So you bought an unweaned baby...

SilverSage

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Today I spent several hours trying to help someone save a baby bird they had purchased unweaned. The baby died; they are usually almost dead by the time the new owner realizes something is wrong, not because the owner doesn't care but because they are not educated about what to look for or prepared to handle the disasters that almost always arise when the inexperienced bird lover brings home a baby who is still hand feeding. So let's get one thing clear; YOU SHOULD NOT BUY UNWEANED PARROT CHICKS!

-The bird will NOT bond to you better, in fact it often DAMAGES THE BONDING PROCESS.

-It is NOT cheaper; what you "save" on the original fee you will spend in formula and other supplies and that's assuming you don't spend hundreds or thousands of dollars at the vet trying to save your new baby because you made mistakes an experienced hand feeder never would have made.

-It is NOT easy or simple. Sure, in theory it all makes sense, but there are a hundred nuances and details that can spell disaster if you ignore them. And ask yourself: why is the seller so eager to sell the bird so young? So that YOU get to shoulder all the risk, work, and expense that is involved with raising that baby.

- It is NOT ETHICAL! Some people live in countries where the only way to get a parrot is to buy an unweaned baby or a poached bird, or worse; an unweaned poached baby. However, the majority of my readers live in places like the United States, Canada, and Australia. For those people with ACCESS to ethically and lovingly raised parrots to KNOWINGLY CHOOSE TO PAY SOMEONE TO TORTURE PARROTS TO DEATH (yes, that's what selling unweaned babies to inexperienced people amounts to) is completely inexcusable.

At this point a lot of you may be thinking "Boy, she is being really harsh, she should really tone it down, that's not very professional." Well guess what? I'M ANGRY! Why? DEAD BABY BIRDS TICK ME OFF! They break my heart, they make my blood boil. The poor owner of the bird who died today did everything he knew how to do! Everything he was told to do! He thought he knew what he was doing, he thought everything was going fine, until suddenly it wasn't. And he didn't have the equipment, knowledge, or other resources to save his bird. So if you want your back patted and to be congratulated for buying an unweaned baby, this is not the place for that. But if you have realized that you may be in over your head and you want someone to help you keep your new best friend alive, THAT I will do my best to help with. So let's get down to it.

1) TEMPERATURE IS EVERYTHING! Temperature is the most important part of raising a healthy baby parrot; the temperature of the formula and the temperature of the living environment.

-Formula MUST be between 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) and 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius). Any cooler and not only will your baby likely reject the formula, but his body will be unable to digest it properly leading to malnutrition. In some cases the food, not being digested, can even begin to spoil inside the body and from there you quickly see a spiral into bacterial infections that can kill within a few hours of the first symptoms. If the formula is too hot you risk internal burns. Unlike human babies, parrot chicks may not initially show signs of discomfort if the formula is too hot; they may swallow an entire feeding only to have their throats and crops severely burned to the point of being life-threatening. Even if the birds don't kill the bird outright they open them up to nasty infections that can kill very quickly, often before the new owner can even notice symptoms.

-The living environment temperature depends on how many chicks, how old, etc, but the baby needs to be kept warm enough for their body to function normally as if a mother bird was constantly brooding him. For a baby that is not fully feathered this us usually between 96 degrees Fahrenheit (35.6 degrees Celsius) and 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2 degrees Celsius). If the baby is standing upright, panting, and holding the wings out from the body he is too hot. If a group of babies is piled on top of each other, they are too cold. You want a temperature where babies can sleep comfortably without needing to crowd together or stand up and pant. It is more difficult with a single baby, so lean toward too warm rather than too cold. Start at the high end and only turn it down if the baby seems too warm. Remember, the baby should have clutch mates and/or parents to snuggle with and alone in your home he cannot regulate his own body temperature. If he isn't kept warm enough his organs cannot function properly and you open him up to many complications such as slow crop leading to bacterial and fungal infections and rapid death.

2) TIMING MATTERS! It is important that your baby be fed often enough. Generally speaking (and this is VERY GENERAL, different species have different needs) babies who don't have a full covering of feathers yet should be fed about every 4 hours during the day, and can go 8 hours over night after about 3-4 weeks. Once they have that covering of feathers they can start going 6-7 hours between daytime feedings. Trying to cram too much food into the crop does stretch it an enable the baby to take more food at a time but can lead to problems with sour crop, crop stasis, etc all leading to (can you guess?) bacterial and fungal infections that can kill your baby overnight. Going too long between feedings can also have a negative impact on the psychological development of the little guy.

