I talk a lot about avian digestive systems and respiratory systems but it’s been awhile since we talked about feathers. Generally, the birds that we keep as pets have anywhere from 5000 to 7000 feathers. Waterfowl like certain species of ducks can have more than 11,000. Yes, scientists have actually counted them.
From Wikipedia we learn:
Feathers are among the most complex integumentary system appendages found in vertebrates and are formed in tiny follicles in the epidermis, or outer skin layer, that produces keratin proteins.
The β-keratins in feathers, beaks, and the claws, scales, and shells of reptiles — are composed of protein strands hydrogen-bonded into β-pleated sheets, which are then further twisted and crosslinked by disulfide bridges into structures even tougher than the α-keratins of mammalian hair, horns, and hoof.
β-keratin or beta-keratin is a protein in the keratin family. β-keratin is rich in stacked β pleated sheets. Keratin is one of a family of fibrous structural proteins. Keratin is the protein that protects epithelial cells from damage or stress.
It is the key structural material making up the outer layer of human skin. Keratin monomers assemble into bundles to form intermediate filaments, which are tough and form strong unmineralized epidermal appendages found in reptiles, birds, amphibians, and mammals
In birds, scales, beaks, claws and feathers also contain β-keratin of the avian family. Phylogenetic studies of β-keratin sequences show that feather β-keratins evolved from scale β-keratins. The scale β-keratins form the basal group in avians
The point is – birds eat a lot of protein to continually grow and maintain the health of their feathers and all feathers are not alike. On typical perching birds, we find the following types of feathers: Feathers with Vanes: Contour and Flight Feathers – Down – Filoplume – Semiplume – Bristle – Neossoptiles
Not feeding your bird properly can lead to malnutrition especially when amino acids (components of protein and vitamins) are in short supply leadiing to a negative impact on feather growth and development.
How much protein do birds actually need? I put the question to one of the many experts that we draw on for information to help you be a better caged bird keeper. I reached out to Melanie Allen who is the Avian Product Specialist at Rolf C. Hagen.
Thanks for sending! I think you’re on to something with this article. The big thing about Chop is that it’s fed at too high of a ratio for most companion birds.
It’s an enrichment food (not a nutritional staple) and it can be a good one if incorporated at accetable levels. (plus it’s a great way to add supplements such as Prime or Clay-cal to a bird’s diet!) The traditional CHOP recipes do include grains, which provide some amino acids. But there’s too much guesswork for the right combination of amino acids on the part of the pet owner to make a good protein base for a bird!!!
Chop, much like fruits and veggies, is something that should be made in a pet bird owner’s home where the owner knows where the ingredients came from and most importantly how well were the ingredients cleaned before mixing.