other oily seeds and additional oils such as olive and palm. Avoid over feeding flax seed or loose stools may result.

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