3) FORCE WEANING IS CRUEL! Force Weaning is when you reduce the amount of formula you are feeding and make the baby fill up on solid foods. Sounds normal, but is actually very damaging and contributes to all sorts of emotionally damaged behaviors like biting, screaming, plucking, phobias, cage aggression - the list goes on. The proper and humane method of weaning a baby parrot is Abundance Weaning. This method is simple: You keep offering the formula until the baby decides HE doesn't want it anymore for at least 5 days in a row. Guess what? Knowing that the formula is coming actually gives the baby is very firm foundation from which he can venture forth and explore. Just because the baby has started trying solid foods does not at all mean he is ready to lose the formula. Keep offering it until the baby decides he doesn't want it.

4) EARLY CLIPPING IS DANGEROUS! I'm not going to get into the pros and cons of clipping an adult bird but it is VITAL to the physical and mental development of young parrots that they be allowed to LEARN TO FLY. And I don't mean "get their first few flights", I mean they need to become FLYING EXPERTS. Yes, it is scary for you to watch them crash, but this is the appropriate age where their minds and bodies are prepared for and eager to learn these skills. Even if you plan to clip your bird they NEED this time to gain crucial mental skills such as how to react to new things, how to avoid danger, etc. Not to mention they need to learn the skill of flying DOWN. That's another heartbreaking situation I get asked to help with a lot. So many escaped parrots WANT TO COME HOME but can't because they never learned the complex skill of flying downward. But that is a whole different topic. Another reason it is absolutely crucial to allow baby birds to keep their flight feathers is for balance. The crop is right there on the front of their body and if they are crashing to the ground on it because their flights are clipped, they can force themselves to vomit and aspirate. On that note, "play time" should be before feedings, not after, for the exact same reason; you don't want to be bumping a full crop.

Ok folks! That is by no means a guide to a well rounded parrot, but it should at least help you hopefully keep your baby alive. If you see ANY signs of illness such as lethargy, difficulty breathing, refusal to eat, disorientation, dull eyes, nasal discharge, failure to empty crop, etc, contact an Avian Vet immediately. You should have one on speed dial now.
 
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Sunnyclover

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Thank goodness you made this post. Finley was not properly weaned when I got him and luckily I could see that right away and posted on here promptly where you all told me to drop what I was doing and get formula immediately and watch YouTube videos on how to hand feed properly. To be fair Finley was a bit older so he wasn't as in danger of aspirating as much as a younger baby would be. However, it was a scary ordeal seeing my Fin looking very weak and lethargic until he had a few days of feedings in him and several vet visits. I have no idea why someone would buy an unweaned baby on purpose. This post is going to save so many lives!
 
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SilverSage

SilverSage

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I hope so. I get so angry with the sellers! Thank God you noticed and found help quickly! Sooooo many people are lied to by unethical sellers trying to rush babies out the door!


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Scott

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Thank you, thank you, thank you Dani! Beautifully written, this will be a magnificent thread and most importantly, save lives. It is critical for prospective parronts to learn what they don't know!
 

LordTriggs

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Well said sage! You already know how seething watching that thread go on left me. If possible I'd like to add another point to this.

The LAW! In some countries the act of selling unweaned babies is actually illegal, check pet selling laws in your country both before and if you have been sold an unweaned baby still check. The last thing you want is for anyone else to go through the turmoil of this potentially without any help at all! These people (I refuse to call them breeders) need to be stopped and the only way to do so is report them to the authorities.
 

Anansi

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Exceptional post, Dani! Both your knowledge of and passion for baby birds come through, and I don't doubt your words here will save lives. Thank you.
 

SailBoat

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Thank-you, for taking the time out of your busy life to support our members and to develop this Thread!!! Kind Hearts like yours' Save Lives!!!
 

GaleriaGila

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A great service to our comunity, Dani. You're the best. I hope I may hand this link out to people in the future. Wonderful.
 

Terry57

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Great thread, Dani! Thank you so much for posting it, it is hard to tell how many babies lives may be saved by this.
 

itzjbean

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An excellent post by one of the best breeding experts we are so lucky to have on these forums. So informative!!

