My wife, Hazel, and I hand feed baby birds for breeders. Actually, Hazel is the feeder, and I am the helper and tank cleaner. We started out with Cockatiels in Florida. Then we returned to Ohio and started hand raising Indian Ring Necks and Goffins. Last fall we had three Greys, along with ten other birds, that we were hand feeding. We kept one of the Greys, Casey, in exchange for hand feeding the other birds for 3 to 4 months.
We got the three Grey babies in November 1994. Casey was 2 weeks old; Spencer was 1 ½ weeks and Little Bit was one week old. For the first week, Hazel placed them on a 5 feedings per day schedule: 8:30AM, 12:30PM, 4:30PM, 8:30PM and 3:30AM. The next week they were fed four times a day. A few weeks later, the feedings were cut to three: 9:00AM, 3:00PM and 9:00PM. We fed them by syringe for the first four weeks. Then we switched to spoons because spoon feeding is easier on them.
Cleanliness is a very important aspect because baby birds’ immune systems are not developed, so they can get sick very easily. Hazel gave them a cleaning after every feeding, to ensure that their bodies were absent of formula. She then washed the hand feeding utensils with soap and water, rinsed them with Clorox (made sure the bleach was also rinsed off) and let them air dry after each feeding. I cleaned their tank every 1-2 hours.
Baby feeding is NOT a simple job, as it gets very complicated at times. Unless one is really dedicated and knows what to do, too many things can go wrong:
You cannot over feed or under feed. You have to watch your bird all day to ensure that it is getting the full value of the food you give it. You have to make sure that the crop has emptied before feeding again. If it is filled too long, the food in the crop may sour, or harmful bacteria may develop.
You have to be sure that the formula is the right temperature. It should match your bird’s body temperature (about 102-105 degrees fahrenheit) or the bird won’t be able to digest. If the food is too cold, it may sour in the crop because the baby isn’t digesting quickly enough. If it’s too hot, it may cause crop burn.
The openings to the baby’s crop and lungs/air sac are so close that you must make sure that the formula goes into the correct opening. It is very easy for a baby to become asphyxiated and die.
The formula must be the right thickness/consistency. If it is too thick, it may not move correctly through the crop, and souring or harmful bacteria growth may result.
We worry about every baby that leaves us too soon. Thank goodness most of them stay with us for 7 to 11 weeks. I feel that 12 weeks is a good age for an owner to take a baby Grey home.
Casey is now seven months old and his Conure buddy, Casper, is almost five months. At five months Casey weighed 418 grams. We’ve never owned a companion bird like Casey....he is so intelligent!!!
The above article was published in the Summer 98 issue of The Grey Play Round Table® Magazine.
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any means, without permission of the author.