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Introduction and General Information

Provision of the correct diet is extremely important to the care, management and breeding of any animals. Incorrect or inadequate nutrition may lead to emaciation or specific deficiency diseases, but is more frequently associated with increased susceptibility to other diseases.
Waterfowl Consideration Waterfowl in collections will usually require supplementary feeding, even if kept in a large area with natural food available. The quantity of food fed should be varied with reference to the supply of natural food, allowing for variations with weather and season and taking care not to overfeed if large amounts of natural foods are available. The type of food fed should also vary, with more high-energy food being provided in cold winter weather, compared with higher protein levels (Proteins (Dietary)) for breeding.

(B7, B37.x.w1, V.w5).

Crane Consideration Provision of an adequate, balance diet is important; crane diets have generally been developed by adaptation of poultry diets. Cranes may, if kept in a large enclosure, collect some natural food items (e.g. invertebrates, small mammals, even small birds). However, the major part of their diet needs to be provided: it should not be assumed that they are obtaining sufficient natural foods for themselves, even in a large enclosure. 

(B94, B115.2.w7, N1.80.w1, N1.98.w1, V.w5)

Published Guidelines linked in Wildpro

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Nutritional Requirements and Diets Commonly Fed in Captivity

  • Precise nutritional requirements (e.g. protein level, energy level, specific amino acids, vitamins, minerals) have been determined for domestic poultry for different stages of their lives. Such determinations have not been made for most bird species, although certain general basic principles and trial and error have been used to approximate the needs of some species and bird groups.
  • It is important to remember that there are considerable variations in the nutritional requirements of an individual bird depending on internal factors such as growth and reproduction, and external factors such as temperature.
  • Diets commonly fed to birds vary greatly depending on the types of birds (carnivores, seed eaters, insectivores, fruit eaters etc.) There are also wide variations depending on the types of foods locally available - for example apples are more commonly used than mangoes in the UK, due to cost and availability. A variety of grains and seeds, either separate or in mixtures, are available from many different feed companies.
  • In recent years several specialist feed companies have developed a range of diets (usually in pellet form) specifically formulated to meet the nutritional requirement of different groups of birds, and these are now commonly used as the basis of bird diets.
  • Even when feeding nutritionally balanced formulated diets, 'extras' in the form of fruit and vegetables, fish etc. are commonly added. Care should be taken not to imbalance the total diet by feeding extras. This may be particularly important when feeding small birds, as any one item may make up a considerable proportion of the total diet.
  • It should also be remembered that food provided is not necessarily the same as food eaten.
  • Feeds provided in captivity should be designed to emulate the nutritional content of the natural diet of the species being fed. The information given on this page should be used in conjunction with the information in the sections on Feeding Behaviour, Natural Diet and Aviculture of the individual species. Where adequate information on the foods and feeding of is not available for a species, data on similar species may be useful.

(B13.3.w22, B96, V.w5)

For reproduction

  • "Reproducing birds require adequate nourishment for vitality of ova and sperm, development of embryos within eggs, and energy demands of incubation. Calcium is needed for the development of the eggshell, as well as for soft tissue function and the development of the embryonic skeleton." (J54.23.w2)
  • Nutrient requirements for reproduction are higher than those for maintenance. Female birds laying eggs in particular have greatly increased requirements for energy, protein and calcium. Both males and females may have requirements of specific essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and trace minerals for adequate reproduction. (J54.23.w2)
  • Precise nutrient requirements have not been calculated for most species of waterfowl. In general, food with a higher protein level (Proteins (Dietary)) is required for breeding than for maintenance, and extra Fats (Dietary) and/or carbohydrate (Carbohydrate (Dietary)) may be required in winter. The protein level (Proteins (Dietary)) for downy youngsters is higher than an adult maintenance diet, but a protein level that is too high may be associated with problems such as Angel Wing, leg problems (see: Perosis, Calcium / Phosphorus / Vitamin D Imbalance, Splay Leg) and Gout. It has been recommended that crumbs with a protein level of 19-20% may be given initially, with this being reduced to about 15% from two to three weeks old (P3.1987.w1). 
  • It should be remembered that nutritional requirements vary with the time of the year and the weather, as the physiological demands on the birds change. Requirements for feeding in winter when energy is required to maintain body temperature are not the same as during the breeding season or during the moult, when more protein but less total energy may be required. Even within the winter period, energy requirements will increase in particularly cold weather, and will decrease in mild spells or if waterfowl are provided with indoor and in particular heated winter accommodation.
  • N.B. the level of specific nutrients such as vitamins and minerals required is higher for good fertility, embryo development and chick growth than simply for egg production. Layers pellets may contain similar levels of protein to breeder pellets but lower levels of vitamins and minerals, and are not a suitable for breeding waterfowl. Some may also contain excess Calcium, being formulated for increasing poultry production, and may not be appropriate for waterfowl. (Vw.16)
  • Particular attention should given to the provision of minimum daily requirements of; Biotin, Carbohydrate (Dietary), Choline, Fats (Dietary), Folic Acid, Niacin, Pyridoxine, Proteins (Dietary), Riboflavin, Thiamine, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K; and Calcium, Phosphorus (Compound), Manganese, Zinc.
  • There should be awareness that diets should not be too high in, or imbalanced, thereby providing excess of any single ingredient, particularly Fats (Dietary), Carbohydrate (Dietary), Proteins (Dietary), Thiaminase, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Calcium, Phosphorus (Compound), Manganese, Zinc.
  • Captive waterfowl are often overfed and obese. Ducks tend to deposit excess fat in the abdomen and around the heart and ventriculus. Overweight waterfowl usually do not breed as well and may develop fatty liver degeneration. Care should be taken not to allow Arctic-breeding geese, in particular, to become overweigh, for proper breeding. Fatty infiltration of the liver may be reduced by feeding adequate levels of choline chloride (see: Choline, Choline Deficiency) (B13.46.w1, B29, P4.1992.w1).



Waterfowl are frequently fed predominantly on a mixture of pellets and grain, with grass and other green food added for grazing species, fish for fish eaters.


  • Wheat is the grain most commonly fed to waterfowl in the UK, and is generally preferred by them when compared with barley or oats. Mixed grains (e.g. wheat, barley, rolled oats, maize) may also be used, with cracked maize being particularly useful in winter. Smaller grains, such as millet, rape and canary seed are used for species such as stifftails and pygmy geese.
  • Unsupplemented grains, however, do not constitute nutritionally balanced diets and must be fed sparingly with pellets and/or supplements (Vw.16).

