Handfeeding the Baby Parrots
1. Preparing the Handfeeding Formula
With a little patience, anyone who can feed a baby human can feed a baby parrot.
Once a formula has been chosen read the manufacturer's instructions a few times. Reading a few times is necessary because mixing and feeding the formula is very easy to do correctly, but our apprehensions may create questions in our minds that are better solved before the first feeding.
Preparing the food in the same area each time will make it easier to keep the process consistent and clean. The counter or area you are using and the sink should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before the first feeding, and cleaned and disinfected as necessary before each feeding; your sink can be a source of contaminating bacteria and fungus. Something as simple as turning on the disposal can atomize bacteria-laden particles that can be spread throughout the kitchen and make their way into the formula. Disposals can be cleaned reasonably well by pouring a large pot of almost boiling water in once a month. This can be followed by an ice cube tray of ice that will help to scrub the inside as it swirls around.
The faucet handle, drain area and inside the spigot are the worst areas. Turn your faucet on and wipe/scrub the exposed part of the faucet stem that is not visible when the faucet is off. (An old tooth brush works well). This is an area that is seldom cleaned and usually very dirty. When using a kitchen faucet that has not been used in the last hour, allow the water to flow a few seconds, flushing out any bacteria growing inside the spigot. Once started, avoid touching anything that is not clean including the faucet, refrigerator door and drawer handles. The washcloth being used should be rinsed thoroughly after each use and allowed to dry. It may be better to use paper towels for part of the process, because washcloths can build up bacteria and bacteria and should be changed each day. The Hartman Aviary nursery is only used for babies so there is little possibility of the bacterial contamination that can occur in a home kitchen. If your feeding area is used only for feeding the baby there will be less need to continually disinfect and change washcloths.
Pay Attention! Contamination is in many places you may not be paying attention to. If you have not cleaned the refrigerator door handle and area where the bag of formula is setting in the refrigerator, you may contaminate your hand and the counter where you place the bag.
IMPORTANT! Caution: Your Formula May Be Too Hot.
Fill a cup with the hottest water you can get from your faucet. Measure the temperature with your thermometer and your finger. It should be somewhere around 130 to 150 degrees F. Watch the temperature drop, and with your finger, get a feel for how hot it is with each 5 degree drop until it gets below 100 degrees. After you know the hottest temperature you can get out of your faucet, how long it takes to cool down, and how hot it is by touch, you should never have a problem with the formula being served too hot. It is good to develop a feel for 110 degrees so you can mix the formula at about the correct temperature from the start. Just in case, always check the temperature with a thermometer before feeding.
Formula can be kept warm between mixing and feeding, and while feeding, by placing the bowl of mixed formula or the syringe full of formula into a container of water slightly warmer than feeding temperature. This allows the formula in the dish or inside the syringe to stay within the correct temperature range while you are waiting for the baby to swallow. This is the same process many mothers use to warm up a baby's bottle.
Don't forget that while the formula inside a syringe will stay warm for a while, the tip of the syringe that touches the baby's beak and tongue will become cold in just a few seconds. While waiting for the baby to swallow, place the tip of the syringe in the warm water or under the flowing faucet. For best results the total preparation and feeding time should be limited to about 5 minutes. An experienced handfeeder will usually take less than 20 seconds per baby. At Hartman Aviary, we leave the water slowly running at about 110 degrees during the entire feeding process so we always have the correct temperature water for reheating the formula and wiping the babies' beaks.
Most formulas do not need to be cooked; avoid any that require this time consuming step. Measure the amount of dry formula you think is needed into your small mixing bowl. After a few feedings, you will know how much you need and will avoid waste. Add the amount of warm water recommended by the manufacturer. A large cooking thermometer makes a great mixing utensil; stir the formula until thoroughly mixed.
Follow the manufacturer's mixing instructions carefully. If the mixture is too thick to suck through a straw, it is probably too thick to easily travel into the baby's esophagus. Formula too thick to pass through the crop may draw fluid from the baby to help with digestion and mobility, and may cause dehydration. Formula mixed too thin will be easy to feed, but will not contain enough nutrition and the baby may be undernourished while processing all the extra water in the formula. Some formulas, when mixed properly, are thin, others are thick, and some get thinner or thicker as they sit on the counter. This is not a problem as long as you are following the manufacturer's directions. It is a good idea to do a couple of trial mixtures before you actually feed. As an experiment, let the mixed formula set for 10 minutes and then check its consistency and temperature.
