Live food (insects, mealworms, etc) doesn’t have to feature in your birds’ daily diet, unless they’re undergoing those two main areas of avian stress – breeding or moulting. Out of the breeding and moulting seasons (and many finches don’t have a fixed moulting season as such), live food can be fed as a treat.
Popular choices for this relatively gory feeding include mealworms and wax worms, as both are available in user-friendly chilled tubs via pet suppliers, or as a dried product. Crickets, and various live-and-wriggling worms and maggots, are another option for the dedicated bug hunter.
Timid species such as Canaries may take a long time getting used to food that moves; but that doesn’t mean they won’t come to love it in the end.
Mealworms for Birds
These are beetle larvae, produced on an industrial scale to supply the bird food industry (both wild and caged). Most finches relish them, although young birds are unable to digest their relatively leathery bodies.
Live food is required by finches when they are feeding their young
Mealworms available commercially are sold in a semi-dormant, refrigerated state. Bird keepers revive them in containers of porridge oats or wheat bran, which the worms eat. The containers need to be sealed with a lid, and some form of moisture should be inserted too (an apple or slice of potato placed on top of the oats and replaced every two or three days will suffice). The trick is to feed the worms before they all transform into beetles; although keeping beetles to produce more worms is one way of saving money on the live food bills. The worms need to be served in dishes with raised edges to prevent them wriggling to freedom.
If opting for the dried variety, you may need to chop them up before serving to smaller finches; or you can soak the in water for a few hours first. Anything not eaten at the end of the day will need removing from the cage.
Wax Worms for Birds
Wax worms are the larvae of Wax moths (family Galleriini). Like mealworms, they are produced commercially for birds. They are not as nutritious as mealworms, but, being soft and pulpy, they are easier to digest. They have to be bought in small batches, as – unlike mealworms – they can’t easily be kept and fed at home. They can, however, survive for several weeks in a torpid state without food, if you keep them in the fridge.