Specialist waterfowl feeds:

  • Specialist feed companies now produce a variety of pellets designed for feeding waterfowl, including starter, maintenance, breeder and seaduck diets, with different levels of nutrients, particularly protein, in the different diets. Some of these diets are in their early stages of development (e.g. Seaducks) and caution should be used when feeding them, and the nutritional content should be carefully assessed (Vw.16). 
  • A useful development is the production of expanded pellets which float for a period of time and hold their shape well for some time in water. These allow feeding in water, which may reduce scavenging by other birds and is advantageous to species which prefer not to come onto land to feed.
  • Feeds designed for commercial ducks raised for meat production are not suitable as a long-term feed for other waterfowl.

Poultry pellets and other prepared foods:

  • Traditionally, pellets designed for poultry, being commonly available at a reasonable price, have been used for waterfowl.
  • A problem with feeding traditional compacted pellets to waterfowl is that they generally disintegrate quickly when wet, and must therefore always be fed out of the water. Note: Care must be taken if using diets designed for poultry.
  • Turkey diets usually contain too high protein levels for waterfowl. and in particular feeds designed for rapidly-growing turkey poults have a very high protein level: their use in young waterfowl, particularly species with a slow growth rate in the wild, has been linked to the development of skeletal deformities such as Angel Wing and Perosis.
  • Crushed biscuits formulated for dogs and pelleted diets developed for trout, flamingos, cats and dogs have also been used to provide higher protein levels than are typically found in grain. Care must be taken as excessive protein in diets for waterfowl may be associated with renal failure, and also requires increased water consumption to remove the excess protein, so that short-term water deprivation may be fatal (J23.16.w2, B13.46.w1).

Green foods:

  • Grass provided in a sward is commonly fed and is an excellent diet for grazing species, but is frequently not available in sufficient quantity in all seasons.
  • Other green produce including kale, mustard etc. are commonly used to supplement the supply of natural green foods. Dandelion leaves may also be given, and duckweed (Lemna spp.) if available. 
  • Freshly-cut short grass may be given to waterfowl, but long grass is not suitable, nor is cut grass which has been left in bags for several hours and is beginning to ferment. 
  • N.B. iceberg lettuce has a very low nutritional value, although other darker green varieties may have adequate values


  • Fish should be fed whole, not filleted, and consideration given to the requirement for Thiamine (33-35mg/kg Vw.16) and Vitamin E (50i.u./kg Vw.16) supplementation.

(J23.16.w2, B13.46.w1, B29, B37.x.w1, B40, B97)


  • Grit is important for the correct nutrition of waterfowl and insoluble grit in appropriate size (e.g. granite grit) should always be available, particularly when grains are fed. Soluble grit such as limestone grit or oyster shell should also be provided, particularly in the breeding season, either in feed troughs or in separate piles on the ground (J23.16.w2, B13.46.w1, B29, B95).


  • Dabbling ducks are commonly fed on a mixture of pellets (preferably pellets designed specifically for waterfowl) and grains. The addition of and green food is appreciated. Note: wigeon, although dabbling ducks, are grazing species - see below.
  • Perching ducks are commonly fed on a mixture of pellets (preferably pellets designed specifically for waterfowl) and grain. Smaller grains than wheat, such as millet, rape and canary seed should be used for some species such as the pygmy geese Nettapus spp.). The addition of green food is appreciated.
  • Grazing species (e.g. geese, sheldgeese, wigeon) do best if provided with an ample supply of growing grass; however, green foods including lettuce, cabbage etc., and alfalfa pellets, may be used as substitutes. In addition they are commonly fed on a mixture of pellets (preferably pellets designed specifically for waterfowl) and wheat, with the addition of wholemeal bread.
  • Stiff-tailed ducks are commonly fed on a mixture of pellets (preferably pellets designed specifically for waterfowl) and grain. Smaller grains, such as millet, rape and canary seed are appreciated. These seeds often float on water, so that the birds can take them from the surface.
  • Diving ducks (especially scaups, eiders, scoters, goldeneyes (Bucephala spp.), Clangula hyemalis - Long-tailed duck, Histrionicus histrionicus - Harlequin duck, steamer ducks (Tachyeres spp.), also Biziura lobata - Musk duck) require richer food than the common grain and pelleted feeds used for most waterfowl species. Specially designed seaduck diets have become available in recent years and work on perfecting these diets is continuing. In the absence of the seaduck diets, soaked dog biscuits have been used to provide higher protein levels, also high-protein pellets (e.g. trout pellets, flamingo pellets), fish such as eel, and meat (cut to appropriate sizes); this is less important if natural food is available, except for the larger mergansers. Fish-eating ducks such as the mergansers are commonly provided with supplemented fish as a part of their diet. Suitably-sized whole fish are preferable, with adequate Thiamine and Vitamin E

(J23.13.w5, J23.16.w2, B7, B13.46.w1, B16.19.w1, B29, B37.x.w1, B95, P3.1987.w1, P4.1992.w1)

Crane Consideration Correct nutrition, including adequate protein in the diet, is important for proper reproduction and growth of cranes, as well as for general good health, resistance to infection etc.. (D437, P96.1.w1)
  • In the wild, cranes are omnivorous, eating a wide variety of plant and animal material such as grasses, grains, seeds, tubers, berries, invertebrates and small vertebrates (fish, amphibians, rodents, birds, reptiles). Diets of wild cranes vary with season and geographical location. During the breeding season, animal matter makes up a greater proportion of the diet than outside this time. (P96.1.w1)
  • Given the opportunity, for example in an enclosure with natural substrate and vegetation, in which invertebrates and small vertebrates may be found, cranes will supplement their diet with natural food items. (B521.19.2.w19b, B94)


