Legumes are a delicious, healthy addition to your bird's diet. They are a good source of protein and fiber, and they are low in fat.What is a legume?
Legumes are a family of foods which include beans, lentils, and peas.Which legumes should I feed?
When deciding which legumes to prepare for your birds, digestibility is a primary concern. If foods are difficult to digest they can cause an upset tummy, gas, and decreased absorption of nutrients. The easiest ones to digest are mung beans, adzuki beans, garbanzo beans/ chickpeas, lentils, sprouting peas, and split peas. The hardest ones to digest are large beans such as kidney and pinto. I choose to mainly feed the legumes that are easier to digest to my birds. Occasionally if I happen to be making a batch of other legumes for myself, such as kidney beans, I may offer some to by birds as well. However it is not a regular part of their diet. I also choose not to use 15 bean mixes and such. Not only do they contain a large amount of hard to digest legumes, but when including a large variety of legumes all in one meal they can be harder to digest as well. It's better to only feed one or two types of legumes at a time.Where can I find them?
Look for dried legumes rather then canned. Try to find organic legumes with a smooth, rather then wrinkled, appearance. The wrinkled ones are older, and you want yours to be as fresh as possible. Most grocery stores carry dried legumes of some sort. The bulk bins of your natural foods store may have a good variety. Arrowhead Mills
and Bob's Red Mill
brands have packaged legumes that I've had good luck with. They are widely available at many local grocery stores and of good quality. Sun Organic
has a wide variety of healthy and very high quality legumes online. They have the highest quality I've seen, even better then the bulk bins at Whole Foods. They also carry adzuki and mung beans, which can sometimes be difficult to find in local stores. Bob's Red Mill carries a variety of legumes, but they also carry a product called Vegi Soup Mix
which is mostly legumes and a good base for fresh food mixes. Keep in mind most of their legumes are not organic, even though they are of good quality. How do I prepare them?
Begin by washing legumes and discarding any which are discolored or badly formed. Check for debris in the package such as small rocks or twigs and discard them. Put them in a bowl with warm water and let soak overnight (about 8-12 hours... or up to 24). Drain, rinse, then place them in a pot with water and boil for 10 minutes uncovered, then simmer covered for 20 minutes. While cooking you can also add turmeric, garlic, cumin, or fennel to aid digestibility. The more easily digested legumes (mung, adzuki, chickpeas, lentils, and sprouting peas) can also be sprouted instead of, or in addition to, being cooked. The easiest way to do this is with an Easy Sprouter. Just make sure the tails are at least 1/4" long before you serve them. I wouldn't recommend sprouting any of the larger beans such as pinto, kidney, or black beans.How do I serve them?
They should make up about 15% of your bird's diet, if you're not feeding pellets. The ratio of grains to legumes should be two to one... so if you feed two teaspoons of grains, feed one teaspoon of legumes. What this translates to is less then 1/2 tsp for a budgie per day and less then a tablespoon for an eclectus per day. Just to give a general idea of amounts we're talking about with different size birds. There is no need for a big bowl full of legumes.
If your bird hasn't discovered the deliciousness of legumes, try putting them through a food processor before adding them to a fresh food mix. Or just process a tiny bit with a variety of foods you know your bird already likes, then gradually increase the amount of legumes.
One of the best things about feeding legumes is that we can join in the fun as well! How about making up a batch of hummus when cooking chickpeas for your birds? Adzuki beans are great with winter squash, so try a new recipe. Or sprout some mung beans to go with salad, stir fry, or anything else you can imagine. It's healthy, delicious fun for you and the birds.