Is Millet Good For Birds? [Learn The Nutrient Content & More]

is millet good for birds

Is millet good for birds, I hear you ask. Actually, millet is quite nutritious and generally, birds love it. It also help birds with their digestion and has a calming effect on them.

I’ll discuss some of the benefits a bit further on, but first, let me explain what millet actually is.

What Is Millet?

Millet is actually the seed of a variety of grass. It’s grown around the world mainly as a cereal crop but also as a grain feed for stock. The main growth areas for millet are Asia, India and Africa.

It’s actually a very old grain as it has been grown and harvested for food for around 7,000 years. The millet seed is high in carbohydrates, protein, antioxidants and fiber.

It’s also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus and calcium. These minerals are essential for strong bones and beaks. They also assist in heart health and are beneficial for muscle function.

So, Is Millet Good For Birds?

Millet is especially good for young birds because it provides the calories and protein to sustain their growth. Birds really love the taste and texture of this seed, too.

This seed is a favorite for ground feeding birds such as juncos, cardinals, towhees, doves, quail and sparrows. It’s also often given as a treat for caged birds such as budgerigars, canaries, finches and small parrots.

In fact, for caged birds, it’s recommended to give them a sprig of millet at least once a week as it has a lower oil content than other types of seeds such as sunflower and safflower seeds.

BirdwatchingBuzz Tips!

As millet is a favorite for ground feeding birds, try scattering some on the ground below your feeder or have a feeder which has a low platform to put the millet on.

Here’s a chart which compares the fat, protein and carbohydrate content of millet compared to other popular seeds.

Fat, Protein & Carbohydrate Comparison
Seed Type Fat Content Protein Content Carbohydrate Content
Millet (White Proso) 4% 11% 73%
Black-oil Sunflower Seeds 40% 16% 20%
Striped Sunflower Seeds 26% 15% 18%
Safflower Seeds 38% 16% 34%
Nyjer Seeds 36% 21% 13%
Peanuts 49% 26% 19%
Corn 5% 9% 74%

As you can see, millet is quite high in carbohydrate but relatively low in fat. This is why it’s ideal to feed to baby birds who are still in their growing phase.

BirdwatchingBuzz Tips!

Avoid putting millet in your tube feeder if you have one. Birds who frequent tube feeders, generally don’t feed on millet.

Red Or White (Proso) Millet: Which Is Best?

You’ll find that most birds will prefer the white millet and will not touch the red at all. Therefore, if the bird mix you use contains a lot of red millet, you’ll also end up with a lot of waste.

Millet Keeps Birds Busy And Entertained

Millet for birds is usually sold in sprays where the seeds are left on the stalk. This satisfies the need to forage in birds because they have to take the seeds off the stalk.

In fact, a stalk of millet will keep any bird entertained for quite some time. And, this foraging behavior will slow down the feed intake which prevents overeating, especially in caged birds.

BirdwatchingBuzz Tips!

Try hanging some sprays of millet in trees near your feeder. You’ll find cardinals and finches will happily feast on this.

millet nutritional content

Millet Should Be Used As A Treat

In itself, millet does not provide all the necessary nutrients that birds need. Therefore, it should never be used as a main food source but rather, offered as a treat in addition to a varied diet.

BirdwatchingBuzz Tips!

If you soak the millet sprays in clean water for a day or two, the seeds will start to sprout. The sprouted seeds will be more nutritious because this changes the carbohydrate-fat-sugar content.

However, make sure that you discard any sprouted seed which is not consumed within a day as it will tend to go mouldy quickly. This is definitely not good for birds.

You Can Even Grow Your Own

If you have a bit of a green thumb and want to save some money, you can actually grow your own millet. All you need is a sunny spot with a well-drained soil.

Remove any weeds and loosen the soil. Spread a thick layer of millet seed and cover it lightly with some more soil. You can use the millet in a birdseed mix if you have some. Make sure you keep the emerging seedlings watered until they’re well established.

The plants will take about 6-10 weeks to fully mature. However, you may find that the birds will start eating them well before this. If you want to save some to store for later, cover the plants with some bird netting. Once mature, you can harvest the millet sprays and store them in a container which is waterproof and pest-proof.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can birds eat too much millet?

Eating too much millet can cause birds to become overweight. Therefore, you should limit the amount you put out.

Is millet and milo the same thing?

No, while birds love millet, milo (also known as sorghum) is a filler used by some commercial bird seed manufacturers and should be avoided as most birds won’t eat it.

How do you store millet?

In order to keep the millet fresh, it’s best to store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Final Thoughts

Now you know the answer to “is millet good for birds?”. It definitely is great as part of a balanced diet for both attracting birds to your garden and for giving to caged birds if you have any.

In fact, there are many bird species that will seek out your garden if they know that you have millet on offer.

Have you used millet to attract birds? Please share which species have come to visit you to feast on this seed in the comment below.

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