Hand Feeding Tips
Before I get into this article, I'm going to start
by saying that hand feeding any baby bird is a very serious commitment. While I
can hand feed from day 1 if I have to, I prefer not to unless I have no other
options, as I feel that my parent lovebirds can do a much better job than I
could ever hope to do. They know how much to feed and the temperature is always
perfect. If I want a tame baby, just socializing will get me what I want. I
don't have to make the baby dependent on me for food in order for it to love
With that said, these are a few things that will
make the hand feeding experience a bit easier if you find you have no other
- Proper temperature for the formula is between
106F-108F. Momma lovebird's body temperature is 106F so what does that tell
you? Use a thermometer (meat thermometers work well) so that you can see the
temperature rather than just guessing.
- Use a syringe that is comfortable for your hand.
I have a small hand so I use either 3 cc or 5 cc. 10 cc is large and I have a
hard time controlling the flow of the formula properly.
- Hold the syringe properly. The plastic "tabs" at
the top of the syringe are where you put your index and your middle fingers.
The plunger is braced against the base of the thumb instead of against the
tip. When feeding, pull with your fingers rather than pressing with your
thumb. If you feed too fast and the baby aspirates formula into its lungs,
death is usually instant. There are no reprieves. If you are unsure about
using a syringe, an eye dropper is acceptable for younger chicks and spoons
are great for older ones.
- When you chose a brand of formula, make sure you
have enough to last the entire time you will be handfeeding or that you have
access to the same brand. Changing brands in the middle can upset the baby's
digestive tract, as formulas are different.
- Even when baby lovebirds are 4-5 weeks old, the
maximum amount of formula that I feed is 8 cc. I will feed more often rather
than increase that amount, as the crop will overstretch with larger feedings
and weaning will be harder at the end.
- You can almost count on hand feeding for at
least 8 weeks. Parent raised babies are eating on their own by 8 weeks and I
try to mimic parent schedule. Some babies may want to be hand fed longer than
that and I don't refuse these feedings. Weaning is stressful for baby birds
and they need to be able to have confidence in their own abilities.
- When you first take a baby lovebird to hand
feed, make the formula a bit on the liquidy side for the first 24 hours. Never
hand feed before the baby has digested any food that may be in the crop from
the last feeding that mom did. The baby has to adjust to the difference in
formula from what mom fed and a bit more liquid is helpful.
- After each feeding, I offer one or two drops of
warm water (same temperature as the formula) so that any remaining formula is
washed out of the mouth. This discourages the formation of yeast in the mouth
from formula that has fermented there.
- I always do clean ups (if necessary) after each
feeding. Formula that has dried around the mouth or on feathering hardens like
cement and the baby will be uncomfortable as a result. I use a warm, damp
paper towel for clean up.
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