Recommended diet

  • A wide variety of diets have been used for feeding cranes; most of these have been mixtures of grains/seeds, commercial poultry or waterfowl feeds, chopped meat/fish, insects etc. There is a risk of such diets being nutritionally imbalanced. (P92.1.w6)
  • Formulated (pelleted) diets have been developed specifically for use in cranes, with a lower protein maintenance food and a higher protein food for use in the breeding season. These are thought to have improved breeding success. [1983](P92.1.w6)
  • Cranes have higher protein and calcium requirements during the breeding season and the diet should be changed during this time to meet the extra requirements. (B115.2.w7, P89.1.w1, P96.1.w1)
    • The higher protein and calcium breeding diet should be fed from two months before the expected onset of egg laying. (B115.2.w7)
    • Subadult birds which are not expected to breed can be fed a maintenance diet all year. (P90.1.w2)
  • At ICF, the maintenance diet contains 19.4% protein and 1.0% calcium with 0.85% phosphorus while the breeding diet contains 20.5% protein and 2.45% calcium. (B115.2.w7, P96.1.w1)
  • At Patuxent, the maintenance diet contains 15.0% protein and 1.0% calcium and the breeder diet contains 22.0% protein and 2.45% calcium. (B115.2.w7)
  • Pellets 5 mm diameter and 6-15 mm long are recommended. (B115.2.w7)
  • Pelleted diets have the advantage over mixed diets that the birds cannot pick through them and choose to eat some ingredients while leaving others. Pelleting also appears to improve palatability of some food ingredients, and the heating during the pelleting process destroys Salmonella. (P88.1.w1)
  • In winter, a handful of whole or cracked corn (maize) can be given daily in addition to the maintenance diet to provide extra carbohydrates for thermoregulation. (B94, D437, P88.1.w1, P90.1.w2, P96.1.w1)
  • Other diets used include other prepared diets developed for cranes (e.g. Mazuri Crane Diet), various poultry diets and mixed diets. (V.w5)
  • Extra animal protein can be given occasionally (e.g. weekly) in the form of mealworms or maggots. [1972](B94)
  • At Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Australia, a poultry diet with 36% protein, supplemented in very cold winter weather with grain. [1974](N1.80.w1)
  • Poultry layer diet, wheat, plus flamingo diet (maintenance in winter, breeder is summer for white-naped cranes at Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. [1992](N1.98.w1)
  • At Exmoor Zoo, UK, in the morning, 400g mixed grains, 400g waterfowl maintenance pellets, two slices of wholemeal bread (crumbled), four day-old chicks dusted with vitamin supplement, and once a week also 400 g oystershell grit. In the afternoon, one day-old chick and one fish, with any food remaining from the morning removed to discourage vermin. [2010](N1.116.w1)
  • A diet for a pair Grus rubicunda - Brolga was: 60 g wheat, 50g maize, 60g oats, 40 g sunflower seeds, 40 g peanuts in shell, 60 g husked peanuts, 60 g "Peck 'n' Lay" pellets, 60 g Science Diet cat biscuits, 3-4 slices of wholemeal bread (cut into pieces), one diced apple, two chopped raw sprats, some raw meat, chopped, and two boiled eggs, with the total volume being two large cups per bird, twice a day. Extra foodstuffs given for variety were boiled root vegetables such as potato and kumera, freshly-killed mice, husked nuts, diced spinach, live mealworms, live locusts, diced cheese and chopped fruit. (B521.19.2.w19b)


  • Insoluble grit should be provided in winter when snow may prevent cranes from getting grit from the soil. (P88.1.w1, P96.1.w1)
  • Soluble grit in the form of oyster shell should be provided from 1-2 months before expected egg laying through to after the moult. This can be mixed in with the formulated food or provided in a separate container. (B115.2.w7, P96.1.w1)
    • Providing calcium in the form of oyster shell in addition to the calcium in the pelleted feed allows for slow release of calcium throughout the day and night ensuring it is present when required for eggshell development without the female needing to draw calcium excessively from her skeleton. (P88.1.w1)
    • Female may increase their intake of oyster shell towards the end of the laying season; in some individuals, consumption peaks about 48 hours before each egg is laid. (P90.1.w2)

Feeding method and amounts fed

  • Feed in a hopper feeder or a bucket fastened off the ground, to minimise access by vermin. (B115.2.w7)
    • The feed container should be in a dry place to reduce the risk of fod spoilage. (D437)
    • Suspended flow-through (hopper) feeders are useful to ensure food remains clean, fresh, palatable and free of contaminants. (P1.1977.w2)
    • Care must be taken if using wooden hoppers; these may get damp, and can attract rodents. (P90.1.w2)
  • If possible, the feed container should be in shelter, away from rain/snow and direct sunlight. (B115.2.w7)
  • Placing the feed container at least one metre from water will help to keep it dry. (B115.2.w7)
  • In temperate climates, checking and replenishing of food should usually take place daily or at least three times a week. (B115.2.w7)
    • Food provided should be sufficient that the birds can eat all they need, but not an excessive amount which could lead to food remaining in the container for too long and becoming damp or stale. (P88.1.w1)
    • Food consumption varies seasonally, but on average, based on six species of cranes fed a diet containing 2,533 ME/kg food, cranes ate 4.8% of their body weight daily. (P88.1.w1)
      • Intake will tend to increase if diets with a lower energy concentration are fed. (P88.1.w1)
      • Egg-laying females will eat more food per day than males or females who are not laying eggs, with food consumption peaking 24 hours before oviposition and decreasing on the day the egg is laid. (P88.1.w1, P90.1.w2)
    • Note whether food has been eaten; this can be seen based on the level of food in the container, whether food mounded in the centre has been disturbed, or whether treats such as smelt (fish) or corn (maize) placed on the top have been taken. (B115.2.w7)
      • Remember that the food level may go down because it is spilled or taken by pests such as wild birds, as well as because it has been eaten by the crane(s). (B115.2.w7)
    • Hygiene:
      • Food which has become wet, and pellets which have been pulverised, need to be removed before they lose their nutritional value or allow mould to grow. (B115.2.w7)
      • Once a month the feed should be changed completely. (B115.2.w7)
      • If the inside of the food container becomes wet it should be disinfected, rinsed well and dried before being refilled. (B115.2.w7, V.w5)
  • In tropical climates, food needs to be changed daily. (B115.2.w7)
  • Feeders for cranes have been developed to reduce scavenging by gulls etc. These are made of a piece of PVC pipe placed vertically in the ground with a smaller diameter pipe inside which holds the food (removable for cleaning). These feeders also can be placed at distances from one another around the exhibit, encouraging the cranes to move around. (N41.23.w1)


  • Drinking water should be available at all times. (B115.2.w7, P88.1.w1)  See: Accommodation Design for Birds - Water Source & Drainage
  • The amount of water required will depend on the ambient temperature and humidity as well as the composition of food. (P88.1.w1)
  • Many cranes tend to probe in the ground then probe and splash in water buckets, so that daily changing of water and scrubbing of buckets is essential. (P88.1.w1)


