Most birds can safely eat rolled oats in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Oats provide fiber, protein, and other nutrients birds need. However, oats should be given sparingly since they are higher in carbohydrates and fat than a bird’s natural diet. Only give plain rolled oats, not the flavored or instant kind, which have added sugar.
Oats are a common breakfast cereal for humans that can also be a tasty and nutritious treat for birds in moderation. Rolled oats are simply whole oat groats that have been steamed and rolled flat for quicker cooking. This process makes the starch in oats more readily digestible.
Many bird owners want to know if they can share a bit of their morning oatmeal with their feathered friends. Or they may wonder if rolled oats can be used as occasional bird feed. The answer is yes, rolled oats are generally safe for birds to eat in small amounts as part of a balanced diet.
However, there are some important factors to consider before feeding oats to birds. Oats should only be an occasional treat, not a daily food. Only plain rolled oats should be fed, not the pre-flavored or instant kinds. And proper portion control is key, as oats are higher in carbohydrates and fat than the grains and seeds birds naturally consume.
This article will explore the nutritional value of oats for birds, which bird species can eat oats, serving suggestions, and potential health concerns with overfeeding this grain.
Nutritional Value of Oats for Birds
Oats provide many key nutrients that make them a healthy supplemental food for birds in moderation. Here is the nutritional profile of raw oats per 100 grams:
- 389 calories
- 13 grams protein
- 71 grams carbohydrates
- 6 grams fat
- 11 grams fiber
- Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc
- Vitamin A, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6)
The main benefits oats provide birds include:
- Protein – High quality protein helps birds maintain muscle mass and feather health.
- Complex carbohydrates – Birds use carbs for energy. Oats provide slow-digesting carbs.
- Fiber – The indigestible parts of oats promote a healthy digestive tract.
- Healthy fats – Oils in oats provide fatty acids birds need in moderation.
- Vitamins and minerals – Oats deliver a range of vitamins and minerals birds need in small amounts to stay healthy.
So in moderate portions, plain oats can be a nutritious supplemental food for birds. Just don’t overdo it, since oats are higher in fat, calories, and carbohydrates compared to what birds naturally eat.
Best Bird Species to Feed Oats
Most bird species can eat some oats safely, but some types are better suited to digesting and utilizing grains than others. Good candidates to offer small amounts of oats include:
Chicken and waterfowl are especially well-adapted to digest grains like oats. Backyard chickens can eat rolled oats as a supplemental treat. Just don’t overdo it, since chickens have a tendency towards obesity.
Game birds like quail relish rolled oats too. Scatter some on the ground of their enclosure for foraging enrichment. Granivorous songbirds like doves, pigeons, and sparrows also readily accept oats. Just a teaspoon per bird twice a week is plenty.
Oats can also be incorporated into sprouted seed mixes for parrots and parakeets. Sprouting makes the oats more digestible for small pet bird species. Monitor carefully to ensure they are not filling up on oats and excluding other nutritious foods.
Birds of prey like owls, eagles, hawks, and falcons are not well-adapted to digest grains. Avoid feeding them oats. Likewise very small finches and hummingbirds should avoid oats, which are too large and complex for their tiny digestive systems.
Serving Oats to Birds
When serving oats to your birds, keep these tips in mind:
- Stick to plain rolled oats, not instant or flavored oatmeal.
- Avoid oats with added sugar, salt, or other artificial flavors and preservatives.
- Organic oats are ideal to minimize pesticide exposure.
- Cook oats thoroughly before feeding to birds according to package directions.
- Allow oats to cool completely before offering them to prevent burns.
- Introduce new foods like oats gradually by starting with just a taste.
- To encourage foraging, scatter small amounts of oats on the ground.
- Mix a few oats into sprouted seed mixes for parrots and parakeets.
- Feed oats in the morning so birds burn carbohydrates during the day.
- Rinse bowls daily to prevent spoilage.
- Clean up uneaten, spoiled oats promptly.
The proper portion size of oats to offer birds depends on the species:
- Small birds like finches: 1-2 teaspoons per 5 birds daily maximum
- Doves: 1-2 tablespoons per bird twice weekly
- Chickens: 1⁄4 cup per bird twice weekly
- Ducks: 1⁄2 cup per bird twice weekly
- Parrots: 1-2 teaspoons per parrot once or twice weekly
Start with smaller amounts and monitor your birds to ensure they are not overeating the oats before increasing portions.
Potential Concerns with Oats for Birds
While oats can be a healthy supplemental food, there are some potential downsides to be aware of:
- High carbohydrates – The starch in oats is higher than birds eat naturally. Too much can lead to obesity and other issues.
- Phytates – An antinutrient in oats that can block mineral absorption. Soaking, sprouting, or cooking oats reduces phytates.
- Natural toxins – Oats contain small amounts of anti-nutrient compounds including avenin (like gluten). These are reduced by processing methods used to produce rolled oats.
- Pesticides – Non-organic oats may contain traces of pesticides, so organic is ideal.
- Heavy contamination – Oats contaminated by dirt, feces, insects, or mold can make birds sick.
- Choking hazard – Whole oats could pose a choking risk for smaller birds. Grind or soak them first.
As long as you feed plain rolled oats in moderation, they make a safe, nutritious supplemental food for birds. But they should never outweigh natural sources of bird food like seeds, pellets, vegetables, and fruits.
Healthy Oat Recipes for Birds
Here are some simple ways to serve oats to your birds:
Simply sprinkle a small amount of raw oats into your bird’s feed dish or food scatter it across their enclosure floor for foraging.
Prepare plain oatmeal according to package directions for human consumption. Allow to cool fully then offer birds a spoonful.
Soak raw oat groats overnight, then rinse and sprout for 1-2 days until just starting to grow tails. Rinse well before serving. Sprouting makes the oats more digestible.
Chopped Oatmeal Cookies
Make basic oatmeal cookies with oats, flour, egg, honey, and baking powder. Leave out sugar. Cool fully then crumble a small piece over feed.
Oat Flour Treats
Substitute oat flour for up to 1⁄4 of the flour in tried bird treat recipes like seed balls or Nutri-Ankle birdie bread.
Oatmeal Seed Balls
Combine oatmeal with seed bird seed mix, peanut butter and a little honey. Form into balls and allow to dry fully before feeding.
In conclusion, most birds can safely enjoy a few oats as an occasional treat. Oats provide protein, fiber, carbohydrates, healthy fats and a range of vitamins and minerals. Just be sure to only offer plain rolled oats in moderation. Cook or soak the oats first and serve them intermixed with your bird’s regular diet. Limit intake to a few times a week and supervise feedings to prevent overconsumption. With proper portion control, oats can be a beneficial supplemental food many bird species relish.