Do you feed baby birds at night

Hand-Feeding Baby Birds | VCA Animal Hospital


General Information 

Hand-feeding baby birds is only a substitute for parents raising birds, but it does have certain advantages. Hand-raised baby birds usually make better pets, as they have been completely socialized with humans. Hand-raised babies grow up with less fear of humans or other potential dangers such as cats, dogs and young children. Hand-feeding is a huge responsibility and requires time, patience, and commitment. Hand-fed baby birds are entirely reliant on you for everything. Hand-feeding is a job best left for the experienced bird breeder or aviculturist. If you’re considering hand-feeding a baby bird, you should contact your local bird breeder or veterinarian for help. This handout is designed to provide some basic guidelines on how to hand-feed.

When do I start hand-feeding a baby bird?

A chick may be removed from its parents any time before weaning, but many suggest leaving the babies with the parents for up to 3 weeks. Older birds may prove to be more challenging in their acceptance of hand-feeding. 

Where do I keep a baby bird?

Precise temperature and humidity is essential for optimum growth of newly hatched birds. Initially, relative humidity greater than 50% is required. Hatchlings (without feathers) should be maintained at 95°-97°F (35°-36°C). As the chick gets older and develops feathers, it has a greater tolerance for temperature fluctuations. 

Generally, the temperature can be lowered by one degree every 2-3 days as feathering progresses. Chicks with new feathers (pinfeathers) should be fine at 75°-85°F (24°-30°C) depending on the development of the feathers. Fully feathered and weaned chicks can be maintained at room temperature. If you are raising a chick, always monitor your bird for signs of overheating or chilling. Wings extended or drooping, and panting indicate overheating. Shivering and cuddling of chicks together indicate that they’re cold.

Poor growth or poor digestion (delayed crop emptying) may indicate poor health (including presence of gastrointestinal tract infections), improper consistency/mixing of hand feeding formula, improper temperature of formula, or improper environmental temperature and humidity. Good quality brooders are available that carefully regulate air circulation, temperature, and humidity. Paper towel, diapers, hand towels, or other soft, disposable products can be used to line the bottom of the brooder and provide secure, clean, dry footing for birds. The bottom liner must be changed frequently to keep birds clean. If the bottom texture is too smooth, chicks’ legs may splay out sideways, leading to permanent deformities. The brooder should be carefully checked to ensure that it does not contain anything for birds to get their wings or legs stuck on or that might cause injury or deformities.

What should I feed my bird?

There are numerous commercially available hand-feeding formulas for baby birds. You should choose one formula and use it until the baby is weaned. Changes in diet may be stressful on the baby's digestion. Be sure to discuss dietary choices with your veterinarian, an experienced bird breeder, or an aviculturist. 

How do I feed my baby bird?

All food must be prepared fresh for every feeding. Food retained from one feeding to another is an ideal medium for the growth of harmful bacteria and yeast. Any food prepared or heated in a microwave oven must be mixed thoroughly to ensure that the food’s temperature is uniform and that there are no hot or cold spots. Food temperature should be at 102°-106°F (39°-41°C) throughout the mixture and should be measured with a thermometer. Food that is too hot may cause severe burns to the crop.

Food that is too cold may be rejected by baby birds and may slow down digestion. Hand-feeding formulas have specific directions on the packaging and explain how they should be mixed.

In general, the younger the bird, the thinner the mixture should be. A day-old chick requires a more dilute mixture (90% water), as it is still utilizing the yolk sac as a source of nutrition. Chicks older than one or two days, should have food containing approximately 70-75% liquid.

"All food must be prepared fresh for every feeding."

Syringes are probably the preferred feeding tool, but some bird owners still prefer a spoon with the sides bent up and inward. Accurate feeding volumes can be recorded with the syringe. Charting daily feedings is important. The natural feeding response of a baby bird is to rapidly bob the head in an up and down motion. This action can be stimulated with gentle finger pressure at the corners of the mouth. During this head bobbing, the trachea is closed and large amounts of food can be given relatively quickly.

If the bird is not displaying a strong feeding response, do not attempt to feed as there is an increased chance of aspiration of food into the trachea and lungs which can lead to death. The best time to feed is when the crop is empty. When full, the crop, which is the sac that hangs over the front of the chest at the base of the neck, will be visibly distended. 


How often and how much do I feed? 

