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Old 06-19-2017, 07:18 PM
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New Amazon owner, hand feeding questions!

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I'm bringing home a male Lilac-Crowned Amazon (4 1/2 weeks old) in a few days. I've spoken with the breeder about hand feeding, and I've done it before when I worked at a bird store, but I've never done it with my own pets, around the clock. I was wondering if you guys have guidelines with:

1. How often to feed
2. When to reduce number of feedings per day
3. Good weight chart for weaning Amazons
4. When a bird will learn to perch?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! I've owned Green Cheek Conures and fostered an African Grey for a while, but this is my first own medium-sized parrot of my own! I have a lot of experience with adults but not so much with babies! Below is a photo of him at 3 weeks (middle baby) and then 4 weeks old. He didn't wanna sit still for a photo the second time around!


https://scontent-dft4-1.xx.fbcdn.net...82&oe=59DC4910

https://scontent-dft4-1.xx.fbcdn.net...66&oe=59D34BBF

Last edited by ProphesizeWithYourPen; 06-20-2017 at 08:35 AM.
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Old 06-20-2017, 09:20 AM
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Re: New Amazon owner, hand feeding questions!

I highly suggest you re-think hand-feeding your baby and letting your breeder wean the baby for you. So much can go wrong, this is the time that they need experienced hands; taking on an unweaned baby bird is a huge task, and very risky if you don't know what you're doing. You never mentioned a brooder -- this is what breeders use to keep baby birds warm, which you will need to invest in to keep the baby comfortable if you do intend to take it on yourself. You will need to work with your breeder very closely to work out a feeding schedule, how much to feed, which your breeder should be helping you with anyways.
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Old 06-20-2017, 09:32 AM
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Re: New Amazon owner, hand feeding questions!

I agree with itzjbean. Why risk something going wrong due to lack of experience rather than just wait until the baby has been weaned by the experienced breeder? You have a lifetime with this baby, a few extra weeks or even month or 2 is nothing in the grand scheme of things to give the little guy the *best* start at a healthy, happy life And please don't believe the antiquated thought process that weaning babies yourself makes them bond to you stronger. It is simply not true! As long as you chose a reputable breeder, the baby will come home just as friendly and ready to learn fully weaned as in the delicate stage of development he is now.

He is super cute BTW
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Old 06-20-2017, 10:01 AM
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Re: New Amazon owner, hand feeding questions!

As well stated by my good friends above, bring home an unweaned Parrot is just not a wise choice to make!

Unless you are a professional Breeder with years of experience, equipment, medical supplies and a strong relationship with an Avian Vet you are likely to have more problems than it is worth. In addition, the increase of late, in behavioral problems caused be poor feeding procedure and schedule is a clear statement that this is not a good idea.

If you think you are saving a few dollars that belief will quickly disappear as the costs start adding up. And, when you have to make an emergency trip to the AV 's clinic that will dump the cost saving, plus a bunch!

Oh and the bonding thing, not well supported, as like most Human's, they can't wait to get out of the nest!

If you are head strong into doing this; there is an active Thread regarding this very subject. Just know that the member is a seasoned Breeder.

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Old 06-20-2017, 10:03 AM
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Re: New Amazon owner, hand feeding questions!

Feeding round the clock is a daunting task! I too would recommend letting the breeder complete the weaning process. You'll find the introduction to your home and family easier and more rewarding.
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Old 06-21-2017, 04:03 PM
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Re: New Amazon owner, hand feeding questions!

Quote: Originally Posted by ProphesizeWithYourPen View Post
I'm bringing home a male Lilac-Crowned Amazon (4 1/2 weeks old) in a few days. I've spoken with the breeder about hand feeding, and I've done it before when I worked at a bird store, but I've never done it with my own pets, around the clock. I was wondering if you guys have guidelines with:

1. How often to feed
2. When to reduce number of feedings per day
3. Good weight chart for weaning Amazons
4. When a bird will learn to perch?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! I've owned Green Cheek Conures and fostered an African Grey for a while, but this is my first own medium-sized parrot of my own! I have a lot of experience with adults but not so much with babies! Below is a photo of him at 3 weeks (middle baby) and then 4 weeks old. He didn't wanna sit still for a photo the second time around!


https://scontent-dft4-1.xx.fbcdn.net...82&oe=59DC4910

https://scontent-dft4-1.xx.fbcdn.net...66&oe=59D34BBF
I am an experienced breeder and hand-feeder...not the most experienced, but still quite experienced. I bred and raised CAGs and Senegals for years and (while hand-feeding) only lost a single chick with a congenital heart defect. That wasn't my fault, but it still hurt like hell.

I picked up my new baby BFA on the day she turned three weeks old. She's seven weeks old now and this has been one of the longest months of my life. It was full of hard work, big scares, wonderful moments. You know: life.

