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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Buying unweaned birds from a breeder, petstore, can be very dangerous. It is a wivestale that birds will bond better to you if you handfeed them. This is very dangerous to do if you have no experience in handfeeding. Handfeeding is best left up to people who know how!

Handfeeding is dangerous. Handfeeding is not just filling the crop of the baby and expecting nothing bad to happen. Accidents easily happen even to experts.

Even if the petstore tells you that the bird is weaned and eating on its own, and they tell you it is a young baby still in pin feathers, it is NOT weaned. A fully weaned cockatiel is around 8-10 weeks, some as long as 12 weeks! So ask the petstore or breeder the bird's age. If they tell you any age younger than 8 weeks, this bird is not weaned, and it is best to shop elsewhere. A good breeder will not sell baby birds unweaned! If they tell you the bird is fine at that age and continue to try to sell the bird, it is still not advisable to buy the bird. If you do not know how to handfeed, you are not doing any good for the baby bird.

Many things can go wrong with handfeeding. Mistakes can cause the bird to die or suffer horribly.

What can go wrong with handfeeding:

1. Crop burn. Formula should be fed at 104-106 degrees Ferenheit. Formula should not be microwaved. It should be heated up by hot water and when made, it should be kept in a cup placed inside hot water to maintain an even temperature. Microwaved formula can have "hot spots", which are hot pockets hidden inside the formula which may not be detected by the thermometer. If this happens, these hot spots can burn the baby's crop. This can cause infection and cause the bird to die. Formula is not the only cause of crop burn. Contact with heating pads can also scald the outside of the crop. When using a heating pad make sure there is plenty of bedding or padding to prevent the baby from pressing against it.This shows what crop burn looks like: http://tinyurl.com/7uyhe2t

2. Aspiration. Aspiration is when food goes into the respiratory system. Birds have two different tubes in the back of the throat. If you put the formula down the wrong tube, you could very well put food into the birds lungs, and if this doesn't kill the bird instantly, it will cause pneumonia or other infections and cause the bird to die. Aspiration is essentially drowning the bird with food. It is very easy to aspirate a baby bird.

3. Injury to beak and throat. If you are not careful with a baby bird, you can easily cause injury to the bird's beak. This can result in a lifelong deformity of the beak and this will need to be maintained it's whole life. In some cases, some birds will need to be euthanized because of the suffering they can go through. Also, with some babies, they are very enthusiastic about feeding and bob their heads. If they are too enthusiastic, their head bobbing can cause the syringe to puncture the throat or crop. This can cause infection and the bird can potentially die.

4. Bacterial infections. If you do not clean and disinfect the syringe after every feeding, bacteria can grow in the syringe and cause bacterial infections in your baby. Proper hygeine is very important for handfeeding. Formula should never be reused. Formula should be made for each feeding and any leftovers should be thrown out. Letting formula sit allows it to grow bacteria, even after a few hours in the fridge. Feeding this to your baby can cause yeast infections and bacterial infections. This can kill your baby without treatment.

5. Sour crop/slow crop. Feeding your baby the right amount and the right consistency for its age is VERY important. Feeding formula too thick can cause slow crop or sour crop. Same with feeding formula too cold. What happens is the bird cannot digest the formula properly and just sits in the crop and becomes rancid. If left untreated, your baby will die from malnutrition and/or infection. This album shows what can go wrong in the nest and with a baby, and also shows examples of slow/sour crop: http://tinyurl.com/Babies-in-Trouble

6. Malnutrition. Feeding formula too thin, or not the right amount of feedings, your baby can be malnurished. If the formula is too thin, the bird will not absorb the right amount of nutrients from the formula and this can cause deficiencies and some defects from these deficiencies. You can check the keelbone to see if the baby is maintaining weight: http://tinyurl.com/Checking-the-Keelbone

7. Overfeeding. Over feeding a bird can cause the birds crop to stretch. This can lead to problems such as overstretched crop/sour crop and obstructions. It is very important to know how much formula per feeding is right.



