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Advantages of Live Seed

All imported niger seed has been killed by a heat treatment of 248 degrees, however:

* Enzymes and vitamins are destroyed at temperatures as low as 118 degrees. 
* Dead things readily deteriorate - oil becomes rancid and stale.
* Don't get stuck with stale seed that goes out of condition.

Sterilized seed does not eliminate the mess under the feeder. Many niger seed marketers make the claim that dead seed eliminates the mess under the Feeder. This is entirely untrue. The main mess is because of seed hulls, which are there regardless of dead or live seed. Indeed, live seed will sprout, however, and something green is probably better than a moldy mess under the feeder. Some folks are trying to eliminate the mess by purchasing hulled seeds. This practice is not natural and sometimes may be dangerous to bird health since it is the seed hull that offers some protection against molds.

Niger is not a thistle or weed. While niger is sometimes referred to as a thistle, it is not even a relative of the thistle. It does not have barbs, and will not become a noxious weed. Niger seed has no dormancy and because of its high oil content, seed life is short.  It is an annual, and in the 20 years I have been working with the crop, I have never seen a volunteer after the second cropping year.

Read excerpts below regarding live niger seed:

"Good genuine seeds are also available everywhere. Plentiful supply of essential seed such as: unsterilized niger seed, hemp seed, teazle seed, lettuce seed, small pine nuts, plus many other seeds that I just recently discovered in Europe. There used to be only irradiated niger seed available on the market, but recently there have been small quantities of domestically produced niger about. If you are fortunate enough to get hold of this local niger you will notice the difference in the way your birds consume it. When I obtained some I placed 2 bowls in the aviary - 1 with irradiated seed and the other with the 'fresh' product. The birds literally emptied the fresh seed before they were even interested in the irradiated seed..."  

"If he doesn't achieve 95% germination the seeds are not suitable to feed to his birds. He feeds a mixture of more or less of the following seeds: Canary seed, Niger seed. The niger seed available in Europe is not sterilized; therefore, germinate practically 100%."

"All niger seed is imported from Africa and is baked and sterilized before it is allowed into the United States. He likened it to a meal that has been burnt to a crisp and has little nutritional value. Hatchlings, especially, cannot digest it or pass it through their gut. He cited a case where he had been losing a large number of chicks and he took the dead birds to the pathology department of Dr. Goldsmith who does work for the Miami Zoo. During Dr. Goldsmith's necropsy, he found undigested niger that had impacted the chick's digestive system."  

Most of the above excerpts did not come from the U.S. because until now all U.S. niger seed is imported, and, therefore, comparisons are not available. Most sites marketing birdseed, however, emphasize the importance of fresh seed. 

Glenn Page