The Art of Hand Rearing Baby Birds
For many bird owners, hand rearing a baby bird is a rewarding and very time consuming undertaking. It takes patience, dedication and discipline, but owners will reap the rewards of hand rearing as the baby birds form a close bond and loving relationship with their owners. In breeding programs, birds are often taken from their parents to encourage increased production, or in some instances the chicks are orphaned by their parents and need human assistance to ensure their survival.
Many breeders hand rear chicks from the moment they hatch, but for first time bird owners, and in general, it is suggested that you allow the parents to take care of the young chick for approximately two to three weeks and then take over. At about three weeks their eyes would just be opening and a few feathers should start to show. From here, owners and their baby birds can begin to build up their special relationship, through nurturing and care.
There are four vital rules for hand rearing baby birds that should be remembered; namely, heat, diet, feeding, technique, and hygiene. When chicks hatch, they need a constant temperature of between 33 to 37 degrees Celsius to compensate for their naked little bodies. As their feathers start to grow, less heat is needed and they will be able to keep warm under their plumage. Hot water bottles are often used, as overheating can be fatal to a chick. Always ensure that the wooden box or tank where you are keeping the chick is clean and safe for the bird. It is advised to enquire as to the correct formula for the specific bird species, to ensure that the bird receives a balanced and healthy diet. Never force a chick to eat. Only feed as much as the chick is willing to eat and always discard any leftover food. Test the heat of the food against your lip, if it does not burn, the temperature is right. The best utensils for feeding are generally either a spoon with its sides turned up, or a syringe. Between feeding, utensils should be disinfected in boiling water. Any spilt food should be cleaned off the chick with a wet cloth to ensure hygiene. Take time to examine the baby bird closely for any signs of distress, failure to gain weight, loss of weight, abnormal feathering, changes in skin color, vomiting or slow empting crop, to be able to get the chick the necessary veterinary care as soon as possible.
A small bowl of seeds and soft foods, such as peas, small pieces of fruit or vegetables, can be left in the cage close to approximately ten weeks of age. It will assist the baby to wean off its daily feeding, and can be replaced by daily love, training and playing. The bond between the baby bird and owner is irreplaceable, as is watching a tiny, defenseless bird grow into a colorful masterpiece of nature.