Never force wean a baby bird. Force weaning causes many behavioural problems in birds, and many of them last for life. Force weaning is when a bird is forced to eat only adult foods, and formula is suddenly not offered to the bird. This can cause stress which can cause secondary problems such as yeast infections or bacterial infections. It also causes psychological damage to the bird. This can cause picky eaters and other problems psychologically. A bird should be weaned at its own pace, not at the owner's pace, even if this means the bird will not wean until 12 weeks old. Some birds take longer to wean than others. Knowing how to properly wean is very important. NEVER completely stop handfeeding abrubtly! Gradually decrease the feedings as the bird gets older. Always feed according to age and weight!

What to do if you already bought an unweaned bird:

So you already bought a baby bird unweaned, whether you know or ended up with the baby accidentally. Or, in many cases, the bird was weaned at the store/breeder but suddenly the baby is begging for food. This can happen and it is called "regressing". Regressing can happen with a change of environment. The stress from bringing the baby home can cause the bird to regress and this bird will need to be handfed again. If a bird appears to be eating but is losing weight or is not eating enough, the bird still needs to be handfed and can slowly starve to death.

So what do you do?

First, you bring the bird back to the store/breeder if you can to finish weaning. It is very important the bird weans, because they can slowly starve to death.

If the breeder or store will not take the bird back for a little while to wean it, you have to do the next best thing--go to the avian vet or another local breeder in the area and be taught how to handfeed. You will need to be shown how to do it properly to avoid the dangers listed above. You will need to have all of the proper equipment.

If these steps are not taken, please do extensive research on HOW to handfeed and watch videos as a last resort only. If nothing is done, your bird can starve to death or have other problems throughout its life.

How do you know if your baby regressed or is unweaned?

Regression

If your bird is 8 weeks and older and was completely weaned and you brought it home and suddenly you have a bird bobbing its head, begging with a sound that sounds like radio/TV static and refusing to eat on its own, your bird has regressed and may need to be handfed or at least supplement fed. Supplementing a feeding is giving a feeding or two for comfort as the bird felt comfort from being handfed and feels insecure in its new environment.


Unweaned

When you go to the breeder/store, and you ask the age, if they tell you any age younger than 8 weeks, the bird is likely not weaned despite what they may say. Do not buy the bird. If you really want that particular bird, you could ask them to hold it for you until it is done being weaned.

Look at the bird. Look at its plumage. Is it fully feathered or is it full of pin feathers? If the bird is covered in pins, it is not even close to weaning age. Note, some birds have their feathers plucked by some parents. If this is the case, look at the tail and wing feathers. These feathers are usually intact. If they are fully grown in and do not look short or stunted, the bird is likely older despite the pins. If you see that the flight feathers are short and stunted and do not look normal, your bird is younger than 8 weeks, and likely not weaned.

Look at how the bird stands. Is the bird standing upright on its feet, or is it sitting lower, with its ankles touching the perch? If the bird is crouched on the perch with ankles/legs touching the perch, the bird is young and too young to be weaned.

Look at how the bird behaves. Does the bird bob its head and screech sounding like static? These are tell tale signs that the bird may not be weaned.

So, whether you bought the bird knowing it was unweaned or unknowingly, or your bird has regressed, we hope you will follow the advice given, and become aware of the problems that can arise with handfeeding.


Sources/further reading:

www.talkcockatiels.com many threads on here from people posting of personal experiences and other very helpful members helping them. Just search old threads for unweaned cockatiels, and you can see some of the help offered and what was done, so if you are in the same boat, you can also see what you can do.

http://www.petstoreabuse.com/unweaned.html

http://www.loveyourparrot.com/handfeeding.html

http://prettybirds.net/Buyingunweaned.htm

http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww7eii.htm

Also see-- Aspiration Scare:

http://www.talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=19342

Handfeeding Chart

http://www.talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=18189

From Egg to Weaning (for photo reference for cockatiel age)

http://www.talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=5855
 

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Hnadfeeding can be pleasurable. Take your time. Sometimes handfeeders will look for easier ways to handfeed....such as tube feeding or gavage feeding to speed things up and save time. If they are not properly shown or use the wrong materials serious problems could occur.....such as the photos below (click for a larger view)

The last pix shows the most dangerous syringe to use. The reason why is because with the long tip if the baby bobs too hard and it goes into the throat it can go right thru the thoat and out the birds, or the tip can slash an artery. If the tip is cut there are ragged sharp edges that can do serious damamage.