IMPORTANT! If you switch formulas, make sure you read the directions on the new bag a few times. Different formulas may look the same when mixed, but may actually have quite a different percentage of water. Too much or too little water can slow digestion and decrease nutrient absorption. There are generally no digestive problems associated with changing formulas, but there is a taste consideration. The taste issue can be easily solved in two ways. First you can mix the new with the old for a few feedings. Second you can feed just a couple of cc's of the new formula once an hour, two or three times. The baby will get small sample tastes and then readily accept the new formula after a few feedings.
There are many different techniques used to handfeed baby parrots. Large professional aviaries usually feed very fast with a syringe or a gavage tube that delivers the food right into the crop. Less experienced and/or small breeders often use pipets, small cups, spoons and syringes. There are pros and cons to all of these methods but the safest and easiest is with a syringe because you can go slow or fast and it automatically measures how much you have fed. So, in this chapter we will explain syringe feeding basics. If you use any other method the same principles will apply and with a little modification you will be comfortable in no time.
CAUTION! Some breeders feed their babies by passing a tube down the esophagus and into the crop. This is called tube or gavage feeding. Once the tube is in the crop, all of the food can be delivered in seconds. This method requires a great deal of expertise. We advise against pet owners using this method.
PRACTICE with the syringe before you try to put even a drop of formula into a baby's mouth. Under the pressure of feeding your baby for the first time, you may find it easier to push a car with a fly swatter than push that little plunger ¼ inch with your thumb.
Several things will elicit a feeding response from a baby parrot. "Feeding response" is basically the bird bobbing its head up and down so that as the parrot parents regurgitate food into the baby's mouth it is bounced down the throat and into the crop. When the baby is displaying the feeding response, the opening to his trachea is closed and the mouth, throat, and esophagus are all opened so that food can flow all the way into the crop without the bird needing to swallow. Parrot parents feed by regurgitating partially digested food into the baby's mouth. When regurgitating, the baby bobs his head up and down to pump the food into their own mouth. As the parents lock beaks with the baby, the baby matches this bobbing rhythm causing the food to continue pumping from the parents mouth into the babies and on down into the babies' crop.
Babies under 6 weeks old will normally have a strong feeding response. Babies that are fed very fast by an experienced handfeeder, or very slow by an inexperienced handfeeder may sometimes lose the feeding response. The fast fed babies can lose the feeding response because as soon as the response starts, an experienced feeder can shoot the food down the throat and right into the crop in one quick push of a syringe. After a while some babies stop producing the feeding response because the feeding is finished in 2 or 3 seconds. Slowly fed babies may lose the feeding response because they cannot hold their breath long enough or there is not enough force from the food to flow down the esophagus. Slow fed babies often begin to tongue and swallow the food just like an adult, but long before they begin picking up food and eating on their own. Anecdotal experience with several thousand babies at Hartman Aviary has shown that species most likely to lose the feeding response are African Greys, Lories and Cockatoos.
Handfeeding baby parrots can have many unusual triggers which prompt a feeding response that may go unnoticed, or be a mystery to the new feeder. The indoor nursery at Hartman Aviary is dark most of the time to simulate the dark nest box; simple triggers like the lights turning on, or the water running in the sink, start the babies to think about eating. For over 20 years we have used small red tubs to hold the formula, syringes and washcloths so when someone enters the nursery or walks by the outdoor nursery with a red cup, the babies take immediate notice. Establish a feeding routine immediately and keep with it.
By using our slow start first day feeding method you should not have a problem switching over from past handfeeding methods and triggers established by a previous feeding situation because the baby will easily adapt to your new method within 24 hours.
In addition to the parents head bobbing, they are also touching the soft pads at the commissures of the baby's beak with the tip of their own beak. The commissures of the beak are where the upper and lower mandibles come together. The soft pads are on the edges of the baby's mandibles at the same position as our molars would be if they were on the outside of our mouth. By placing your hand over the baby's head, with the tips of your index finger and thumb, you can touch the pads on both sides of the beak and elicit the feeding response.