  • A crane chick starter diet needs to have a higher protein content than that for adults (breeder or maintenance) and relatively high concentrations of calcium and B vitamins. A recommended composition is: protein 23.8% (including methionine & cystine 0.7%, lysine 1.3%); metabolisable energy 2,689 kcal/kg; calcium 1.4%, phosphorus 0.9%. (B115.2.w7)
    • It is important that the protein does not contain too high a concentration of sulphur-containing amino acids (methionine and cystine) as high levels of these amino acids have been linked with developmental leg and wing problems (e.g. Angel Wing), in fast-growing crane chicks. The protein in the chick diet therefore should be formulated primarily from vegetable protein, not animal protein (particularly fish) as this tends to be higher in sulphur-containing amino acids. (B115.2.w7, J55.84.w1, P1.1980.w6)
  • Chick crumbs or crumbles in nuggets 2-5 mm diameter are recommended, with gradual introduction to larger pellets (as for adults) as the chicks grow). (B115.2.w7)
  • Note: Chicks may need to be encouraged to eat for several days after hatching before they recognise food and eat on their own. (J55.84.w1)
  • Parent-reared chicks
    • Chicks being reared by their parents in a large enclosure with plenty of natural vegetation may be fed a lot of natural food such as invertebrates by their parents, particularly initially. (N1.83.w1, N1.116.w1)
    • If supplementing prepared diets (crumbs or pellets) with live food in an enclosure which is not netted, less may be lost to wild birds if live food is offered in the evening, after the wild birds have gone to roost but before the cranes take their chicks to brood them for the night. (N1.83.w1)
    • Offering live food under a layer of soil may also reduce losses to wild birds. (N1.83.w1)
    • A bowl of chick rearing food plus mealworms, strips of heart, crickets, grated boiled egg, earthworms and grasshoppers can be offered for the adults to feed to their young. (B521.19.2.w19b)
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Convalescent diets / Nutritional support

  • In providing nutritional support for convalescent birds it is important to calculate carefully the actual nutrient requirements of each birds. This will vary depending on the size of the bird, its general stage of life (e.g. growing versus adult) and extra requirements for healing, fighting infection and regaining lost weight.
  • Stress and trauma cause the release of hormones (including catecholamines, corticosteroids, glucagon) which act to increase the metabolic rate, with both gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis being increased if ingested energy is not sufficient to meet the increased energy requirement. The increase in metabolic rate is in proportion to the degree of insult (i.e. greater increase with more severe injury or infection). There is a rapid oxidation of fat used for energy and body protein may be broken down to meet the increased energy needs. Additionally there is an increased requirement for protein for tissue repair and/or for the production of components of the immune system, both blood cells and antibodies.
  • In casualty wild birds (e.g. injured birds, oiled birds etc.) it must be remembered that by the time the bird is presented for treatment several days may have passed since the time of the original insult and the bird may already have used most of its reserves by the time of presentation. The degree of weight loss present may be estimated by weighing the bird accurately and comparing this to the normal body weight for that species. Note: it is important to remember that the normal body weight may vary considerably with the time of year. The body condition of the bird as indicated by how prominent or otherwise the keel is on palpation is also a good indicator weight loss.
  • Energy requirement calculations (following Quesenberry, B119.w3):
  • The basal metabolic rate (BMR) in Kcal is calculated as BMR = K ([Weight in Kg] 0.75). K= 78 for non-passerine birds and K=129 for passerines (compared with K=70 for mammals).
  • The maintenance energy (ME) requirement, allowing for normal daily activity, maintenance of body temperature etc. may be 1.3 to 7.2 times BMR in passerines. For the purposes of calculation for convalescent birds, ME can be estimated as 1.5 x BMR.
  • In convalescent individuals, there is an additional requirement for productive energy (energy for e.g. growth, reproduction, recovery from disease). For example, energy required for growth may give a total energy requirement of 1.5 to 3.0 x ME. The actual energy requirement in a convalescent adult may be as much as 2 to 3 times the maintenance rate, depending on the degree and type of injury or illness. The energy requirement should be adjusted to allow for this as follows (B119.w3):
  • Elective surgery / mild trauma: 1.0-1.2 x ME
  • Severe trauma 1.1-2.0 x ME
  • Infection 1.2 - 1.5 x ME
  • Burns: 1.2-3.0 x ME
  • If a bird is eating voluntarily, a high-fat diet (Fats (Dietary))))) should be provided initially, as Fats (Dietary) contains twice as much energy per gram compared to carbohydrates or protein (average 9 kcal/gm versus 4kcal/gm. However the energy:protein ratio is essential and should be considered (Vw.16).
  • For wild birds it is important to consider the normal diet for the species and to imitate this as far as possible. For captive birds, the diet normally fed should be offered if possible, although this may need to be altered if it is not likely to be providing the required level of nutrients.
  • For severely injured or debilitated birds a highly-digestible convalescent diet, given by stomach tube, may be required initially (see: Gavage / Tubing of Birds). A wide variety of products have been used, ranging from liquid enteral products designed for humans to preferred mixtures made up by individual veterinarians, rehabilitators or treatment centres. In choosing a product, consideration should be given to the normal diet of the species, for example meat-based products designed for cats and dogs may be more suitable for meat-eating birds such as raptors than cereal and fruit based baby foods, which may be more useful for psittacines. The volume required daily may be calculated as:
  • Kcal required per day divided by kcal/ml formula = ml of formula required per day.
  • This is then divided into several feeds per day. Note: there is a limit to the volume which can be given at any one feed (approximately 2ml per 100g bird) (B156.15.w15), and tube feeding is a stressful procedure for the bird.
  • Initial gavage diet is usually a balanced isotonic liquid diet high in calories and with simple dietary components to maximize nutrient absorption. Warming to near body temperature is suggested, but care must be taken that food is not so hot that it will burn the digestive tract. This is particularly important if food is heated in a microwave as "hot-spots" may be produced in the mixture. Always check the temperature of food on your skin before starting tube feeding.. High Vitamin A and Vitamin K levels are suggested. Cultured yoghurt or lactobacillus preparations may be useful to enhance digestion and nutrient absorption (B24.38.w2).


(PLEASE NOTE: This dietary information is replicated from the diet suppliers, or from referenced sources. They are provided as information and a decision to use a specific diets must be made using professional judgment. Wildpro does not endorse any particular diet at present, until full nutritional evaluations are available)

