Many birds enjoy eating sprouts, and they are an excellent source of nutrition. Most species, from macaws to finches, enjoy nibbling on fresh sprouts. Magazine articles and even entire books have been written about sprouting. There are special supplies available for sprouting, and entire websites are devoted to sprouting.
There is some science and a lot of good sense involved in the process of sprouting seed, grain and beans at home. The first step is to purchase top-quality, pesticide-free ingredients. Some seeds that can be sprouted for your birds are:
- Red Clover
- Mung Beans
- Red Lentils
Assemble your equipment. Glass jars, a flat glass baking pan or special sprouting containers can be used to sprout the seeds. You will need a fine mesh strainer or mesh covers for jars to facilitate draining and rinsing and to provide air circulation to the sprouts inside. Sterilize all sprouting equipment between batches.
Clean the seeds you intend to sprout. Discard broken or cracked seeds, and remove empty seed hulls from the mixture.
Put the seeds into the strainer, and rinse them thoroughly under running water. Soak the clean seeds overnight in purified water (boiled, then cooled). The water should cover the seeds. The recommended ratio is 2 to 3 parts water to 1 part seed. As you become more experienced, you will learn which seeds soak up more water. Sprouts can develop mold quickly if not conscientiously rinsed, drained and cared for. Proper ambient temperature and air circulation are also crucial.
Inhibit mold and bacterial growth by adding a little grapefruit seed extract to the soaking solution used prior to sprouting. Grapefruit seed extract is available under several brand names at health food stores, on health- and bird-related websites. For proper dilution proportions (usually about 30 drops per gallon), read package directions prior to use, or consult your grain, bean and seed supplier.
Rinse the seeds thoroughly in the morning. They will have swollen considerably from soaking up a lot of the water. After rinsing, spread the seeds in the sprouting receptacles you’ve chosen, and place them in a dim, well-ventilated area of your home. Rinse and drain the seeds several times a day.
Seeds will usually sprout within a few days. When they have shed their seeds (two tiny "leaves" will appear), they are ready to be moved to brighter light so that they can turn green. Greening will not occur without light, but direct sunlight is much too strong at first. The rinsing and draining process is still important at this stage because the sprouts will require more moisture to grow in the brighter environment.
Once they’ve begun to turn green, you may begin harvesting them and feeding them to your birds. Rinse the sprouts, and drain them until they are as dry as possible before offering them to your pets. With the exception of soybeans, it is unwise to offer uncooked beans to your birds. Discard any remaining bean parts from sprouts before giving them to your birds.
Fresh sprouts will keep quite well in your refrigerator. Rinse and drain them daily, and rinse well before offering them to your birds. Do not refrigerate wet sprouts, as mold and spoilage will result.
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