Hand feeding is the process used by bird breeders to feed a baby bird before weaning in a manner that replaces the parent bird’s regurgitation of food into the baby’s crop. It allows us to create a very tame and trainable bird because the baby bird is accustomed to being handled and interacted with by humans before the weaning stage. Most babies that are hand fed are removed from the parent’s nest when the babies will thrive with three feedings-a-day (feeding times are eight hours apart) although some birds are actually hatched in an incubator and fed from day-one by their human parents which is an incredible task requiring feedings every two hours for 10-12 feedings each 24 hours for the first 4 days of the baby parrots life.
The technique of hand feeding varies from breeder to breeder mostly depending upon their personal preference, skill level, how much time they want to spend with the bird and whom they have learned from. It is not a difficult process but it is definitely one best learned “hands on”. I would not recommend anyone to undertake hand feeding a baby bird based on learning from a book alone. Hand feeding is not necessarily a process that is reserved for only a professional. When you hand feed a baby bird there is a definite bonding relationship that develops between the human feeder and the baby parrot. This is something that a lot of people want to experience. I have taught hundreds of people how to hand feed their own bird over the years with great results. Almost everyone who became highly skilled came in and fed several birds with me, to not only learn the process, but to also get to know the baby feeding responses and when a crop is properly full of food. A baby bird grows at such an amazing rate that the hand feeding, if not done properly can result in a undernourished and sickly baby.
If overfed or fed improperly the baby can aspirate food into the lungs and die. Digital Thermometer is an absolute must have since the ideal food formula temperature is 104 to 109 degrees and if the food is fed too cold the crop can chill and stop processing the food and the baby will starve to death even with a full crop. If the food is fed too hot the baby may still eat it and the result can be a scalded crop requiring veterinary attention, antibiotics, and even death. If the food is not properly mixed the baby may be starved slowly resulting in malformations and stunted growth. If the food is mixed too thick the baby bird will process out the water needed and leave a thickened mass of indigestible food (marble) in the crop and the crop should be massaged, and may require a Vet visit to resolve the problem. If the feeding equipment is not properly cleaned and handled, bacteria, yeast and fungi may be “fed” to the baby resulting in a sick bird, Vet expenses and possibly a dead baby. If you have never fed a baby bird before, I hope that at this point you realize that reading and “winging” it is not a good idea. The hand feeding process does create a bond unlike any other and if you want to experience this I recommend that you learn hands-on from someone like myself.
If you don’t want to or don’t have the time for hand feeding a baby bird you should buy one that is weaned. You can still receive a very tame and trainable bird. The process of bond-building will start when you take the baby into your home as a pet. The baby will not be permanently bonded to me, once I am out of the picture and you become the primary caregiver and “flock” member the bird will develop a relationship with you. Even an experienced hand feeder can run into problems. If you are hand feeding and are having a problem please see the section on Hand Feeding Problems. If none of these address your particular problem please consult an avian Vet. There is a very small period of time to work with when you are dealing with a hand feeding baby and this is not the time for a lengthy “wait and see”.