Weaning Baby Birds: Not For the Inexperienced

Photo by Daniel Kuykendall Location: Moah, UT Pictured: Sun conures "Phoebe" & "Detka"

I’ve been thrilled to have my baby girls back; Lily, Phoebe and Detka. However, the first two nights with them I literally had my own set of ‘night frights’. I literally went to bed worried about them, and woke up worrying about them and thought about them all day long - worried. They were still on one hand feeding when they came from Florida by plane and they had had two hand feedings that day to make it smoother and less stressful which they happily accepted.  The breeder was just as cautious and included tons of food inside their cage including fresh veggies and pellets, extra pellets on top and probiotics plus plenty of toys she knew they would love.  The airline cargo area closed at midnight, and their flight arrived at 11:55pm, we got there at 11:20pm. Paranoid much? Why yes. As soon as they carried them over to us outside I scooped up the carrier and rushed it in the warm truck with the heat on high so they wouldn’t catch a chill - my new worst nightmare with them after everything that had happened.  

Photo by Dave Womach Location: Moab, UT : Sun conure "Detka"

They were in good spirits and were immediately ready to hang out, I was shocked I could tell them apart after all the time apart. That night in the RV I pestered Dave with, “Is it too cold for them? Do we have the heat lamp? Do we need to turn up the heater? It’s too cold, it needs to be warmer.” needless to say, we both sweated our asses off. We woke up so over heated that it was miserable. I woke up in a panic, still pretty much asleep and pushed Dave saying, “It’s too hot! It’s too hot for them!” so he got up to turn the heater down.   I woke up a couple hours later no longer feeling the flames and exclaimed, “It’s too cold for them! It’s too cold!” back on the heater came.   Apparently I did this all night and Dave just started ignoring me realizing I was still asleep and having nightmares about the girls temperature. I couldn’t sleep well for the two days it took for them to wean onto real food. I was weighing them 3x a day and reporting back to the breeder with text messages. “They just had the stress from the trip there, it’s likely they won’t hand feed and will lose a little weight, it’s nothing to worry about. They’re strong and healthy and have been flying a lot over here.” she told me, which I knew but I still worried.  

Photo by Dave Womach Location: Moab, UT Picking the girls up from the airport: Sun Conures "Deka", "Phoebe" & "Lily"

Once they weaned, the nightmares and constant talking my sleep with panic stopped. Thank God. I’m sure Dave is grateful, too.   I just got a message from a bird friend saying their friend is having a hard time weaning their blue and gold macaw who is one year old and still on formula. Talk about difficult. It just makes you realize how weaning baby birds is not for the inexperienced and just because you’ve weaned one or two or three or four, doesn’t mean you’re going to have it easy with the next one.   It’s one of the scariest things in the world to me to be watching a baby bird who is trying to wean lose weight and not know what to do and not have the skills to do what is necessary (tube feed, know immediately what meds or probiotics will help you along or know how much is normal and how much is abnormal)   If you’re going to be weaning a baby bird, my advice would be to stick close to your breeder and those more experienced and give them daily updates, weigh your bird and offer a variety of fresh food plus organic pellets.  

Photo by Dave Womach Location: Moab, UT In flight: Sun Conures "Detka" & "Phoebe"

A guy named Paulie gave the advice of not trying to give your bird pellets until he tastes one he likes but to choose the pellet you want to use and give that and wean your bird onto it - they won’t know others exist if you don’t introduce them. My advice with pellets is ALWAYS organic. Our Organic Life Enhancing Parrot Pellets are the perfect pellets to wean your baby bird onto.  Always weigh your bird and always look back at your charts. That’s one mistake I made was comparing a week’s worth of weights taken instead of all 3 weeks worth I had been taking. Really look back to see and you will begin to memorize where your bird should be at and be able to know right away without even looking at your scale. It’s always good to chart it and it’s best to take your bird’s weight every day whether it’s a baby bird or adult bird. It’s the fastest way to spot illness or the signs that something isn’t right.  

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

1 comment

Nikki Arko

It is not uncommon for Macaws to take a year to wean. Weaning is as scary for a baby bird as it is for their owners. Everything is new and scary for them. It takes patience and time to do it correctly, Jamieleigh is 100% right about that! And as she stated, weighing is very important. Weight is the number one indicator about the growth and health of your birds. Before you undertake hand feeding any bird you should spend time with an experienced bird breeder first. If you have any worries, buy a weaned bird instead.

Nikki Arko

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