Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Splendid Reader Question on Hand Feeding and Taming

A Reader's Question:

I'm looking to hand raise a baby Splendid in the near future, but as a student who also works 20-30hrs a week, feeding more than 3 times a day is undoable.

I have a 5 month old male that I'm having a helluvah time hand training if you have any tips. It was his breeder that suggested I take a baby from her new clutch and hand rear if for better results.

I could use some advice! please email me. thanks!

Three times a day really isn't enough to hand feed a baby bird. Four, and even five times a day, is better.

Hand feeding is best done at 3 weeks of age, and it's not only important to feed the baby regularly, you must keep the little bird warm. At 3 weeks they don't have all their feathers yet, but they are starting to come in. Whether you should hand feed or not strongly depends on the hours you are away from home. If you work 20 hours, but they are evenly spaced over five days and you live nearby, you can probably make it work. If, however, you travel a half hour there, a half hour back and work an 8 hour day...that doesn't work.
In a hurry and didn't let them out of their cage to feed them.
Sometimes you have to do it quick and easy.

I feed four or five times a day. Three times is skimpy. A possible scenario: get up at 6:30 a.m., feed at 7:30 a.m., leave house at 7:45 to get to a class at 8 a.m., then go to a 9 a.m. job for three hours, then go home for lunch and feed again at noon. Go back to school for two afternoon classes, then get home by 4:30, feed the baby and go back out again until 8:30 or 9:00, then feed the baby before you go to bed ... That's feeding four times a day with 4 to 4 1/2 hour intervals between. A baby bird can survive on that. However, you need to keep him warm. If you are in an apartment and keep the heat at 72 degrees, he should be fine. If you need to keep it at 68 or 70 degrees, then you need a small space heater near his box to keep him warmer than that. Keep in mind his Mom isn't keeping him warm any longer. Also, I often recommend that people feed at least two babies together so they can keep each other warm in a box together.
Flame and Fuchsia watching me hand feed their youngsters.
They were hand fed themselves. They've raised many babies
of their own and been happy to let me take over on some of them.

I didn't begin hand feeding until I quit working and retired. It would've been possible if I'd lived close enough to run home on a break and at lunch, but I wasn't working close enough to do that. Or, if I'd had a good employer who would let me bring the babies to work...but, I didn't work in the proper environment for that. Keep in mind that if you carry the baby around with you during the day, he will enjoy the extra company, but you must keep him out of drafts when walking across campus or from the car to work, etc. A short trek, when he's enclosed in a box is probably okay if it's not snowing or blowing frigid winds. This is not the best time of year for baby birds in the northern hemisphere. You don't say where you live. If you're in California, that's very different than northern Canada, for instance. ;-)

Splendids and Bourkes typically get along well together.
As for taming your first pair of Splendids, Merlin and Millet, weren't tame, yet the hen became very friendly. The male did not. We hand fed one clutch and not the other. The babies that weren't hand fed were all male and never did tame down for us. Admittedly, maybe they could have if we'd had more time to give them frequent attention. 

Our first pair of Bourkes, Rhett and Scarlett, were both 9 months old when I got them and I never tried to hand tame them. I intended them to be breeders. Yet, both were always friendly with me. I talked to them sweetly through the cage bars a lot. Rhett has always come up to the nearest perch and conversed to me. Scarlett was never a strong bird and we lost her several years ago. However, I can catch Rhett to trim his beak or nails (something only necessary as he's gotten very old), and he doesn't bite me. That said, his youngsters who are not hand fed will bite like crazy. He's been mated to Cherry for several years and their youngsters have been both parent fed and hand fed from time to time. Hand taming a Bourke or Splendid takes a lot of patience. It's almost easier to hand tame a young Budgie because they begin eating on their own at a younger age and you can start earlier. Yet, Bourkes are usually very sweet-natured and will tame down with time and attention. I've not experienced that with Splendids. Each bird has it's own personality, however, and some are easier to tame than others. Even among my hand fed, tame birds, there are some much sweeter than their siblings.

Rosie, a Bourke hen, is one of those sweetest of birds. I put a dark pink male who was parent-fed with her. Pretty Boy has become finger tame. He follows her lead and will get on my finger if I insist. I may have to try several times before he gives in and will let me put him back in his cage when it's time to end the free flight session. He's never going to be as tame as the hand fed birds, but he's tame enough. He isn't going to give me kisses or let me touch him, but he's not afraid either. Perhaps a tame hen (if you're lucky enough to get a baby that's female), will encourage your male to begin to trust you too.

Two babies being hand fed. Their box has a lid that closes
to keep them warm and help them feel sheltered like they'd be
inside a hollow tree or nest box with their parents feeding them.
Best of luck. I'd look at my schedule and decide how often you can hand feed. If you have to go five or even six hours once or twice a week, the baby could tolerate that. But, four-hour intervals four times a day is best. If you work an 8-hour day, that's too long. Count all your hours between feedings (travel time to and from included and time to fix the formula). Make sure you have everything you need before you bring the baby home. A secure, small box. Pine shavings in the bottom (hamster cage stuff), paper towels to line the box and remove and replace every time you feed, an eye dropper (two is best), a cup to heat water in microwave and Exact Hand feeding formula. If you buy a small bag of formula make sure you have access in a hurry to a 2nd one in case you get close to running out. I always keep more on hand than I'm likely to need.

Rainbow and Jewel. He is hand fed and tame, she isn't.

My husband just had a really weird idea that might work...or might not. If you are gone all day, you could reverse the baby's feeding to be fed through the night. At 3 weeks of age you no longer have to feed a baby parakeet at night. So... you could feed him through the night instead of during they day. Feed him at 6pm, 9:30pm, 1:00am, 4:30am, 7:30am (or something like that), then put him in a dark, warm box and let him sleep all day. You'd miss sleep...but, it's one way to feed the baby often enough. Just a thought.

Good luck. Don't hesitate to ask any other questions. Search my blog for hand feeding and you'll find lots of posts.

 Peace and Blessings,

1 comment:

G.A. Lewis said...

UPDATE: I now recommend hand feeding at two weeks of age instead of three weeks ... they are more willing to accept it then.