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Can Hamsters Eat Bird Food?

Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 09:32 pm

Hamster food is cheap and plentiful, but anybody can run out occasionally.

If you’re in a pinch and lack a small animal food bag and can’t get to a pet store, it’s essential to know if feed designed for other animals can be fed to hamsters.

Syrian hamsters can occasionally eat bird feed, but it shouldn’t be a regular dietary feature.

Bird food is high in fat, which is tasty but potentially harmful, especially for dwarf hamsters, who are prone to diabetes. Only offer bird food to a hamster as an occasional treat.

There are undoubtedly good points to offering bird food to a hamster. Many bags of avian feed are rich in vitamins and minerals that bolster the health and well-being of a hamster.

Can You Give Hamsters Bird Food?

Most pet stores sell bird food mixes by the bag. The ingredients of bird food can mirror those found in small animal pellets or muesli, including:

  • Corn.
  • Millet.
  • Peanuts.
  • Pumpkin.
  • Rapeseed.
  • Safflower.
  • Sorghum.
  • Sunflower.
  • Thistle.

These ingredients are safe for hamsters, with a handful of caveats. Some common ingredients found in bird food are unsafe. So, steer clear if you find any of these components in an ingredient list:

  • Apple seeds.
  • Avocado.
  • Cherry pits.
  • Elderberries.
  • Grapes.
  • Raisins.

Many hamsters enjoy nibbling on bird seed. If you’re out of food, bird feed can nourish a hamster.

Can Dwarf Hamsters Eat Bird Feed?

Dwarf hamsters enjoy searching through and consuming bird food.

Dwarf hamsters need more protein to stay healthy and, as per Lessons from Animal Diabetes, can be prone to diabetes, so it should be avoided.

is bird food safe for hamsters?

Is Bird Food Good for Hamsters?

There are advantages to offering hamsters bird food, provided you do so sparingly.

Hamsters will enjoy chewing some of the more rigid shells found in certain bird foods, especially pumpkin seeds. These will help your hamster file down its teeth.

You’ll also find vitamins and minerals in bird food that can benefit hamster health, including:

Protein:16% of a hamster’s daily calories should be protein-based.
Calcium:Bone and teeth strength
Fiber:Healthy digestive tract
Iron:Staves off anemia, as per Laboratory Animals
Magnesium:Heart health
Vitamin A:Healthy skin/coat and immune function
Vitamin C:Immune system support

You’ll also find these benefits in traditional hamster food, so there are no advantages to switching to bird food over small animal muesli.

Is Bird Food Safe for Hamsters?

So, offering bird food to hamsters has some advantages, but there are certain disadvantages:

Fat Content

The fatty content is good for the taste buds of a hamster. For example, peanuts will be appealing, but what hamsters like and what is good for them aren’t always the same.

The main issue with a hamster consuming excess fat is weight gain.

Hamsters only need a small number of calories a day and burn these off through exercise. Too much fat in the diet makes a hamster sluggish and reluctant to run on its wheel.

Of greater concern is the link between fat consumption and illness. As per the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, excessive fat can lead to inflammation, ulcers, and heart concerns.

Choking Hazard

Bird food is comprised of many small, tough ingredients. A choking hazard is of concern if swallowed without appropriate chewing and breaking down beforehand.

Apply the bird feed to a chewing stick so that your hamster slows down before consuming the bag’s contents. The faster a hamster eats, the greater the risk of choking.  

Broken Teeth

Hamsters will enjoy gnawing on a tough ingredient with a hard shell, such as a pumpkin seed. As a bonus, it’ll help file down their teeth.

However, if a hamster bites down on something too hard, it may result in dental trauma.

If a hamster breaks its tooth on a seed, it’ll be in significant pain. While the tooth will regrow, assuming the root remains intact, that will take some time.

There’s also a risk that the hamster will bite through the nut or seed straight into its bottom lip. In this instance, the hamster will bleed and be at risk of bacterial infection.

Toxicity

We listed some birdseed ingredients that can cause hamsters problems; even if a small animal’s body doesn’t reject a seed or nut, the toxicity risk remains.

The main concern is an excess of Vitamin C, leading to stomach upsets. If a hamster gets diarrhea, it’ll likely be dehydrated and weak.

You’ll also need to clean up the hamster and its cage to minimize any risk of fly strike.

How To Feed Bird Food To Hamsters

Don’t pour a bag of bird feed into the hamster’s food bowl because it’ll eat too much, and there may be certain ingredients that will make the hamster unwell.

Pick a few key pieces and feed them by hand if you want to offer your hamster bird food. The hamster will happily accept a seed or nut from your hands, and it’s a good bonding exercise.

Alternatively, try dotting some birdseed around the substrate. Hamsters love to forage, which will keep them entertained and nourished.

Bird food has a place in a hamster’s life, but it should never be the cornerstone of its diet. Many hamsters enjoy the contents of a bag of bird feed as a treat.