The amount and frequency of feeding depends on the age of the bird and the formula fed. The frequency of feeding for young birds is greater than that of older birds. The following are general guidelines. With newly hatched chicks, the yolk sac is the source of nutrients for the first 12-24 hours post-hatching. Chicks less than one week old should be fed 6-10 times per day (every 2-3 hours).

During the first week of life, some birds benefit from feeding during the night. Chicks that have not yet opened their eyes may take 5-6 feedings per day (every 3-4 hours). Once birds’ eyes open, they can have 3-5 feedings (one every 5 hours). As their feathers start to grow in, they may be fed 2-3 times per day (every 6 hours). Their crops should appear full when they’re done.

Feeding between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. is not necessary at that point when birds are sleeping. The best indication of a healthy, growing chick is a good, strong feeding response at every feeding, with the crop emptying between feedings, and the regular production of droppings (feces). Weight gain should be monitored and recorded at the same time each day using a scale that weighs in grams with 1-gram increments to detect subtle increases or decreases.  Birds’ weights may fluctuate up and down daily but should trend upward over a period of days to weeks. Birds that are not gaining weight should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

When should birds be weaned off hand-feeding formula? 

Deciding when to wean a bird off of formula is often a difficult decision for both the bird owner and the bird. As a bird gets older and develops a full complement of feathers, it should be encouraged to wean off formula and to eat more on its own. Some babies start weaning themselves by refusing certain feedings.

 Birds should be offered a variety of foods including formulated pelleted diets as well as fresh fruits and vegetables to encourage exploration and experimentation. As food introduction continues, hand-feeding may be withheld at certain times, often starting with the mid-day feedings. As time goes on, the morning feeding may be withheld and ultimately the evening feeding. Some birds learn quicker to eat on their own by watching other birds or older babies eat.

Should I be concerned about disinfection? 

Baby birds have poorly developed immune systems and are more susceptible to developing infections. The brooder should be disinfected regularly. All feeding utensils must be cleaned, disinfected, and dried thoroughly between feedings. Using separate feeding utensils for every individual bird is recommended.

How do I know if something is wrong? 

If you suspect something is wrong with your bird, you should immediately contact your veterinarian. Signs to watch for include: 

  • Chirping or crying all the time
  • Fussing a lot and not sleeping
  • Listless, droopy wings or head
  • Not accepting food
  • Lack of feeding response
  • Slow or lack of crop emptying
  • Poor weight gain
  • Slow growth
  • Abnormal posturing or abnormal wing and/or leg positions
  • Abnormal or lack of droppings
  • Wetness or food on skin over the crop (indicating a possible burn)

Primary Care for Young Birds

  1. FIRST MAKE SURE THE BABY BIRD(S) IN QUESTION ARE TRULY ORPHANS: It is a myth that if you touch a baby bird its parents will reject it. Birds have a very limited sense of smell and will continue to feed a baby bird that is placed back it its nest by a human. If you cannot reach the nest, you can place the baby bird in a woven basket and hang it securely on a nearby branch. Be sure to prop the bird up a bit with leaves or grass so that the parents can reach it. Parents will continue to feed their baby if given the chance. Many baby birds learn to fly from the ground up. A fully feathered baby bird is considered a fledgling and many parent birds continue to care for their babies after they jump out of the nest. It is important to keep pets indoors during this period.
  2. WHEN YOU FIRST RECEIVE AN ORPHANED BABY BIRD, MAKE SURE IT IS WARM: Tiny newborns without feathers do best with a heat lamp with a 40 watt bulb at least 12 inches away from birds and should be placed above an aquarium. The newborns should be placed in a small basket, margarine container, or bowl with toilet paper to prop them up a bit so that they can defecate over the edge of their makeshift nest. Place the “nest” inside an aquarium to simulate an incubator.
  3. ALTRICIAL BABY BIRDS (THOSE WHO DEPEND ON THEIR PARENTS TO BRING THEM FOOD) NEED TO BE FED EVERY HALF-HOUR: Birds feed their babies constantly throughout the day. Anyone who has raised a baby bird can appreciate the diligence of parent birds. Never feed milk to a baby bird! For most baby birds a mixture of mynah bird pellets or dry dog food soaked in hot water, with a bit of baby food, turkey, and cooked egg yolk and a bit of water (until it is the consistency of oatmeal) will provide them with adequate nourishment. When fed this mixture baby birds will not need additional water, except maybe a few drops to rehydrate them when they first arrive. A popsicle stick or straw will work well as a feeding implement. Be sure not to over-feed baby birds, feed only until their crop on the side of heir neck appears full. Most birds, including fruit-eating birds, feed their babies insects to fuel their rapid growth. Baby birds will sleep through the night and do not need to be fed, but they should be fed before you go to bed and as soon as you wake each morning.
  4. CARING FOR FLEDGLING BIRDS: As their eyes open and their feathers begin to emerge food should also be placed in cage to try to get them to eat on their own as soon as possible. Natural foods should be introduced as soon as birds are fledglings. Once eyes are open and the baby is fully feathered it is considered a fledgling. It will now need to be placed in a larger area with a perch. Two laundry baskets placed over one another work well.Branches can be placed through holes for perches. Newspaper can line bottom. Don’t use towels with birds since their claws can get caught in the loops. Once birds are eating on their own they should be placed outside in a cage that allows them to fly and is protected from predators.
  5. CARING FOR PRECOCIAL (BIRDS WHO FOLLOW THEIR PARENTS AND FEED ON THEIR OWN) BIRDS: Baby ducks geese, swans, turkeys, grouse and pheasants fall into this category. A heat lamp should also be used for these birds when they are very young. A large cardboard box with high sides works well. Chick starter or turkey starter works well for these birds. It can be found at Agway and other feed stores. An upside down Mason jar on a plate with a slightly curved edge will provide adequate water for newborns. Water birds should not be allowed to swim until their downy feathers are replaced with adult feathers. These birds imprint very quickly. It is important that they not identify you as their mother and that they be raised with others of their own species!

