Sunday, May 8, 2011


Erik writes:

I am a regular reader of your bourke blog and have a couple of questions for you about my new bourke that I got yesterday. She is 8 weeks old and has spent most of this day sleeping. Is this a concern? Also her droppings were normal yesterday, but today it has seeds in it - is this  normal? I know this can be a problem in birds, but thought maybe she is  just a bit stressed and it will clear up in a day or two. She is eating and drinking regularly. I am very concerned at this point. I apologize in advance for asking you these questions, but you are very knowledgable and very experienced. Thank you for your time. Hope to hear from you soon.

Hello Erik,

Thank you for the compliments. I am always happy to share whatever I've learned about raising parakeets and to answer questions.

Young Pipsqueek should be eating
on her own by now, but isn't.
Eight weeks sounds young for a Bourke parakeet to be away from her parents. When birds leave the nest, they are fed for two or more weeks by their parents who help teach them to eat on their own. (Although handfed babies learn on their own with no help as soon as they're old enough).

Did the breeder tell you her hatch date and that's how you determined she's 8 weeks old? Or, has she been out of the nest 8 weeks? Have you witnessed her eating seeds, or attempting to? If she's alone, are there hulls in the seed to prove she's able to hull it on her own? Or, maybe she is reacting to a change in what she's being fed. Is the parakeet seed you are feeding her fresh? Hartz Mountain seed from a grocery store isn't the best place to buy parakeet seed as it may have been on the shelf too long. Also, hopefully, your parakeet seed is more than just white millet and oats.

For now, try offering her other soft foods, pieces of soft wheat bread, soft peas, corn, spinach, kale ... anything that she might like to eat. Nestling food is good if you have it, or can get it in a hurry. It's available online. Also, spray millet is easy for young birds to begin eating.

Don't want one to squirm away while the other is eating.
I suspect she may not be getting enough to eat because she was removed from her parents too soon. That, or the food may not agree with her. Taking birds away from their parents early requires handfeeding with an eye dropper. Exact Handfeeding Formula is what I use. Normally, if you're going to do that, they should be very young, not fully feathered. If she's fluffed up and looks sick, be sure she really is eating and not just pecking around and appearing to eat. Does her crop feel full? If she won't eat any of the soft foods we've suggested, and her crop seems empty, attempting to hand feed can't hurt and might save her ... if, in fact, she was taken away too soon.

But you said she appears to be eating and drinking. If eating is not her problem, and your concern is how much she's sleeping ... remember Bourkes are most active at dawn and dusk. They are early morning birds and sleep a lot during the day. So, maybe she's just exhibiting normal behavior. In the evening when the lights dim, she might become active. Check and see. Also, baby birds sleep more than adult birds, just like we humans.

Rarely a bird will hatch that--for whatever reason--isn't able to adequately feed itself. It is unlikely that this is the case with your bird. When it happens, however, parents will sometimes ruin their own health continuing to feed that youngster long past when it should be eating on its own. After decades of raising countless parakeet varieties, and more Bourkes than I can count, I've had three Bourkes handicapped in that it is rare.  

We're full and sleepy now.
The first one was given away to someone willing to feed it, but it later died. The second, when I realized the father was becoming extremely thin due to feeding his offspring over-long, I removed it and sadly ended up dispatching the bird in a humane fashion rather than let it starve to death (it was not tame). The third bird, I noticed wasn't thriving in the nest and removed it to handfeed. I am still handfeeding this very tame, sweet little "Pipsqueek," a year later. I'm unable to kill her. She does manage to eat some nestling food and picks up the hulls of other birds and runs them through her beak. She only gets an Exact feeding in the morning and usually in the evening now. God willing, maybe she will eat enough on her own someday. I'm not eager to hand feed her for a dozen or more years, smile.

That said, the fact that Pipsqueek has to come out every day for a feeding means that I also let all my other tame birds out at the same time. They get to spend more time with me, and I'm forced to put aside any jobs and allow the birds to bring me joy. So, this bird is really a blessing in disguise.

"Pip" can eat cooked mixed vegetables. Maybe yours will too. A change in diet might be your problem and your solution. Let's hope so.

Young, full-grown Bourke likes snitching samples of the baby's food.
It's fattening though, so not too much!  
Best of Luck! I hope your little one will start to thrive soon.

Peace & Blessings


Michele said...

I have a question about my baby parakeets. They are seven wks old now and I took them away from their parents because they where being picked on. Now it seems like the young ones aren't eatting. Should I put them back with their parents. This is the first time I've ever had babies and I've had parakeets for 30 yrs. Please help

G. A. Lewis said...

Are they 7 weeks old from their hatch date? If so, that's not very old yet. I just removed some that were 8 weeks from their hatch date. I tend to watch to be sure they are eating well before taking them away. Sometimes the father will begin chasing his sons, but typically only when they are eating okay on their own.

If you're worried, put them back for a few more days or a week. Or, maybe just the youngest one if it's the one not eating.

Offer them easy to eat foods. Spray millet is good, cooked corn, breads. Nestling food if you can get it quickly.

Were the birds picking on them not their parents? This makes a difference. Watch them closely and if they aren't eating some of the easy-to-start-on foods, then put them back until you're sure they can eat on their own. Good luck!

G. A. Lewis said...

Another thought. I was worried about my youngest Bourke out of the clutch of three that I removed. I put their cage on my kitchen table and when we eat, they eat. They are encouraged to eat when they see us eating (there's only two of us). Also, it helps them get used to people and to have activity going on near them, so they become less timid or afraid.