Warm food touching the baby's tongue is also a trigger for the feeding response. With syringe in hand, it is time to feed! Gently hold the baby's head with your left hand (right hand if you are left handed). Your hand will be over the top and behind the head with your index finger and thumb gently touching the pads on the side of the beak. Do not hold firmly; you do not want to restrict the movement of the baby as he bobs for the food. Your hands will be following the baby's movements. To avoid injuring the mouth of the baby, place the side of the tip of the syringe against the index finger of the hand holding the head. This will keep the syringe from going further than the middle of the tongue. Both hands will work together to follow the head and aim the syringe at the same time while following the movement of the baby's head. Your hands will quickly learn to follow each other while following the movement of the baby.
Insert the tip of the syringe about half way between your index finger and the tip of the beak and deliver the formula by lightly touching the syringe to the middle of tip of the tongue, and placing a drop of formula on the tongue. At the same time, applying a light amount of pressure with the index finger and thumb on the soft pads at the commissures of the beak will illicit the feeding response. As soon as the feeding response starts, push the food in as fast as the baby wants to take it. If you put the syringe in too far, you can cause him to gag, and not being in far enough his tongue will be in the way. Aim the syringe to shoot the food over the tongue and straight towards to back of the throat. Food directed at the roof of the mouth or down at the tongue, will not flow efficiently into the throat. This is exactly the same angle as if we were trying to squirt a stream of formula into a the back of a human's mouth without the formula touching the sides of the mouth.
It will soon be possible to feed the total amount of formula in less than 30 seconds (this does not apply the first day). Keep in mind that all babies will be different and it does not matter if your bird eats formula fast or slow, as long as you slowly work out a routine with him during the first few days.
Spoon feeders will want to put the tip of the spoon at the end of the tongue and pour into the mouth. The baby will use his tongue to move the formula to the back of his mouth and swallow. This is a much slower feeding method requiring more diligence to keep the formula warm. This method is a little problematic due to the inability to quickly start and stop the flow of food.
Keep in mind that the breeder you got the baby from is probably a better handfeeder than you are. Your breeder will feed this baby in seconds while it may take you several minutes. The baby will be used to holding its breath for as long as it took the last hand feeder to feed. Even though he may keep trying to eat as long as you are delivering the food, you need to stop after about five seconds. The feeding response may be so strong that the baby will sometimes keep trying to eat until he gasps for air and inhales some food. Some babies can hold their breath and continue the feeding response for more than a minute. After a few feedings, the baby will become accustomed to your feeding technique and will take the food as fast or slow as you want.
Aspiration of very small amounts of food into the trachea is common, just as it is in humans. Normally, this inhaled food will be coughed up, just like in people, but large quantities, or small quantities repeatedly introduced, can cause pneumonia, bacterial infections and sometimes death. If you think the baby has inhaled a small amount of food, stop feeding and allow him to take the time to cough as long as necessary. I usually stop feeding and come back in an hour or even wait until the next scheduled feeding.
Some breeders believe that it is necessary to feed only from the left side of the mouth. This information is incorrect. They wrongly believe that since the esophagus is on the right side of the neck, you need to deliver the food from the left side to expedite the flow of food. In reality the opening of the esophagus is in the middle of the mouth and the food has to pass this point first. An exception to this is when a stiff gavage needle is used to slide down the esophagus to deliver food directly into the crop. In this case it will be necessary to slightly deviate to the birds right as the tip of the tube passes through the throat.
IMPORTANT! The four most common reasons for a baby not eating well when a new handfeeder takes over are: not using our slow first day program, pushing the baby off balance with your hand while putting the food in its mouth, feeding formula that is less than 104 degrees, and taking too long to feed.
Feeding schedule for the first day with a new handfeeder
Some babies will eat anything, anytime; others will try your patience. This section is directed toward the difficult baby since most babies are cooperative and will not need much explanation. It should be noted that when the baby arrives at the new home the first day or two will be the most difficult. The baby will be in a new environment with new sounds, colors, smells, cage, mom, and a lot of stress. With a little patience they will adapt quickly and should be content by the end of day two.
IMPORTANT! A secret to every professional hand feeders success is to proceed slowly and do not worry. A baby moved from the breeder's nursery to your home are likely under a little stress that could keep him from eating well the first day. The easy solution is to start hand feeding slowly. This situation is very similar to bringing a younger baby from the nest into the nursery.
