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Hand Feeding


We hand feed our babies with ZuPreem Embrace Hand Feeding Formula. During the weaning process babies are introduced to cheerios, veggies, soak-n-cook mix, fruit, pellets and some seed.

Our babies are usually not weaned until they are about 14-16weeks of age, some wean sooner than others. We don't hurry the weaning process as it is a stressful time for them.  We don't release our babies out of our care until they have been eating on their own for about one to two weeks after wean date.

Shown in a photo furtherdown on this page is the mixed up ZuPreem Embrace Hand Feeding Formula. Pionus usually need up to a 20-30cc syringe when they are nearly 3 months old. Amazons require up to a 35-45cc syringe. I rarely ever feed a Pionus over 25 cc's during one feeding. Of course, this is in or around the last month of feeding.

Crop Burn

Here is why it is vital to know how to hand feed baby chicks properly; many people that don't really know about the proper temperature of the formula and by feeding the chick too hot of a formula can result in Crop Burn.  This can kill the chick. There are always reports about Crop Burn in young chicks and this is real sad when it could have been prevented. It actually burns a hole in the crop.  The burning of the lining of the crop is caused by excessively hot food.  Most crop burns are not apparent immediately but will slowly develop over a period of one or two days after the incident.  The external color and texture of the crop changes to a rough yellowish-brown scar that develops from inside of the crop.  This looks very similar to a black and blue bruise.  The scar can become a scab and eventually rupture to the outside, causing formula to leak from the crop.  In severe cases where the entire crop lining is effected, the chick will usually die before this happens.  If the burn is slight or the scab develops and the chick lives, surgical removal of the scab and repair of the crop is possible.  Chicks that have ingested hot formula will often exhibit erratic behavior when approached for feeding thereafter. They may roll over or resist food of any kind.  In minor cases there is often vomiting of formula or thick clear mucous after feeding.  If you feel you might have caused Crop Burn , then flush the crop with cool water immediately.  Then seek out an avian vet as soon as possible so chick can be looked at.

If the chick falls into the hands of an inexperienced hand feeder this is what can happen along with other things such as improper feeding can lead to aspiration, this is where the formula ends up going into the lungs instead of the crop. Babies must be fed on their left side of the mouth. 

Please don't buy an unweaned baby and breeders should not sell unweaned babies especially to to someone who is inexperienced at the knowledge of hand feeding.  I have heard  it repeatedly said that there is nothing to hand feeding and that's true if you know exactly what you are doing, but if you don't then you and the chick are at possible risk.  Bottom line is don't buy an unweaned baby, let the breeder finish to a complete wean. The chick will be less stressed if he doesn't change hand feeders.   I hope I have discouraged people who want to buy just one bird to hand feed.  It's not worth the risk of  hand feeding it, this is not always true when you hear it said that you will bond better if you hand feed the bird.    Don't forget other things are important on raising a chick, you have to keep the chick warm and proper temperature.  If it is not kept warm food can not digest and can cause problems. Another problem that arises in young chicks is Slow Crop where the food digests real slow, it can take hours for the crop to empty out and when this happens this has to be watched carefully.  Don't feed more formula when this happens, give a couple of drops of pediatric electrolyte every so often.  A lot of times chicks stop digesting and then they die.  It almost can't be prevented when the chick has this problem.
Please read our tips or suggestions and do not buy unweaned babies.

Listed below are a few tips or suggestions on what to use,  this is mostly info for someone starting out that is wanting to breed and hand feed baby birds.   But as mentioned above in the upper paragraph remember the temperature of the formula is important so you won't cause crop burn.

For new hatchlings use Pediatric Electrolyte by Gerber, or similar product.  You will find this in the grocery store isle in the baby food section. You will use this to mix with the dry ZuPreem Embrace Hand Feeding Formula or other hand feeding formula of your choice. An electrolyte is best to use for the first few days of life. After a few days on the electrolyte, use good bottled or filtered water. I never use my tap water until the chicks are about 2 months of age and even at that it is filtered water.

Using a formula brand is a matter of preference, choose only one to feed during the course of the chick's development that you are feeding as it is not good on the chick's system to change and use another one once you have started it on one brand.  If you do have to change for some reason, then make it a very gradual transition, mixing a little of the first formula with the new formula on each feeding until you have increased the new formula each time over a couple day period.

There are all types of syringes, find one that works best for you and that you are comfortable using.  You will need up to 3 or 4 sizes, I like starting out with a couple of 1cc syringes, that's if the chick is a new hatchling, one syringe the for formula and one syringe for water to rinse out the mouth after feeding. It's a good habit of rinsing out the mouth after feeding session is over. Also check the mouth before feeding to be sure there is not an object in the mouth, such as nesting material or poop. New hatchlings start out with just a couple to a few drops of formula at each feeding during their first 3 to 5 days of life. Keeping chicks warm plays a vital role in for digesting the food.

If formula has cooled down do not reheat it in the microwave, reheat the cup of water that you put the syringes in and let it sit a bit longer until warmed to proper temperature. When done with feeding session  discard any left over  formula, never save and reuse left over formula.  Take every precaution not to cause crop burn. This is something that can easily be done if formula is too hot, you  can kill the chick or give it severe damage if fed too hot of a formula. Formula mixture should be about 107 degrees.

In between feedings soak syringes in a disinfectant solution, I use Oxyfresh Cleansing Gele'. It does kill bacteria  if soaked more than 10 minutes.  Clean brooders, syringes, bowls, feeding utensils cages, aviaries.  It is easy on syringes, unlike a bleach solution being harder on the syringes. Rinse well in clear water before using. Antibacterial soaps that you buy in the market are not the same on killing microorganisms as Oxyfresh is. Effective against viruses, bacteria and fungus. 

Click Photo for Larger Image

Starting out with new hatchlings use the smallest  
syringe, then gradually work up to larger.

Maximum Crop Capacity
Pionus generally eat up to 20-30cc before wean date.

Amazons eat up to 35-50cc before wean date.

African Greys eat up to 50-60cc before wean date.

Small Cockatoos eat up to 50-60cc

Large Cockatoos eat up to 80-100cc

Large Macaws - use a 60cc syringe and they eat anywhere  
from 120-140cc's before wean date.

Small Macaws eat up to 45-60cc

Cockatiels will eat up to 12-15cc 
Lovebirds will eat up to 6-10cc
Parakeets will eat up to 5-10cc
Mitred Conure will eat up to 40-50cc
Nanday, Red-Masked, Blue Crowned Conures will eat up to 25-30cc
Sun, Jenday, Gold-Capped Conures will eat up to 20-25cc
Ring necked Parakeets will eat up to 12-20cc

These smaller birds are sometimes easier to feed by spoon once they are a little older,
it's mostly a preference.

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Updated 08/31/2008
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