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Fonio - The New Miracle Seed?


When visiting other breeders I am always on the lookout for natural products I can offer to my birds that provide missing nutrition, offer a specific benefit, or are an alternative to medications.

During my visits with Maarten Heylen in Belgium, and other breeders in Holland, Germany and Switzerland during May 2016, I noticed several were feeding a very small brown seed I had never seen before.

At Maarten’s, where I first noticed the seed called “Fornio”, it was fed in a separate dish in the baby flight. The birds obviously preferred the Fornio to other seed offered, maybe they loved the taste, or an indication it was providing certain nutrition they craved.

Maarten explained an interesting benefit of Fonio, aside from its nutritional value, is it’s natural properties to prevent coccidiosis.

What is Foniopaddy?

Fonio Grains

Foniopaddy is a natural grass seed grown in plantations in Uganda.

Fonio grains are part of millet family. In fact, fonio has the smallest seeds in millet speicies. The name is derived from Wolof name foño. Digitaria exilis or Fonio has long history of cultivation in Africa. This millet is harvested within 6-8 weeks since cultivation, making it world’s fasted maturing cereal.


Fonio Between Fingers

Fonio Size Comparison

Fonio - Size comparison with other grains.

Like other cereals, Fonio is rich in carbohydrate which makes it a good energy food.

Fonio composition compared to other cereals:

Carbohydrate, protein and fat profile of Fonio can be closely compared to Sorghum. Fonio grains also supply body with good amount of Vitamin B and minerals like calcium, iron and phosphorus. It offers a good amount of amino acids; nearly 10% of the cereal by weight comprises protein.

It’s Protein profile suggests that it offer spectrum of essential amino acids. When compared to amino acid profile of eggs, it shows that while eggs offer more lysine compared to fonio, fonio is superior in other amnio acids like isoleucine, valine, tryptophan, theronine, phenylalanine, leucien, cystine and mentionine.

Fonio is richer in calcium, magnesium, zinc and manganese than other grains.

Health and Nutritional Value of Fonio Grain
• Highly rich in amino acids and iron.
• The husked grain of fonio contains 8-10 % proteins, 85% carbohydrates, 4% fats and 1% ash.
• Fonio grains are immensely rich in methionine, cystine and other amino acids which play a vital role in nourishing health. These nutrients are missing in today's major cereals.
• The protein analysis of white fonio in comparison with a whole egg is: 7.3 percent of methionine, 46 percent of lysine, 72% isoleucine, 90-100% of valine, tryptophan, threonine, and phenylalanine, 127% of leucine; 175% of total sulfur; and 189 percent for methionine.

Foinio and Coccidiosis:

More than three years of studies under vet supervision has proven that Fonio dramatically decreases coccidiosis. Birds were infected with coccidiosis and their faeces checked, after one week feeding on Fonio, the faeces were checked again and coccidiosis could not be found. 

How to use Fonio:

During the first week allow the birds to determine how much they would like. After the initial week give the birds one-teaspoon of Fonio per week.

Larger aviaries with 30 to 40 birds should be given two to three tablespoons per week.

The Fonio should be fed in a separate container, Like they do at Maarten Heylen and his partners birdrooms, as its fine structure can cause it to sink underneath other seeds.

What is Coccidiosis?

Coccidia are microscope parasites that live in the small intestine of birds; their eggs are passed through the bird and remain in the bird’s faeces, spreading via their long-living hard-shelled eggs. They can cause a range of problems for birds including diarrhea with or without blood, weight loss, poor appetitive, prolonged illness and death in the young. 

It is believed that coccidiosis can be contracted by food ingested with the infected faeces or eggs. Fonio gives a natural, non-chemical treatment and preventative.

My Experience with Fonio:

Unfortunately I was not able to buy a supply of Fonio during my stay in Belgium. Every stockist we visited was temporarily out of stock.

Maarten Heylen was kind enough to give me an extra pack he had to try on my birds.

When I returned to Kansas City my birds were all resting in the flight, so the Fonio was provided in a 12 inch dish on the flight floor, initially just a few heaped teaspoons. It did not take long for the birds to try it and within several hours all the seed was consumed.

Each day thereafter another six heaped teaspoons were added to the dish. Within a few days the birds were all down to start picking through the new fonio as soon as it was in the dish, similar to the feeding frenzy when they get new softfood, vegetables, or mealworms.

To ensure they did not become addicted to the Fonio, as they have with some supplements over the years, the amount given each day was kept at six teaspoons.


I have been fortunate in recent years to rarely have sick birds, perhaps because I only occasionally introduce new outcrosses, and when I do I quarantine them and use some precautionary supplements/meds.

I did on occasion have a bird with a wet or stained vent which required attention.

After a few months on Fonio the “wet/stained vents” disappeared.

I also noticed that younger (current year) birds developed and muscled up faster, although while this may have been influenced by Fonio, it may also be attributed to the new “foraging” system I am using for seed.

Where to Buy Fonio:

Fonio Pack

To my surprise while hulled White Fonio is available in USA for human consumption, the “raw grain” suitable for budgerigars is not readily available. In fact it is currently on a restricted import list.

Fonio is available from some online vendors in other countries, and depending where you live, can be mailed in 1kg packages with reasonable shipping costs.


If you were not aware of Fonio I suggest you give it a try. It is not inexpensive, but Its benefits in aiding the health of your birds is well worth it.


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