PLEASE CALL WIC AT (203) 544-9913

I wish to speak a word for Nature…

Henry David Thoreau

"Dropped" Chicks: Save, Do No Harm!

Over the past week, the inhabitants of Kaliningrad have tried to attach several selected fledglings to the Kaliningrad Zoo. This situation is repeated from year to year in May-June, when the grown chicks fly out of the nests. We have compiled a memo for people who met a flown chick. It contains answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Who are fledglings?
In most birds that live side by side with us, the chicks deliberately leave the nests at an age when they cannot fly. The reason is simple: if a predator finds a nest with chicks, it will certainly destroy them all. And the chicks “scattered” over the area are not such an easy prey. Parents know exactly where the chick is. They regularly fly in, feed him, protect him and teach him to fly. Such a "school of life" can continue for quite a long time, for example, corvids continue to feed their cubs even when they reach the size of an adult bird. nine0007

How do I know that I have found a fledgling?
Fledglings, as a rule, are covered with "baby" down. They have a curly tail, and a yellow border around the beak. Not fully grown feathers can cover only part of the body. However, the eyes of the fledgling are open. He can stand or jump on the ground.
How do fledglings behave?
After leaving the nest, fledglings choose the safest place. They can sit still for hours, waiting for their parents, because their life depends on how quiet they behave. Frightened, the fledglings freeze. nine0003 I found a fledgling, what should I do?
1. Assess the situation. If the bird sits away from crowded places, roads and playgrounds - do not touch it! Just move away and try not to attract animals and people.
2. If the chick is sitting in a dangerous place: on a playground, sidewalk, roadway, carefully take it and move it to the nearest safe shelter, for example, in a bush, and plant it on a lower branch. Planting high, and even more so, trying to return the chick to the nest, should not be: it will still fall out of there, having been injured. nine0007

When does a chick need my help?
1. If the parents do not fly to the chick for a day or more.
2. If he has obvious injuries: blood, he is very emaciated and does not react to what is happening.
3. If the chick is “not ripe” even to the fledgling: it has no plumage and fluff, no tail at all, it is very small. In this case, you have a victim of a tragedy - a chick that fell out of the nest as a result of a strong wind or an attack by predators. nine0003 4. If a swift chick lies on the ground. Swifts do not sit on the ground, and a chick that falls out without help is doomed to death.
I did not know anything about fledglings and brought such a chick home. What should I do?
1. If the bird is a really healthy fledgling, return it immediately! The faster you do this, the more chances the chick has for a long and happy life.
2. If it is impossible to return the bird to nature, get ready for a long and difficult feeding process. There is a lot of information on the Internet about how to properly feed chicks. In short, the chick should be fed every hour with a break of 4-6 hours at night. The songbird is fed with a mixture of hard-boiled chicken eggs, finely grated carrots and white breadcrumbs. The composition of the feed must include multivitamins, mineral supplements, cottage cheese and chopped lean boiled meat. It is necessary to water the chick from a pipette. If he refuses to eat for 2-3 hours, he will have to force-feed: opening his beak and pushing food into the throat. After a couple of such feedings, the chick, as a rule, understands what's what. nine0003 3. Small chicks, whose feathers have not yet blossomed, must be heated, maintaining a temperature of 26-28 degrees with a heating pad or a special lamp.
4. Little owls should be fed finely chopped quail, mice or chickens. Occasionally adding chicken liver.

