Hand Rearing 101 – Things To Consider

Age

The baby’s age makes a significant difference to the approach you need to take when hand-rearing.
Neonates (newly hatched from the egg) require more regular feeds, and temperature control is absolutely
critical for these guys. A small mistake that you may get away with in an older baby, is very likely to kill
a neonate. If you are not confident, experienced and well supplied with the essentials for neonatal hand
rearing – it’s best not to go there. Start with an older baby and get the basics right first.

Species

The species of bird you choose is very important. All baby birds require care, but there are certain species that
are much harder to hand raise. Do as much research as possible on the bird that interests you before making the
decision to take on the job. Think about the time involved, the duration of the raising process and what you will
need to give up in this period of time. If you have any doubts, take a few steps back and ask the same questions
again with an easier species of bird.

Food

The fuel for life, from vitamins to amino acids – everything your baby needs to develop organs, tissues,
bones and feathers must be included in their formula. DO NOT skimp on the food for your baby. This is
such an important stage of your baby’s life, so make sure you do your research. Be confident that whichever
brand or formula you decide to use has been manufactured by a reputable company that uses quality
ingredients, techniques and scientific research when developing their foods – such as Vetafarm’s premium
hand-rearing product Neocare.

A few of the essentials

Scales

Recording the weight of the baby is invaluable in identifying how your baby is progressing. We highly
recommend you invest in a decent set of scales. Babies should be weighed when the hand rearing
process begins. It is normal for a baby to lose a small amount of weight in the first 24-48 hours as the bird
adjusts to its new diet and surroundings. From there, weighing your baby before the very first feed of the
day when the crop is empty is the best way of getting an accurate read on how your baby is progressing.
Record the weight daily and soon you will see a growth pattern emerge. Weighing your baby daily is a great way of detecting a problem early and tending to it before it escalates into a life threatening issue. If you notice your bird’s weight gains are slow, stop or go backwards, you need to start looking for reasons why.

Brooder

Correct humidity levels and temperatures are crucial for neonates. Without the ability to regulate their
own body temperature and humidity in their environment, babies are dependent on the parent – which,
in this case, means you! To achieve this, you must have a good quality brooder.
The correct brooder temperature is usually between 35-38°C, but does depend on the age and species of
the baby in question. If the temperature is below 30°C, your baby will struggle to stay warm, digest food
and grow. Below 20°C, death is the most likely outcome. High temperatures can be equally as dangerous, causing dehydration, heat stress and the eventual death of your baby.

The other factor to consider in the brooder is humidity. A parrot’s natural nest is very warm, but is also very
humid. If your brooder is hot and dry, your baby can quickly dehydrate. Ideally we want to replicate the
natural environment. The ideal humidity for most species is between 70-80%. Along with a thermostat,
humidity control should be a standard feature of any quality brooder.

Feeding Equipment

With a variety of different feeding utensils available, there is no right or wrong choice. There are only a few
key things to keep in mind when choosing. The utensil must be easy, practical and safe.
Crop needles require some know-how and experience to be used safely and correctly. Feeding syringes
and spoons are easy to use, but quite messy and slow.

Vetafarm’s own creation of the Ezy Feeder offers the advantages of using a syringe with the simplicity of
the spoon. The Ezy Feeder allows for accurate, low mess feeding and the ability to keep food warm for
the duration of the feed. It’s a great compromise for those that don’t have the technical expertise required
to handle a crop needle. Hygiene is also very important. Be sure to clean all equipment between feeds
and always discard any left-over formula.

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