Here at Brinvale we pride ourselves on the quality of our bird food and the quality of our service. Not everyone is quite as focused on quality though; we have heard some awful stories about the food other companies were producing and we wanted to test it out for ourselves...
Recently there have been several companies including some well-known bargain stores practically giving bird food away. The reason that they can afford to do this is because they are not at all concerned with the quality of the bird food they sell. These foods may seem like they are being sold at a reasonable price but if you are planning on feeding birds you may be wasting your money.
Bird Food Mixes
Most cheap bird food mixes contain a very high percentage of ‘fillers’ – these are the cheapest seeds which fill out the bag but very few birds will actually eat. Wheat, Barley & Split Peas for example; this cuts the cost of making the mix but it also completely jeopardises the mix’s quality. This is because the only garden birds that are remotely interested in these ingredients are pigeons, pheasants and crows. There are very few wild birds that will even consider this as food and almost all small songbirds will completely ignore it. The high percentage of fillers in cheap bird food mixes makes them completely undesirable for wild birds, and you aren’t likely to see any garden birds digging through mounds of wheat to try and find the tiny percentage of the seeds that they are happy to eat.
High quality mixes will contain either a very small percentage of wheat or no wheat at all; quality ingredients to look out for in wild bird mixes include sunflower hearts, black sunflower seeds, peanut grains, millets and dari. Feed seeds like this and you will enjoy scenes like in the picture below!
The cheaper the peanuts you buy for your birds are, the longer they are likely to last. This is not a good thing though, as the only reason they will last so long is because the wild birds in your area refuse to eat them! This is because cheap nuts tend to be very small and often dried out; this leaves them very hard with a bitter taste. The best way to make sure that your peanuts are of good quality is by squeezing one between your finger and thumb; good quality peanuts will crush easily and leave an oily residue on your fingers, poor quality peanuts will be very hard to crush and have practically no oiliness to them. Good quality peanuts may cost a little more but at least your birds will eat them.
Make sure no matter where you buy from that the nuts have been aflatoxin tested. Poor quality nuts will fail this test for toxins and could make your birds very ill. All peanuts and peanut-based products sold here at Brinvale are tested in this way.
Fat and Suet Balls
Recently there have been a number of cheap fat and suet balls making their way onto the market. The problem with these though is that many of them contain very little fat or suet. If you opt to buy these fat balls you will again find that they are barely touched by the wild birds in your area. This is because birds don’t generally tend to want to eat sawdust or chalk. Almost every low-quality fat ball contains a high percentage of both sawdust or wheat husks, and any that claim to contain extra calcium have generally been stuffed with chalk.
Good quality fat balls however, tend to contain little more than suet and seeds, this is because they are the only things that wild birds are really interested in eating; any other ingredients that aren’t obviously seeds or grains are almost certainly there to cut the cost of the fat ball. High quality suet fat balls are greasy and reasonably soft, poor quality fat balls are very hard and dry.
Whilst most sunflower hearts are generally a good quality bird food to offer, there are still many being sold at low prices that are of a low quality. When they are being sold at very low prices you can generally expect sunflower hearts to either be old crop, therefore not so fresh and less oily, very dusty or even have mites due to poor storage. Sunflower hearts with mites are not only pretty useless for feeding to birds, they are also on the verge of becoming mouldy and the mites are likely to spread. Poor quality sunflower hearts are unhealthy, unappetising and may contain mould and fungus which can be fatal for birds. Chipped sunflower hearts are a cheaper alternative, these are the small and broken pieces removed when Sunflower Hearts go through their grading process. High quality sunflower hearts will appear to be quite large with minimal dust and no mites; the best quality sunflower hearts are usually all whole as well. Many companies say that their sunflower hearts are ‘bakery grade’, though this is not always a sign of quality.
Buying the cheapest bird food is generally not the most cost effective way to feed you birds. If you truly enjoy watching your birds feed you will understand that buying bird food that the birds won’t eat is a complete waste of money.