Hand Feeding Your Baby Cockatiel

Card image cap

The most important considerations in the hand feeding process are the frequency and volume of feeding. Baby cockatiels grow at an extraordinarily rapid rate and this growth requires a great deal of food to meet the nutritional needs. However, the crop of a young cockatiels holds a limited amount of food, so it must be filled frequently. As your cockatiel gets older, the capacity of the crop increases, and the number of daily feedings will be reduced. The volume to be fed is base upon a combination of observation and judgment.

Check the Fullness of the Crop

Nature designed a rather unique feature into the digestive system of cockatiels. A widening of the esophagus at the lower pan of the neck. This widening acts as a compartment to hold a quantity of food, and is named the crop.

The crop can be easily visualized in young cockatiels while feathering is incomplete. In older cockatiels with a well developed covering of feathers, the fullness can be checked by gently feeling the crop with a thumb and index finger.

The crop should be examined before each feeding. Ideally, in the rapidly growing young cockatiel, the crop should never be allowed to become completely empty. Checking the crop fullness will help determine the frequency and volume of feeding to be given. Normally the crop will empty in 4 hours. A crop that remains full or is not emptying properly indicates some type of problem.

Positioning Your Cockatiel for Hand-Feeding.

Cockatiels are removed from the nest box and placed on a towel. By cupping a hand gently around the baby during feeding, adequate support will be given to position him for eating.

Carefully Introduce Feeding Device into the Mouth.

The introduction of an eye dropper or syringe into the mouth is relatively easy, as the baby cockatiels will be eager to be fed and will be gaping (opening the beak wide in order to receive the feeding). Occasionally, a cockatiel may not gape, and gentle tapping of the beak with the feeding device will encourage the cockatiel to open its beak. The device should be carefully passed into the left side toward the right side of the mouth.

The volume of food given is of critical importance. Over filling of the crop could lead to back flow up the esophagus, into the throat, and down the windpipe, which could cause death. Underfilling the crop might result in starvation.

When the food material is being delivered, the crop will begin to fill and bulge in the region of the lower neck. Careful observation and experience are necessary in order to determine when the crop is adequately filled.

Frequently, your cockatiel will stop gaping when the crop is filled; however, some birds, will continue to gape even when filled. Watch closely when filling for any evidence of food material backing up into the mouth. If this occurs, immediately stop until the mouth is cleared.

When your cockatiel appears to have had enough feeding material, determine the state of fullness of the crop to make sure a sufficient amount of feeding was delivered.

Any excess food material on the skin, beak or feathers should he removed with warm water when the feeding is complete. It can be followed with a few drops of warm water to aid in 'cleaning the mouth.' Feeding utensils should be cleaned immediately after use. Check the anus to be certain no fecal matter has accumulated. Ideally, monitor your cockatiel's weight daily with an accurate scale. A healthy baby cockatiel gains weight daily.

Card image cap

Preparation of Formula

Your local pet store has a variety of formulas for your baby cockatiel, please follow the instruction on the box. Important: Use distilled or boiled water to eliminate bacteria growth from contaminated tap water. The water should be approximately 105-110 degrees. Add the water to the powder gradually while stirring. After thorough mixing to eliminate lumps, the formula should be the consistency of creamy pudding. This thickness will allow it to be drawn into an eye dropper or syringe or will roll off a spoon. For older birds the mixture may be made thicker. When served, It should feel Slightly warm to the touch. NOT HOT!

Do Not Reuse Mixed Formula. Discard and Mix Fresh at Each Feeding.

If really necessary, sufficient amount of formula may be prepared at one time to last 3 days if covered and refrigerated after preparation. The amount needed for each feeding can be heated and fed but not reused. Caution: You might need to add water in the heating process. Diluting formula by increasing water will reduce the concentration of this diet.

Age in Weeks Number of Daily Feedings
0 Every 2 Hours (Around the Clock)
1 Every 2 Hours (Around the Clock*)
2 Every 3 Hours (6 a.m. to Midnight)
"Safest" Period To Begin Hand Feeding
3 Every 4 Hours (6 a.m. to Midnight)
4 Every 5 Hours (6 a.m. to Midnight)
5 to 7 Two Feedings Daily

*If bird is kept especially warm and comfortable, the 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. feedings can be eliminated.

Weaning Period - Important

Make sure bird is eating adequately on its own before discontinuing hand-feeding. Check fullness of crop.

As always the information offered here is to provide guidance and is not intended to be a substitute for the good advice provided by your own avian vet. When in doubt always consult your own veterinarian.

Watch These Baby Cockatiels Getting Fed

The formula given to these baby cockatiels is by Kaytee and is called "Exact". You can get it from your local pet store or order from Amazon. It's a really good formula that we highly recommend.