Rearing chicks by hand is very time-consuming, and should not be done without full appreciation of what’s involved. Always make sure to seek expert advice for any aspect of chick-feeding, and take time to watch some instructional videos. This will boost your confidence and minimise the chance of you messing something up.
Even if you have a healthy pair of birds doing all the hard work for you, you should still know what to do if things don't quite go to plan. Mishaps could be anything from a sick male bird (meaning that he won’t be able to feed the hen) to an abandoned nest. Baby parakeets are very delicate creatures, and if the mishap occurs early in the rearing process -- within the first two weeks -- your chances of successfully weaning the birds are slim. Rearing a freshly-hatched bird is something none but the most experienced breeder should attempt.
A six-week-old parakeet
Feeding Parakeet Chicks
There are several parakeet chick feeds and additives that can be purchased online or in larger pet-stores.These should offer the correct mix of nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed to raise the chicks. Always make sure to consult with an expert before opting for any particular brand. Don’t be tempted to make a choice based on price, as cheap mixes are often not good enough for such fragile, young creatures.
Chick food should be mixed according to the instructions on the packet. It will usually have a gloopy consistency, and, like Baby Bear’s porridge, should be neither too hot nor too cold. If the feed is too hot, it can scald the bird’s crop and throat: if too cold, it may lodge itself in the chick’s crop and lead to a fatal condition known as “sour crop”. Again, just make sure you read the instructions.
The food each chick receives should be carefully measured, and should be served at a temperature similar to that of the regurgitated seed of an adult bird (the chick's natural food source). You can use a thermometer to measure the temperature precisely. Never be tempted to heat up the food quickly in the microwave, as this can lead to hot spots in the food. An ideal temperature for this food is between 105-110F.
How to Feed Parakeet Chicks
The food can be offered on a plastic spoon with bent edges (dip the end of a standard plastic teaspoon in boiling water and then bend the edges inward -- this funnels the food into a relatively narrow gap), or alternatively you can feed them via a wide-nozzle syringe. Many breeder rig up their own spoon-syringe hybrid
The syringe is good as it allows you to measure the quantity of food you are administering` There are however choking hazards to beware of though, so a spoon is advisable once the chick is old enough to feed this way (at around 10 days old). The spoon allows the chick to swallow the food at it’s own pace, but does not recreate the “regurgitated seed” flow as well as the syringe.
Experts may sometimes opt for a “crop-needle”, this is a tube attached to the end of a syringe and inserted directly into the chick's crop. This takes a lot of care, however, and should not be attempted if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.
No matter what feeding method you opt for, make sure all equipment is suitably sterilized before giving it to the chick, and any unused food should be discarded. Always make the food fresh and refrain from preparing it ahead of time.
Keeping a young chick warm whilst feeding them is also important. They should be placed onto a cosy towel or similar soft object for feeding. The aim here is to impersonate a soft, warm hen.
Gently tap on the bird’s beak with your spoon or syringe, just like it’s mother would. The bird will obligingly gape (open it’s beak to receive the food). Deliver the mixture sideways on, coming in at a 90 degree angle to the front of the beak (i.e. don’t feed from the front, as this could force the upper part of the beak too far upwards, and it’s not the way parent birds approach the job).
Don’t syringe or pour in all the food at once. The chick needs time to swallow, and can easily choke on too much too soon. It will let you know when it’s had enough, by simply closing its beak and refusing to reopen. If the bird hasn’t eaten its usual amount, don’t force-feed it. If the lack of appetite persists for the next few feeds, seek medical advice. A blocked crop can sometimes be remedied with a small squirt of warm water and some gentle crop-massage – but you really need to know what you’re doing. Always have the vet or breeder’s phone details at hand.
The food will have cleared from a healthy chick’s crop within 2-4 hours depending on it;s age, and it will need feeding every 3-4 hours. As stated above, if your chick isn’t hungry, it won’t gape. Feeding is a full time job, at least six times a day, and you can only retire at sunset. No one said this is going to be easy!
baby parakeets grow alarmingly quickly, and their food intake needs to grow with them. At two weeks old, depending on the chick’s size, they will take 2-4ml at each feed. At three weeks this increases to 4-6ml, and 5-8ml by five weeks old.
Feeding a 3 Week Old Parakeet
Things become much easier at 3 weeks old. The parakeet chick will now resemble an unkempt miniature dinosaur, with a rather ugly mix of down and pin feathers, and a lot of the character and curiosity that will stay with them throughout their lives. At this point in their lives feeding won’t be such a challenge. Usually every four hours. The bird will happily receive your attentions throughout 16 hours on a long summer’s day, though.
A five-week-old parakeet
Feeding a 5 Week Old Parakeet
At around 5 weeks old you can start putting food on the ground or in bowls, and letting the parakeet indulge in its natural instinct to forage. At around 6-7 weeks old the bird should be fully self-sufficient. You will still need to keep an eye on their feeding behavior, however, as not all parakeets become independent as swiftly as the average bird. Some hand feeding may still be in need at seven weeks old.