African Nature Site
Natures Corner Magazine
Chat Group
Meet Buckwheat

The Grey Play Round Table
African Grey Parrot Information
Home Legend Subscribe Grey Place Store Back Issues Contributors Contact Us

Alex Issue
Sneak Peak HERE:

Single Alex Issue HERE:

Bringing Back the Magic: A Transformational Memior
Sprouted Seeds: The Living Treasures
By Alicia McWatters, Ph.D, C.N.C

Sprouted seeds, grains and legumes can enhance a bird’s diet by adding a nutritious supply of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, chlorophyll and high-quality protein. Each seed contains all the nutrients necessary to sustain plant life, but remains dormant until it is placed in the right environment to begin germinating. When air, water, and a suitable temperature are provided, seeds begin to sprout. It is at this time that their energy is released and all of the essential nutrients are made available. As the sprouting process continues, carbohydrates are converted by the biocatalytic action of enzymes into simple sugars. Complex proteins are converted into simple amino acids and fats are transformed into fatty acids, which are easily digestible compounds.

Sprouts are an excellent source of vitamins A, B, and E, the minerals calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and important trace minerals: selenium and zinc. When sprouted, nature miraculously increases the total vitamin content and creates the addition of vitamin C in each little shoot. Sprouts can be offered to your bird at the time of harvest, losing none of their nutritional value. Sprouts and other raw foods are natural sources of antioxidants, preventing environmental pollutants from causing harm to your bird’s body.

As most beans contain incomplete protein, combining any dried legume with one or more grain ensures a complete protein meal: supplying up to 25% amino acids. Certain legumes contain complete protein: lentils, soybeans and peanuts. Many seeds, such as almond, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and buckwheat, contain complete proteins. However, most seeds and legumes served alone would contain an inadequate balance of the essential amino acids. As a result of combining and serving your bird various seeds, or legumes and grains, you are increasing the quality and value of the protein in its diet. Variety is the key!

Legumes and other seeds contain enzyme-inhibitors in their dry form. The process of germination neutralizes these inhibitors, releases the enzymes, and places these foods in a more bioavailable form. Food or exogenous enzymes (derived externally) are a very important part of your bird’s diet. They come from fresh unadulterated foods and aid in the process of digestion of foods.

Endogenous enzymes (produced from within) maintain proper function of your bird’s body by regenerating cells and tissues, keeping vital organs healthy, stimulating the production of antibodies that help fight infection, aid digestion and many other important physiological tasks.

The best way for your bird to obtain food enzymes is by providing it with fresh, raw fruits, vegetables and sprouted seeds. Cooking destroys food enzymes above 105 degrees F or slightly above a bird’s body temperature, which on average is 107 degrees F. Cooking foods destroys a large percentage of the vitamins in foods. Minerals in cooked foods are no longer chelated, and therefore are more difficult for your bird’s body to utilize. These foods slow down the rate of metabolism and weaken the immune system leaving open the chance for illness and disease.

When foods are eaten raw they are a good source of food enzymes that aid in the digestion of starch, protein, fat and cellulose. The body can then absorbed these substances for optimum utilization. “Live” foods help to conserve the body’s enzymes, stimulating metabolism and the regeneration process, contributing to long and healthy lives.

For success with home sprouting, use quality seed, avoiding seeds and beans that are chipped, pale or not evenly colored. Be sure they are certified edible (organic preferred) and have not been chemically treated or dyed. Buy them in the bulk section of your health food store for the best quality and value. Some of the beans and seeds most easily sprouted are:


There are many good ways to sprout with the most common method being jar-sprouting. Also used are colanders, strainers, trays, bags, etc. Open-ended tubes, with screen tops offer optimum growing conditions, but must be found at the health food store or special ordered.

 To begin jar-sprouting:

  1. Soak seeds in filtered or purified water over night. (Do not overcrowd your seed).
  2. In the morning pour off the water and place the jar mouth at a 30-45 degree angle for drainage (set the open end of the jar on a saucer to catch any drainage water) and allow your sprouts plenty of air between rinsing.
  3. Rinse twice a day with cool fresh water.

Seeds develop at different rates, but most are ready in three to four days. Start new seeds every three days for a continuous supply. There are several products available that retard mold, but are unnecessary if sprouting is done under the right conditions. These products are calcium propionate, hydrogen peroxide, apple cider vinegar and grapefruit or citrus seed extract. The latter three products may also help prevent the growth of bacteria.

