Found baby birds what to feed

What to Feed a Baby Bird

How to provide the right nutrition when wildlife rescues aren't an option


Melissa Mayntz

Melissa Mayntz

Melissa Mayntz is a bird expert, certified Master Naturalist, writer, and author with over three decades of experience. She's published in several national magazines, including National Wildlife Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and WildBird Magazine. Melissa has studied hundreds of bird species around the world, traveling to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, the central Pacific, the Middle East, and more on birding expeditions.

Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process

Updated on 08/26/22

Reviewed by

Kathleen Miller

Reviewed by Kathleen Miller

Kathleen Miller is a highly-regarded Master Gardener and Horticulturist who shares her knowledge of sustainable living, organic gardening, farming, and landscape design. She founded Gaia's Farm and Gardens, a working sustainable permaculture farm, and writes for Gaia Grows, a local newspaper column. She has over 30 years of experience in gardening and sustainable farming.

Learn more about The Spruce's Review Board

Fact checked by

Sarah Scott

Fact checked by Sarah Scott

Sarah Scott is a fact-checker and researcher who has worked in the custom home building industry in sales, marketing, and design.

Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process

The Spruce / Catherine Song

Every backyard birder has seen the "starving baby" act by fledgling birds, when they flutter their wings and call piteously for attention from seemingly hard-hearted, indifferent parents. The desire to nurture those fluffy balls of feathers can be strong, but it is important to understand the special needs of a fledgling's diet and know what to feed a baby bird for the best nutrition.

Do I Need to Feed This Baby Bird?

Baby birds have very demanding dietary needs. Depending on their age and species, baby birds may eat off and on for 12 to 14 hours per day, consuming a diet rich in insects for sufficient protein to ensure healthy growth. No human other than a licensed bird rehabilitator has the proper equipment, food supplements, or endurance to keep up that frantic feeding schedule. If you find a baby bird that appears to need feeding, the best thing to do is not to feed it, but to get it to an appropriate bird rescue organization. In many cases, the begging birds are not abandoned and the parent birds are nearby and tending to their babies as needed, even if they aren't seen.

If you find a baby bird that seems to be unfed, watch the bird closely for a while to see if the parents return to feed it within the hour. Bear in mind that it may take just seconds for a parent bird to deliver a bite to its chick, and inattentive observers may miss several feeding cycles. As the chicks grow, feeding may also be less frequent, and one parent bird may be tending to several offspring in different locations, so parental visits may be uneven. If the baby is being fed, rest assured that the parent bird is able to keep up with its demands, and no intervention is necessary if the baby does not appear injured or ill in any other way.

If the baby bird is not being fed and appears to be growing weaker and more lethargic, the first step should be to find a licensed rehabilitator to provide it proper care. When contacting the rehabilitator, ask for their evaluation of the bird in question before attempting any emergency feeding. If it is recommended that you feed the baby bird, he or she might have specific suggestions in mind as an emergency measure, and those suggestions should be meticulously followed.

If Feeding Is Necessary

If you find a baby bird that needs to be fed but you are unable to contact a bird or wildlife rehabilitator, it is important to know what to feed a baby bird that will provide similar nutrition to its natural diet. While every wild bird has a different diet, several types of food can serve as emergency rations when necessary. At the same time, it is critical to understand that baby birds have very different nutritional needs than adult birds, and foods you would normally feed to your backyard birds are not appropriate for young fledglings.

Good Foods for Baby Birds

  • Moist dog food
  • Raw liver (no seasoning)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Dog biscuits (moistened)
  • Dog or cat kibble (moistened)

The Spruce / K. Dave

What Not to Feed Baby Birds

  • Water
  • Bread or bread products
  • Whole birdseed
  • Milk
  • Pet bird food
  • Worms
  • Kitchen scraps

The more mature a baby bird is, the more "adult" food it can consume without harm, and the longer it can go between feedings.

The Spruce / K. Dave

Tips for Feeding Baby Wild Birds

If it is necessary for you to feed a baby bird, remember:

  • Offer food that is spongy in texture, not dripping with water that could cause choking or drowning. All dry food should be softened before being offered to a baby bird.
  • Food should be offered at room temperature only, never warmed or heated, and also never refrigerated or chilled.
  • Keep bits of food small and in proportion to the bird's size; very small birds need very tiny bites. Cut or crush food appropriately to suit the bird's size.
  • While feeding the bird, handle it as little as possible to minimize the risk of additional stress or injury. Never force the bird's bill open to eat.

