Recently I discovered that the mixes I have been using for both of my hamsters have been causing problems for other people. I was first alerted when a fellow hamster fanatic, who had been using the same mixes as me, had confirmation from their vet that the mix was the cause of her hamster's digestive problems. The high protein percentage, coupled with a relatively low level of fibre and lack of added vitamins, minerals and probiotics, seems to be the cause of a range of problems a number of fellow hamster addicts have been seeing in their pets, from fur loss to diarrhoea to kidney failure. The problem wasn't purely the high protein content, but the lack of other digestive aids added to most commercial mixes, which help aid digestion of protein.
Of course, as soon as I found this out, I rushed out to get something to replace mine. The problem was, what to get? Some of the worst cases had been prescribed probiotics and fibre supplements by their vets, so I looked at making something high in fibre (and lower, but not too low, in protein). I also wanted to use commercial mixes as a base, for the added supplements, but dislike the lack of variety in most commercial mixes.
I chose the Pets At Home Premium Muesli as a base, as it has a lower protein and higher fibre content of the mix I was using. I have used the regular Pets At Home Muesli before and did not like it, but never used the premium one. A number of fellow hamster fanatics were using it as a base as well.
To add to this, I bought a bag of Burgess Supahamster Dwarf Hamster Harvest. This was to add variety, and also to up the fibre content, as it has a higher fibre content than the Pets At Home Premium. It also had the added benefit of lowering the fat content slightly.
Finally, I added the bird seed. I deliberated with Trill, but ended up going with the Wilkos brand because it had a high fibre content, which was one of the things good for aiding protein digestion. Lots of seed mixes out there are very high in fat and not high in fibre, which made me discount them. It also had a large amount of millet, which both my hamsters like. I know some people have issues feeding their Syrians smaller seeds like the ones in this bird seed, but luckily for me my Syrian loves them, and is quite happy to eat them. (I was more concerned about having large bits in for my Robo, who has been picky on food before because of the large pieces.)
The mix overall has a fair amount of variety, with two different types of extruded nuggets and two different types of pellets from the two hamster mixes, as well as flaked wheat, flaked maize, flaked soya, flaked oats, whole peas, whole maize, canary seed, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, red and white millet, sunflower seeds, mealworms, niger seeds and rape seeds.
The mix will probably still need tweaking. It's lower in protein and higher in fibre than the mix I was using originally, but is also higher in fat than I would like. However, because of the added supplements in the commercial mixes, I am happier feeding them this mix than their previous one. The hamsters seem to eat most parts of it too, which is a good start.
(It's not something I'd recommend for diabetes prone species of hamsters due to the large amounts of maize, an ingredient that is high in natural sugar.)
As for the mix that started the issues, it is still being sold, but with an addendum that hamsters require an additional supplement to prevent deficiencies occurring again.