This is also an excellent read for those considering letting their birds breed and raise chicks. Many fail to consider that even when leaving chicks with parents, SO much can go wrong and you have to be prepared to raise an unweaned baby should it be neglected. Without the proper knowledge and equipment, unweaned chicks can and will perish!
 

Dopey

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Dani - thank you.

I brought home an eclectus in January (actually 2 - male and female) but the female has been crying non-stop practically. I feed her formula, I've seen her crunch the pellets in her cage (not sure she actually eats anything), and she eats the fresh foods I give her. But she continues to cry. Because of this thread I've done more research and I have found out that she weighs about 150 gms less than she should and that what I am feeding her (obviously I should be feeding her more formula) probably doesn't have enough nutrients in it.

I feel so bad. I knew she was hungry but I was feeding her and thought that was enough. Obviously it wasn't. Every week when I go into the bird store that I bought her from we talk about her constant crying but not once did the owner suggest (he's a friend so don't get too angry on site with him) increasing her formula.

I understood that there would be some digression in where she was in the weaning stages but - WOW - what an eye opener for me. Even though the food was there she was hungry. :(

After the research (and I kept searching because I didn't have an answer that was satisfying me) I found out the her particular species may not wean until she is six months old. That is the middle of April. So between the weight and the age I feel like I failed her - but I was trying.

I have no problem feeding my birds with syringes. In fact, five out of seven of my birds eat from a syringe if I want/need them to. I do that so if I need to medicate it will be easier - so I just practice it with them.

What I am still researching is - how long should each syringe feeding take? How many cc's should I be giving her? I know syringe feeding eclectus takes longer but I need to know how long it takes? I will continue to research but if anyone here has that information and you wouldn't mind passing it on to me...that would be appreciated.

Again, Dani, I thank you. And my baby (Lucy) thanks you.
 
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SilverSage

SilverSage

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Dani - thank you.



I brought home an eclectus in January (actually 2 - male and female) but the female has been crying non-stop practically. I feed her formula, I've seen her crunch the pellets in her cage (not sure she actually eats anything), and she eats the fresh foods I give her. But she continues to cry. Because of this thread I've done more research and I have found out that she weighs about 150 gms less than she should and that what I am feeding her (obviously I should be feeding her more formula) probably doesn't have enough nutrients in it.



I feel so bad. I knew she was hungry but I was feeding her and thought that was enough. Obviously it wasn't. Every week when I go into the bird store that I bought her from we talk about her constant crying but not once did the owner suggest (he's a friend so don't get too angry on site with him) increasing her formula.



I understood that there would be some digression in where she was in the weaning stages but - WOW - what an eye opener for me. Even though the food was there she was hungry. :(



After the research (and I kept searching because I didn't have an answer that was satisfying me) I found out the her particular species may not wean until she is six months old. That is the middle of April. So between the weight and the age I feel like I failed her - but I was trying.



I have no problem feeding my birds with syringes. In fact, five out of seven of my birds eat from a syringe if I want/need them to. I do that so if I need to medicate it will be easier - so I just practice it with them.



What I am still researching is - how long should each syringe feeding take? How many cc's should I be giving her? I know syringe feeding eclectus takes longer but I need to know how long it takes? I will continue to research but if anyone here has that information and you wouldn't mind passing it on to me...that would be appreciated.



Again, Dani, I thank you. And my baby (Lucy) thanks you.



The general rule of thumb is 10-12% of her body weight per feeding. A CC of formula weighs roughly a gram, so just weigh her before each feeding. Do t be afraid to go a little over because she is currently underweight.

If she is crying, feed her. Even if she has eaten recently, just give her a few CCs to help her adjust to the fact that food WILL be available when she needs it. You haven’t TRIED to starve her, you love her of course, but she has been starving.

As for how long it will take, don’t be shocked if she needs feeding up to or even beyond 9 months. You have to understand that she will probably take longer than normal because of the trauma of having her formula restricted.

Eckies are one of the hardest species to properly hand feed; the fact that someone sold you one unweaned is appalling, and what you are saying about their lack of support for you makes me so frustrated! This is what I mean! People selling babies to unsuspecting owners and claiming it will be fine. It’s cruel to the baby and it is cruel to the new owner who just wants to give their baby a happy life.

