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Birds--General/Feeding Baby Cockaitel


I have a hand feeding problem. I was given a ten day old cockatiel baby that was stunted, and weighed only 18gms. To cut a long story short, it had a minor yeast infection which has now resolved, and has been gaining weight, now weighing 82gms at 28 days.
My problem is, baby has never had a feeding response and doesn't cry or beg for food. I feed with a syringe, and dribble the formula into it's mouth and baby swallows it.
I am worried that although she always has  an empty crop prior to feeds, she doesn't seem to be hungry.
Is there a way I can teach her a feeding response? Will I have to hand feed her for the rest of her life? If she doesn't appear to feel hunger then she won't eat.
Hope you understand my problem as no one else I've asked seems to. I have fed many babies before and never seen this. It is not a pre fledge/weaning thing. Baby is not fully feathered yet as she is behind in growth and looks like a three week old.
Thanks. Sue

Hi, Sue,

I guarantee you your baby tiel is hungry whether s/he exhibits a feeding response or not!  Your stunted baby may not be exhibiting a feeding response because s/he is stunted/under developed.  In order to generate a feeding response, you should be using your thumb and index finger, placing them on both sides of the baby's beak, and gently rub (with a slight pulling action) the sides of the beak until the baby starts bobbing its head.  If this doesn't work, don't panic...not all babies exhibit a feeding response.  A feeding response is usually necessary to close off the trachea so that when you feed, the baby bird doesn't aspirate the feeding formula.  But again, not all babies have a feeding response.  Obviously, you're hand feeding this baby properly if s/he hasn't aspirated yet.  The trachea must be closing off or this baby would have aspirated by now.  99% of the time, when a baby bird aspirates, it will die within a minute or two.  This baby is developmentally behind so be patient.

You shouldn't have to hand feed this baby forever.  Usually at 28 days of age, I start the weaning process.  However, since your baby is behind, you may have to wait a bit longer to start weaning.  What I suggest you do is start offering the baby warm, soft foods (human baby food is always a good choice, but warm it since this baby still needs warmed food) once or twice a day in a flat container, such as the lid to something.  When you offer this food, make sure the baby's crop is empty so s/he will be more apt to try the soft food.  You can even put some of this food on your fingers and when you rub the side of it's beak, some of the food enters it's mouth.  S/he needs to get used to the taste of new food.  Try this for a bit so the baby gets used to the taste of new food, then hand feed the baby.  Remember that birds will not eat something they don't recognize as food, so keep trying by offering other foods.  I always mix human baby food in with my hand feeding formula so a baby bird gets plenty of vitamins/minerals and gets accustomed to different tastes.  This should also help the baby gain weight/grow faster.  My avian vet also suggested I mix hand feeding formula with Ensure liquid nutritional supplement instead of water to help with growth.  You just have to keep trying the soft foods daily.  Once the baby grows a little bit bigger, you should be able to start your usual weaning process.

I hope this works for you and this baby.  If you need to contact me again regarding this issue, please E-mail me at: instead of via AllExperts.    



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Chrys Meatyard


I`ve been raising/breeding/handfeeding/selling parrots for over 20 years (parakeets/budgies, cockatiels, 6 subspecies of conures, parrotlets, amazons, lovebirds, etc.). I've been published in "Budgies" and "Cockatiels" offered by Bow Tie Productions, and have written avian articles for publication in England. I can provide advice in raising healthy birds, handfeeding/weaning babies, some health problems (although I'm NOT an avian veterinarian), nail/beak/wing clipping, general husbandry, etc. I also have experience with racing/showing homing pigeons. I cannot diagnose specific illness over this website. If you suspect your bird is ill or if you have an emergency, contact an avian veterinarian or emergency pet clinic ASAP.


Experience: Over 20 years raising parrots and over 13 years raising pigeons. Organizations: Currently, American Racing Pigeon Union and American Federation of Aviculture. Prior member Miami Valley Bird Club, Southern Ohio Pigeon Association, National Cockatiel Society, Miami Valley Sportsman's Club, others. Publications: Monthly newsletters of bird clubs.

I've been published in "Budgies" and "Cockatiels" offered by Bow Tie Productions, and have written avian articles for publication in England.

American Federation of Aviculture, completed Level I course, Fundamentals of Aviculture. Keeping/breeding parrots and other birds for over 20 years.

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