Large Parrots to Loving Homes

HAND FEEDING HANDBOOK

Hand feeding can be a very rewarding experience for both the baby parrot and the new owner. In addition to saving money by purchasing a baby bird, the owner has the unique opportunity to bond with their new baby at a time when the parrot is most impressionable.

WARNING: This handbook is designed to supplement hands-on training in hand feeding baby parrots. Please know that if you are not properly trained and do not have a dependable advisor and/or avian vet available, hand feeding can be one of the most traumatic and frustrating events in your life. Improperly done, hand feeding can endanger the life of your new bird.

Professional breeders and hand feeders have incubators and brooders as well as other climate controlled cages and containers to accommodate the needs of a young parrot from the time it hatches until it is weaned. It is not necessary for you to purchase these sophisticated items to successfully raise your new parrot. As a matter of fact, for less than $100, you can purchase everything you need to raise your new bird. Lets cover the basics based upon the age of the chick:

2 - 5 WEEKS

EQUIPMENT:

You will need the following items:

..

Two Rubbermaid 45-qt. storage boxes with tops. Approx. $4 each. (Upper Left) One submersible 100 Watt aquarium heater (adjustable temp). Approx. $15. (Upper Right)

 

A RadioShack Digital Thermometer/Hygrometer. Approx. $20 (Above)

Fill one of the storage boxes with 2-3" of water and place the submersible aquarium heater on the bottom. Slide the other container inside the first until the bottom is touching the water. Place 2" of soft pine shavings, cellulose bedding material, or a clean towel in the top container. Placing the thermometer/hygrometer in the top container will assist you in keeping a constant temperature of 85 degrees. Adjust the heater and the box top to keep the temperature constant. You will be feeding your parrot 4 times a day until it is 21 days old and three times a day until it is at least 6-8 weeks old.

If your parrot starts to bump its head on the top, consider adding a 60watt light (see below) instead of using the container top. Keep the open containers out of drafts.

In Parrots: Hand-feeding & Nursery Management (Silvio Mattacchione & Co. 1992), authors Rick Jordan and Howard Voren suggest the following heating regimen. Babies can be kept at 93 degrees until they have down feathers, at 85 degrees when they have down feathers, and at what they call room temperature (78 to 82 degrees) when the chicks have feathers on the wings, head and breast.

FEEDINGS:

Baby birds require 4 feedings or more per day at 14 days. The most important thing to remember is that you must provide sufficient nutrition for the bird no matter how much time it takes or how many feedings it takes. After a feeding, the crop should be distended and firm to the touch, not tight. If the bird throws up and the crop is distended, it is most probably full. If the crop empties during the day within two hours of a feeding, then you have not given the baby enough food and it will have to be re-fed, regardless of a schedule. As you get more comfortable with the process, you will be able to give the baby sufficient nourishment to last during a normal feeding schedule. As the bird grows, it may not eat well at one feeding or another. This may be its way of telling you to go from 4 to 3 feedings a day. If it does not eat well at two feedings in a row, call your advisor or vet immediately. Remember, you must let the crop completely empty at night before the first morning feeding.

Select the appropriate hand feeding formula for your bird (we prefer Pretty Bird formula for a number of reasons). Mix the formula according to the instructions on the label. The formula must be between 104 and 108 degrees when offered to the bird. If it cools while you are feeding, place it in the microwave and re-warm it for a few seconds. If your bird seems disinterested in eating it is usually because the formula is too cold or too thick. Eclectus are notorious for requiring perfectly heated formula. A meat thermometer is more than adequate to measure formula temperature.

Do's and Don'ts: Use distilled water unless you are certain of the safety of your local water system. Warm your water before you add formula. Don't mix formula and cold water and microwave the mix. This cooks the formula and destroys its consistency and nutritional value. Do not feed a bird formula in excess of 108 degrees. Crop burn is a serious injury and must be avoided at all cost.

You can use either a syringe or medicine cup (photo below) to feed any parrot but a Macaw. Macaws require a syringe because of their large beaks. Let the bird go at its own pace. If the bird chokes, sneezes or pulls away, stop feeding for a few seconds to let it calm down. You will see a lot of breeders feed each bird in 20 seconds or less. Don't try to imitate this. They are professionals with years of experience. Your goal is to provide nutrition to your baby, not to set speed records.

