can birds eat cheddar cheese

Birds are not mammals and do not possess the enzyme necessary to break down lactose that is in milk and its diary byproducts, such as cheese. Therefore birds will get some degree of indigestion when being fed dairy products!

Bird embryos are enclosed in an egg during incubation. This means that when the egg is laid, it does contain all the nutrients and fluids necessary to sustain the bird until it hatches. Once it hatches, the parent birds regurgitate foods that they have eaten to feed the chicks, as birds are unable to produce milk. It makes sense then that milk and products containing milk would be totally foreign food items to a bird. Nowhere in its natural environment would a bird ever be exposed to milk, cheese, yogurt or other products containing milk. It should also make sense that birds would not have developed the enzymes necessary to digest milk sugar.

What happens if a bird ingests milk, or products containing lactose, the milk sugar? Since it does not have the enzymes necessary to digest lactose, milk sugar will often pass through the bird’s digestive tract unchanged. Because it is a foreign sugar, it will draw fluids into the intestinal tract, resulting in diarrhea, in particular if ingested in larger amounts. So, what about commercially available products developed for lactose intolerant humans? The answer to that question is again a resounding NO. The two compounds that lactose is broken down into by these products are toxic to birds!

Which Types of Cheese Can Birds Eat?

There are very few kinds of cheese that are safe and appropriate to feed birds. Here are some guidelines on cheese for bird feeders:

  • Cheddar
  • Colby
  • Monterey Jack
  • Swiss
  • For smaller birds, string cheese that has been sliced into bite-sized pieces works well.

Cheese should only be removed in small portions at a time because it spoils quickly if left unfinished.

To prevent infections, keep an eye on the feeders and take out any spoiled cheese right away.

Never feed moldy cheese to birds, or any other food for that matter.

How to Feed Cheese to Birds Safely

The fact that many wild birds enjoy cheese—some even prefer it to other foods—is one of the primary justifications for providing it to them; however, cheese should only be given as a special treat occasionally.

Cheese is a good source of protein and fat, which is beneficial in the winter when food is scarce. Birds utilise fat for energy and protein to develop robust muscles and feathers.

In general, many birds seem to enjoy eating cheeses broken into small bits. You can also grate the cheese to make it easier for the birds to enjoy.

The Dose Makes the Poison

With adult birds, this might not be a major issue, but only if they are occasionally given tiny amounts of dairy products. It appears that adult carrion crows can handle cheese quite well; in fact, they frequently seem to enjoy a cheese snack. This is probably because these birds are more tolerant than other bird species because, as carrion eaters, they are better suited to the wide range of artificial food sources.

can birds eat cheddar cheese

Overall, it is preferable to err on the side of caution. Thus, in our opinion, the mammalian product “milk” should only be consumed by the species for which it is intended, i.e., human milk should only be consumed by humans and cow milk by cows.

FAQ

Is Cheddar cheese good for birds?

Birds love mild, grated cheddar or other hard cheese, but soft cheeses such as brie and blue cheese are not suitable. Many raw vegetables are indigestible to birds, but peas and sweetcorn are fine, and so is leftover mashed potato!

What happens if my bird eats cheese?

Since the bird cannot breakdown the lactose, the bird’s gastrointestinal tract initiates an allergic or inflammatory reaction to the product. This can lead to mild inflammation with no clinical signs, mild symptoms like diarrhea in moderate cases (laxative effect) or total blockage/enterotoxemia in severe cases.

Do squirrels and birds eat cheese?

Cheese is a good source of fat and protein, which can be especially important during the winter months when food is scarce. Fat provides birds with energy, and protein helps them build strong muscles and feathers. In general, many birds seem to enjoy eating cheeses broken into small bits.