Feeding a baby bird
There are so many things that can go wrong when you try and feed a baby bird. But when that little beak is open and the baby is crying for food it is easy to pop something in their mouth and figure out later that it maybe wasn't the best option. Because it is so very tricky and there are so many things to consider, we've never posted information on feeding. But for those who need to know on a temporary basis, we are providing some general info and precautions. Please read all the info especially the precautions first section before feeding a baby bird.
- feeding a baby when it's not warm enough could be fatal
- feeding him before he is properly hydrated with fluids (not just water) could be fatal
- dropping water in an open beak could cause a baby bird to aspirate (drown)
- a baby could survive on the wrong diet for a while but would not be healthy and strong enough for release
- some babies die from not getting fed often enough or from lack of calcium
- the frequency & duration of feedings is most important - they eat 14 hours a day, daylight to dark (6:00 a.m. to 8:00)
- depending on the age, babies eat either every 15 mins, every 30 mins, or once an hour when being had fed
- the transition to self feeding is also very important
- Do not put the food in a microwave - only warm water to set a small dish of food in the warm water to warm.
- never feed a baby food that has been left out for more than 1/2 hr or cold food.
- never get food on their skin and feathers - if you do once or so, gently wipe it off immediately!
- do not give lightening bugs or other bugs that may be poisonous
- feeding the baby is only part of its needs
If you get in a tiny hatchling or nestling (naked with eyes closed) the steps to take to saving that baby bird is as follows:
- Warm him in your hands as you prepare something to put him in to further warm him (heating pad on low with a cloth other it and a little hand-made nest made out of a diaper or soft cloth to put the baby in). Temp should be 100 degrees and not much warmer or cooler. Babies can't warm their self, they need their parents or you to provide heat...
- Locate the nest or call for help to figure out what type of bird you have and when that species of bird usually nests. Determine if the baby is injured.
- Get someone to bring you some clear Pedialyte and give a drop or two at a time at room temperature on the end of the bill, not in the open mouth to hydrate the baby. Water and sugar water may further dehydrate the baby. If the baby is lively and not too dehydrated (dehydration causes the baby to be weak, wrinkled and lifeless). You can see how dehydrated the baby is by sliding your ring finger under its belly and see if its belly is plump like a water balloon or wrinkled like a raisin. It needs to be nice and plump.
- Determine if the bird is an insectivore. Almost all birds feed their hatchlings insects for the first 48 hours. But if it's a dove or pigeon it's a totally different story. This is the toughest part, trying to determine what type of bird you have... if there is a screaming mommy bird out there... you can pretty much assume it's her baby that has fallen or was dropped and she can't get it back up in the nest.
- Basically if the beak is pointed or if it has a little down on it (not feathers), mostly likely it is an insectivore and will need mill worms and wax worms as a big part of their diet.
- The meal worms must be popped on the head so they are not alive to bite the inside of the baby's stomach.
- A hard boiled egg mashed up to a mush with a little water in it so it's too dry is a nice addition to their diet.
- Dry puppy or kitten food softened with warm water and mashed is another addition to the diet.
- Offer finely cut (almost mashed up) raspberries, peeled grapes and fresh cherries to babies that are feathered
Hummingbirds, woodpeckers, swifts, doves and several other birds have totally different feeding and husbandry needs.
If the bird fell from your chimney, don't even think about trying to feed it..... they are very very difficult and should be put back up in the chimney as soon as possible! See re-nesting section. If you want to drop a little drop of Pedialyte on the end of their beaks just before you put them back up that would be okay, but time is critical for these birds and they need to go back right away.
Doves etc., require special feeding techniques and you will need help. These birds do not open their beaks for food, so call for assistance.
Killdeer and other birds that are tiny but run around calling for food rather than naked and helpless are also difficult, so call if you have one of these guys in and can't get reunited with their parents.