A gradual and progressive feeding schedule minimizes stress for the feeder and the baby. The feedings are quick allowing the baby, who will usually respond automatically with a feeding response, to experience the way the new feeder holds him and administers the food. The experience is over quickly before the baby or the feeder can become frustrated. A feeding encounter with minimal negative stress will be a positive learning experience. As an example we will consider that we have a 10 week old African Grey Congo who is eating 50cc three times a day. The breeder has fed the baby just before you picked him up and his next 50cc meal would be fed in 6 - 8 hours.
When you get home, place the baby in his cage for about one hour and allow him to calmly observe his new home. After waiting one hour you should feed the baby. Prepare the formula and then move the baby to the feeding area. You will not be skilled at holding the baby and getting the food in its mouth, and the baby will not be skilled at following your movements and getting the food, from you, into his mouth. Do not plan on this first feeding going perfectly, it is a trial. Since you are not experienced and the baby is in a strange place, the situation will be new for both of you.
Now that you have the formula mixed and ready to feed: move the baby from his cage to the feeding area, where you will feed him ONLY 1cc of formula. You will want to do this quickly, but only so fast as you can do calmly. You will have the syringe waiting, you place the baby where you will be feeding him, you gently hold his head, and you place the syringe in his mouth and without hesitation squirt the formula in his mouth, AND THEN REMOVE YOUR HANDS FROM THE BABY. This process needs to be as quick as you can do it in a calm manner. This is feeding time not play time, do not play with the baby; do not pet him or do any more touching than necessary to make him comfortable. After this first feeding, put the baby back in the cage for about 5 minutes so his brain can finish processing this strange new feeding experience. Then you may get him out and hold and play with him until 5 minutes before it is time for the second feeding which will happen when you have him home for two hours.
The baby's brain will interpret the experience this way, "something strange just happened to me, perhaps I was assaulted? But it only lasted a few seconds and now I have this food in my mouth that tastes good, and somehow I feel nurtured." Since the touching of the baby lasted only a few seconds and the taste of the small amount of food in the mouth lasts several minutes the baby's brain will process this as a positive situation and subconsciously begin looking for it to happen again. Even if most of the food ended up on the outside of the baby or the wall, all you need is a small drop in the mouth to be successful for this first feeding.
Breeders treat new babies arriving in the nursery in the same manner. Even though a professional breeder can easily feed a baby that knows him, he will never try to feed a baby fresh out of the nest a full feeding. He will always start with a few drops for the first few feedings.
Prior to the second feeding the baby needs to be left alone in his cage for at least 5 minutes to relax. You do not want feeding time associated with social or play time.
At the second hour repeat the same feeding process you used the first time with the exception of feeding two cc's this time. At hour three feed 3cc, and etcetera for the first day. If things are progressing well and there is only minimal stress on the part of the feeder or the baby, you can increase the amount of each feeding at a faster pace.
By the end of the first day, assuming you have had 8 or so somewhat successful feedings, you should now be able to get the syringe in the baby's mouth, the baby should be able to get his mouth on the syringe, and you will have fed a total of about 36cc's of formula.
As the day progresses, the baby will be getting hungrier and more motivated to figure out how to get the food in his mouth. Since you will be starting slowly, without the stress of knowing you need to get lots of food into the baby, you will gain the skills much faster. This method allows the new handfeeder to learn how to feed, while the baby learns how to be fed by the new feeder. With this approach, the baby will learn quickly.
Do not spend more than a few (2-5) minutes trying to feed a newly arrived baby. It is normal for some babies to have a more difficult time the first day or two in a new environment. Forcing a baby to eat formula he does not want can cause problems. As you become frustrated and the formula gets cold, the baby will begin to see you as a predator with a syringe. The result is a crying owner and a starving baby. You may soon find it impossible to feed the baby if he becomes intent on avoiding this stressful situation. Any time the baby becomes annoyed while feeding, you need to stop immediately and try again a little later. The baby will not starve to death by missing a few feedings.
If your baby is difficult to feed you may want to try, if possible, to feed the baby right where he is, whether in a brooder or in a cage. You may not want to disturb the baby by moving it which may take his mind off of the food.
