If you find yourself having to feed your baby cockatiels because the parents have abandoned them, or you chose to hand feed because you want them to become tame, then you must fully understand what you need to do. Feeding from freshly hatched until they are old enough to feed them selves will be your biggest challenge.
First of all we need to establish in our minds that as owners we can want to help too much and sometimes take over too soon. You should allow the parents to feed their baby cockatiels for as long as they can. Nothing can replace the true nature of this process.
When Should You Start Feeding?
First of all, are you wanting to hand feed them? If so then around three weeks is a good time to start. If you remove them from the nest you will need to set up a ‘brooder’. A purpose made nesting box that you control the temperature of and the feeding times. You will need to get all the utensils that are listed below.
If you notice that at any stage the parents have given up feeding you will need to step up and take over. Also keep a close eye on the nest, you may have a few baby cockatiels hatch and some will become stronger than others quicker. The weak one will end up not being fed enough. It’s nature, only the strongest survive. This is the time that you need to help out. It will be very daunting at first and you probably will struggle, but do not give up as the survival of this little cockatiel is in your hands now. If you are able to get a helping hand all the better.
What You Need When Feeding Baby Cockatiels
Baby formula (this is specifically designed for feeding and rearing baby cockatiels).
China or metal bowl to mix the formula in.
Syringes with small spouts. (long spouts can dammage the babies mouth).
Hot water bottle.
Pen and Tracking chart.
What is the Crop and How To Check it for Fullness
The crop is acts like a stomach. It is a holding chamber for the food. It lies at the bottom of the neck and it widens to alow it to store food. It is known as the widening of the ‘oesophagus’ in technical terms and is the ‘Crop’ to us. It becomes harder to see in grown up cockatiels as their feather coat covers any clear visible signs as a posed to the baby cockatiel without it’s fully grown feather coating which looks kind of naked. In the baby cockatiel it is clearly noticeable.
To check for fullness in older birds to see if they are eating, you can gently feel the crop between your thumb and index finger. When feeding the babies, before each time you feed, check the crop to see that it has emptied. Please note that it should neither be totally empty nor should it still be full. If it is either it could be a sign that something is not functioning correct. Be very observant and if things don’t normalise then seek an avian vets advice. If you notice that it is totally empty then feed a little more frequent. As a rule, every 4 hours the crop will empty. Try not to allow it to be totally empty between feeds.
When hand feeding baby cockatiels the most important points to adhere to are;
A) the amount that you feed them, and
B) how often you feed them.
The crop is where the cockatiel stores the food. When young it is clearly visible and you must be vigilant and observe the size of the crop. Each time the baby cockatiel feeds it’s crop will enlarge (swell up) as the food is digested.
A baby cockatiels crop can only hold a certain amount of food, be careful not to over feed, more on that later. As the food gets absorbed into their body it will shrink in size, a sign that it is growing and actually healthy. The older the cockatiels get week by week, the larger the crop becomes and the less frequent it needs to be fed. Feeding becomes less frequent but they eat more food.
How Much to Feed
This is basically determined by close observation of the crop. As the cockatiel feeds the crop will swell up. Each time it swallows the food and it enters the crop and fills it widens. Very young cockatiels will require less food but more often. The crop will become visible as a bulge under the neck in the front of the baby. It will look some what off balance as if overfull. That is a sign of a full crop. The older the bird gets the bigger the crop will become and be even more visible.
After each feeding the crop should be visible and showing full. If not, then it will still be hungry which could lead to starvation. You can also over feed and this is very dangerous. If the excess amount of food comes back from the crop, hence it is too full, it can end up in the throat then in the windpipe and block the air flow which can have dire effects. You may be better off slightly under feeding rather than over feeding.
Preparing the Formula
This will be described on the packet. Generally you take a spoon of formula and slowly add boiling water and mix it well. Make sure that you use boiling water and not hot water from the tap, you want to have bacteria free water and food. Mix it well to remove any lumps that may still be visible. The consistency depends on how old the babies are. Adjust the consistency by adding more or less water. The younger the baby the more on the runny side as opposed to the older and more thick a mix. Before feeding make sure that you test the temperature, it must be warm but never hot. Cockatiels have very sensitive tongues and mouths and at such a young age you can severely harm your bird. Try to only mix enough for what you require as you should not reheat and reuse the mix.
How to Hand Feed
You will need to get set up before removing the baby from the nest or brooder. We take a clean tea towel and wrap it around a hot water bottle. Boil the kettle and pour some water into a cup. Place in your spoons and syringes so as to kill off any bacteria. Make a small amount of formula ready for feeding. The consistency will depend on the age of the baby cockatiel. Draw some of the food into the syringe. Get the baby out and gently hold it on the water bottle in one hand keeping it balanced and having it’s head up.
Test the temperature of the food and then gently allow the food to enter the cockatiels mouth. Do not force the syringe into the mouth and be careful not to squeeze in too much at once. Most of the time the babies will be sounding out for food and moving their heads up high with the mouth wide open (gaping). If this is not the case you will have to entice it to eat. Do this by gently tapping the beak with the syringe until it opens up for a feed. Use a separate syringe for each of your birds just incase one of them has an underlying sickness that can be easily transferred to the other cockatiels.
It is possible that some cockatiels actually stop showing interest in eating when the crop is full. If that is the case then lucky you. Many wont and will keep screaming for food, if you are feeding well, watch carefully that the food actually keeps entering the oesophagus and does not backup in the mouth. Always allow your birds to swallow at a gentle pace. When you are convinced that enough food has been administered check the crop and make a note of the time and weight of your bird on your tracking chart.
You should notice that they are growing in weight each day. Clean off any residue of food from the beak and skin of the baby cockatiel, use a soft tissue with warm water to help. Now return your baby cockatiel to the nest or brooder. Remember to clean up immediately and keep all the utensils in one place. Discard any left over food, always prepare fresh each time you feed. Never reheat used baby formula.
When to Stop Feeding Baby Cockatiels
At around 6 to 8 weeks they would probably fly out from the nest, this is the time to cut back on the formula mix. Introduce a good healthy selection of fresh fruit and vegetables along with the seeds, calcium, and honey bars. Eventually they will forget about the formula as everything else is so tasty to them…
Feeding Baby Cockatiels Week by Week
New born to 1 week; This is the hardest time to feed. The first 12 hours of life it is normally not fed. The parents just keep it warm and watch over it. After that they should be fed every 2 hours around the clock.
1 week to 2 weeks; At this age they then need feeding every 2 hours around the clock.
From 2 weeks old; Now they are fed every 3 hours around the clock.
3 weeks to 4; Every 4 hours, and between midnight and 6am they might not need to be fed. (your time to sleep). 6 & 9am – 12 & 3pm – 6 & 9pm – and 12pm.
4 to 5 weeks; Every 5 hours from 6am till midnight.
5 weeks to 6 ; Three or four times a day.
6 weeks and onwards; till they leave the nest three times a day.
Good luck and please don’t hesitate to ask for help.