How to Hand Feeding Baby Birds

For Birds babies previously fed another hand-feeding preparation, a minimum of 24 to 48 hours is recommended for the dietary changes.


Hand-Feeding Baby Birds

Important Note:

During this period both products should be prepared (as directed) and mixed together, with the Instant Formula slowly being increased in proportion until the previous diet has been eliminated.

This diet contains no less than 8% fat, there is no need to add peanut butter to increase energy.

Unnecessarily cooking this formula may require adding more water to achieve the desired consistency, consequently reducing the concentration of this diet.

Hand-Feeding Baby Birds

Temperature to Feed Formula

The formula should be served warm- 104-106 F- but not hot, as excess heat may damage the digestive tract. It should feel slightly warm to the touch. It is highly recommended to use a thermometer to measure the temperature.

In order to maintain the heat of the mixture, a double-boiler type arrangement can be set up with the container of prepared food placed in a bowl or pan of warm water during the feeding process.

Feeding Area

Psittacine birds while being fed should be placed on a surface, such as a towel, where there will be insulative properties to prevent excess heat loss and a surface where they can grip with their feet, preventing slippage and possible injury.

Frequency of Feeding
Cockatiels and Small Parrots

Baby birds can be removed from their parents from between 8 to 21 days. Waiting until 2 1/2 to 3 weeks is safer for the beginner, as the bird is harder due to the presence of some feathering.

Hatching to 1 week

If the bird was removed from the nest shortly after hatching, for whatever reason, feeding requires special care. There should be no attempts to feed the bird for at least 12 hours after hatching. The crop is very small and will hold only a limited amount of food. After continued use, it will expand. The first feeding at 12 hours should be one drop of water. Approximately 1/2 to 1 hour later, another drop of water may be given. Feeding too frequently during this period may overload the crop and lead to aspiration and death.

After these initial feedings, if the baby appears normal and is excreting, a few drops of very thin formula can be given. In order that the baby bird receives enough food, the hand-feedings are repeated every two hours around the clock.

One to two weeks - Birds can be fed every 2-3 hours around the dock. If the birds are kept especially warm and comfortable, the night feedings after midnight can be eliminated. However, feedings must begin again at 6:00 AM.

Two to three weeks - This is a relatively safe age to remove the baby birds from the nest for hand-feeding. It is easier to check the crop and feed them. The birds of this age can be fed every three to four hours from 6:00 A.M. to midnight.

Three to four weeks - Feed the birds every 4 hours. As feeding frequency tapers off, the formula can be slightly thickened. At 4 weeks, the birds can be put in a cage with low perches. Water in a bowl may be placed inside. Five to six weeks - Feed the birds twice daily. Pelleted bird food and other foods may be placed in the cage to encourage the bird to eat on its own.

Seven weeks - Birds should be placed in a large cage with pellets in cups and scattered on the floor. Introduce the birds to a variety of succulent foods, but these should not make up more than 20% of the diet. Vegetables such as peas and corn are well accepted.


Birds should not be weaned before 7 weeks, usually about 8 weeks. Before weaning the bird off hand-feeding, keep a close watch to see that the bird is actually eating adequate amounts of pellets on its own and not merely nibbling at the food. Handle the crop to determine the fullness and check the breastbone for the degree of muscling. A weaning bird may lose as much as 10% of its weight normally. Any more than that may be an indication of a problem. It is recommended that the bird be weighed regularly throughout this period.

When first weaning the bird, give them pellets, as these are a nutritionally complete and balanced diet for the bird. It is a good idea to keep an older bird in a cage next to the cage with the young weanling to teach them to eat through mimicry.

If the baby birds are not weaned, they will become "spoiled" and will not eat on their own, preferring to be hand-fed. However, if they are weaned too early, they will not eat adequately, gradually lose weight, become weak and die. Therefore, if baby birds are begging to be fed, even after they are weaned, there may need to be a reversal back to hand-feeding as they may not be eating adequately.


Bird Foods

People feed their birds a variety of foods. Most of these diets are made of mainly seeds, which do not meet the nutritional requirements for a healthy bird. On the other hand, pellet foods are available. However research shows that the protein values for each brand of pellet food can differ from 5 to 20 percent. Most of the pellet food brands contain preservatives which may be toxic to the birds. As for our own birds and the birds we treat, Harrison's Bird Foods® is our tops choice.

Harrison's Bird Foods is a family of certified organic, formulated diets that were created by avian veterinarians and nutritionists with the health of your bird in mind. Their formulas require little or no supplementation.