At Hartman Aviary, babies just arrived from the nest and new to the nursery are fed on a similar progressive schedule. Normally, they have been well fed by their parents and have a full crop of food, so instead of formula we start with a small drop or two of Pedialyte. Every hour or two we increase the amount of Pedialyte and then move to a Pedialyte/formula mixture after his crop has emptied. Once we are sure the crop is empty and food is moving through, normally about 8 hours after arriving in the nursery, we feed straight formula.
Baby parrots' hunger and nurturing needs are always changing just like ours. Figuring out when and how much to feed a baby parrot will be easy once you understand the 6 main factors.
Body weight can be a basic guide for how much to feed the baby. Generally, you will feed most species approximately 12% of their weight at each feeding. Very young babies and those about to wean will receive about 8 - 10%. (Example: A 6-week-old African Grey weighing 400 grams will need approximately 48 cc per feeding.) From approximately three weeks old and until the weaning process begins, most babies will need to be fed three times each day. These feedings do not need to be exactly 8 hours apart. The key factor is an empty crop. Once the crop is empty from the last feeding, you can feed again. A bird in this age range, being fed the correct amount of food, should pass all of the food through the crop in about 5 to 6 hours. This will allow about 2-3 hours for the crop to be empty before the next feeding. Keep in mind that even if the crop is empty, the intestines will still have food passing through. If you begin to see stools without a fecal portion, I.E., only urine and urates, then you may not be feeding enough at each feeding or waiting too long between feedings. The only time you should see this happen is in the morning, which is usually the longest time between feedings.
Feeding frequency is slightly different for each baby and may vary from day to day, you will easily learn the needs of your baby. The breeder and the formula instructions should give you a basic idea of how often your baby has been eating and should be eating for its age.
A little recent history****Babies less than a week old will be fed a different consistency of formula based on age. The first few feedings should be a very thin formula with almost no solids, or an electrolyte solution like Pedialyte. This formula will be fed until the yolk, which was absorbed into the baby's abdomen just before hatching, is used up. When the stools begin to have no fecal portion present, you may begin feeding approximately 7% solid formula. This concentration will gradually increase over a two to three day period until the formula is about 28% solids.
The frequency of feedings on a newborn chick is about every one and a half hours for the first day. This frequency gradually decreases to about three or four hours by the end of the first week. (Example: A 15-gram chick will take approximately 1/2 cc of formula the first feeding. The volume will increase gradually to approximately 1cc by the end of the first day. If the baby develops properly, the size of the feedings will increase by about 1cc each day for the first few days. This is only a guideline and will vary according to your expertise and the species you are dealing with.)
Feeding frequencies will be influenced by hunger and the nurturing needs of each baby. We need to think of formula as a two part system of nutrients and nurture. The first few weeks the baby is not very aware of life and only needs the nutrients. As he starts to experience the sometimes scary world, the formula will also provide nurturing from a 'mom' who is taking care of him. As the baby nears weaning and eats more on his own, the formula will be perceived by the baby as mostly nurture.
Some babies are needier than others and need more nurture. An effort should be made to feed on demand, just like a mother would if breast feeding. A hungry baby that keeps coaxing or crying, and is not quite empty, should be fed a little (nurtured) even if it is not on the scheduled time. The same variety of things that cause a human baby to require attention will affect your baby parrot. Too cold, too hot, need to be touched, played with or just security concerns will cause the baby to cry. Because of the nurturing component of feeding, the baby will be reassured that everything is OK and there is nothing to worry about because 'mom' is taking care of him. Even if the baby has food in his crop it is all right to give him a small unscheduled amount, assuming he is otherwise healthy. If you believe the baby is getting enough food and should not be hungry and crying, explore other causes.
You do not want to routinely put new formula in a crop that still contains food from the last feeding. If the baby is not 100% healthy or the last feeding of formula somehow became contaminated with harmful bacteria, the number of bacteria in the remaining formula may have increased to unacceptable levels. Bacteria from contamination or from the crop lining of an ill baby can reproduce rapidly in a warm well-nourished environment like a crop. Generally, good bacteria already in the crop and digestive enzymes take care of limiting and killing the bad bacteria as they pass through the digestive tract. Bacteria laden formula in a thriving baby will usually pass through the intestines, but if new formula is added, the old bacteria laden formula will seed the new formula with a high dose of contamination. By the time this new formula would have passed it could have hundreds or thousands of times the original unacceptable level. This condition can cause a mild upset stomach or worse. Always allow the crop to be completely empty for at least one 2-hour period every day.
