Whether you’ve found an abandoned baby bird or have bred your pet bird, you might find yourself suddenly needing to care for tiny feathered friends. Young birds have many care needs, and it’s essential that they receive timely and proper care for them to not only survive, but grow up healthy.
There are a few situations where you might need to care for baby birds. If you’ve bred your pet bird, you might be lucky enough to have baby birds in need of care. That’s great! In addition to reviewing this information, be sure to work closely with a veterinarian who specializes in avian health to help you raise your birds up to be strong and healthy.
If you’ve found a wild baby bird, it’s often best to bring it to a wildlife rehabilitator. Wild birds require specialized care, and their condition can rapidly deteriorate. Depending on where you live, it may be illegal to keep certain wild bird species in your possession. A wildlife rehabilitator will have the specialized training, knowledge, and resources needed to care for a wild bird. Your local department of animal control can probably refer you to a local rehabilitator.
In the meantime, understanding what the bird needs to eat and drink can help you to keep it alive until you can get it to a professional.
A young bird’s diet and hydration needs will depend on its age and species. Do baby birds drink water? Yes, but it’s important to provide water safely. Only feed babies lukewarm, fresh water. Feed just a small bit of water at a time. As babies grow, they’ll be able to drink water out of shallow dishes, like applesauce jar tops, but when they’ve very young, you’ll need to carefully syringe drops of water into their mouths.
Unlike mammals, birds do not drink milk and their digestive systems won’t tolerate milk. Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that mixing together bread and milk makes for an ideal feed for baby birds. Milk can be toxic to birds, so avoid feeding it entirely.
Your birds will need frequent feedings, and you should also provide water during each of those feedings. Baby birds that aren’t yet one week old need to be fed every two to three hours. Once the birds are a week old, you can lengthen those feedings to every three to four hours. Once the babies have opened their eyes, feedings are only needed every five hours. Birds who are starting to grow feathers can be fed every six hours.
When feeding birds, it’s best to use a commercially available hand-feeding diet. These diets ensure that your birds will receive proper nutrition with each meal. You’ll need to prepare the food fresh for every meal, or it could spoil. The younger the bird is, the more liquid you’ll want to incorporate into the food.
You’ll need a syringe with the needle removed to feed young birds. Some dosing syringes are also available at pet supply stores. Syringes make it easy to measure exactly how much you’re feeding to each baby. Most babies will bob their heads up and down as they eat, and you can gently squeeze the syringe to release more food.
Young birds will gradually start to eat on their own. As your birds transition into this self-sufficiency, you can start to provide food on plates or in dishes with low sides.
As you feed and provide water to your birds, you’ll need to carefully monitor their health. Weigh each bird at the same time each day, and make a chart of its weight gain. Use a postal scale or other scale designed to be highly sensitive. If a baby stops gaining weight or starts to lose weight, bring it to a veterinarian right away.
You’ll also want to monitor the babies’ activity for insights about their health. Look for birds that are active and that eat eagerly during each feeding. A baby that becomes sluggish or uninterested food will need veterinary attention.
Raising baby birds is a challenge, and it requires a lot of work. With the guidance of your veterinarian or an experienced avian rehabilitator, you can ensure that all of your birds’ needs are met.
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