Caring for Baby Birds

Remember that feeding a baby bird should be an emergency measure only. If a baby bird is abandoned and needs care, it should be taken to a bird rescue organization or experienced rehabilitator as soon as possible. Rehabilitators can not only feed it an appropriate diet for its species but can help it learn how to find its own food, evade predators, and learn other skills necessary for a successful life in the wild.

If there is no rescue organization or experienced rehab specialist available in your area, keep these tips in mind:

  • Identify if the bird is a nestling (few or no feathers) or a fledgling (a feathered bird approaching adulthood). Nestlings will require much attention for a longer period than fledglings, which may be nearly ready for independence quite soon. An older fledgling can sometimes be fine if you simply place it high on a branch where its parents can find it. Nestlings, on the other hand, may require several weeks of attention (assuming a bird rehab organization is not available) to give them a chance for survival.
  • Protect it from predators—including family pets. Normally, a simple cardboard box lined with a towel, placed high enough to be out of reach of pets, will suffice. If using a lidded container, make sure it is well-ventilated. Ordinary room temperature is normally fine, though a gentle heat lamp can be used if the room is very cold at night. But take care not to overheat the young bird—in most cases, no heat source is necessary.
  • Give it a "nest" by using a small towel or cloth diaper formed into a concave shape and placed in the bottom of the box. This will help support the bird's body until it grows stronger.
  • Small nestlings are best fed with moist, well-softened food from a syringe, offered very gently, in small drops. Even a kitchen baster may be too large to be useful. As a nestling grows older, you can offer it food by dangling it from tweezers in front of its beak.
  • Never try to feed water directly to a baby bird. Nestlings will get their water needs met through moisture in food. A fledgling can be offered water in a shallow dish—if it's ready to consume water this way, it will drink on its own.
  • When a fledgling bird has fully feathered out and is beginning to exercise its wings by flapping, it can be given time outdoors and encouraged to begin flying. Often, it is enough to simply set the bird's containment box outside in a safe location, open the lid and wait for nature to take its course.

But remember that raising a featherless nestling bird through the fledgling stage and into a mature adult bird is no easy matter. It's always better to leave this to professionals who are experienced in the practice.

Article Sources

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Picking up baby birds can do more harm than good. Oregon State University.

This Is What To Feed Baby Birds — And How To Feed Them

If you’re wondering how to feed a baby bird, there are a few important things you need to know. Baby birds usually eat what their parents eat for dinner, since the parent has to burp its food into the mouth of its offspring. Birds cannot break down food at birth, so their parents must first partially digest the food to make it safe for chicks. Since baby birds are dependent on their parents not only for food but also for instructions on how to be a bird, it is essential that it stays with them. So, if you find a baby bird on the ground, try to bring it back to the nest rather than looking after it yourself. If you cannot return the bird to its nest, contact a rehabilitation center that can take care of it.


  • Consult the experts if you think a baby bird isn’t being fed
  • What to feed a baby bird
  • What not to offer when feeding baby birds:
  • DIY baby bird food
  • How to feed a baby bird




15 minutes

What You Need

  • Dog or cat food, boiled eggs, or raw unseasoned liver

  • Small pieces of fruit or veggies

If you’re raising domestic birds or are licensed to take care of wild animals, however, then it’s important to know how and what to feed baby birds — and sometimes, even learn how to DIY baby bird food.

Maslov Dmitry/

Consult the experts if you think a baby bird isn’t being fed

If you find a baby bird that does not seem to be fed, look for an hour or two to see if its parents provide food for it again. Note that the mother bird only needs a few seconds to feed its baby, so inattentive observers could miss several feeding cycles. However, if one parent bird has to look after several baby birds in different places, parental visits could be irregular. When the baby bird is fed, you can be sure that its parents have provided its needs, and there is no unnecessary intervention if the baby bird does not appear injured or sick.

Step 1: If the baby bird does not appear to be fed and becomes increasingly weak and lazy, the first step should be to find a licensed rehabilitator to provide, or guide you through, the appropriate care.

Step 2: If you have found a baby bird that needs to be fed but does not have contact with its parents or an animal rehabilitator, it is essential to know what a baby bird needs a portion of food similar to its natural diet. While each wild bird has its own diet, different types of food can serve as an emergency ration if necessary.

What to feed a baby bird

In nature, baby birds eat the same things that their parents eat: Worms, insects, and seeds. However, chicks can eat different types of food if they are taken care of by whoever found them. You could use puppy food soaked in water until it’s like a sponge. Moist dog or cat food can also be used in a jam when at room temperature. You can also use finely chopped fruits and vegetables (such as corn or peas) and even small insects.

