Hand Feeding Problems & Possible Solutions

Food not being digested

This can be caused by improperly mixed food, lack of bacteria in the crop, food fed too hot or cold, yeast infections and the baby being kept too cool. Try feeding a small amount of baby applesauce and water. If this helps at the next feeding add either bird Bene-Bac (bacteria available from pet stores, vets and vet supply houses) or if in a pinch, plain unflavored modified live culture yogurt to the food. If the problem can’t be resolved by you within 8 hours CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN

Food digesting too fast

This is usually caused by the food being too watery. You can confirm this by checking the papers at the bottom of the babies’ box. If the paper is very wet then you need to mix the food a little bit thicker. If the paper is not very wet then the baby may need to be fed more often. Sometimes this happens when the feeder is not completely filling the crop or the baby is gulping air with the food. Fill the crop so that it is full with only a small air bubble or no air bubble at the top. The crop is like a water balloon; you want it to be full and firm but not tight. Because the formula is mixed with water if you overfill the crop it will back up and then flow down into the lungs. You do not want that to happen.

Foul smell coming from the baby’s crop

This can be sour crop – CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN

Foul smell coming from the baby’s droppings in the tank

Let’s face it baby droppings smell like droppings, but an unusually acrid smell can be the sign of a digestive problem forming. Sometimes adding a little plain yogurt to the baby food can right this. If it persists CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN


If the baby is very full (the stage right before too full) they will regurgitate some food so they are more comfortable. Sometimes older babies will regurgitate a little bit of food to taste it. Any other reason for regurgitation is very very serious. Serious regurgitation will dehydrate a baby very quickly please  CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN.

Baby isn’t interested in eating

If the baby seems alert and happy and has been digesting his food normally this can be a sign that it’s time to decrease the feeding schedule by one feeding. This is a normal part of the weaning process.

It could also be  a sign that the formula is not hot enough.

Hand Feeding Checklist

Always check the food temperature. If you have a digital thermometer, formula temperature should be between 105 and 110 degrees F. If you are interrupted during a feeding or use the microwave to heat the food be sure to stir the food thoroughly and then check the temperature. Never save food for the next feeding, mixed food goes bad in two hours. Try to mix only what you need for each feeding. Throw away any leftover food and thoroughly wash out the feeding cup and the feeding syringe. Hand feeding formula is an ideal medium for growing all sorts of bacteria and fungus. I use a good antibacterial soap and a human baby nipple brush and scrub. Be sure to also clean the area under the rubber stopper on the syringe plunger. After you think you’ve got it clean hold it up to the light. Always rinse very well since feeding antibacterial soap to a baby isn’t a good idea either.

Please remember that this is a simple help page and the intent is to help people have healthy, happy, baby birds.