FEEDING NEWLY HATCHED CHICKS
From a talk to East Cape Bird Club given by Dr Chris Kingsley. Continued from Avizandum March 2004. Printed on request of the club members.
Once the baby bird is out of the egg it is given fluids. In those fluids one can include probiotics to try to establish normal bacterial flora in the gut and the crop of that small baby bird. Once we see that the baby bird has started passing its first dropping we know that the digestive tract is working. There is activity there and from that time on it can be fed a dilute mixture of the handrearing food that we have chosen to use.
There are many handrearing foods available on the market. It is quite confusing to know what to use. A number of them are perfectly adequate. For my own handrearing I have chosen Kaytee, which is excellent. It is very expensive but certainly in the first weeks of life the amount that you use is very small. The advantage of some of the imported handrearing mixtures is that the production company watches the quality control very carefully. They have large batches and because all batches are tested, you get a very standardized product. Avi-Plus Premium Handrearing seems to be doing an excellent job as well. Many of the handrearing feeds also have a probiotics in them so that even if you are not giving a probiotics with that first fluid you feed to a baby bird, you will correct the bacterial flora in the gut by giving it a good quality handrearing food.
If you are handrearing a baby bird for the first time, go to someone who is handrearing successfully (particularly if it is the same species with which you are working), have a look at what they are doing and copy them.
There are a number of ways of feeding a tiny baby bird. The easiest is to bend a little teaspoon more or less to the shape of the bottom of a bird’s beak. The little bird will hook its beak over the bottom of the little spoon and by carefully tipping the spoon with the handrearing mixture, let the feed slide into the baby bird’s mouth. He will take it and swallow it. It takes a bit of experience not to choke the baby bird, but by watching somebody who has had experience you can learn from their mistakes and successes.
How much to feed
Feed until the crop is full, but not tight. Do not fill the crop right up to the base of the bowl, because if you put any pressure on the crop while handling the baby bird , it is going to regurgitate. It is not able to swallow properly at this stage and it might breathe in some of the food. This is probably one of the major causes of baby bird losses, aspiration or breathing in of food:
*because it is being fed too quickly
*because of the tube that is being put in the wrong place
*because it being over fed, has regurgitated some of the food and was not able to swallow it down and get it out of the way.
Feeding with a syringe or crop needle
If you chose to feed this way it is important that you have enough experience to know that the crop needle is in fact in the crop and not in the windpipe. If you get food in the windpipe he will die. You cannot get the food out quickly enough and once it is in the lungs, the bird is as good as dead. In the case of very small birds it is very easy to damage the oesophagus or crop with the needle. If you want to use a crop needle, practise on an inexpensive type of bird. Yes, it is also a living being, but it s better to practise on lovebirds than on cockatoos!