The ideal sprouting temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees. Keep your sprouts in indirect light and allow no more than ¼ inch in growth for their maximum enzyme activity. When sprouted too long, some seeds and beans become bitter. Grains become sweeter on the fourth and fifth day. Placing sprouts in direct light on the last day of growth will develop chlorophyll, which has healthful qualities. Sunlight also triggers the production of carotenes.

Sprouting can be done year round, so it is especially valuable in the winter months. Just keep in mind that in the cooler months things are going to take a little longer. Below 60 degrees fewer seeds germinate and sprouts grow more slowly. In the warmer months, sprouts mature quickly; therefore, you must monitor them carefully and rinse them more often to keep them cool and to avoid spoilage. If you store mature sprouts in an airtight jar or plastic bag in your refrigerator, they will stay fresh for about a week.

Common causes of failure in sprouting are:

  1. chlorinated, impure, or warm tap water
  2. improper drainage
  3. lack of ventilation
  4. unclean equipment
  5. poor quality seed
  6. excessive heat or humidity
  7. airborne bacteria and/or fungi.

To take it one step further, you may also plant a variety of seeds and offer fresh grown greens to your birds. Not only are they healthier than store bought, fresh greens are also a breeding stimulant to many birds. The gathering of greens from our garden is routinely done and our birds seem to thrive on them. Some of the greens we grow are wheat grass, barley grass, safflower, dandelion, and canary. We also grow a variety of medicinal and culinary herbs, such as garlic, chives, comfrey, chicory, lemon balm, valerian, echinacea, several varieties of mint, chamomile, etc.

The medicinal herbs are used only for health purposes in either a fresh, dried or liquid form. They may be offered as a preventive medicine or for illness for their beneficial properties. Of course, knowledge of the properties of herbs and their correct application must be acquired prior to their use.

You may grow some of these plants indoors, in flats, plastic or clay pots, either from seed or established herbage from your local nursery. These plants can be brought to an outdoor garden area in the spring or they may remain indoors. Place your plants in a sunny location where they will regularly receive a minimum of six hours of sunlight or broad-spectrum artificial lighting. For best results, always use a rich, quality soil, keep well drained and fertilize weekly. We use fish emulsion or seaweed plant food.
If insects become a problem, spray your plants with soapy water to eliminate them. Be sure to thoroughly rinse the greens before serving them to your birds.

If your bird only seem to enjoy dry seeds, such as is typical of many Australian species, feeding sprouted seeds may be the answer toward providing it with many important nutrients for a healthier, more active pet.

Birds that were raised on an all dry seed diet naturally are stubborn to try something new, as they feel threatened and fearful when presented with a new food. To overcome this, you can first try offering their seeds soaked (for 24 hours). After they’ve accepted these, offer seeds in the sprouted form and then finally as seedling grasses/greens. Moist, soaked seeds can be fed in the morning and the dry seeds (in smaller amounts each day) in the evening.

The process of offering the seeds in various stages should progress slowly, but surely. Eventually, your patience and persistence will payoff and you will have a happier, livelier bird. How quickly your bird begins readily eating these new foods will depend on the age of the bird and how long he/she has been receiving a dry seed only diet. Once these fresh food items are accepted as something edible or at least tolerable, introduce other fresh foods, such as vegetables or a slice of apple, orange, etc. Soon you will have a bird that looks forward to its fresh foods every day.

If time is short and you just can’t sprout, use high quality substitutes like wheat grass, alfalfa, barley grass, or algae (spirulina, blue-green algae, chlorella) powders. Sprouting and growing your own greens will provide your bird with a healthy treat for all seasons. Your bird will receive outstanding nutrition as a result of consuming sprouts. We feed sprouts and greens more generously during the breeding season and they are given to baby birds as a part of the weaning diet. At other times, they are given more sparingly, up to three times a week. Sprouting is easy, inexpensive and your bird(s) will thank-you for them!

All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any means, without permission of the author.

This article was published in the Fall 1995 issue of The Grey Play Round Table Magazine and was revised in 3/2000.

أربيك]  汉语  漢語  Nederlands  Français  Deutsch  Italiano 
 日本語  한국어  Português    Español  
African Grey,articles,nutrition,advice,living skills,Congo,Timneh, Grey parrot, African Grey, parrots, Maggie Wright
Spanish Articles
Alicia McWatters Nutritional Advice
Helpful Hints
Grey Links
Photo Gallery
Radio Show with Maggie