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Old 05-30-2018, 09:22 AM
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Unhappy Babies won't take formula

I feel like I've made a rookie mistake and need urgent help!
I have had an aviary of lovebirds for some time, but have tried hand rearing for the first time this year. In spring I took 1 baby at about 3 weeks old and he has flourished! It took him around 24-36 hours to get the hang of the syringe but there was no stopping him from there, now he's 7.5 weeks, fully weaned and very affectionate and playful (if not a bit nippy at times!)

However...

I've just taken a brood of 4 out of the aviary, but waited a little longer as the youngest one was a lot smaller and didn't want to take him before his eyes opened. The oldest is probably around 4 weeks and the youngest it's hard to tell because I think he was being pushed out and appears malnourished and probably a lot smaller thane should be.

Now I have had them in the house for 2 days and the youngest one is eating like a champion but the 3 bigger babies are very reluctant, only getting about 2ml in them each around 5 times a day. I've given them millet and they're attempting to nibble it but I worry it's not enough. I also worry about dehydration.

I fed the smallest one infant of them and they were a little more interested, but still haven't eaten a substantial amount. I've left a jar lid with formula in their brooder so they can try it if they want. Any other suggestions of what I can try?
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Old 05-30-2018, 09:34 AM
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Re: Babies won't take formula

Remove the formula left in the cage right now

have you been using a thermometer to check the temperature of the formula? Heat is everything with it and without a thermometer you can have formula too cold which will cause slow crop or you can burn the crop. Both of which can lead to a fast death. It could even be an infection causing them not to eat. They need to go see a Certified Avian Vet ASAP (I'm talking today kind of timing)

So you bought an unweaned baby... read that thread and read it hard to understand what you need to be hand raising baby birds. Hopefully you can save these ones but I do suggest not breeding in the future until you have been trained on hand feeding by a vet or other breeder and have done extensive research into it
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Old 05-30-2018, 09:36 AM
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Re: Babies won't take formula

also as a side note when you weaned the first baby did you force wean them? 7 weeks is insanely young for a lovebird to wean and force weaning them can really mess them up psychologically
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Old 05-30-2018, 09:53 AM
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Re: Babies won't take formula

I agree. REMOVE THE FORMULA NOW. You can not leave formula for a long period of time, the bacteria will grow and harm the babies. What's more is that baby birds REQUIRE a temperature of about 105-113. I always aim for 105 for lovebirds. Anything less will cause slow crop and be harmful OR too hot will give them crop burn! DO NOT reheat/reuse formula! Bacteria is very harmful.

When pulling babies, you can take them as they hit the age required, not less due to requiring the nutrients and antibodies they get from parents and not more because they will be less prone to taking on feeding from a syringe. Pull the oldest at 2 or 3 weeks, then the next when it hits the right age, then the next, and so forth.


I really hope these babies will be okay... take them to the vet. Are their crops completely empty or are they full? They may have developed an infection, so are refusing to eat.


Please research these things before you try it! This is very important to the wellbeing of the baby birds. My baby lovebird is 8 weeks tomorrow and still isn't weaned fully... yours seems young...
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Old 05-30-2018, 11:06 AM
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Re: Babies won't take formula

Welcome to the forums, thanks for seeking assistance!

The thread linked by LordTriggs is immensely helpful. Hopefully one of our highly experienced breeders will post personalized advice. Meanwhile, a timely visit with an avian certified vet is critical. Barring any of the above, are there local breeders or bird clubs you can approach for assistance?
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Old 05-30-2018, 12:41 PM
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Re: Babies won't take formula

How hot are you heating up the formula? It should be around 104-106 degrees F.

You should be using fresh, new formula every single time and feeding with either a syringe or spoon. Any extra formula left over from feeding should be disposed of and equipment all cleaned for the next feeding. What formula are you using? Kaytee handfeeding formula is popular and readily available at most pet stores.

How are you keeping babies warm, do you have a brooder?

When pulling babies, it is okay to pull one at a time so by the time you pull the smaller baby it is being fed by the parents after the older siblings are pulled.

Do you have a certified avain vet you can call for assistance with the younger, malnourished baby and the other ones you've pulled to make sure they are healthy and aren't carrying diseases? Based on your location we may be able to recommend one.

Do you have a gram scale and are you weighing the babies daily to ensure they are growing the way they should? It is something every breeder should have.

Generally the longer you wait to pull the less likely the babies are to take to the formula. Taking them out around 2-3 weeks is ideal. You can start offering the older babies food to try, though keep encouraging feeding the formula but don't force it if they don't want it. I'm hoping they can still pick it up. You can offer birdie bread, spray millet, softer foods.
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Old 05-30-2018, 01:58 PM
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Re: Babies won't take formula

Your problem is just as stated by Itzjbean, you cannot pull babies of different ages at the same time, it just doesn't work out well...Each baby must be pulled at no earlier than 2 weeks old, and no older than 3 weeks old. So you should end-up with babies still in the nest box, babies in the BROODER, and event, around 5-6 weeks old, babies in the weaning-cage, all at the same time. Never all n the same place at once, as they develop so quickly in such short amounts of time that pulling them all at once ends just like this...