Who is able to help me out fledgling?
If you pick up a fledgling, all responsibility for its fate lies only with you. There is no special rehabilitation center for wild birds and animals in the Kaliningrad region. The Kaliningrad Zoo, in accordance with the requirements of the law and veterinary standards, cannot accept birds from nature, however, it is ready to provide advice by calling 21-89-fourteen.
IMPORTANT! It is impossible to return a chick fed by man to nature. He does not know how to get food on his own and trusts people. In the wild, such birds die very quickly. Fledgling is a natural stage of maturation through which all birds go. Keep this in mind when making a decision "to take or not to take."

How to feed the found chick, how many times a day

If you find a chick, the first thing you need to do is determine its species. Feeding granivorous, insectivorous and predatory chicks have their own differences. But in the early stages of feeding, you can use the same feeding methods, and then, after finding out what kind of bird you found, transfer the chick to the appropriate feeding. nine0007

Here is one of the most common feeding options for granivorous and insectivorous chicks. This nutrient mixture is well used for feeding for chicks and fledglings from the passerine family. To prepare our mixture, we need the following products: Boiled egg, low-fat cottage cheese, raw carrots, meat (beef, chicken, turkey), greens (lettuce, dandelion leaves, wood lice), hamarus and daphnia, Calcium gluconate (shell from boiled eggs) glycerophosphate , children's dry dairy-free porridge or boiled millet (without salt and fat on the water). nine0007

Action one. Boil the egg, free from the shell. We free the shell from the shell film. Grind the egg as much as possible, you can use a grater with small holes.

Second step. Boiled meat, it is better to take the pulp from the breast of a turkey or chicken and also chop or divide into fibers. The mixture will require meat 40 (for granivorous) and 60 grams (for insectivorous).

Third step. Take washed carrots of a small size, grate them on a fine grater, then squeeze the juice and we will use the remaining pulp. nine0007

Fourth step. We take not sour and not fatty cottage cheese. Cottage cheese should have 0% fat content, anything above is considered fat for poultry. We need 90-110 grams of cottage cheese. Sour cottage cheese must be boiled twice changing the water and then it will be suitable.

Step five. You can use greens to add the mixture, but you can do without it for the chicks. And so you can take the greens listed above, chop and add 1.5 teaspoons to the mixture.

Action six. To the above ingredients, add 1.5 -2 tsp. dairy-free porridge or boiled millet (well boiled, without salt and fat in the water). nine0007

Step seven. To the mixture we add the shell from the boiled egg, which must first be ground in a coffee grinder, plus one fourth of the crushed tablet of glycerophosphate. If it is not possible to find glycerophosphate, then you can purchase bone meal and add one fourth tsp. in powder form. At the very least, the shells are enough for now.

Step eight. We take chopped hamarus and daphnia and add about 1 tsp to the resulting mixture. Then we mix everything, it turns out a very thick, crumbly porridge, it should not stick to the fingers. If the mixture is sticky, you can add dairy-free porridge or powdered cereals. nine0007

From the resulting mixture we roll small balls no larger than a small pea, focus on the size of the chick's beak. You can feed 2-5 balls at a time and after each feeding drink plain water from an insulin syringe with a removable needle (without a needle) 4-6 drops. A week-old chick should be fed every 1-1.5 hours, older than two weeks of age every 2-4 hours, at three and four weeks of age you can feed 3-4 times a day. Do not forget that the chick is growing and, accordingly, one-time portions of food are growing. A very important point, do not forget to warm the chicks, because at their age they themselves cannot maintain normal body temperature. Warming up promotes better assimilation of feed. Don't forget to control your chick's weight. If possible, show the chick to a specialist. To control the work of the intestines, you can take the litter from the chick for a coprogram, this is an analysis of the digestibility of the feed.

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