  • Human enteral products may be bought in liquid form. Their calorific content may vary from 1.0 to 2.0kcal/ml, and the 2.0kcal/ml products should be used to reduce the volume which must be fed. Diets low in lactose are generally preferred for birds, which usually have low or zero levels of lactase. protein powder may be added to diets if necessary to increase the level of protein before feeding
  • Monomeric diets (containing fatty acids, amino acids and sugars) may be used initially, as these have are designed for easy absorption.
  • Polymeric diets are also available, and many are isotonic, which reduces the risk of diarrhoea developing.
  • Baby foods may be useful. These are usually high in carbohydrates, with some vegetable fats, and are usually low in protein. E.G. Milupa baby foods, containing 422 kcal/100gm.
  • Complan (Glaxo) may be used (B156.15.w15)
  • Specialist critical care diets designed for birds have been developed, e.g. Critical Care Formula (Vetark Ltd).
  • Convalescent diets designed for cats and dogs may be useful, e.g. Hills a/d.
  • Formula designed by The Raptor Center, University of Minnesota: Prepare 30 % solution of Nutrical (Evsco Pharmaceutical) in electrolyte solution (30ml Nutrical plus 70ml electrolyte solution) and store in refrigerator. Mix with human infant "second food" series meat paste (beef, veal, chicken or turkey) in a ratio of one part solution to two parts baby food ( 30ml of 30% Nutrical solution plus one 60g jar of baby food). Tube feed 40ml/kg three times daily (B11.4.w17).
  • Mother O'Malley's Crane Stew: 946ml (4 cups) warm water, 30ml (2 tablespoons) Vionate (vitamin powder), 80-100ml soy-based powdered baby formula (e.g. Prosobee, Isomil), 1/3 120g tube Nutrical (concentrated food), 59ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil, 2 cups dry baby cereal, +/- crane pellets (chick or adult, as appropriate) soaked, blended (and for chicks strained)(B115.5.w3). (This diet may have excess vitamins/mineral supplementation, and is currently being evaluated (V.w16))
Waterfowl Consideration
  • Convalescent waterfowl, particularly wild birds which may have lost considerable amounts of body fat and muscle mass by the time they are treated, initially require a diet high in protein and energy to allow them to replace the lost fat and muscle, as well as for tissue regeneration in the case of injury. Diets should be returned to maintenance levels once the bird has regained lost weight and body condition.


(PLEASE NOTE: This dietary information is replicated from the diet suppliers, or from referenced sources. They are provided as information and a decision to use a specific diets must be made using professional judgment. Wildpro does not endorse any particular diet at present, until full nutritional evaluations are available)

  • If necessary a hospitalized bird may be tube fed with a convalescent diet such as Complan (Crookes Health Care) or Reanymyl (Rhône Mérieux) (B11.33.w1).
  • A tube-feeding diet with easily-digestible protein and energy also may be made up as follows: 500ml Lectade Plus (SmithKline Beecham - oral rehydration fluid), 2 tins A/D (Hills Pet Nutrition - cat/dog convalescent diet), 100ml Ensure Plus (Abbott Laboratories - human liquid nutrition diet), 1/2 Aquavit (IZVG vitamin supplement, high in vitamins B1 and E) 200mg ferrous sulphate (tablet). The quantity to be fed will vary with the size of the birds. 60ml twice daily is suggested for a mallard, 150ml twice daily for a mute swan (B37.x.w1).

(B11.33.w1, B37.x.w1)

Crane Consideration

Weighing food. Click here for full-page view with caption.

  • A sick crane may not take in enough food. This leads to the bird first mobilising body fat, then catabolising muscle; emaciation may develop rapidly. (B115.8.w4)
  • It is important to restore and then maintain a positive energy balance while treating a sick crane. (B115.8.w4)
  • The initial food given to a severely emaciated crane should be a high carbohydrate, low protein formula, such as Emeraid I (usually given mixed 1:1 with water). (B115.8.w4)
  • Once the crane has taken several feeds and normal faecal production has developed, diets which are more complex and contain protein, fat and fibre can be given, e.g. Emeraid II mixed 1:1 with warm water, liquid human enteral products, or the crane's normal pelleted diet mixed with water and other nutritional supplements. (B115.8.w4)

The following has been developed for use in debilitated cranes:

  • Mother O'Malley's Crane Stew Basic formula (used mixed with a pellet/water mix as indicated in Formula 1 and Formula 2): (B115.5.w3)
    • Warm water, 4 cups (946 mL)
    • Vionate or similar vitamin powder, 2 tablespoons (30 mL)
    • Prosobee, Isomil or other soy-based infant formula, 4 heaped tablespoons (80-100 mL)
    • Nutri-Cal (concentrated food for debilitated animals) 1/3 tube (one tube = 120 g/4.25 oz)
    • Vegetable oil 1/4 cup (59 mL)
    • Dry baby cereal, preferably mixed style, 2 cups (274 mL)
    • The ingredients are mixed in a blender at high speed until smooth, with a little extra water added if the mixture appears too thick. To feed, it is mixed well and warmed to about 21 °C (70 °F).
    • To store, divide between small containers and freeze for up to three months. Defrost, mix thoroughly and warm to 21 °C/70 °F before use.
    • Variation 1: For chicks, once they are sufficiently well to use complex nutrients. Mix two cups (about 250 g) of crane starter pellets with an equal volume of hot water and allow the pellets to soak until they are fully expanded and soft; this takes 5-20 minutes. Add a further 1-2 cups (137-274 mL) water to allow easy blending and blend at high speed. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, discarding the solids which would clog up the stomach tube (note this step is time-consuming). Mix this with the basic formula.
    • Variation 2: For older chicks (primaries grown) and adult cranes: Mix two cups (about 250 g) of crane starter pellets with an equal volume of hot water and allow the pellets to soak until they are fully expanded and soft; this takes 5-20 minutes. Add a further 1-2 cups (137-274 mL) water to allow easy blending and blend at high speed. Mix this with the basic formula. Note: The stomach tube diameter can be larger in larger birds so straining of the mixture should not be needed. However, swelling of larger pieces of the solids from the pellets may block the tube occasionally. 
  • Another formula is: 750 mL of a mixture of crane pellets and water (soaked until soft), 25 mL of Isomil concentrate (Ross Laboratories), 5 mL of Nutro-Cal (Evsco pharmaceutical Corp, Buena, New Jersey, USA), 30 mL infant instant rice cereal, 30 mL vegetable oil plus vitamin and mineral supplements, all blended together. (B12.56.w14)
    • For chicks, finely sieve the pellet-water mixture, since the feeding tube will have a narrower internal diameter. (B12.56.w14)
  • Emeraid II can be used, mixed with an equal volume of warm water. ((B115.8.w4)
  • Human liquid enteral diets can be used. (B115.8.w4)

NOTE: It is essential to calculate the crane's energy requirements and provide sufficient food to meet those requirements: (V.w5)

  • Daily energy requirement (Kcal) = 1.5 x Basal Metabolic Rate (B115.8.w4)
  • Basal Metabolic Rate = 78 x Weight (kg) 0.75 . (B115.8.w4)
  • Quantity of food required (mL) = Daily Energy Requirement / (Kcal/mL) of the formula. This should be divided into 2-4 meals, giving no more than 150 mL at one meal. Initially feed 60-80 mL per meal. (B115.8.w4)

Note: it is important to confirm that a sick crane has not only started eating again but is taking in sufficient food before tube feeding is discontinued. (V.w5)