Unfortunately, a company misrepresented one of their products, which meant I had to find a safe way to brood the baby in a hurry. I would have given almost anything to have my old brooder back, but my time was up. I live in an area where you can't just waltz into a store and pick up a good parrot brooder. The best I could do was a heating pad under an aquarium, which I DO NOT RECOMMEND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <--- These exclamation points should go on for several pages because without someone on hand to constantly make micro adjustments, a heating pad is simply not safe!!! There's a reason almost all heating pads have auto shut off. We found one that didn't shut off, but it also didn't heat the aquarium to a uniform temperature. It wouldn't come back on after being shut off by the reptile thermostat I'd bought to use with a product that should have worked, but didn't because it was a knockoff of a much better product. That's a whole other story that may require a small claims suit, but all my time and energy is going into this baby, so I may just have to suck it up and take the monetary loss. I don't like getting ripped off by any company, but it infuriates me when pet supply stores do it because there are lives on the line.

I came THIS CLOSE to calling everything off because without a safe brooder, I could not in good conscience take on a three-week-old parrot chick. My mother knew how much I wanted this baby, so she said we would take shifts around the clock to make sure our makeshift brooder didn't get too hot or too cold. Most likely without our constant surveillance, this chick would have not have made it out of the brooding stage.

All this is to say this is a huge job. Even with all the help I got, there were a few scares. The baby started gaping a lot. It's been twenty years, so I forgot that one of the causes of gaping is an itch in the ear. Tiny babies can't stand on one foot and scratch with the other, so they gape. Then again, sometimes gaping really does mean a problem.

Then there was another problem that nearly scared me to death. I recently lost a wonderful DYH Amazon parrot, Gabby, who had been with me for roughly thirty years and seven months. He died of kidney failure and one of his symptoms was blood in the urine. On the Friday before the three-day weekend (Presidents Day), I noticed reddish stains on the paper towel substrate I had been using. There was no way to get in touch with an avian veterinarian (again, we're quite rural), so all I could do was watch and see if she seemed better. In my opinion, taking her on a long trip might have done more harm than good, especially if it turned out to be nothing. It seemed to clear up, then the next Friday the same thing happened. More panic.

I'd already Googled and Googled, but I finally came across some information I'm glad I know now: Wine-colored staining on paper towels is a normal metabolite found in the urine of some bird species, including Amazon parrots. Still, I should be sure the stains are related to the paper towels and not something wrong with the baby.

Even for someone experienced, this has been very difficult. Without a proper brooder, the baby needed around-the-clock temperature adjustments. The gaping and wine-colored stains nearly gave me heart attacks. And I'm not done yet! There's plenty more to worry about during the weaning process! Is this bird worth it? Yes! But I'd really have panicked when she started the normal weight loss that comes before fledging. She's going to be a petite bird, smaller than most of the CAGs I raised. There are other differences as well and I'm debating how to address them. Also, I'm trying to remember things that happened twenty years ago and use them as a baseline.

There are so many variables. Even if you've had experience, something you've never encountered before is likely to happen. I don't know how many CAGs I raised, but it didn't prepare me for the wine-colored staining and the difference of raising just one baby as opposed to the usual (for my old breeding pairs) three.

If you decide to go through with it, you'll need to know what equipment to buy. At least I had that much experience. Except for the brooder fiasco, I did a pretty good job of anticipating our needs. Just be prepared to spend a small fortune on scales, thermometers, o-ring syringes, hand-feeding formula, safe disinfectant, etc.

I wish I could say I'd be on hand to help you make those purchases, but I need a shower right now and afterward, I need to either take a trip into town or socialize baby. The trip into town is largely for the baby's needs. So, adieu.

Last edited by Ladyhawk; 06-21-2017 at 05:04 PM.
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Old 06-21-2017, 08:59 PM
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Re: New Amazon owner, hand feeding questions!

Thank you to everyone for replying to my post. Especially thank you to LadyHawk for giving me a lot of insight. I'm actually a veterinary technician, and I work at a clinic where one of the veterinarians sees exotics, mostly birds. So I have a lot of experience clinically with birds, even though most of them are adults.

I've already purchased all the supplies I need, including a cage when it comes time for him to move to one. I've gavaged a bird recently, even though I know I won't be using that exact method to feed me baby. But I do have the veterinarian as a close friend, and she's going to be right there to help if I need it. I do know it's a huge task, but I'm willing to take it on.

Any other advice on this task would be greatly appreciated, if anyone is willing to give it. Thanks again guys!
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Old 06-22-2017, 02:06 AM
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Re: New Amazon owner, hand feeding questions!

It appears you do have some experience. You've hand-fed and you've used a gavage needle (something I've never had to do, thank goodness). Also, you have easy access to an avian vet, which is a huge bonus! What I wouldn't have given for that so many times this year!

