Are You My Mother? How to Care for a Baby Bird

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How to Feed

Your bird is used to being fed by his human foster mom at the pet store or the aviary. Ideally, you should receive instructions from this person and copy the technique as closely as possible.

Spoon-feeding is just as it sounds. Gently stretch your bird’s neck straight up and support the head with one hand, with your thumb and forefinger placed gently at either side of the upper beak close to where it comes out of the skin. With the other hand, tilt the spoon of formula. Allow your bird to swallow and continue in this manner until he’s received the appropriate 10 percent.

When syringe-feeding, support your baby bird’s head in the same manner as when spoon-feeding and place the syringe in the side of his mouth, aiming towards the back of his throat. As he opens his throat, give him the formula. Practice with the syringe first because it’s common for too much to squirt out suddenly.

Also remember that your bird has to breathe at some point, so if you’re putting food in his mouth for more than a few seconds at a time, he may aspirate food into his lungs.

Be careful with babies that bob for their food vigorously. It’s very easy to injure the back of the throat with the syringe tip when these little ones are aggressively bobbing for food.

Dealing With Sour Crop

One of the most common problems that send a baby bird to the vet is a condition called “sour crop.” Sour crop is actually “crop stasis,” a condition in which the baby has a crop — or gullet — full of hand-feeding formula that has gone bad. The term “sour crop” describes the condition of the crop’s contents, but it’s rarely a disease unto itself. In the vast majority of cases it’s actually a symptom of other illness.

The danger of crop stasis comes from the spoiled food itself. Just as any other kind of food will go bad if it’s left in a warm room for too long, so undigested formula will accumulate toxins and bacteria — and threaten the bird’s life.

Crop stasis is a condition in which the crop ceases to function. In other words, the crop stops emptying. An owner will approach the baby for a scheduled feeding and observe that most or all of the food from the previous feeding is still there. It’s important to mention here that you should never give additional food to a baby that still has a full crop. Crop stasis is an emergency situation and you should call your veterinarian immediately.

Learning to Fly

The stage just after the bird is weaned is called the fledgling period — the bird becomes independent and is able to eat on his own. Most of the health risks associated with young birds have passed, yet the bird is still young enough to bond to a new owner.

A few things must be recognized with birds at this stage. First, they are toddlers in a sense. They waddle around, curious about everything in reach but unaware of danger. A fledgling left on a table or counter is likely to wander to the edge, where he can fall and hurt himself.

Being new to the world of foods, a fledgling bird may attempt to eat just about anything. Everything — from small toys to cage bedding to pieces of towel — all may tempt him and he will swallow the food in large pieces, posing a potential health hazard.

In terms of food, it is critical at this time to start your fledgling on a proper diet. Many people mistakenly believe it’s good to offer seeds to “encourage the bird to eat.” That’s like offering a human baby chocolate to get him to eat. Young birds will accept healthy foods just as readily as they will seed mixes, so there’s no excuse for starting them off on birdie junk food. The sooner a healthy diet is implemented, the better.

Flight begins at fledgling age. If your bird has reached the point where he is able to fly, he may launch himself on out-of-control assaults at the nearest wall or window. Flying is a skill that your bird will learn through a brief trial and error period. While it doesn’t take long to become competent aloft, the first few attempts at flight may be reckless, and injury may result if proper precautions aren’t taken.


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