IMPORTANT! In a nice, warm nurturing environment like the crop, one bacterium can double in numbers every 20 minutes and could be over 30,000 in four or five hours. (This same situation can occur in our stomach)
Activity level, especially if there are other parrots around, will vary during the day and affect a baby's interest in food. For instance, an older baby will begin to have less interest in eating and run from the syringe in the morning because as soon as the cage door is opened he is ready to explore the world. However, an hour later he may be crying and demanding that you stop the world to feed him. More information can be found in the weaning section. (this link goes to the weaning section in SECTION 3 part 4)
By about five weeks old most babies will begin to explore eating adult food. Some adventurous babies may be able to eat most of their food on their own, even before they can fly. Others may not have any interest in adult food until they are just about to wean. This is why we recommend that Poopology be used as the most important gauge of how much to feed.
E. Poopology: The BIRD POOP Index
Understanding poopology makes an easy job of monitoring food consumption and the health of your baby. Studying your parrots poop is the easiest way to determine how much to feed your baby. Parrot bowel movements easily tell the story of what they are eating and how long it is taking for the food to pass through the intestines. Careful attention to the consistency of the poop, and by monitoring the size, color, urine content and frequency of the stools will assist in determining how much the baby is eating on its own.
From about one week old until the baby begins sampling adult food, the stools will be very consistent in a healthy baby. As soon as the baby starts sampling adult food each stool will vary slightly. Because the baby is starting to eat the adult food he will not need as much formula. Since he will not be eating the same amount of adult food all day long, and from day to day he may eat different amounts of adult food, it becomes difficult to understand why he may want more or less than normal amounts of formula at each feeding. Poopology has all the answers.
Parrots have a cloaca where we have a rectum. The urinary tract in a parrot empties into the cloaca so when they have a bowel movement the urine and feces come out at the same time. When you look at a stool sample from a parrot you will see three parts: water, urates and feces. In humans, urates are mixed into the water to make urine. In a parrot they separate and look like water and white tooth paste.
When a healthy baby is only eating formula there is a lot of water because the formula is mostly water and the feces are always the same brownish color. Adult food contains less water so when the baby starts to eat adult food along with formula some stools will have less water, and the adult food will change the color and consistency of the feces.
Here we see a stool from a 7 week old baby Moluccan Cockatoo containing only formula. Notice the large amount of water, the white urates and the brownish feces. Usually the feces will be tubular but if a baby is actively moving around just before defecating it may be mixed up and look more like pudding.
The largest sample of the day will show up first thing in the morning. Adult parrots do not poop during the night and babies will start to hold it most of the night about the time they are ready to fly. In the morning, soon after waking up you should find the largest stool sample of the day. When this occurs the intestines of the baby will be empty because the formula you fed the night before just came out and he could not eat any adult food on his own during the night. This sample is from a baby that is eating at least half of its food on its own. You can easily see different colors, from brown to dark green. Brown and fluffy is mostly formula, dark green is mostly adult food. Because only half of this sample is formula there is much less urine.
The second stool sample of the day will contain a small amount of feces. You may find the next couple of samples will contain only water and urates. Assuming you feed the baby when he wakes up you will start to see larger amounts of fecal material showing up again in a couple of hours.
In General: Stools from formula will be larger, of consistent color, with more liquid and will more often. Stools from solid food will be smaller, vary in color and be slightly dryer and fewer. Throughout the day as the solid, dryer food passes there will be less urine content only to increase as the next feeding of formula begins to come out.
A predictable pattern will eventually develop. Initially the adult food may be difficult to detect since the solid food is consumed in small amounts and is mixed with the formula already in the crop. As solid food consumption increases, you should easily develop the ability to distinguish the food source.
Poopology Conclusion. As long as there is lots of fecal material in the stools, except mid-morning, the baby is getting enough food. If the baby has lots of poop and is crying for food he probably only needs a small feeding so he feels nurtured. It is better to feed small feedings when there are a lot of feces and the baby cries. If he cries because he needs mom to nurture him and you feed him a whole feeding he will be less inclined to eat on his own. This could set up a pattern where you feed him so much formula that he does not wean. You need to think in terms of the overworked mom that only gives enough to shut the kid up.
