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

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.


shawne said...

Blessings G,
I had started reading your blog a few months ago and found a kindred spirit in loving Bourke parakeets!
Yest., the father of my almost 5wk. old 3 baby Bourkes died by accident. He was the main caretaker and feeder as the mother only occ. seemed to feed the babies. I am heartsick...literally, and now am handfeeding the babies..or, trying to. Since they were parent fed up until now, they and I are having a difficult time. They just fledged the day before and eat a few seeds here and there. I was told to only feed them 2-3x a day by another breeder but I can tell they are losing weight and their feather color is even changing. They only take about 2cc per feeding. Do you have any suggestions for this never before very nervous handfeeder?
Am so greatful for all your blog!

G. Lewis said...

Shawn, I'm sorry to hear of your loss. If the babies were used to being hand you could get away with three or four times a day (three at the very least, but four is better). However, since they aren't used to it, I'd offer them food more often for the first few days. Feed them as long as they'll let you. When they shake their heads and scatter you with Exact Handfeeding formula, that usually means they're full. Meanwhile, offer them easy things to eat. If you can, buy some nestling food. I get mine online from Petsolutions ... however, it may not reach you soon enough. Millet spray is also easy for babies to start eating. My birds love cooked corn and perhaps your youngsters would try to eat it. Petite peas, cooked carrots, fresh greens that are cut up, like spinach, kale, etc. Anything to entice them to eat something on their own. Meanwhile, talk softly too them and encourage them to eat the Exact. If they are hungry they should accept it ... You might have to put it into their mouths at first, but they should want it. The key to taming them since they are already feathered is to handle them a lot and "sweet" talk to them. See my other blogs on taming birds. You may be starting late, but you have a good chance to have exceptionally tame, sweet birds. Best of luck!

G. Lewis said...

Click on "HOME" above for additional information. Thanks!

shawne said...

Thankyou, G,
I have handled them since they've had their eyes open as I have read to do if you don't want to handfeed but want them to be very handtamed. They are used to me sweet talking them and handling them but they are not used to now being handfed. I feel their crops have a slight bulge by only taking in 1-2cc. of formula (and thats by little drops at a time). Is that enough to sustain them 3-4x a day? Will they act full even if their crops are not? I am so unsure. They have lost weight. I can feel their lightness where before they were more solid. So far they are not too crazy about soft foods...except the millet bread and a few seeds...they nibble at it. I have a string of soaked seeds, millet, Petamine, egg food and the millet bread stretched out for them to nibble at..which they do occ. All things their daddy loved. They threw the mashed hardboiled egg and the soaked egg bisquit I tried. I will try adding the cooked vegies tom.
I have been using Hagen Feeding Formula.
Thankyou SO much for your help!

G. Lewis said...

Hi Shawne, Without seeing your babies and knowing how old they are, it's difficult to say whether they are getting enough to eat. If they have lost weight, that is worrisome. Handfeeding generally means stuffing them full until they won't eat any more. However, if they are able to eat some things on their own, that is a good sign. Parents continue to feed their young even when the young can partially eat on their own, so I'd continue to hand feed, or try to encourage them to eat that way, until they refuse.

My adult handfed birds still love to steal a little of the handfeeding formula from young birds being handfed. The grownups like it too. It's probably fattening and not particularly healthy for adults, but a little shouldn't hurt them, so I let them have a taste or two when I'm feeding babies. I think they like the extra attention as much as anything.

I'd try to keep them eating as much of the formula as they will until you're sure they are eating plenty on their own. Good luck.

shawne said...

Thanks for all your help, G.
I am very happy to report that all the babies are doing great. They have gained weight and are now mostly eating on their own, with the help of mom occ., who looks a bit overwhelmed at times by all three of them wanting a morsel, and an occ. handfeeding of formula for the littlest one from me, still. Mom loves to further clean off the babys feathers around it's face so she must love the formula, too.
Again, thanks so much for your help.

Janice said...

I am raising some rosy also. My hen is on her 2nd clutch of the year. The 1st egg hatched April 1, the second on April 3rd, and the 3rd egg on APril 8th. All were fine this morning. THe parents were in and out eating and I assumed feeding all babies. Well I checked in the box around 830p and 1 babies was dead, and the smallest one is near death. THe largest is fat and happy. I hand fed the smallest by 845p, it eat well. It is so tiny, it must be the chick that had hatcehd yesterday. I only put small drops of formula on its beek and watched as it drank it down, the the drop was low, I added another until I seen the the crop was full, or nearly full. THe chick stopped so I did alos. I returned it back to its mother. I will check it agian in 2 hours.

G. Lewis said...

Janice, I posted my answer here:

or select HOME at the top.

shawne said...

I hope things are going well now for you Janice. The 3rd baby that hatched from my clutch of 4 just did not look right to me. It layed mostly on it's back and did not seem to join the "huddle" of the other babies. It would always be away from them, on it's back, when I would check. Wasn't sure what to do...kept checking...but the next day it was dead and another chick had come out of it's shell and melded right in with the others. It's hard to know what to do at times. We want to intervene but sometimes we need to let nature take it's course. Keep us posted on how you and the baby are doing.