I hadn't hand-fed for roughly twenty years, so I had to build a functional nursery from scratch. I'll share what I'm doing in hopes it can help you. If someone else has a better way, let us both know.

As for a feeding schedule, my mother and I simply fed the baby when her crop was empty or nearly empty and let it empty completely once every 24 hours. It's good to do this to prevent crop stasis.

At three weeks old, my baby's crop emptied every three hours or so. It should take a bit longer for a four-week-old's crop to empty. Ideally, the baby should be weighed in grams in the morning when his or her crop is completely empty. If a young baby fails to gain weight, it's usually a sign something is wrong. It isn't unusual for a baby to stall or even lose a gram or two one day and then shoot up the next day, but if weight loss is accompanied by any symptoms, take it seriously.

Also, babies lose weight prior to weaning. My BFA (hatched May 1) was so plump, she started slowing down around the 7th of June in prep for the weight loss. For some reason, this scares me every damn time. XD How many times did I go through it? I don't know. Even so, be mindful at this time that there isn't something else going on besides a baby preparing to fledge.

If you have a good brooder, that's half the battle with a very small chick. If you don't have a good brooder...well, let's just say, I wouldn't want to go through those rough couple of weeks again! My mother and I nearly killed ourselves monitoring our much-loved baby blue front. We were her thermostat, constantly monitoring her around the clock. I'm still tired from doing this!

With a four-week-old in a reliable brooder, you can sleep through the night. I would Google it to be sure, but I think a baby that age can go eight hours at night without food provided they are fed properly throughout the day (thick enough formula while still providing hydration). Once a baby has a good coat of down feathers, you can safely drop the thermostat to 85 degrees F or in the case of my very hot-blooded baby, 82-83. Let the baby, not a book, be your thermostat. A baby that is too hot will pant. If that happens, get it out of that hot brooder immediately! A panting bird cannot dissipate heat as well as a panting dog. Overheating is a bigger immediate danger to the chick than being too cool, although you should treat either extreme as the number one priority. A baby that is too cold will have cold toes and cold wing tips. If you're not sure, you can place the tip of a naked baby's wing gently between your lips. If the wing tip is cold, the baby needs to be warmed up. If the wing tip is warm and the baby isn't panting, it is at the right temperature. Babies that are too warm are usually red (this can also be the case if they're dehydrated); babies that are too cold are often pale.

A short time after my baby's wings were covered in contour feathers, it was plenty warm enough at my place to move her into the 20 gallon long aquarium she lives in now. She'll be ready for a weaning cage when I'm satisfied she won't break a blood feather on the bars.

At close to eight weeks old, I'm feeding my baby either twice or three times a day depending upon how well she is eating on her own that particular day. You'd think a very hungry baby parrot would eat solid food, but that's not how it works. Hand-feeding is a nurturing experience for a young parrot. After a hand-feeding, a baby bird feels safe and is therefore more likely to try new things. Some weaned babies who feel traumatized by their move to a new home revert to begging and do not eat solid food. It's not just the food they crave; it's the love. Sadly, this happened to a college friend of mine and her baby cockatoo died. I wish I had said something, but I wasn't feeling well at the time and I assumed the breeder would explain the phenomenon or my friend would realize something was wrong. I guess I ended up a little angry with both of them. This should never happen to a baby bird.

The man who bred my little BFA uses three different formulas in case there's a bad batch. That way, the other two make up for the deficiencies of the defective formula. A fellow breeder I knew back in the day lost a clutch of blue and gold macaws to vitamin D toxicity. There was simply too much of it in the formula. If you haven't hand-fed before, I wouldn't necessarily choose the shotgun approach. Why? If you choose a single formula, the directions are right on the bag, telling you how much formula to add to purified or distilled water. I did use the shotgun approach: four different formulas at the same time. My baby has very lovely feathers. She's petite, but it's her natural size. I know this because she was a fat little thing before she started trimming down in preparation for flight.

A few times I decided my baby needed hydration. When I hand-feed warm water (always a small amount), I take care to do it more slowly and carefully than formula because 1) the baby is expecting formula and may gasp in surprise and 2) water is less viscous than formula. Obviously, you don't want the bird inhaling water, nor do you want her to lean against a crop full of mostly water and aspirate herself. I made decisions to hydrate based on the chick's color and whether or not she'd been too hot that day. If you have a good brooder with good humidity and you follow the instructions on a package of hand-feeding formula, you shouldn't have to hydrate the chick. Still, it's good to know the signs of dehydration. Sometimes I'd simply feed a thinner formula the next time. It was all a matter of past experience and observation.

