Hand Feeding Tips
Before I get into this article, I'm going to
start by saying that hand feeding any baby bird is a very serious commitment.
While I can hand feed from day 1 if I have to, I prefer not to unless I have
no other options, as I feel that my parent lovebirds can do a much better job
than I could ever hope to do. They know how much to feed and the temperature
is always perfect. If I want a tame baby, just socializing will get me what
I want. I don't have to make the baby dependent on me for food in order for
it to love me.
With that said, these are a few things that will
make the hand feeding experience a bit easier if you find you have no other
- Proper temperature for the formula is between
106F-108F. Momma lovebird's body temperature is 106F so what does that tell
you? Use a thermometer (meat thermometers work well) so that you can see the
temperature rather than just guessing.
- Use a syringe that is comfortable for your
hand. I have a small hand so I use either 3 cc or 5 cc. 10 cc is large and
I have a hard time controlling the flow of the formula properly.
- Hold the syringe properly. The plastic "tabs"
at the top of the syringe are where you put your index and your middle fingers.
The plunger is braced against the base of the thumb instead of against the
tip. When feeding, pull with your fingers rather than pressing with your thumb.
If you feed too fast and the baby aspirates formula into its lungs, death
is usually instant. There are no reprieves. If you are unsure about using
a syringe, an eye dropper is acceptable for younger chicks and spoons are
great for older ones.
- When you chose a brand of formula, make sure
you have enough to last the entire time you will be handfeeding or that you
have access to the same brand. Changing brands in the middle can upset the
baby's digestive tract, as formulas are different.
- Even when baby lovebirds are 4-5 weeks old,
the maximum amount of formula that I feed is 8 cc. I will feed more often
rather than increase that amount, as the crop will overstretch with larger
feedings and weaning will be harder at the end.
- You can almost count on hand feeding for at
least 8 weeks. Parent raised babies are eating on their own by 8 weeks and
I try to mimic parent schedule. Some babies may want to be hand fed longer
than that and I don't refuse these feedings. Weaning is stressful for baby
birds and they need to be able to have confidence in their own abilities.
- When you first take a baby lovebird to hand
feed, make the formula a bit on the liquidy side for the first 24 hours. Never
hand feed before the baby has digested any food that may be in the crop from
the last feeding that mom did. The baby has to adjust to the difference in
formula from what mom fed and a bit more liquid is helpful.
- After each feeding, I offer one or two drops
of warm water (same temperature as the formula) so that any remaining formula
is washed out of the mouth. This discourages the formation of yeast in the
mouth from formula that has fermented there.
- I always do clean ups (if necessary) after
each feeding. Formula that has dried around the mouth or on feathering hardens
like cement and the baby will be uncomfortable as a result. I use a warm,
damp paper towel for clean up.
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