As a side note; I’m not sure what pellets you are feeding but you need to be sure they have NO artificial vitamins, minerals, colors, etc. so anything “fortified” is out. Eckies have a unique digestive system and cannot expel the extra artificial nutrients. This leads to hypervitaminosis which can be deadly. You might already know that of course I just would feel terrible if you didn’t and I didn’t mention it. Even pellets with eckies on the bag such as roudybush are usually not safe for eckies.


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SilverSage

SilverSage

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Lol I assure you I am neither an expert nor a master, I am just OBSESSED with research and I’ve had some great people invest in my education.


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Dopey

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The general rule of thumb is 10-12% of her body weight per feeding. A CC of formula weighs roughly a gram, so just weigh her before each feeding. Do t be afraid to go a little over because she is currently underweight.

If she is crying, feed her. Even if she has eaten recently, just give her a few CCs to help her adjust to the fact that food WILL be available when she needs it. You haven’t TRIED to starve her, you love her of course, but she has been starving.

As for how long it will take, don’t be shocked if she needs feeding up to or even beyond 9 months. You have to understand that she will probably take longer than normal because of the trauma of having her formula restricted.

Eckies are one of the hardest species to properly hand feed; the fact that someone sold you one unweaned is appalling, and what you are saying about their lack of support for you makes me so frustrated! This is what I mean! People selling babies to unsuspecting owners and claiming it will be fine. It’s cruel to the baby and it is cruel to the new owner who just wants to give their baby a happy life.

As a side note; I’m not sure what pellets you are feeding but you need to be sure they have NO artificial vitamins, minerals, colors, etc. so anything “fortified” is out. Eckies have a unique digestive system and cannot expel the extra artificial nutrients. This leads to hypervitaminosis which can be deadly. You might already know that of course I just would feel terrible if you didn’t and I didn’t mention it. Even pellets with eckies on the bag such as roudybush are usually not safe for eckies.


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Hi Dani - I figured you would still be in bed...being in Hawaii. So I wasn't expecting a response so fast.

I meant how long does it take at each feeding. I have since been researching since I was on this thread and I have found that other ekkie owners are having the same problem that I do. The first 15 ccs go down quite well. Then the 2nd 15 ccs take a little longer and by the time I get to the 3rd 15 ccs (she weighed around 350 gms the last time I weighed her) she is beaking the syringe all over and getting into her mouth...well let's just say she has to have to sponge bath by the time we are done. And she gets one. Lately she has been wanting more so I've been giving it to her.

Oh - and I read that they may need to be burped...just like you would a human baby.

If it takes until she is two to wean her I have no problem. I even give the male ekkie some every night as well (he is four months older). But he clearly tells me when he is done. Beak closed and he goes back to his favorite perch.

I don't do too many pellets. But I need to get a different kind. One that has less vitamins. I do not want to kill her or give her any more trouble than I already have.

The pet store owner is open for suggestions. I take full responsibility for taking this bird before it was completely weaned. I wanted the experience of the feeding formula in the evening. I new I might have to do so in the morning for a few weeks (it has been 8 now). I didn't think about the difference between the species of the ekkies and some needing longer weaning time. The owner may not know that either. He says I read too much on the internet. Ha!! Nevertheless, I will be chatting with him soon.

Again, Dani, - thank you.
 
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SilverSage

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The general rule of thumb is 10-12% of her body weight per feeding. A CC of formula weighs roughly a gram, so just weigh her before each feeding. Do t be afraid to go a little over because she is currently underweight.

If she is crying, feed her. Even if she has eaten recently, just give her a few CCs to help her adjust to the fact that food WILL be available when she needs it. You haven’t TRIED to starve her, you love her of course, but she has been starving.

As for how long it will take, don’t be shocked if she needs feeding up to or even beyond 9 months. You have to understand that she will probably take longer than normal because of the trauma of having her formula restricted.

Eckies are one of the hardest species to properly hand feed; the fact that someone sold you one unweaned is appalling, and what you are saying about their lack of support for you makes me so frustrated! This is what I mean! People selling babies to unsuspecting owners and claiming it will be fine. It’s cruel to the baby and it is cruel to the new owner who just wants to give their baby a happy life.

As a side note; I’m not sure what pellets you are feeding but you need to be sure they have NO artificial vitamins, minerals, colors, etc. so anything “fortified” is out. Eckies have a unique digestive system and cannot expel the extra artificial nutrients. This leads to hypervitaminosis which can be deadly. You might already know that of course I just would feel terrible if you didn’t and I didn’t mention it. Even pellets with eckies on the bag such as roudybush are usually not safe for eckies.