  • A balance must be chosen between the stress of tube feeding and weight loss in a crane which has started to feed itself but is not eating sufficient to maintain body weight. An intake of about 100-200 g per day of pelleted food is required for a crane to maintain its body weight; some weight loss may be acceptable to remove the stress of tube feeding. (B115.8.w4)
  • If tube feeding has been discontinued it is essential to monitor the crane's food intake and body weight closely, so that assisted feeding can be restarted if necessary before the crane looses to much weight. (V.w5)
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Food Presentation and Behavioural Considerations

  • In the wild, birds would spend a considerable proportion of their time foraging. In captivity, food is frequently presented in a nutritional but possibly monotonous form, and may be consumable in a short period of time. This may cause behavioural deprivation.
  • Food is also usually presented in feed bowls, troughs or similar (to reduce spillage and associated wasting, spoiling and encouragement of vermin); this unnatural concentration of food may lead to excessive competition between individuals, with a risk that subordinate birds may not get sufficient nutrition. Food receptacles should be designed and placed so that the food is accessible to all the birds in the enclosure. Increasing the number of feeding points and spacing them at greater distances should increase the number of birds able to feed at one time.
  • Persuading birds to eat a food which is new to them may be difficult. As a rule, species with highly specialized diets are more difficult to encourage onto other foods than are more generalist species, although many species show some degree of reluctance to eat novel foods or food presented in a novel way. Gradual transition to a new diet may be required for adults; for species whose adults never learn to eat non-natural diets it may be necessary to hand-rear chicks using substitute foods from an early age. In social species, acceptance by one individual may be the key to acceptance of the new food by the rest of the group.
  • Note: Providing a mixed diet, rather than a monotonous but balanced complete food, may lead to an imbalanced nutrient intake in some species: given a free choice, birds will not necessarily choose a mix of foods which is nutritionally correct.
    • Birds have evolved to feed to maximise calorie intake while minimising risks associated with foraging
    • Where a balanced diet is supplemented with preferred food items (treats), dominant birds in a group may feed exclusively on preferred but nutritionally unbalanced items. (P76.1994.w1)
  • At all times, consideration should be made in providing food to making the presentation of the food compatible with the normal feeding behaviour of the species being fed.
  • The method of food presentation should also be chosen to provide environmental enrichment.
  • Note: care should be taken not to unbalance a diet, or provide excessive food, when unbalanced food treats (e.g. mealworms, peanuts) are used for management purposes. (P76.1994.w1)
    • Particular care must be taken with very small individuals, where even a single treat item (e.g. a single waxworm) may make up a large percentage of its total daily food needs. (P76.1994.w1)

(B33.1.w1, B105.15.w2, B105.16.w3, D15, P76.1994.w1)

Waterfowl Consideration Timing of feeding and amounts provided:
  • Waterfowl vary considerably in their normal feeding patterns, including the times at which they feed and the proportion of the day spent foraging. Species may also vary in their flexibility and therefore their ability to adapt to routines of, for example, standard twice-daily feeding.
  • Species which feed on items such as seeds or grain as a normal part of their diet may be more able to take in a large quantity of food at one time compared with grazing species, while carnivorous species may have a very small crop and require a near-continuous source of food. 
  • For most species, the food presented should be finished within half an hour, although longer should be allowed for swans, which are relatively slow eaters.
  • Species which feed mainly on animal material may do best on a pond which contains a natural supply of small fish and other animal material such as insect larvae and chironomid worms, providing food at any time, in addition to two feeds a day of fish, grain, pellets etc. If possible, several feeds should be given each day to these waterfowl, or a pair may be kept in a covered aviary/enclosure with food always available.
  • Food for diving ducks may be provided within in protective "cages" which may only be approached from underwater. Food may then be made constantly available allowing the ducks to eat little and often.

Natural food in ponds/lakes/streams:

  • All waterfowl appreciate natural food, such as may be present in a large lake or if water is brought in from a stream or river.
  • If natural food is not present, aquatic weeds may be brought in from elsewhere: they and their attendant small animal life will keep waterfowl occupied foraging for hours.
  • However, many types of natural food items act as intermediate hosts for various parasites and control of these must be considered (See: Preventative Medicine for Birds - Parasite Screening and Routine Control Measures).

Provision of water:

  • Water should always be available when waterfowl are fed, to facilitate swallowing and avoid impactions.

Distribution and feeding troughs:

  • When feeding large groups of birds it is particularly important that food should be sufficiently well distributed to allow shy birds to feed. Containers of food on the ground should be sized to facilitate the dabbling/shovelling motion of dabbling ducks and may also contain water covering the food to reduce scavenging by pests such as pigeons. Broad containers at least 30cm diameter and a few centimetres deep should be suitable.
  • Providing food in or at the edge of the water reduces problems for species which normally gather food on or in water and which may be out-competed at feeders on land. For example swans prefer to take food while floating, and ducks which normally feed underwater, particularly the stifftails and seaducks, will be more able to take their share if fed in water - which requires food items which do not quickly disintegrate in water. If food is provided out of water, swans and ducks may even carry feed to water to eat one beakful at a time.
  • Depending on the type of food and the number and species of waterfowl, food may be broadcast over the water and/or placed into a feeding trough sloping into the water.
  • Placement of troughs/hoppers at water level such that they may be reached by ducks while swimming may be particularly important for species such as seaducks.
  • Food scattered on water and/or on land (depending on the species being fed) also increases foraging behaviour and acts as a form of environmental enrichment.
  • Expanded pelleted foods which float may be particularly useful for species which prefer not to come ashore and do not dive, while grain broadcast into water is useful for species which head-dip or dive (depending on the depth of water it is thrown into).
  • Feeding seaducks pellets in troughs containing large stones may be useful to avoid bill overgrowth.

Feeding by the public

  • Providing food in small amounts between the main meal times, may be of some benefit to the birds (J23.16.w2). See section on Feeding of Birds by the General Public on this page for further consideration of this topic.

Grazing and green food:

  • Grazing species such as geese, swans and wigeon should be provided with a short grass sward for grazing.
  • If the grass area is not sufficient, as may occur with high stocking densities and/or in winter, supplementation may be provided by means of a heads of dark leafy greens staked into the ground, which provides a source of green food to be pulled at; similarly green foods such as a whole head of lettuce thrown into the water provide environmental enrichment to the birds while it is torn up.
  • After a heavy snowfall even a small strip of grass cleared of snow to allow grazing will be utilized by grazing species.
  • Note: Long cut grass should not be offered to waterfowl as it may lead to Impaction.

Special winter feeding considerations:

  • N.B. In severe winter conditions, food should be provided close to the preferred resting areas of the birds.
  • It is important to ensure that bowls of water are provided several times a day if the water is frozen or birds will not feed properly as well as being unable to drink.
  • On small ponds it may be possible to break the ice, which must then be removed or it will refreeze very quickly.

