Saturday, September 3, 2011


These are the two youngest of five babies in Fuchsia's clutch.
She may look like she's willing to feed her baby, but she's
really stealing a bite of the Exact formula for herself.
Mandy Asked: "Hello, just another question for you if you don't mind answering. I took a 3 week old baby bourke out of her nest on saturday (today is thursday). She is one of three but her mother stopped feeding her, she is quite fluffy with her feathers coming in slowly, however, checked on her siblings today and they are fully feathered,looking like bourke's. Is there something I am doing wrong as to why she is not growing as quickly being hand fed as apposed to parent fed?"

My Answer:  If there's no physical problem, I'd guess the baby may not be getting enough to eat, is not consistently warm enough, or both.

Perhaps your baby is the youngest in the clutch and therefore slower? Hopefully, the reason the mother quit feeding it is not because it had a physical problem. I have one that I'm still feeding twice a day after more than a year because it can’t adequately eat on its own. It has remained slightly smaller than most Bourkes, but it's too sweet to consider putting down. It also eats slowly compared to healthy babies. It doesn't "guzzle" its food. Does yours? Guzzling is a healthy sign.

When you started hand feeding this youngster, did you try returning it to its mother to keep it warm? Some hens will accept the baby and keep it warm even though they don't feed it. Others, push them aside. It's easier for you if Mama keeps the baby warm, but risky at first if you don't watch them closely and retrieve them if necessary. Sounds like you're past that place, however.

Just fed with a very full crop.

View from above shows full crop extending over the shoulders.

Rotund crop from below. Wait until almost empty
before feeding again. At this age, feed again in
about four hours.
Parents literally stuff their babies so full they look like they will burst. We need to do the same thing with hand fed babies. They are rarely full when we think they are. If the baby stops eating before its crop looks like it could burst ... protruding in all directions like an over inflated basketball ... then perhaps the food has cooled too much, too fast.

They like it warm. Not hot, but very warm. Exact Hand Feeding Formula has directions that give the degree range. It's a good idea to start this way until you're familiar with what temp feels right. They say about 105 degrees Farenheit or (102 to 110). For one bird I mix one teaspoon of Exact into two teaspoons of boiling water, stirring until it's cool enough to feed. I test it on the underside of my wrist like you’d test human baby formula.

Try to use a very small container for the food, one that holds heat. (Goodwill and Thrift Stores have an assortment). You can also sit the small container in a bowl of very hot (nearly boiling) water to keep the bowl of food warm. Be careful not to slop more water into your food mix.

Healthy babies "guzzle" down the food from an eye dropper very quickly, so feeding only one baby should make it easy to finish feeding before the food cools too much. I assume you're using an eye dropper. If not, you should.

How often are you feeding the baby? I'm feeding my current clutch four to five times a day, about every four hours. Newly hatched chicks need to be checked every two hours and fed if the their crop is empty. For the first week of life, I get up twice a night, then drop it to once a night at age two weeks. After that, I sleep through the night and feed them only during the day (but I don’t sleep in).

Are you keeping your baby warm enough? Dry enough? Accumulated droppings are wet and cold, so clean the box every time you feed them. Mine have pine shavings under paper towels. The paper towels absorb droppings and get tossed each time the babies are fed.
Box on table above a heat source. Notice they can move
closer or farther from the heat as they need to. Box is
closed when they are not being fed.

I put an electric oil heater near (not under) my box of babies to be sure they stay warm. The box is long enough that they can move toward or away from the heat source. Also, I've learned to feed more than one at a time. That way they help keep each other warm. Even though our home is 70 to 74 degrees inside this time of year, at night I use the heater. I don't use it except for hand fed babies. Otherwise, their mother keeps them warm enough.

Good luck. I hope your little one grows up to bond with you as a healthy, loving and affectionate pet.
Fuchsia at bowl and Flame on my hand. These two babies
aren't theirs, but they treat all four alike - with disinterest.
They're still feeding the three left in their nestbox, but seem
satisfied to let me take over on the two youngest and the
two shown here from another pair's clutch.  Their main
interest is in the "delicious" Exact Hand Feeding Formula.
These two parents were hand fed babies themselves a little
over a year ago.

Peace & Blessings


mandypoo2009 said...

hello, again, just to say thankyou for your advice, however since emailing you, my little baby bourke has sprouted loads of feathers and seemed to have had a massive growth spurt.
she is now 4 weeks old and guzzling food like there is no tomorrow, i couldnt be happier.
only thing now is i seem to be mam to this little bird haha!! all great fun, and thankyou again
mandy xxx

G. Lewis said...

Congratulations! There's nothing like a hand fed baby Bourke. Although all Bourkes are sweet and easy to tame, those that are hand fed create a special bond. Enjoy.

