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Can Hamsters Eat Bird Food?

(Last Updated On: May 28, 2022)

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 part of their diet.

Bird food is high in fat, which is tasty but potentially harmful, especially for dwarf hamsters, as they’re 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, though.

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 the contents of a bag of birdseed. If you’re out of food, bird feed can keep your hamster nourished. It’s certainly better than not feeding your pet.

Just don’t make a habit of feeding bird food to your hamster.

Can Dwarf Hamsters Eat Bird Feed?

Tiny hamsters will enjoy searching through and consuming the contents of a bag of 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 strength
Fiber:Healthy digestive tract
Iron:Staves off anemia, as per Laboratory Animals
Magnesium:Heart health
Vitamin A:Steady growth
Vitamin C:Scurvy prevention

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 great for the taste buds of a hamster. For example, peanuts will be appealing. What hamsters like and what is good for them aren’t always one and the same, though.

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. If swallowed without appropriate chewing and breaking down beforehand, a choking hazard is of concern.

Apply the bird feed to a chewing stick so that your hamster has to slow down before consuming the bag’s contents. The faster your 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, too.

However, if your 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 is also a risk that the hamster will bite through the nut or seed straight into its own bottom lip. In this instance, the hamster will bleed and be at risk of bacterial infection.

Toxicity

We previously listed a handful of ingredients found in birdseed that can cause problems for hamsters. Even if a small animal’s body doesn’t reject a seed or nut, risks surrounding toxicity remain.

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 your 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 your hamster’s food bowl. It’ll eat too much, and there may be certain ingredients that will make your hamster unwell.

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

Alternatively, try dotting some birdseed around your hamster’s substrate. Hamsters love to forage, which will keep your hamster 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. It needs to be kept this way.