(J23.16.w2, B7, B13.46.w1, B29, B33.4.w2, B41, B97, V.w5).

Feeding juveniles:

  • Food should be available as soon as the young waterfowl show an interest in feeding or pecking. In practice, for birds being artificially reared or broody reared food should be provided once downies are moved from the hatcher to the brooder box or run. Food and water should be available at a distance from the heat lamp, rather than directly underneath it.
  • Downies generally feed in daylight hours and light should be provided to give a daylength (and therefore feeding time) similar to that which the species would encounter in their natural environment. Goslings of arctic-breeding geese may be given constant light, while tropical species appear to do best given approximately 13 hours light, 11 hours dark, and temperate species need something in between, e.g. 18 hours light, six hours dark. Temperate and tropical species given too many hours of daylight are prone to overfeeding, with the attendant risk of the development of Angel Wing.
  • For downies being parent reared, it may be necessary to provide starter and later grower diet within a cage-type structure designed so that the downies can reach the food but the adults cannot. This allows food for the downies to be available constantly without it all being eaten by the parents.
  • Downies generally show preferences for feeding on objects which are a) yellow or green; b) worm-shaped and c) moving. These stimuli of colour, shape and movement preferences should be utilized in encouraging downies to start feeding and may be essential in encouraging artificially-reared downies to feed.
  • Downies are often stimulated to feed if another individual is already feeding and this may be utilized by placing a downy which is already feeding with a newly-hatched clutch to encourage them to start eating.
  • Species which peck at discrete food items (geese, swans, dabbling ducks, perching ducks, pochards) may be best fed on dry crumbs (may be slightly damped initially), close to water, with a running water system preferred. Addition of fine-chopped duck weed or dark greens and hard-boiled egg are useful to promote feeding.
  • Species which sieve or strain their food, suck as stifftails, may do better provided with food mixed with water to form a gruel, and floating foods including small seeds (millet, canary seed, rape) and duckweed Lemna are preferred by species which sieve from the surface and do not dive much, e.g. Black-headed duck (Heteronetta atricapilla - Black-headed duck), Dendrocygna spp.).
  • Live food may be important initially, particularly for e.g. seaducks. Food items such as water insects and crustaceans may be netted from water. N.B. such food items may be intermediate hosts for parasites : e.g. Daphnia (water fleas) and water shrimp (Gammarids) are intermediate hosts for Acuaria) (see: Echinuriasis (Acuariasis)) and Acanthocephala spp. (thorny-headed worms) (see: Acanthocephala Infection) respectively.
  • Goslings and other grazing species should be provided with short-cut rooted grass (i.e. pasture), to graze on not just cut grass. Since gizzard worms and gapeworm overwinter on grass swards it is important to use a fresh sward for goslings in particular, not used by adults or juveniles the previous year (See: Preventative Medicine for Birds - Parasite Screening and Routine Control Measures).
  • N.B. downies may be reluctant to feed initially; this is a particular problem with some species and may lead to Starveout. Details of methods used to promote feeding behaviour are described in Stimulating Feeding of Downies (Waterfowl).
  • (J23.16.w2, B7, B37.x.w1, B95, B97).
(J23.16.w2, B7, B37.x.w1, B95, B97).

Food presentation for hospitalized birds:

  • Feed provided for hospitalized birds should be as close as possible to the normal diet of the bird. For wild waterfowl in particular it should be presented in as natural a manner as possible.
  • For most species (e.g. dabbling ducks, geese, swans) a choice should be available of dry pellets/grains on the ground, grain submerged in a water bowl and fresh waterweed such as duckweed.
  • Different requirements of specialized feeders should be considered. for example, duckweed and lettuce may be used as "appetizers" to encourage feeding of swans, softbill food, insectivorous food mix or mealworms to encourage ducks, and fish or de-shelled shellfish for sea ducks. 
  • N.B. For species which normally rarely come to land and should be being maintained on water while hospitalized, consideration should be given to ensuring food is available from the water e.g. using hoppers at the edge of the water, rather than forcing the birds to come out of the water to feed.
  • The provision of a companion may assist in persuading a hospitalized bird to feed.
  • Hospitalized birds which fail to eat voluntarily may have to be tube fed or force-fed solid foods (see: Convalescent diets / Nutritional support).
Crane Consideration
Timing of feeding
  • In the wild, cranes generally feed early to mid-morning, and again later in the day. (B107.w8)
  • A study on five species of cranes in captivity showed that for captive cranes food intake peaked at midday, with the second highest food consumption in the early morning. (P88.1.w1)
  • Proving food early in the morning helps ensure that it is clean and fresh during the likely periods of maximum food intake. (P88.1.w1)
Food presentation
  • Most cranes normally poke and probe in the ground for food. If a bucket of food is suspended on a wall (to reduce spillage and access by rodents) attaching it in a corner may stabilise the container allowing the birds to poke and probe at the food. (P88.1.w1)
  • A potential disadvantage of complete feeds is monotony. (B472)
    • Whole grain (e.g. maize (corn) can be scattered to allow cranes to search and probe for this. (P88.1.w1)
    • Providing natural ground and vegetation in which the cranes can probe and search for food is beneficial. (REF****).
    • Cranes will catch and eat insects, rodents and nestling birds which enter their enclosures. (B94, P88.1.w1)
  • Live invertebrate food can be offered covered with earth; this reduces losses to wild birds as well as providing work for the cranes accessing the food. (N1.V.1.w1)
  • In mixed-species exhibits food can be provided within a wire cage such that the cranes can reach the food but e.g. mammals cannot. (N19.12.w1)
  • Scattering food such as whole corn (maize) by hand may assist in calming down nervous cranes. (N19.7.w3)
  • Feed can be provided in 110 mm diameter (4.25 in) 500m high (20 in) PVC pipes to reduce losses to wild birds; cranes soon learn to reach down into these for the food. (B521.19.2.w19b, N41.23.w1)
    • A piece of pipe of smaller diameter, with a solid base, can be placed inside and the food put into this; these can then be removed for cleaning. (N41.23.w1)
New cranes
  • Initially try to provide feed and water containers similar to those the bird was used to at its previous location, and gradually change over to those which you use usually. (B115.2.w7)
  • To encourage feeding, sprinkle some of the food the crane is used to on top of that which is used at their new location. (B115.2.w7)
Wild cranes in rehabilitation
  • Either diets formulated for cranes, or e.g. diets for gamebirds can be used.(J311.21.w1)
  • Supplement with more natural foods such as fish, baby mice, chopped greens, and whole corn (maize), barley, wheat placed on top of the pelleted food to encourage feeding. (J311.21.w1)
  • Provide the food at/near floor level e.g. in a shallow pan if the crane does not feed from a bucket. (J311.21.w1)
    • If using a bucket, secure this to the fence/wall at about 45 cm (18 inches) above ground level to minimise spillage of food. (J311.21.w1)
  • Similarly, provide water in a low pan as well as in a bucket. (J311.21.w1)
Cranes in flocks
  • If cranes are being kept in a flock, rather than just a pair in an enclosure, it is important to provide several feeding stations and watering points to ensure that subordinate as well as dominant birds can eat and drink. (J23.17.w5)
Feeding chicks
  • To feed chicks which are being parent-reared, food should be provided in a shallow container so that the chick can learn to eat the food directly, as well as being fed by its parents.
  • For more information on feeding hand-reared chicks, see:
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Feeding of Birds by the General Public