It is equally essential to recognize that baby birds have very different nutritional needs than adult birds. What an adult bird eats can harm its young. As a baby bird grows, its diet can be adapted to more raw meat, giving them the protein that’s needed. As for water, a baby bird gets what it needs from the food it eats.

Food suitable for baby birds:

  • Boiled eggs
  • Moist dog food
  • Wet cat food
  • Raw liver (without seasoning)

What not to offer when feeding baby birds:

  • Water
  • Milk
  • Bread and bakery products
  • Kitchen waste

Unlike mammals, birds do not drink milk and their digestive systems won’t tolerate milk. Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that mixing together bread and milk makes for an ideal feed for baby birds. Milk can be toxic to birds, so avoid feeding it entirely.

When a baby bird is older, it can consume ”adult” bird foods without harming itself and the longer it can stay between strokes.

Cathy Hargreaves/

DIY baby bird food

One easy recipe for feeding baby birds involves just two ingredients: pet food and water.

  • Soaking dog biscuits or kibble in water will create a mushy consistency that’s easy to take and digest for young birds. This mimics the texture of the food given by mama birds in the wild and is also a high-protein option, which is extra important for nestlings.
  • A classic biscuit treat like Milk-Bone is ideal for recipes like these. To forgo the mixing and mashing, a canned pet food like the Cesar brand is another great option. You still might want to stir in a tiny bit of water if your bird is particularly young, though.

How to feed a baby bird

Step 1: If you need to feed a wild baby bird, remember to offer foods that have a spongy consistency instead of dripping with water, which can suffocate or drown it. All dry food should be softened before offering it.

Step 2: Food should only be offered at room temperature, never heated or refrigerated.

Step 3: Keep food pieces small and proportional to the size of the bird — tiny birds need tiny bites. Cut or crush food properly to fit the size of the bird.

Step 4: When feeding the bird, be as careful as possible to minimize the risk of additional stress or injury. Never force a bird to eat its food.

Lastly, remember that feeding a baby bird should be only an emergency measure. If one is abandoned and needs care, it should be taken by a bird-rescue organization or an experienced rehabilitator as soon as possible. They can not only feed baby birds with a diet suitable for its type, but they also teach it to live independently, avoid predators, and master other skills to live in nature successfully.

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What to do if you find a chick?

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› I found a chick! What to do?


"He's so tiny, defenseless and clumsy" - probably everyone who sees a little chick that has fallen out of the nest thinks so. You just want to take him home, giving him warmth and care. But does the little creature need it?

165 v.1

Summer is the time when gardens, forests and parks decorated with luxurious lush green dress, pleasant aromas and twitter birds . Seems like the melody comes from everyone sides. Here is a starling lurking on a branch, a sparrow walks along the path, and in the distance the lark gives out its sonorous “chill-chelp”. And who knows: maybe one of them the chicks are already growing. They sit in the nest and wait for their parents while they are in search of food. They are still so small that they can easily fall out of the nest. And what if it's you you will notice in the grass one of these chicks?

What to do when you find a chick?

Imagine Friend, what happened during the walk adventure. Did you find a little chick and don't know how to do it right leave it or take it home. Read further - and I will tell you what and how do.

More often of all people find chicks that learn to fly. They are called fledglings. Trying to flap their wings, they sometimes fall out of the nest.

At the fledgling already has feathers, although they very short. Of course he still can't. return home on your own. Notes do not worry and do not rush to take the chick.

Fledgling does not fly yet, but already knows how to jump and flutter wings.

What what to do if you find a fledgling? Let's Consider situations that could happen and figure out how to act.

you found a chick near a tree. Look around around. Check if you can see the nest anywhere: the chick could not fly far. listen - and, perhaps, you will hear how a chick called brothers and sisters. If nests You never found it or is it located too high, just leave the chick near a tree; his parents find him.

Fledgling was far from the forest or garden (near roads, on school steps or on porch of the house). B in such places the chick is in danger: it can become the prey of a cat or dog. To prevent this from happening, take the chick away from trees and bushes.

Friend, even if the parents never arrived to the chick, you have nothing to worry about. fledgling learns very fast fly. Therefore, perhaps in a few hours, he will independently go to mom and dad - and will definitely meet them.

On the chick's body is wounded. B In this case, you cannot leave it. Need contact the Special rehabilitation center or veterinary clinic: they will tell you there what to do.

you stumbled not on one fledgling, but immediately on several, and next to it is a broken nest. This is often comes from strong winds. If the nest at least a little survived, "repair" it with the help of twigs and dry grass.

If a but it is completely broken, you need to make new home for the chicks. Well if You noticed birds near the house: you can quickly find an old little basket or cardboard box, line new "nest" paper towels and hang on a branch with a metal wire.

