Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sprouting Seed

I have been sprouting seed to give to my Bengalese for some time now and I have great success with it. Sprouted seed significantly increases the nutritional value of dry seed and is excellent for rearing young chicks.

At my house I have not had much room to store large amounts of sprouted seed in the freezer but I have developed a simple method to keeping a small container of sprouted seed in the freezer at all times. I will try and describe how to use my particular method but honestly once you do it a few times you will find that it is not that hard to make your own variation of things.
With my sprouted seed I use French White Millet because I was advised by a few people that it gives the best results. With a finch mix the different seeds can sprout at different times which makes it harder to get it right and also from what I understand Canary seed that is usually in a standard finch mix can go rancid easily.

What do you need?

- 3 large takeaway containers (identical is best)
- 1 Teaspoon of Avi-clens (or any other avicultural water cleanser/disinfectant like Virkon-S)
- 3/4 of one of the takeaway containers worth of French White Millet
- Plastic shopping bag (optional) 
- Think of a warm (not Hot) place to put the mixture if possible
- Access to water.

The biggest key here is to get hold of seed that will sprout. Generally speaking anything that has been harvested in Australia will be fine but seed that has come from outside of Australia must be radiated to come into the country and this renders the seed sterile and not sprout-able.

To start with I take one of the large takeaway containers and poke heaps of holes in the bottom (you cannot have too many holes here) either with a metal skewer or similar. If you are handy then small holes can be drilled as long as the seed cannot fall through . This will act as like a sieve to drain the water out. This is the only "prep" you really need to do.

Place your sieve container into one of the other containers so you have the sieve on top of the other. Put your seed into the containers. 

Fill the container assembly with water and be sure that this covers all the seed well.
Put in the teaspoon of Avi-clens and mix well. Using this kind of product will kill any bacteria that may be present in the seed and will help to prevent the mix going rancid and making the birds sick.

It is common to find articles and webpages suggesting to use bleach as a means to cleanse the mix however all of my fellow finch friends (and Vets) suggest that this while being "relatively" safe is not the best because it is essentially a poison that can potentially harm the birds and must be carefully cleaned thoroughly for the birds consumption. The other products mentioned like Avi-clens or Virkon-S are designed specifically for birds and can also be introduced into drinking water to kill the bacterial content so it is completely safe.

Let the mix sit for around two to three hours.

Then lift out the sieve container draining out the water and leave to continue draining for a few minutes (you may notice that the seed has swelled a bit). After this tip out the water that was in the bottom container and put the sieve with the seed back into it.

Now you can either put the lid for the container on here or what I do is put the container without the top inside of a plastic shopping bag, it is up to you. I put this in a warm place, my spot is under the kitchen bench cupboard with the water heater and I have heard of others putting it on top of a full size one. This just helps to accelerate the process a bit but is not necessary in getting results. You then leave the seed to sprout for around 24-36 hours depending on the temperature. I check the seed every 6 hours or so to make sure that it is not drying out too much. I give the seed a bit of a mix and look for a moist glistening on the seed. You may need to rinse the seed periodically if it is drying out.
When the seed starts to sprout (roughly after the 24 hour point) you will be able to tell because since the first swelling of the seed when it was soaked it will fill up the container even more when it begins to sprout.
The optimum amount that you should let your seed sprout to is when the sprout that comes off is protruding 1-2 millimeters from the seed after this amount the seed begins to loose the nutritional value. Some of the seed will have longer sprouts but you want to see that generally throughout the seed it is all sprouting at about 1-2 millimeters. Be aware of the smell of the seed throughout the process it usually has a pleasant nutty smell. I am told that you can smell if the seed has gone off or rancid but fortunately I have not had this problem myself.

Then the last thing is that you need to put the seed into the 3rd takeaway container to be put into the freezer. If the seed is fairly dry and not wet you can put the seed straight into the container and into the freezer but if you think it is too wet then you can lay the seed out on some absorbent towel and let dry for a while. Usually you will be fine and I often revisit the seed after it has frozen properly and break it up nicely so that it can be spooned out easily later on.

Here are some images to help describe my sprouted mix for my Bengalese. As I have mentioned before I have not had much luck in getting my finches to take some of the softfoods on the market so to introduce some protein for them I have used lentils. Lentils generally have around 25-28% protein which is good when compared to some of the soft foods on the market that can be around the 30-35% mark. I will either sprout the lentils to develop more nutrients in the bean or simply soak it for a few hours so that it can be used easily by the birds. I will keep a container of this mix in the freezer at all times. Care must be taken in drying out the seed and particularly the chopped lentils before freezing so that the mix does not become an unusable BLOCK once it is frozen. The mix of French White Millet and Lentils is the base of what I usually give my birds and often I will also mix in some tonic seeds or greens and grains or chopped Broccoli into the mix once defrosted.
Please take this method with your discretion, everyone has different ideas about feeding birds and people are free to make up their own mind and apply the things that relate most to them.

The optimum point for sprouted millet where the nutritional value is at its highest is when the sprout is only one millimeter long.

I use a similar perspective for the lentils

You can Chop the lentils by hand or put them in a blender depending on how much you are doing. After this it is good to let the chopped lentils stand in a warm area for a while to help dry it out a bit. I actually put it on a tray and into the oven on the lowest setting and mix the lentils around every 5-10 minutes. This helps the mix to separate once frozen.

This is the mix at a 50:50 ratio.

The mix in a container.

I find my birds love this, but aside from my kookie lentils idea, it is very commonly accepted that using sprouted French White Millet is an excellent alternative to harvested green seed or milk seed for Finches. They Will Love It!