  • Feeding of birds by the general public, whether in their own gardens, public places such as parks, or collections open to the public may be beneficial or detrimental to the birds concerned.
  • Feeding and providing water for garden birds may compensate for reduced availability of natural foods (e.g. due to recent land use changes) and thereby enhance the survival of those birds over the winter period. However, foods such as peanuts provided during the summer may cause problems due to parent birds providing inappropriate food items for their nestlings.
  • Additionally, there is a risk of disease associated with the artificial concentration of birds at feeding points, particularly where large quantities of feed are provided and, therefore, large number of birds congregate. (P6.2.w1, P18.3.w2)
  • In public places such as parks also birds may congregate where food is provided by members of the public. The birds, their droppings and excess food left uneaten by the birds may all be perceived as a nuisance by some members of the public. There may also be possible public health risks associated with congregations of birds such as pigeons (e.g. Chlamydiosis / Psittacosis). Although some feeding with appropriate feeds may be beneficial to the birds, other foods, particularly in large quantities, may be nutritionally unbalanced and harmful.
  • Within collections, feeding is often banned. In some circumstances, depending on the birds involved, allowing members of the public to buy appropriate food to feed to the birds may be a viable alternative.
Waterfowl Consideration
  • There is no doubt that members of the public enjoy feeding waterfowl, and that this can greatly enhance their visit. Opinions vary as to the desirability for the birds. Feeding of waterfowl in collections by the public, by provide food in small amounts between the main meal times, may be of some benefit to the birds (J23.16.w2).
  • If feeding is not to be prohibited in a collection, it is best to provide food, which people are usually prepared to pay for. This encourages feeding of the correct sort of food, and the total fed in this manner can be calculated, with an associated reduction in the amount provided at official feeding times if desired.
  • In park situations or other public areas it may also be possible to provide food in dispensers.
  • Note: Feeding of large quantities of bread to waterfowl, or mouldy bread, may be harmful. Notices may be used to give suggestions as to feeding and explain the harm that may result if the wrong food or excess food is given (e.g. the role of uneaten bread in adding to the nutrient load of a park lake and the increased risk of botulism and blooms of blue-green algae which may result from this).
  • Additionally, it may be possible to designate a "feeding area", e.g. close to the car park or entry point into the site, from which excess food may be cleared more easily.

(J23.16.w2, V.w5)

Crane Consideration
  • Feeding of cranes by members of the public should not be permitted. (V.w5)
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Food Handling, Hygiene and Storage

  • Facilities need to include sufficient space for food storage and preparation. (B438.8.w8)
  • Foodstuffs should be stored in a cool, clean, dry (low humidity) place away from vermin such as rodents and insects. Rodent droppings in feed have been associated with outbreaks of enteritis. Large plastic bins or galvanized feedbins may be used for storing food such as grain and pellets. Bins should be kept closed to exclude vermin, and spilt food swept up and removed to avoid encouraging vermin. Feed still in sacks should be stored in a cool dry place. Sacks should be stacked on pallets rather than placed directly onto an earth or concrete floor. For longer storage, pellets may be kept refrigerated or frozen
  • Manufactured feeds have a "use by" or "expiry" date, after which their stated composition (particularly e.g. vitamin levels) may not be considered valid. If feed is removed from feed bins by being scooped from the top of the bin it is advisable to completely empty the bin before adding a new batch of food, to avoid old food remaining at the bottom of the bin. This is good practice with any feedstuff, whether or not it has an official expiry date. If feed is stored in a sack within a bin, spilt food should be removed from the bottom of the bin every time a sack is finished.
  • Periodic emptying also reduces the risk of food becoming mouldy. Mouldy food may lead to Aspergillosis, particularly in juveniles, or may contain mycotoxins (fungal toxins). Mouldy food should be cleared from food bins and never used for feeding. Food should not be left to go mouldy in enclosures and if mouldy food is found in an enclosure it should be removed at once. Food is most likely to become mouldy if it has a high moisture content and/or is kept in moist conditions, particularly in a warm environment.

(B13.2.w21, B23.17.w3, D15 - full text provided, V.w5)

Waterfowl Consideration
  • If fish is to be used for waterfowl (e.g. mergansers), it should be stored frozen. A separate area, utensils and buckets should be used for preparing and feeding fish.
  • Feeding excess food should be avoided, as food left uneaten encourages pests such as rats and mice, may act as a substrate for the development of mould. Excess food left in water adds to the nutrient levels of the water and may be a factor in eutrophication.

(J23.16.w2, B7, B29, B97, V.w5).

Crane Consideration
  • Food storage areas need to be kept clean and free of both rodent and insect pests. (B115.2.w7, P88.1.w1)
  • Pelleted food must be kept dry to reduce growth of bacteria and moulds. (B115.2.w7)
  • Note: some ingredients, particularly vitamins, in prepared diets have a limited storage life. (B115.2.w7)
  • Pelleted food may be kept at ambient temperature for up to a month, or refrigerated (1.7 - 4.4 °C / 35-40 °F) and low humidity for three months. (B115.2.w7)
  • Pelleted food can be stored frozen for up to a year, however some nutritional value is lost, it may become more easily pulverised, and tastes or odours may be acquired, making it less palatable. (B115.2.w7)
    • Note: When sacks of feed are removed from the freezer moisture is likely to condense on them, particularly in warm, humid conditions; it is important to allow the sacks to stand separate from one another to allow the moisture to evaporate. (B115.2.w7)
  • Food should be presented to cranes in a manner which minimises access by rodent pests and reduces moisture accumulation in the food (e.g. suspended plastic buckets rather than wooden containers on the ground, and provision inside a shelter protected from rain and snow. (B115.2.w7, P88.1.w1)
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Authors & Referees

Authors Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

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