Handfeeding Do's And Don'ts
By Renee Riley

First of all, handfeeding should always be left to the experts. A novice should never attempt handfeeding a baby bird without the expert advice and guidance of someone who is experienced in hand-rearing baby birds.
The problem is that sometimes, even when you don't plan on handfeeding, unpreventable circumstances can occur and so the novice owner must handfeed the baby in order for it to survive. If this happens, my first bit of advice would be to try to find someone local who does know about handfeeding and who can guide you in the proper way to administer food to a baby bird.
There are a number of things which can go wrong with handfeeding and there are way s of preventing these things from occurring, so my advice this month is how to prevent or avoid some of these things from happening when you are a handfeeder.

Sour Crop:
Sour Crop gets its name because of the smell that often accompanies the hardening of food in the crop of a baby bird. It is characterized by a hard blob of food in the crop which doesn't disappear and is not absorbed into the bird's system with time. Often, a sour smell can be present. There are ways to avoid this from happening.
Don't feed thick food to the bird. You can feed food which is mobile, meaning it will pour out of a teaspoon if the spoon is turned sideways.
Don't feed food that has sat at all. Fill the cup up with food and then feed it to the bird as soon as possible. Letting food sit more than 15 minutes can cause it to sour, and is one of the major causes of Sour Crop.
Don't feed old food to the bird. If your food has expired or if it smells "funny", do not feed it to your bird.
Do not feed cold or cool food to a baby bird. The food should be warm.
Do not overfeed. Overfeeding is a major cause of this. You should always wait until the crop has emptied entirely before the next feeding of a baby bird. Feeding when there is still food in a crop can cause Sour Crop.
acrylic bird cages

acrylic bird cages

Crop Infections:
Crop infections can stem from bacterias which form in the crop. These can be birthed into the baby from its parents or they can be formed from feeding bad baby food to it. Feeding old food or food which is not sterile can cause Ecolli, and other harmful bacterias to form in a crop. Always feed food which is not stale.Do not lick the syringe, and do not feed out of anything that has been in your mouth. Your mouth contains some really gross bacteria.

Crop Burn:
Burning a bird's crop isn't hard to do. If you use a microwave to sterilize your water prior to use, you could overheat the water and then feed it to a baby bird without knowing how hot it is, causing a burn which goes from the inside of the crop to the outside of the crop.
Prevention is simple. Don't overheat the water. Test it on yourself before you feed it to a baby bird. Crop Burn can be agonizing and can lead to death . It is a horrible way to go. Use a thermometer or just take the time to test the water before feeding and you shouldn't have to deal with this.

Aspiration:
Aspiration can occur very easily. This is the one most common cause of baby bird death caused by human handfeeders.
Don't overfeed the bird. If the crop is semi-firm, it is firm enough. There is NO need to overstuff a baby bird. This can cause the food to expel into the throat, causing the bird to suffocate on its own food.
Don't feed food fast. Let the bird swallow it at its own pace. Don't hurry. Take your time. Choking is a horrible way to die and sometimes it takes hours.

The Do's:
Feed the bird on a schedule. You are less likely to forget a feeding if the times are scheduled, IE: 6:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m..
Hold and pet the baby bird while feeding and take time to touch it all over. This will rear you a tamer bird. Throwing it in and just letting it sit there alone is not going to help it bond to humans.
Talk to it while you feed it. They rely on the voice and this helps them feel better.
Check the baby frequently. Checking on it frequently lets it take assurance in its human mother that it is wanted and loved.
Put a friend in the brooder with it. I give mine a stuffed animal resembling a parrot and they are very comfortable with this stuffed bird friend.

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