Confidence and independence are two significant factors for a baby to eat enough on its own and become weaned. When there are other babies being raised in the same healthy and supportive environment there will be lots of sibling competition to be the first to explore everything in sight. This includes any piece of food they can get into their mouths. If one wants it, they all will. Seeing an adult parrot eat will also help the baby to explore in the same manner as the adult and taste food sooner than a lone baby.
Positive life experience is very important for the rapid development of a young, independent personality who will wean quickly. The best time to start using The AVIATOR Harness to get your baby outside and expand his education is before he can fly. Since the baby is still very much in need of nurturing by 'mom', he will follow you anywhere. This experience of following you around the yard sets precedence for him to stay close by if he ever gets loose. Babies can start flying at any time so never leave the house without The AVIATOR.
Regurgitation of a small amount of food shortly after feeding is not unusual. This is caused by several reasons. As the baby continues to produce the feeding response, the throat is often open and a small amount of food may be pumped up into the mouth. Sometimes this is re-swallowed and sometimes it overflows. Second, an empty crop has a tendency to shrink a little. When you fill this balloon-like structure to its capacity, there can be enough backpressure to push out a small amount of food. If the baby falls against something and pushes the crop, it may also regurgitate. A baby lying on the crop can supply this same type of pressure.
As the baby grows and progresses to two feedings, he will need less food per gram of body weight since he is not producing as much bone, muscle and feathers and will only need enough nutrition to maintain his energy level. It is normal for most babies to regurgitate some formula as his crop shrinks and he begins to eat some food on his own. Begin reducing the amount of formula and this will stop. During weaning, you may also find that the baby acts like he wants to eat only to turn his head or close his mouth as you are trying to deliver the food. By this time, if you are a syringe feeder, you will be delivering the formula quickly and find that you may not stop pushing the syringe fast enough when the baby decides he is not longer interested, and the food will pour out of the baby's mouth.
Regurgitation of food at other times in large or small quantities can be the symptom of a problem. Close attention to food consumption, weight gain and activity level will give you other indicators you may want to discuss with your breeder or veterinarian.
Babies close to weaning and adult birds will often offer regurgitated food to other birds and their human owners. The three main reasons are: sexual courting, social communication, and there is just something about babies that make adult parrots want to feed them.
When you finish feeding, you must clean all the utensils immediately and let them dry. At the next feeding, you should rinse them well again to remove any airborne dust or other contaminates. After a few feedings, the stopper on some syringes will begin to stretch and can be removed from the end of the plunger. Remove this stopper and clean inside after each feeding.
Formula on the face and feathers of the baby needs to be removed within a few minutes after feeding. Dried formula is difficult to remove from the small feathers around the mouth. When cleaning the crop area, be careful not to apply too much pressure as you can cause the baby to regurgitate. If the baby is very wet after the cleaning, you must dry him enough to keep him from becoming chilled. Remove food that finds its way into nostrils with a fingernail or blunt object after it has started to dry. A tooth brush is a great tool to gently remove moistened formula from feathers.
There are several types of syringes that work well for feeding a baby. We at Hartman Aviary we prefer the type with a rubber plunger and a non removable tip. The tip type for the smaller 12cc syringe is called a "leur tip" and for the larger 35cc syringe is called a "catheter tip". Do not use a syringe that has a separate tip attached! The removable tip may accidently end up in the crop.
After a few feedings, the rubber plunger will stretch enough that it can be removed and cleaned where it attaches. After a few days the ridges on the rubber part begin to wear, creating more surface area touching the inside of the syringe and making it harder to push. Spraying a small amount of non-stick cooking spray on the rubber will keep it sliding for hundreds of feedings. Bleach dissolves the soft rubber, so do not disinfect the rubber with bleach.
Record keeping is very important in case you have a question for your breeder or vet. In most cases you will never actually need them. At first you will want to record information each time you feed. The minimum information to record is: date, weight, time of day, amount of food consumed and notes on development progress or anything you think is unusual. If medication is used, it is essential that time of delivery and dosage is recorded every time you medicate. Never assume you can remember. Aside from being a way for you to quantify your results, these records will be essential for your veterinarian or breeder to help if you run into a problem. Feeders who keep records become more attentive and rarely have a serious problem.