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How to Care for a Baby Bird

By: Dr. Don Harris

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Caring for a baby bird can be rewarding. But taking on an infant is a situation full of challenges, and opinions differ over the best way to bring up a baby.

Some people believe that hand-raising a baby bird is the best way to obtain a loyal pet, but evidence suggests that there are great risks in store for inexperienced people who try to do it. Before reviewing the responsibilities associated with raising baby birds, the justification for hand-rearing should be debated.

Hand-raised baby birds do make great pets - usually for someone else. The reason becomes evident when the question is asked: "How many children want to spend their entire lives with their parents?" Young birds, like young people, reach an age of independence when they challenge authority. A bird that remains with the person who raised him may become defiant, but the owner of a bird raised by someone else becomes more of a friend than a parent to the animal, and the relationship can remain amicable for an indefinite period of time.

Tips for Hand-Raising a Bird

In thinking about hand-raising a baby bird, consider the health risks. Babies, after all, are much more likely to become ill than adult birds. And of all birds (babies and adults) that do become ill, babies' illnesses are more often fatal. That being said, here are some guidelines to keep in mind when considering hand-raising.

  • The older the baby, the lower the risk. Three-week-old birds are harder to raise than six-week-old birds, and so on.

  • Weaned babies are far less likely to become ill than those being hand fed.

  • Overfeeding is a leading cause of illness. Crops should not be stuffed and they should be allowed to become nearly empty between feedings.

  • Many small feedings are better than a few large ones.

  • Commercial hand-feeding formulas should be fed exactly according to package directions. Supplements are rarely necessary.

  • Weaning should be facilitated when appropriate; babies should be encouraged to eat on their own as soon as they show interest in solid foods.

  • Rarely should baby formula be forced. Babies that refuse feeding are either sick and in need of medical attention or they're ready to begin weaning.

  • Any change in a baby's behavior may signal illness. All illness in baby birds is a potential emergency and medical attention should be sought immediately.

    The best assurance of success in caring for baby birds is education. Before you undertake hand-feeding, learn about the best techniques, find out about warning signs and locate a good veterinarian – someone you can go to for advice and a safeguard in case of emergency.

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