In the next posting I will show the various styles of syringes, etc. that are commonly used for handfeeding.
 

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Below are pix's of feeding utensils (syringes, spoon) commonly used to handfeed. Click on a pix for a larger view.
 

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I'd like to address a couple points in the article, such as bacterial infections. Not only do you have to keep the feeding utencils clean but other things can contribute to bacterial and yeast problems. Some of these things are the temperature of the envirnoment. If the baby is not fully feathered the temps need to be higher....such as around 98 degrees. When a baby is cold it has to use it's body researves to keep warm. Also the crop will chill and the chilled food in the crop against the body will further cause the use of body reserves. This is stress to the body. When the little one is stressed from chilling the normal bacteria and yeast levels in the body rise and cause what is known as secondary yeast and bacterial infections. (If not recognized and corrected this can be fatal.

Many times if there is a yeast problem the bedding will have a sour, vinegary smell. Yeast is the #1 killer of handfed babies. Here is an old article of mine about yeast: http://tinyurl.com/7qqfhho

The same principles apply to bacterial infections, and if not treated and the bacteria gets into the bloodstream septicemia is the result. Keep an watch on the shape and color of the eye when the baby gets sick. The eyes should be bright, and round. If the shape changes this can be a signal that something is going on. If the pupil of the eye looks reflective like the pic below (click for a larger view) then the bird has septicemia from a severe bacterial infection and does not have long to live. Aggressive vet treatment is needed such as an injectable broad-spectrum antibiotic and Sub-Q fluid therapy to increase the fluid volume of the blood t and to also carry the injectable med. into the tissues affected.
 

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Overfeeeding is also another common mistake that novice (and experienced handfeeders) can do, which overtime can have some very negative affects to the body/system. Short term it can contribute to: over-stretched crop, sour/slow crop to organ failure. Long term it contributes to future liver problems.

Formula is design to have the right nutrient density for a growing baby. Rule of thumb is to feed 10% of body weight. In order to do this it would be good to have a scales that weighs in grams. Weigh the bird when the crop is empty, for example if the bird weighs 70 grams you would feed 7cc of formula. When you feed in excess of this what is happening is many of the good vitamins and nutrients can get stored in the body. They accumulate in the fatty stores of the body. If too much build up then this contributes to a toxicity to the organs and can cause organ failure at the extreme to reduced movement of food thru the digestive tract which leads to slow crop.

I'd is hard to resist a cockatiels begging for more food after you feed it, but have retraint! Also, when the food empties the crop it will take a few minutes for the food to travel to the intestines, where nutrient absorption happens and signals the brain that the baby has been fed. So even though the baby is begging after being fed, stick to the 10% feeding rule, and allow time for the food to digest and the baby will settle down.

If you have a baby that is constantly crying all the time this could be a signal to a problem. It could be as simple as the formula not thick enough to provide enough nutrients.....to a health issue If a brand of formula does not seem to satify a baby try another brand. The formula should be the thickness of babyfood applesauce. health issues can be a slight yeast or bacterial infection starting to an intestinal protozoa, such as giardia. When unsure of the problem it is best to seek a vet and have a gram stain done, which the vet can see the levels of yeast and bacteria and if there is too much. Here is info on what a gram stain is: http://justcockatiels.weebly.com/gram-stains.html
 

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LOL...I got my experience the hard way, of many losses, so my bird have taught me and wanted the info passed along to help others not make the same mistakes.

And to those that get defensive when someone comments on their purchase of an unweaned bird: Many of the posters on the forum are experienced and learned the hard way and they only have the birds best interests in mind. Human feelings can sometimes come across secondary over the internet in favor of a birds life. If you do get defensive ask yourself why and rather than have hurt feelings listen and do whatever you can with your best interest towards the bird.
 
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