Dirty Birds. Just a note about cleaning your parrot. We hesitate to get the birds, younger than 10 weeks, totally wet too often. Always wipe away wet formula from his mouth, face and chest after every feeding with a dry cloth. You can use a warm wet cloth to clean up dried food. When we have had a feeding disaster and the bird is covered with formula, we sometimes place them in the sink and use the pot sprayer to shower the soiled areas with warm water. If you do this and get the bird totally wet, try wrapping him in a warm (not hot) towel to get some of the water off and then place him in a confined area under a light until he is dry. Avoid all drafts while the bird is damp.

When your bird feathers out, you can use a spray bottle to lightly mist him at any time. You'll find that the misting will start him preening which is good for his feathers.

6 - 9 WEEKS

When you notice your parrot starting to nibble on the pine shavings or droppings in the double container, it is time to put it "on the wire". Use one of your storage containers. Make a shelf of 1" X 1" cage wire that stands 2" off of the bottom. If the bird has trouble standing or walking on this large wire, lay a piece of 1/2" X 1/2" hardware cloth on top of the cage wire until it is comfortable.

 

Mount a light on the side for warmth. Do Not Turn Off The Light At Night. Use the top of the storage box to regulate the heat in the box. As the bird feathers out the temperature can be decreased gradually from 85 degrees.

You can mount a low perch through the side of the container for the bird to begin to learn how to perch.

FEEDINGS:

At 6 weeks, you should begin to offer the parrot a variety of soft, cooked mixed vegetables, "bean cuisine", diced fruit, and crushed pellets. Even if the baby doesn't choose to pick at it right away, continue to offer these items daily. Continue to hand feed 3 times a day until the bird is eating solid foods to the point that it doesn't care to have a mid-day feeding.

10 WEEKS UNTIL WEANED

Time to move your bird to a small cage or its permanent cage. We suggest you mount the light you have been using for heat on the side of the cage for continued warmth until the bird is weaned. You will find that the parrot will move toward or away from the light as it needs warmth. Provide a low perch until the baby feels comfortable climbing to a higher one.

FEEDINGS:

Your bird should be on two-a-day feedings by 10 weeks. It should also be eating solid foods regularly between formula feedings. Try adding more fresh, uncooked fruit and vegetables such as corn on the cob, broccoli, carrots, squash, peas, orange and apple slices, and peppers. All parrots, especially Eclectus, love peppers. The hotter the better. Also, have pellets and fresh water available at all times.

Your goal during this time is to have the parrot maintain its weight and health as it learns to eat only solid foods. Let it tell you when it wants to switch to once a day feedings or quit feedings all together. Remember, it never hurts to hand feed your bird longer than books recommend.

Do's and Don'ts: Contrary to popular belief, "Pollys" do not want crackers. Any junk food with salt will dry out the crop and possibly cause impactions. Be careful with seeds. Seeds, especially peanuts, are high in fat content and should be used as an occasional treat, not a major portion of your parrot's diet. We have listed foods that are safe to feed your parrot. There are some foods that are extremely harmful including Avacado and Chocolate. The fumes of teflon on your cookware can also kill your bird. Be safe, there are many sites on the internet which list foods and chemicals that can harm your bird. Check them out.

IN CLOSING

We hope this handbook has given you the courage to try hand feeding or the fear not to. Many people become so excited with the idea of buying and raising a baby parrot that they do not stop to consider the commitment of time and effort required. It is not unlike having a newborn human baby in the home. The most important preparation you can make is to find an advisor, experienced in hand feeding, who will train you and be available to help if anything goes wrong.

Good Luck! Write us and let us know if this handbook helped at parrotsforsale@hotmail.com.

Best Wishes,

Craig & Debra Johnson

 

 Supplemental Reading

Hand-Feeding and Raising Baby Birds

By Matthew M. Vriends, Ph.D.

This book is fairly lengthy and covers much more than hand-feeding a baby from three weeks until weaned. It may provide with useful information to supplement your experience. It may also serve as a useful reference for any problems you may encounter.

The Dangers of Hand Feeding Baby Parrots....

and WHY it is encouraged

 

Liz Wilson

Understand what can happen if you are not prepared and do not have an advisor nearby.

 

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