When can I take my chick home?

Take away found chick can only go home when there is a sharp need. After all, no matter how hard you try man take care of him, nothing will replace the natural conditions of life for the chick.

Take a chick is possible if it is:

  • just born: he has no feathers at all, he is blind and almost does not move;
  • injured and veterinarian there is no clinic in your area or she is very far away.

Take a chick under your care is, Friend, a big a responsibility. Therefore, you must should consult with parents before you make a decision.

So, if You found a chick and brought it home, the first thing you must do is feed him.

When and what does a chick eat?

At chicks have a very fast metabolism: this means that the food digested instantly. give food chick you'll have from dawn to sunset: approximately 6 a.m. to ten o'clock. Need to feed often every 15-20 minutes. That is up to 65 times in a day! Now just imagine how parent birds have to work looking for food for the kids.

Hungry the chick immediately weakens. So don't waste time and quickly feed your ward.

To him can be given:

  • boiled eggs;
  • flour Khrushchakov;
  • zoobuses;
  • crickets;
  • caterpillars;
  • butterflies;
  • flies;
  • Zhukov.

Pay Attention! Chicks should not be fed bread, milk or seeds. Dangerous for them Colorado beetles, ladybugs and hairy caterpillars.

For little chick food needs to be crushed and bring to the beak with tweezers. And if he refuses to eat, then you have to feed it from a syringe without a needle. For this food you need to crush it well and add a few drops of water if the mixture got dry.

AT in other cases, give water to the chick no need. The main thing is variety. diet: it should not only be dry food (crickets, cockroaches), but also wet (worms, caterpillars).

Making a nest for a chick

You, probably want to make for tiny chick the best house - small and cozy. But really he needs not beautiful, but only warm place. So it's enough to do modest housing for a chick.

What Do you need it for this?

  • Cardboard box with sides at least 10 cm high.
  • plastic or wooden bowl.
  • Paper towels.
  • Sawdust.
  • Pieces of fabric.

If a You don't have an ordinary cardboard box, then there is definitely an unnecessary box in which Once upon a time there were shoes. She fits perfectly to build a nest the chick can settle. into the box put in a small bowl. fill her up sawdust, hay and scraps of cloth. Or you can just line it with white paper towels or towels. In such a nest, the chick will be pleased, warm and soft.

Pay Attention! Not allowed line the nest with cotton. Not suitable for this and knitting threads - they have a chick can easily get tangled and damaged paw or wing. No way make a nest from fresh grass and leaves - the chick will they are cold.

Sure, You made it easy with the nest! But it's still Not all. To make the chick feel as comfortable as possible, you must provide special conditions for him.

chick should be warm. Need keep the same temperature in the nest. The optimal indicator is 35 degrees: You will definitely need thermometer to monitor it.

warm up chick You can in several ways:

  • Fill with warm water sealed bag with plastic clasp and put on it nest box.
  • Pour warm water in a plastic bottle, wrap with a cloth or paper towels and put near the nest.
  • Put the box on an electric heating pad, setting on it minimum temperature.

Every week, the temperature can be lowered by three degrees until the chick get used to room temperature regime.

box with a nest can not be left in a draft. The chick is still too small, and its body is not can store heat. So the baby is very sensitive to both low and high temperature.

Not make noise where the chick is. He afraid of loud noises. It may provoke stress, dangerous for chick health.

Tips for proper chick care

Friend, I told you in detail what to do with a tamed chick. And finally I want to leave another mini-memo: promise that you abide by these rules.

  1. Don't worry baby once again: do not pick up and do not stroke. He doesn't like it.
  2. Put on your gloves if you're going to touch a bird: it can carry infections. And be sure after that wash your hands with soap.
  3. Don't shift chick from one place to another, even if you think he is uncomfortable lies.
  4. Follow the routine feeding the chick: do not give him food more than every 15 minutes and at least than in 25-30.
  5. change napkins in the nest you need as often as you feed chick. Just see how dirty they are and wet, new beds.
  6. Don't look at chick on top: this is how he will perceive You as a predator.
  7. Don't put the box with the nest up high because when the chick will grow up a little, maybe flutter and fall.

Friend, You should know that chick that grew up at your house, can no longer return in natural conditions. Therefore, you you have to leave it to yourself.

Well here! Now you know what to do if found a chick. But always remember that not you need to take the chick home if he nothing threatens . He will be best in his natural home.

Read also:

  • Winter birds in Ukraine ,
  • Where to birds fly away for the winter and how they find the way home?

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

If you found 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.

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).

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.

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.

Action 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).

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.

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.

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