Back when I was breeding, I had a device that would heat syringes to the perfect temperature. Now that fish tank heaters have auto shut off, I can't use that method anymore. Bummer. For this chick, I use a Ball jar with a handle for mixing the formula. Then I put the Ball jar with the mixed formula into a 1 Quart Pyrex container full of hot water. You'll get the hang of how much hot water to add. Just be careful for yourself and your chick when it comes to hot water! Now that my baby is older and more mobile, I don't get her out of her aquarium until the food and water are just the right temperature. I have two different temperature probes: one for the water and one for the formula. When they meet in the middle and go down as one, I feed when 1) the formula has reached the correct temperature according to the thermometers and 2) I've stuck my finger into the water to make sure it isn't too hot. While I'm waiting, I keep stirring so the formula becomes smooth and uniform in temperature. The breeder of my baby recommended I feed at 105 degrees, which works for most babies. Unfortunately, some babies want it even warmer than that and refuse to eat if it's not. (I'm looking at you, African greys!) Unfortunately, my baby wanted warmer formula. Joy. The breeder said not to feed over 107 degrees Fahrenheit, so I followed those instructions. Now that my baby is at the correct weight for fledging, her appetite is keener, so she might accept the cooler (and safer) 105 degrees again.

O-ring catheter tip syringes are the best syringes to use when it comes to feeding animals. They're even better if, just prior to use, you squirt your disinfected and clean finger with Pam olive oil and apply it to the rubber on the plunger of the syringe. Put the syringe together, pump it up and down a few times and you have a well-oiled machine. One of the main causes of aspiration in chicks is a stuck plunger that unsticks too quickly, dumping too much food into the baby's mouth. A bit of Pam olive oil will keep the plunger from sticking, especially when it comes to an o-ring syringe. Afterward, I clean it with dishwashing liquid and rinse thoroughly. I never had very many babies at one time, so I have always been a careful feeder rather than a fast feeder. As long as the baby is giving you a feeding response, add food. When the baby stops, stop. It may take awhile for you to get used to each other's way of doing things, but you will. I think it's best for the chick to actually taste the food. A "power feeder" can empty the entire contents of a syringe into a baby's crop in under a second. That's a handy skill if you're hand-feeding dozens or even hundreds of babies, but I'm not sure I'm brave enough to ever try it. It must be done when the baby is in the middle of swallowing or you will aspirate him for sure. So, as far as I'm concerned? No thank you. You have someone who will show you how, so I won't cover that.

I used to use Nolvasan to disinfect syringes because I often had babies from multiple clutches and I didn't want any cross-contamination. With just one baby, I use a baby bottle steamer that goes into the microwave. It works really well and means I'm not bombarding her little system with disinfectants.

For surfaces, I use white vinegar or Nolvasan S (2 tablespoons per gallon of clean water). Be careful not to spray where baby can inhale the fumes from the vinegar. The fumes are pretty rough! For that matter, I wouldn't spray Nolvasan near the baby either. Keep in mind that Nolvasan doesn't kill pseudomonas. I don't know whether vinegar does, but my guess is it does not. Pseudomonas is a very tough little bug that likes warm moist places, including the back of your parrot's throat. Keep surfaces clean to keep pseudomonas at bay.

You said you already got your supplies. If you like any of my ideas and would like to know where I got my supplies, just ask. I hope I was of some help.

Last edited by Ladyhawk; 06-22-2017 at 02:28 AM.
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Old 06-22-2017, 02:18 AM
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Re: New Amazon owner, hand feeding questions!

Wow, thank you so much for all the information; I really appreciate it! I feel a lot better and more informed for sure. I'm sure I'll have a lot more questions in the very near future, so I appreciate your willingness to answer them! I did see a photo of your baby on a different post; very adorable, and beautiful!
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Old 06-22-2017, 02:46 AM
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Re: New Amazon owner, hand feeding questions!

Quote: Originally Posted by ProphesizeWithYourPen View Post
Wow, thank you so much for all the information; I really appreciate it! I feel a lot better and more informed for sure. I'm sure I'll have a lot more questions in the very near future, so I appreciate your willingness to answer them! I did see a photo of your baby on a different post; very adorable, and beautiful!
One more thing: This is the first baby I've raised by itself and there's a difference. My baby is very, very sensitive. It could be she is hard-wired that way; it could be the lack of siblings or it could be a bit of both. Regardless, I decided she needed to be pampered a bit. She needed lots of attention. She needed help opening the pinfeathers on her head (gently!). She needed to be comforted when she became frightened.

Your baby will also be alone except for you. Make sure it's dark inside the brooder unless you need to monitor the baby at all times. When you move your baby to a tub or aquarium, place inside it a safe nest box (mine is made of cardboard) where he / she can retreat if things get overwhelming. That way, your baby can get used to the outside world without being traumatized. My little one goes in and out as needed now. She'll be eight weeks old on Monday. She is perching really well, so I took her to meet a neighbor and she did very well. I was very pleased with her progress because she's been so very shy. She's finally turning into an Amazon.
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