Soaked and Sprouted Seed

By Dr. BSc, BVSc, MRCVS, MACVSc (Avian health)

Approximately one-third of all embryos that die during incubation die during the 3 – 4 days prior to hatching. This is a physiologically demanding time for the chick. During this time, the chick must essentially change from being a non-breathing baby floating in a sphere of fluid to an independent air-breathing bird. The fact that the vast majority of chicks do this without incident seems remarkable.

What we are attempting to achieve is to turn the normal dry seed into a fresh vegetable, and by this process, greatly increase the overall food value.
The highest food value is obtained when the sprouts are up to 5mm in length. Be careful not to allow sprouts to become too long as they become bitter to the taste and their food value decreases.

First off, a container in which to soak the seed. The most common one in use being an old ice-cream container.
Next, a sieve or kitchen strainer. Size will be dependent on the amount of dried seed you intend soaking, as the seed will swell during the sprouting process.
Good quality seed. Most problems encountered in not being able to produce sprouted seed are caused by either over soaking the seed, or the use of poor quality seed.

Take your ice-cream container and place in it the required amount of seed. A half full 4-litre container will produce enough sprouts for around 50 pairs of cockatiels, depending on whether the birds are accustomed to it, and the number of babies in the nest. It really is a matter of trial and error.
(Best to start with smallish quantities).
Next, cover the seed with water. (I suggest warm water in winter as this softens the harder seed more quickly). Allow to soak for a minimum of 4 to 5 hours, but no more than 12 hours as this may lead you to producing sour seed.

After soaking for the required time, tip the seed into your strainer and rinse thoroughly with clean water until the water runs clear. (Do not short cut this step). Next place the strainer suspended across the ice-cream container, which will allow air to circulate through the seed. Continue to rinse the seed in the same manner every 12 hours until the desired length of sprout is attained. Under no circumstances should the seed be rinsed just prior to feeding to the birds. The seed should be allowed to stand (drying) for at least 12 hours before feeding. If you have followed this procedure the seed should now have a nice nutty smell, and be sweet to the taste.

If the seed smells at all sour at the completion of the procedure, this may indicate contamination with either bacteria or fungi and the seed is best discarded.

Some seed varieties will sprout within 4-5 hours from the first rinse and soak, so adapt the quantities and time to suit. Usually sprouts will keep for 3-4 days if refrigerated. Try using sprout mix, mung beans, wheat etc. Your birds will thank you.