What Are Millet Sprays?

Patti Kate
Patti Kate
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.

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.

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

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.

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.

How To Grow Spray Millet

Growing spray millet for pet birds, backyard chickens, or visiting songbirds is easier than you’d imagine. Millet is cultivated worldwide as a staple crop for both pets and people, so the growing supplies you’ll need to get started are easily available and abundant.

By learning how to grow spray millet yourself, you can ensure that your harvest is free of harmful chemicals and pesticides often used in farming. Farmers and gardeners who prioritize reducing environmental impact will be able to access organic, non-GMO seed. In addition, you’ll know that your harvest is at peak freshness and has not turned stale or rancid.

When and Where To Plant

Millet loves warm weather, so your chances at a fruitful harvest will improve if you time your plantings appropriately. Don’t try to germinate millet seed if your region hasn’t reached consistent temperatures of 68-86 degrees. Millet grows best in full sun, so be sure to plant it in plots, beds, or containers where it will receive adequate light exposure.

Prepare Your Soil

While spray millet is considered easy to grow, you can increase your success by preparing your soil before planting. Millet and corn have similar growing requirements, and any soil that corn has thrived in is likely to reliably produce spray millet as well. Like corn, millet relies on nitrogen. Supplementation and fertilization can help optimize your soil if it lacks the nitrogen levels millet needs to grow.

Direct sowing works best for millet. Be sure to allow space for growing plants, and cover with an inch of soil.

In addition to making sure your soil contains the appropriate nutrients, growing spray millet also requires adequate drainage. Standing water can harm grain crops and you will want to make sure water does not accumulate. Incorporating sand, shredded bark, or other organic materials can help your soil stay moist without retaining too much water.

Does Spray Millet Mature Quickly?

In general, millet will reach maturity in 60-90 days. Weather patterns can affect crop production, so if your region experiences abnormal temperature or rainfall, you may have to adjust your estimates. In warm climates with long growing seasons, succession planting can help ease the strain that weather events may afflict on spray millet growers.

How to Harvest

If you notice that wild birds are beginning to visit your plants, it may be time to harvest your spray millet! To save your crop from predation, monitor it regularly and harvest once the seeds on a spray have turned golden brown.

How to Store Millet Spray

Once you have harvested your millet crop, you will need to properly store millet spray to prevent loss.

Like most grains, you should store millet spray in a cool, dry place using an airtight container. If you plan to store your millet for extended periods, consider freezing it.

Protecting Millet Spray from Pests

Even if you are storing your millet spray correctly, pests can sometimes linger and damage your crop. If you are growing millet spray for birds, insect presence may not be an issue — many birds eat insects and may enjoy the added treat. But if rodents can access your crop, losses may be significant. Make sure you store millet spray away from areas where you suspect or confirm rodent presence and use containers with adequate seals that cannot be infiltrated by pests.

Is Millet Spray Bad for Birds?

If you are looking for cost-effective ways to feed pets, backyard birds, or wild birds, millet is a great option.

Offering millet spray to your birds will ensure that they are receiving adequate calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. These minerals help them achieve and maintain strong beaks and bones. Millet spray contains lower amounts of oils than some other seed options and is a good addition to a balanced diet. Millet also provides protein, which helps young birds sustain growth. But even the most excellent bird food options are best in moderation. Millet spray provides many of the vitamins and minerals birds need for optimal health, and many birds seem to view millet as comfort food. Birds sometimes choose millet over other available options, thus limiting the range of their diet and potentially contributing to unhealthy weight gain.

To determine if millet spray is bad for your birds, research the nutritional needs of each species of pet or backyard birds you feed. Spray millet is an inexpensive and nutritious option for bird food, but all birds will benefit from a varied and properly balanced diet.

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    • Baby birds are often fed millet spray by bird owners to help the babies learn to eat on their own.
      By: zidianphoto
      Baby birds are often fed millet spray by bird owners to help the babies learn to eat on their own.
    • Oversized millet sprays are used for macaws.
      By: Vladimir Melnik
      Oversized millet sprays are used for macaws.