hand feeding birds

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Tiny baby bird

Today we admitted our first baby bird of Spring! Very young and fragile, he needs to be fed every 30 mins.

The little chap is hard to identify… We know that he is from the insect-eaters group, and we know which one, but which bird do you think he is?

He is a Robin! Congratulations to everyone who got it right!

Do. Not. Hand-feed. Unless. You. Are. A. Professional. Please.

So. My lovely rant over from ABB from a few weeks ago is more than super relevant right now.

Hand-feeding may seem “easy” and the basic mechanics can be on the surface, but a huge problem comes from weaning your bird.

When do you wean? How do you wean? What foods should you wean on to? Do you need to prep the food in particular ways to help the transition from formula to solid good?

This week I have encountered:

A 6 month old scarlet macaw…. who is still being hand-fed and living in their baby-bin because the breeder didn’t do the weaning and the end-person wasn’t sure how to get the bird to wean, because they would refuse food and only take formula.

I encountered a 6 WEEK old conure who was only getting fed twice a day and was starving to death because that was the schedule the person could work with easily and were not told how often the baby MUST be fed (which is 3-5 times a day but ideally you’d be there to watch the crop and feed as needed).

I have seen a year old african grey who was still being hand-fed and who now absolutely refuses solid food and will starve himself until he gets formula because the people didn’t wean in time and now the bird is dependent on hand-feeding and the process of weaning is going to be so much harder now that the bird is halfway to adulthood. 

The worst part is none of these people felt they could go back to the breeder for help. All of these people were told that hand-raising is easy. Despite getting a brief prep-talk from the breeder, they had very little instruction on how to hand-feed and none on how to wean. No one knew how to get more information and they felt they couldn’t go talk to the breeder.

There is never a reason to feel as though you can’t go back to the breeder or store where you got your bird to ask questions. If questions and future contact are discouraged or never mentioned this is a huge warning sign that you shouldn’t get a bird from that person. You should always, always, feel like you can go back to the breeder with any questions and problems that crop up, they should be there to support you and your bird, not just dump them and run.

Baby birds will test you. They will scream for food until you help them recognize that dish of weird stuff is food, they will scream for formula even after they know they have food right there. You can’t just expect them to start eating on their own because you put a dish of seed and pellets in their cage between hand-feedings. Just like you wouldn’t leave a human infant with a bowl of cereal and expecting them to know how to eat without *ever* showing them how or that this is food.

You get the curious babies, you get the adventurous ones, you get the ones who put everything into their beaks anyway, but not every baby bird will just take to things that easily and even the adventurous ones can run into problems (like eating a seed without hulling the husk off and choking on the husk). Even the adventurous ones may not learn to eat on their own even if they are shoving things in their beak.

Never trust a breeder who does not do their own hand-feeding.
Never get a bird who isn’t weaned.
Please please.

For the sake of your bird, for the sake of your own head and heart, don’t hand-feed your own bird. 

some nice alternatives

petting two birds with one hand
feeding two birds with one seed
washing two birds with one soap
and the list goes on…

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@hummingbirdsxoxo: A Backyard Bird Paparazzo

To see more of Tracy’s hummingbird photos and videos, follow @hummingbirdsxoxo on Instagram.

A real-life Cinderella lives in Livermore, California. Her name is Tracy Johnson (@hummingbirdsxoxo) and she hand feeds birds — hummingbirds specifically. For at least half an hour every day, Tracy hangs out in her backyard with handheld hummingbird feeders and waits for her friends — Flash, Merlin, Valentino and others — to pay her a visit. If her timing is right, she takes pictures. “I’m total hummingbird paparazzi,” says Tracy. “I really think they look at me and go, ‘Oh, there’s that girl again with her click-click and talking.’” Tracy admits that for every 100 photos, 15 are in focus. She takes video with her phone to record the buzz of the birds’ racing wings, switching to slo-mo sometimes to capture behavior she misses in real time. “The birds are so freaking fast,” she says. “They just come in, they eat, they go away.”