If you wait longer than 3 weeks to pull a baby from the nest box and try to hand-feed them, even at 4 weeks old, they usually do have a seriously difficult time hand-feeding. So this is why your 2 older birds won't take the syringe, they're too used to parents feeding them....

I would immediately remove the bowl of formula, never ever do that again, as it will end in a crop infection. Formula starts growing bacteria the minute you mix it up, and they will end up with all kinds of issues if they don't eat fresh formula every single day...

At this point you can either put the 2 older babies back in the nest box with mom and dad and see if they'll continue to feed them, or foster them with another pair that are currently feeding and see if they'll take over feeding them, or you just have to keep feeding them the best you can, which may take a huge amount of time per bird, as if they only take a drop at a time then that's what you have to do...NEVER EVER FORCE FEED THEM UNLESS YOU'VE BEEN TRAINED IN TUBE-FEEDING AND HAVE CROP NEEDLES! Always be sure that the formula is between 104-110 degrees F with a candy/cooking thermometer, and that their BROODER is in the 85 degree range for a 4+ week old chick using an ambient thermometer. You may want to try making the older bird's formula thicker, much thicker, than the 2-3 week old's is, that may help them to want to eat it...

Keep a millet spray in with them to encourage them to start weaning, but at this point you just have to take the time to make sure that each of their crops are full, drop by drop...Have you yet tried feeding them from a spoon? That sometimes will help...

Just be sure that from now-on you pull each individual chick when they are between 2-3 weeks old, by themselves, no younger and no older, one at a time.
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Old 05-30-2018, 02:27 PM
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Re: Babies won't take formula

Thank you so much for your advice everyone - I went to take the bowl of formula out (leaving it in was advised to me, hence why I did it) and they were chirping like they were hungry.
I ran and got some fresh formula and fed the smallest one first because he's taken to it so well and the others seemed to immediately get what was going on - it was a bit chaotic but all 4 now have full crops of warm formula!
Literally every bit of research I've done has told me to take all the babies at once otherwise the parents will abandon any babies left in the nest... I guess that's the difference between research and experience?
I think as with the aviary, I can read as much as I want but there will always be a bit of trial and error involved, adapting as I go to get the best method for me and my birds.
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Old 05-30-2018, 02:37 PM
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Re: Babies won't take formula

As for my weaned baby, I went at his pace - i offered him millet sprays and soft fruit etc after his formula and pretty quickly he dramatically dropped the amount of formula he would take and ate more and more 'real food'. He was particularly keen on nutri-berries, but loves sunflower seeds now he's worked out how to get into them. I've offered him formula a few times since and he takes about 1ml but then moves on - i think it's a comfort thing?
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Old 05-30-2018, 03:19 PM
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Re: Babies won't take formula

Yes, that's called a "comfort feeding", usually they cry for that one feeding at night, before bed...eventually that will stop...

As far as anyone saying to "pull all babies at the same time from the nest box", I've not EVER heard that, not once from anyone, but whomever said it doesn't have a clue what they're doing. It is a common thing for people to say or to think that "If you touch a baby or an egg, the parents will abandon it", or other versions of that myth, but it's totally untrue.

I have had Budgie clutches as large as 10 babies, and have pulled each baby when each one individually hit 2 weeks old. If you think about having a larger clutch like this, or even a clutch of say 5 or 6 babies, if you waited until every baby was at least 2 weeks old and pulled them at the same time, you'd be waiting to pull the oldest babies until they were on the verge of 5 weeks old!!! Obviously that wouldn't work...

The fact is that you can actually pull a baby that is 2 weeks old from the nest box and if there is an issue that pops-up, as they often do, or if for some reason you suddenly can no-longer hand-feed them, you should have no issue at all returning that baby to it's parents after a couple of weeks of it being gone...You can also foster newly hatched babies that are under 2 weeks old, or at any age for that matter, that have been rejected by their parents for one reason or another, and put them into the nest box of another set of parents, and they'll usually feed them as their own...No issues at all with doing this...

So moral of the story is choose a definite age in which you want to pull each chick in a clutch from the nest box, either 2 weeks old or 3 weeks old, BUT NO OLDER, and then mark the date that each chick hatches down in a notebook. Then when each individual chick hits that age, pull him. Now I always have pulled at 2 weeks old, but I usually do wait to pull the oldest chick until the second-oldest chick is also 2 weeks old so that I can pull 2 of them together, so that the oldest won't be by himself all of a sudden in the Brooder. That's only a matter of waiting an extra day or two at the most, so the oldest chick will still be well-under 3 weeks old, so no harm there...But that should be the extent of pulling any of the chicks in a clutch from the nest box at the same time...
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