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Hi Dani - I figured you would still be in bed...being in Hawaii. So I wasn't expecting a response so fast.

I meant how long does it take at each feeding. I have since been researching since I was on this thread and I have found that other ekkie owners are having the same problem that I do. The first 15 ccs go down quite well. Then the 2nd 15 ccs take a little longer and by the time I get to the 3rd 15 ccs (she weighed around 350 gms the last time I weighed her) she is beaking the syringe all over and getting into her mouth...well let's just say she has to have to sponge bath by the time we are done. And she gets one. Lately she has been wanting more so I've been giving it to her.

Oh - and I read that they may need to be burped...just like you would a human baby.

If it takes until she is two to wean her I have no problem. I even give the male ekkie some every night as well (he is four months older). But he clearly tells me when he is done. Beak closed and he goes back to his favorite perch.

I don't do too many pellets. But I need to get a different kind. One that has less vitamins. I do not want to kill her or give her any more trouble than I already have.

The pet store owner is open for suggestions. I take full responsibility for taking this bird before it was completely weaned. I wanted the experience of the feeding formula in the evening. I new I might have to do so in the morning for a few weeks (it has been 8 now). I didn't think about the difference between the species of the ekkies and some needing longer weaning time. The owner may not know that either. He says I read too much on the internet. Ha!! Nevertheless, I will be chatting with him soon.

Again, Dani, - thank you.



I moved in July, I live in Georgia now :)

As far as how long each feeding takes, it can vary a lot between birds. For example right now I’m feeding baby ringnecks. I have one who literally opens his throat and just lets the formula flow in. I can feed him his entire meal in 10 seconds lol. His little sister takes a few swallows, stops to think, a few more swallows, etc. it takes longer to feed her than to feed all her siblings combined.

One thing to consider is how warm the formula remains during the feeding. It may be that as the formula cools she loses interest. Are you leaving the thermometer in the formula as you feed ?


Also, how often are you feeding her? 2-3 times a day is what I would recommend if she will take it, and usually the morning feeding gets dropped before the evening feeding.


As for burping, yes that’s a thing lol. But instead of patting the back like you do with a human, you massage the crop to get the air bubbles to the top and then squeeze it a bit to expel the air. I certainly wouldn’t do that if you can’t see the air bubbles as you can cause her to aspirate. She really shouldn’t need it at her age :)


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Kiwibird

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THANK YOU for starting/writing this VERY IMPORTANT thread! I sincerely hope this will save the lives of some hapless chicks who end up in inexperienced hands (or even better, stop someone from considering an unweaned chick altogether). You are a shining example of a GOOD breeder, the kind people SHOULD be getting birds from.
 

Dopey

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I moved in July, I live in Georgia now :)

As far as how long each feeding takes, it can vary a lot between birds. For example right now I’m feeding baby ringnecks. I have one who literally opens his throat and just lets the formula flow in. I can feed him his entire meal in 10 seconds lol. His little sister takes a few swallows, stops to think, a few more swallows, etc. it takes longer to feed her than to feed all her siblings combined.

One thing to consider is how warm the formula remains during the feeding. It may be that as the formula cools she loses interest. Are you leaving the thermometer in the formula as you feed ?


Also, how often are you feeding her? 2-3 times a day is what I would recommend if she will take it, and usually the morning feeding gets dropped before the evening feeding.


As for burping, yes that’s a thing lol. But instead of patting the back like you do with a human, you massage the crop to get the air bubbles to the top and then squeeze it a bit to expel the air. I certainly wouldn’t do that if you can’t see the air bubbles as you can cause her to aspirate. She really shouldn’t need it at her age :)


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Well, I truly am behind the times...by several months.

I'm sure that the formula does cool down I do not keep the thermometer in the bowl but I will now. I have noticed that she takes it better when I'm at the high end of the temp range. 108 vs 106.

I will increase her feeding numbers. I was feeding her once in the evening and sometimes an additional feeding in the morning on the weekends. I may have to sneak her in to the office for a few weeks in order to do the mid-day feeding. Not to worry. I have co-workers who have offered me their office space.

I won't try the burping - but I thought it was funny. She is fully feathered now so I can't see air bubbles.
 

Anansi

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This informative thread is now a sticky to keep it more visible for new readers.
 

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