Love4Feathers said...

I am new to this site and so far I have found it to be very informative.Thank you for taking the time to help others :)
My question my have already been asked and since I am new at this I hope I don't keep asking for answers that are already there.
I have a male hand tame rosey bourke. He is a year old now and I found him a girl friend about five months ago. She has been showing signs of wanting to breed lately but he looks towards me and does the male bobbing and stretching his wings out towards me.He is feeding her and I have not put a nesting box in as of yet. My question is, will he ever bound with her and should I try a nesting box or is it to soon for him? Thanks, Sue

G. Lewis said...

Love4Feathers, I'd give them a nest box if you want to raise baby birds. He is old enough to breed. Some sources say to wait until they are two years old, but my one-year-olds have rarely had a problem. Just be sure you have plenty of calcium available to prevent egg binding (can happen at any age). I provide cuddle bone, mineral block and oyster shell because some birds prefer one over the other.

Also, when the eggs hatch, check to be sure they are feeding their young. Since your male is only a year old, he may not be the great daddy that he will become with experience. Females whose mates don't feed them frequently enough while on eggs, are more likely to abandon a baby in favor of raising fewer. That said, my one-year-old pair, Flame and Fuchsia, have done great with FIVE babies!

Yet Rosie and Pretty Boy let one of three die unfed. I didn't watch closely enough or I could have hand fed that youngest bird. Rosie's on a 2nd clutch that I WILL watch closely.

Best of luck, and Welcome!

Catherine said...

I'm wondering if you can help me. Our female red chested parakeet (splendid) had her first clutch. Out of 6 eggs only 4 hatched. Sadly, the very smallest chick completely vanished. I could find no sign of her, not in the nest or on the floor. Now the hen has damaged her wing. We checked the chicks and yesterday their crops were still full, however this morning they were empty. So we put the nest box on the floor so the hen could get access to them easier. The hen took no notice. When we went back late afternoon 2 chicks had clambered out of the nest and were stood under their mother, but she did not feed them, just ignored them. The smallest chick was still in the nest, and when I pulled it out, I thought it was dead, but it was still breathing and after heating it up in my hands it started chirping. Since then I've taken them into the house to hand rear them. Reluctantly they are eating from a syringe. The vet has ordered us chick feed. We estimate the chicks to be 2 and a half weeks old. Can you give me advice on how often to feed, how I'd wean them in the future etc? We've never had Splendids before and I don't want to lose these chicks. Thank you!

Faith. Hope. Love. said...

My name is Sarah and i work in a pet store. The parakeets we have to sell as pets decided to have babies. We can't keep them in the store because we wouldn't be able to sell them nor do we have the proper equipment to take care of them. There are three of them and all of different ages. I believe one of them is at least 4-5 days old, another is about a week and the bigger one is about 2 weeks. The biggest one is getting more and more down and has some color showing on his skin and what little feathers he has. The middle one is starting to get down as well. I've been keeping track of the times we feed them. And I check their crop before feeding them again to make sure I'm not overfeeding. So far they have been doing well with being fed every 3 hours, but because of the age difference I am not sure what I should do. If I showed you a couple of pictures, would you be willing to help a newbie out? Thank you!

G. A. Lewis said...

Sarah, I hope you got my email. I'd be happy to see your photos. The smaller the baby bird the more often it needs to be fed. Newly hatched chicks need to be fed every two hours. At two weeks of age, they can go 3 or 4 hours and get away with not being fed at night. Newly hatched, they need a feeding or two at night.

Their size differences should not matter in keeping them together. The larger chicks will help keep the smaller ones warm. Now, if you had a large parrot with a small parakeet...that would be different.

If your house isn't warm (about 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit or so), you may need to add a small space heater nearby. But, situate it so that they can move away from the heat if it's too hot. Never put a heater under the box or it might overheat and dehydrate them. A corner of the box facing the heater and a corner away from it is best.

Best of Luck. You will have some very sweet birds when they grow up.

Peace and Blessings.

Scarlett Delgado said...

Hi i have a problem. I always keep some hand feeding formula around just in case one of my parents stop feeding a baby. Well i ran out and wouldnt you know i have a baby that is fully feathered but not eating and parents wont feed. I ordered the formula online because i live in the middle of nowhere and cant buy locally. Is there something i can feed the baby until the formula gets here? Hes so thin im not sure he will make it

G. A. Lewis said...

Scarlett, As a child and teen, I was told that rescued baby birds could survive on egg yolk (from hard boiled chicken eggs), mixed with a little warm milk. However, none of my baby sparrows ever survived on it. But, maybe I didn't know to feed them enough and as often as necessary. I was only a child. I posted your question on the Blog to see if others have better answers. Click "Home" to go to today's post. Answers on 9/16/2013. - Gail