What Are Millet Sprays?

Patti Kate

Millet sprays are long stems of millet seed, typically a golden honey color, that are given to pet birds, primarily hookbills, as a nutritious treat. Each shaft, typically measuring about 12 inches (30.48 cm), contains a cluster of about 30 millet seeds. Millet sprays are also occasionally referred to as spray millets. Many varieties are sold pre-packaged, although loose stalks are commonly available in many pet stores. When feeding caged birds, a plastic millet spray holder may be attached to the cage bars for easy access.

Baby birds are often fed millet spray by bird owners to help the babies learn to eat on their own.
Baby birds are often fed millet spray by bird owners to help the babies learn to eat on their own.

When attempting to hand tame a pet bird, it is often helpful to offer a treat by hand to gain the animal's trust. Many bird owners use small pieces of millet sprays when training a pet bird that is not accustomed to being handled. Millet is a favorite among many avian species, and millet seed mixes are accepted by many pet birds as well.

Oversized millet sprays are used for macaws.
Oversized millet sprays are used for macaws.

Exotic bird stores often sell a few varieties of millet sprays. Some millet sprays are a deep burgundy color, although the most common and abundantly available variety is the tan or honey-colored spray. The golden-colored millet spray shafts are suitable for most all psittacines. Other oversized varieties may vary in color and are appropriate for the largest parrots, such as macaws.

Bird owners should note that although millet sprays do have some nutritional value, they should be offered only as an occasional treat. Millet sprays should not be the major part of a bird's diet. If fed millet spray or an all-seed diet exclusively, a bird can suffer from severe nutritional deficiencies. it is fine, however, to offer millet or spray millet as a reward or hand-feeding treat, as the seed is naturally low in fat.

Bird owners often use millet sprays as an incentive for baby birds in the nest box to begin feeding on their own. Millet spray is often preferred by breeders when beginning the weaning process of very young chicks. Companion bird species such as parakeets, caiques, lovebirds, and cockatiels seem to favor millet spray, although larger species enjoy this treat as well.

To increase the nutritional value of a spray millet, one can sprout the seed. It is important to feed the sprays to a bird within a day or two to avoid contamination and spoilage.

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