So you’ve adopted and/or rescued a European Starling. Well done! Your life is on a path of promising events and opportunities. In order to keep your bird happy (and alive), you’ll need to feed them a proper diet.
Note: If your starling is younger than 6-10 weeks old or is not yet eating on their own, you’ll want to use the Baby/Fledgling Diet instead. If you do the mix of cat food, layer mash, dried egg powder, and applesauce as described below, you will be giving your little one the right nutrition. Here’s what you need.
2 Cups High-Protein Cat Food
Measure 2 cups of dry cat food with the right protein/fat ratio. Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging (Mature Cats 7+) meets the bill quite nicely. Grind it up into a fine powder using a grinder. Store-bought bird food is not adequate as it will not have enough protein and will frequently list corn (not chicken) as the first ingredient. Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging is a good choice all the way around as it has 32% crude protein and 15% crude fat.
Compare that to Harrison’s High Potency Super Fine bird food (which many vets will prescribe for high protein needs) which lists Millet, Barley, and Corn as the first ingredients as well as a lower crude protein of 20% and crude fat of 12%. Regardless of what you use, the first ingredient should always be chicken and it should have at least 33.1% crude protein and 12.1% crude fat for adult birds.
1/2 Cup Poultry Layer-Mash/Crumble
Next, measure 1/2 cup of poultry layer-mash/crumble. You want to make sure it is for egg-laying hens and not medicated. A good one to use is Purina Layena Crumbles. “Layer mash” is a standardized vitamin/mineral formula for birds with high-calcium (i.e., egg-production) needs. Grind this up into a fine powder as well. Add these together to a storage container; this will be your primary food to feed to your little darling. Simply add to a small bowl. Make sure the mash/crumble is designed for egg-laying hens and is not medicated. After about three months of shelf life, you’ll want to replace this as the vitamins may not be as potent.
If you’d rather not use poultry layer-mash crumble or are unable to find any at a local feed store, you can optionally grind up a single 750mg Tums Smooth Dissolve Tablet for the calcium and add some high-quality avian vitamins (we use Hari Prime).
Crush & Mix Together
You’ll want to mix the Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging cat food and Purina Layena Crumbles together and mash it up. Your best bet is to use a mortar and pestle, which will give you the most control over how crumbled the mix gets. In the past we’ve tried coarse coffee grinders, but even that is still too find of a powder and poses a risk of aspiration.
An alternative is to simply grind it all up together using a simple electric coffee grinder, add boiling water and let it cool before serving. You can even prepare a large batch, freeze it in blocks or squares and de-thaw prior to serving. If you want, you can use filtered water to reduce contaminants and the more alarming plastic fibers found in tap water, although this may be overkill. Our birds seem to enjoy eating the dry crushed mix without any issue.
Additional Daily Calcium
Your bird will also need additional calcium. For the egg, simply hard boil it and rinse under cold water to easily remove the shell. Cut it up and add 1 tablespoon of the egg to a separate dish. Eggs should be boiled for at least 10 minutes to remove any bacteria that may be in the yolk, although we have nothing to back that up with other than anecdotal evidence.
Alternatively, you can use whole egg powder (not egg substitute) if your bird won’t eat the eggs or if you want to minimize your preparation time. We use Judee’s Gluten Free Whole Dried Eggs. Simply add 2 tablespoons to the 2 cups cat food/half cup poultry mash mix (assuming 2 tablespoons equals one whole egg).
You can alternate depending on whether or not you’ve boiled any eggs recently to serve.
In the same (or another) dish as the egg, add 1 tablespoon unsweetened applesauce. You’ll want to feed this daily (and remove after being out for a bit to prevent spoilage). We heat some up for about eight seconds in a small bowl in the microwave each day, making sure that it isn’t too hot. This should give your little darling some fruit and about 42mg potassium, 1mg vitamin C, and 1 mg calcium.
Probiotics have mixed reviews. Many people swear by them, however research also shows that it can tend to make things worse. We’re undecided on this issue and, since we haven’t noticed a difference in our bird’s poop, we tend to hold off using it unless a coarse of antibiotics has been used. We use Avi-Culture 2 Plus.
Avoid Dangerous Foods
Occasionally you can add small amounts of different foods to broaden your bird’s palette. However, you should take care to avoid the common things that birds shouldn’t eat, such as salt, tomatoes, or chocolate. While many people like to feed their birds mealworms, keep in mind that this is the equivalent of feeding potato chips to a human; not very nutritious and full of unhealthy fat.