Thursday, January 21, 2010
Hand Feeding Answers…
I’ve been asked if I have a way of knowing the appropriate weight of baby parakeets as they grow (specifically Splendids). Honestly, I’ve never weighed my babies. We could, and have a postal scale to use for items sold on eBay. (We’re 45egl, but nothing’s offered at present).
Food and warmth are what baby birds need. A soft voice is helpful too. While small, I feed ours every 3 hours and let them eat as much as they can. Parents stuff the babies so full that they look like they'll pop, so I don't think we can over feed them. After leaving their parents, the first 2-3 feedings should be very thin to encourage things to move through. The material I've read says to let their crops empty before filling to avoid sour crop. However, I've never had a problem feeding them when they still have some food left in their crops. As long as it's soft, they're fine. You don't want them to weaken from not eating enough. If the crop feels hard, massage it gently to see if you can get the food to move around and eventually on through … always be careful and gentle. No pushing!
After the first week of age, I try to feed our babies at least four times a day, or 5 times in 24 hours ... more often when newly hatched…maybe at 2-3 hr intervals. By about 3 weeks, they can wait to be fed every 4-6 hrs between feedings. I've been getting up at 2am to feed my current two ... I think they could go all night now, but they're still small and I want them to do well. When they finish feeding, their crops are wider than they are and look like little balloons.
I use Exact hand feeding formula. It gets hard when it dries, so I try to dab as much of it off the birds as possible after each feeding. I use a warm damp tissue. It's easier to remove it while it’s wet than after it has dried. I most recently purchased Exact at Petsolutions.com.
I always boil the water before mixing it with the Exact. The package gives recommendations for the amount of powder & water based on the bird's age. As the mixture cools I keep checking it against my wrist. The Exact package gives preferred temperatures, but a drop on the wrist works fine...just like with a baby's bottle. When the small dish I've mixed it in begins to cool down, I place it into a larger dish of the previously boiled water to warm it back up. Works fine.
Our hand fed babies are kept in a small cardboard box. It’s secured to the tabletop with duct tape with a small space heater on the floor below. There's a thermometer nearby, and the temp in their part of the room is usually around 78 degrees. One side of the box extends over the edge of the table allowing the heater to warm the bottom. I spread a layer of pine shavings inside the box and cover it with a clean paper towel. I replace the towel each time I feed them. After feeding, I always return the babies to the warm corner. Later I sometimes find them elsewhere in the box. They’re old enough to move about now and this is how they regulate the temperature to stay within their comfort zone.
We had a 4-hour power outage due to a windstorm last Sunday, so I put a wool sock over the babies to help keep them warm. Luckily, the house never got very cold.
Other people keep baby birds in glass aquariums with a heating pad over it and draped down one side of the outside of the aquarium. A thermometer is kept inside to monitor the temp. Pine shavings or newspaper in the bottom helps keep it clean and dry.
If you keep baby birds warm (ideally in a box where one corner is warmer so they can move to, or away from, the heat), and make sure they are well fed, they should do fine.
Once the babies feather, they still need to be fed. Typically, parents feed them for two weeks or more after they leave the nest. When they are fully feathered, I fear they may fly into a window or something, so I move them to a cage, but continue to feed them every 4-6 hours until I’m sure they’re eating on their own.
Several food sources are introduced at this time: nesting food, if you have it, assorted parakeet seed and especially spray millet – the easiest thing for a baby to learn to eat. My fully-feathered babies also sample whatever I have available that’s safe for them: bread, peas, corn, spinach, celery tops, carrots, fresh fruit (NEVER AVOCADO!). However, seed is always present. So is fresh water, replaced daily, if not more often.
Even when they begin to scratch around and appear to eat, I offer them Exact formula. Most eventually refuse soft food in preference for seed. Occasionally, you’ll get one who likes to be babied and wants to continue to be fed. Then you’ll have to decide when enough is enough… smile.