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Parrots/Conure chick feeding


3 chicks and mom
3 chicks and mom  
QUESTION: I now have 3 conure chicks and the mother is only eating seeds and millet. What should I feed them? They hatched a week ago?
Any information is appreciated.

ANSWER: --   

Weaning ages vary depending on the type of bird.


Pulling a chick for hand feeding should be done only about 2 weeks before theyíll wean (which means you only have to provide about 2-3 feedings a day).  

Carefully place the baby (chick) on a towel and gently cup your hand around the body for support.   Fill the syringe or dropper with warm (not hot and NEVER heated in a microwave) formula appropriate for the baby

You can use an eyedropper or small syringe available at all bird shops and many pet stores specifically for this task.  As you approach the baby with the food, they will often instinctively open their mouths for feeding - their crop is going to be to their right side of the throat, so angle the dropper/syringe to be sure it goes there.


As the instrument touches the inside of their mouth, they will typically start pumping at it (they are doing their part to help you through this), slowly, but steadily dispense the formula.

When the formula is emptied, take a look at the crop. Itís going to look like a  pouch at their right side of the throat area. Itís supposed to bulge. Depending on how much the eyedropper or syringe holds and the type of bird (and the age), you may have to offer another feeding right away.  If the bird a full crop, both of you will know it and the bird wonít be so anxious to accept. It usually doesnít take too long before you become comfortable with feedings and they can be done relatively quickly

Do not go too fast, but enjoy the bonding.  This isnít to say make it such a slow process that the chick becomes stressed or overly anxious, but not treating it like an assembly line job (to just get it over with) may be nicer for both of you.  


Aspiration:  If the chick inhales formula - suffocation may ensue.  In some cases you donít even have time to get to a vet, so please before ever considering or attempting to hand feed babies, learn how with a hands on instruction by a professional.


 If a chick inhales a small amount of liquid, expect sneezing, coughing and possibly fluids coming from the nares (nose).  While the chick might survive and seem to clear the formula from their respiratory system, pneumonia may develop and cause loss of life even many weeks later.  


Any aspiration event must be seen by a vet.   Ask about preventative care and be sure to follow up as ordered.  


As the chick gets older and begins eating a bit on their own, many owners like to supplement their diet with spoon feedings of a thicker mix of the formula.  At first, this means holding the spoon to their beaks much in the same way as the dropper or syringe was and letting the mixture just fall into their mouths. Itís messy for sure, but pretty soon theyíll start bending their head down to take the mixture off the spoon themselves.


Itís important to not offer formula for too long since itís high in fat and can cause health problems when fed to weaned birds.   In sick, older and special needs birds there are exceptions.  Itís something that needs to at least be discussed with an avian professional.


These links mention cockatiels, but will apply to most psittacines from budgies to macaws.  


While a mother bird is feeding her chicks, be sure to feed the mom well.  NO seeds please.

Go here to learn about different foods to feed and how

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: thank you for this information. I was not really thinking of hand feeding the chicks they are VERY small the size of a bubble gum wad. Initially I want the parents to feed the chicks. What should i be feeding the parents to insure the chicks are getting enough nutrition.

Currently the parents eat seed,millet, fresh banana, fresh black berry sometimes the male will eat Greek yogurt.

any ideas? Thank you Kathleen

-- I'm glad to hear this.  The way your question was worded I wasn't sure.

The yogurt is fine as long as it's all natural.  A myth is that the probiotics in yogurt will benefit a bird.  While that would be great, it's untrue.  The avian system is not mammalian and simply never evolved to digest dairy like mammals do.  BUT the calcium in the yogurt is beneficial so go right ahead.  

More natural sources of calcium for birds is in dark greens like kale, broccoli, carrot tops, beet greens, collard greens and even spinach.   Just be careful to not feed spinach excessively since that's got properties that end up leeching calcium from the system when over fed.  In moderation it's a plus; in excess it's a minus.  The other greens though, give them as much as they want.

 You can try smashing up a regular Tums and adding it to their food too.  Some bigger birds will actually hold a Tums (yes, the antacid tablets) and eat it like  a cookie.  Just be sure it's a regular, plain old antacid tablet without anything like aspirin or ibuprofen added

Try some ricotta cheese; cottage cheese, mozerrella or similar semi-hard cheeses preferably low in sodium content

 A few sips of natural orange juice that has calcium added

And mainly, let's try to wean those parents off seeds and millet altogether.  For captive birds that's like having a child locked in a bedroom and feeding them nothing but ice cream and candy.  The child will grow and LOOK healthy right up until they have a heart attack or develop some disease and their lives are shortened considerably

 Here's a good page to learn how to  wean adult birds off seeds and to be sure that these babies start life right by weaning from their parents directly to a quality pellet diet  


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Certified Avian Specialist; Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council member; Own animal rescue org; National Wildlife habitat #66378; bird care, nutrition & behavior consultant; International Assoc. of Animal Behavior Consultants Associate; National Wildlife Federation Leaders Club member; published bird care, info and behavior articles and guides. Ongoing education in exotic bird behavior and nutrition I can answer behavioral, nutritional, environmental, characteristic/personality questions as well as general health and health care. No animal emergency can ever be addressed on the internet. We cannot see your animal, perform an examination, provide necessary care or medication. Please value your companion for the priceless, living creature they are; not for what you might have paid for them.


Certified Avian Specialist. For more than 30 years I've worked with veterinarians, protective facilities, nature centers, preserves and on my own in providing care and education with regard to multiple animal species, including raptors (hawks, kestrals, owls, etc) and marsupials. In recent years I've focused on parrots, usually rescued from abusive or less than ideal situations and helping educate owners as to proper care. Expert in behavior studies and modification of problem behavior.

4AnimalCare is the organization I run as an animal ministry; World Wildlife Association, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, National Wildlife Federation Leaders Club and more

Bird Talk Magazine articles about rescued and problem macaws.

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