Handfeeding Chicks Proceedures

Article written by Chris Touchton 

I have been day one-ing Lories (and occasionally other parrot species) since 1990.  I incubator hatch about 98% of my babies at this point.  When you day one it is best to have the formula a little thinner when feeding just hatched chicks, this is only for the first couple of days.  When I say thinner I just mean runny, I dont mean transparent.  I fill the crop as full as it will get and try to add a little more.  When parents feed they stuff the chicks so full, sometimes I dont see how they are sitting up right.  I use Zupreem Embrace Plus handfeeding only (no nectar added).  I feel that it is a more refined (therefore more easily digested by the Lories weak gizzard).  I do not mix nectar in until I am weaning a Lory.  They need protein and some fat when they are developing/growing.  They do not need carbohydrates (energy) until they are weaning.  I also feel that because candidae is a yeast and yeast feeds on sugar there is no good reason to add nectar until weaning when the babies then need energy food.

 

I start handfeeding around 7-8 am.  The ones that are days old should be getting food every two to three hours.  The last feeding of the evening is 10pm.  My theory is the parents upon waking up in the am and leaving the nest have to forage for food then get back and feed chicks.  They can not forage for food before dark or after dark. Most pairs retire for the evening about 15 to 30 minutes before dark (yes there are some that dilly dally up until dark) So I see absolutely no reason to feed through out the night.  Best case scenario is dark around 8.30 to 8.45pm (summer only of course)  crops empty within hours.  No more intake until next am.  IF a chick cannot make it through the whole night with out eating I do not think it should be saved.  There is something wrong with it.  Say you are able to raise it up(by feeding around the clock) to what end?? a substandard chick that will expire prematurely a little down the line from some problem? 

 

I incubate in a Grumbach then when I see them up in the aircell I move them to the brooder.  I keep the day old chicks in a Havabator forced air incubator (the 1583 model with the large window) I keep that incubator (as a hatcher/brooder) at 99 to 100°F (37,2-37,7 °c).  I want the chicks body to be concentrating on growing not trying to keep warm.  Parents bodies are I think 102? (I know over 100) They are in this unit until they are approximately 5 to 7 days old. Keep the brooder with high humidity--simple as a cup of water placed inside.  Their skin will peel if the humidity is too low. Then they are moved into the AVEY brooder.  This unit has two shelves the top shelf is 98°F (36,7°C) and the bottom shelf is 96 to 97°F (35,5-36°C).  The door is left a little ajar on this unit for more air movement which helps with their growth.  Keep the humidity up at this stage too.

 

At 12 to 14 days old I move them out into bins (new bins for every group) that are now housed "open air" on heating pads set on low (no two hour auto shut off heating pads!!!) The ambient air temp is anywhere from 77 to 82°F (25,5-28°C) in this room.  The chicks coat of down comes in much faster after being exposed (no they are not shivering) to the open air. 

 

I use O-Ring Syringes with center or side tips (luer slip) (dont get the screw tips (luer lock) they are not precise enough unless you are attaching a tip) they have a much more smooth fluid disbursement.  The one time use syringes  (monoject types the ones with the black rubber plungers) are lubed with oil. They are meant for one time. Some people use them until they cant move.  I find two things wrong with this first they are lubed with oil.  Where is that oil going? Second you will hit a (dry/tough spot) and the syringe will need extra force to continue the disbursement.  Then all of a sudden it hits a lubed spot and you now get a much larger faster flow going into the chicks mouth/esophagus/trachea potentially aspirating it.  Parrots can not cough anything up out of their lungs (hence the reason they aspirate on food or are candidates for aspirgillious) So the odds of getting anything out of their lungs is quite small.  They only way I have been successfully with aspiration was to get the chick up side down asap. I hold it and sling it hoping gravity will help out(do not let go of course). I know this is going to sound stupid but if they are partially aspirated if you do mouth to beak suction when they are emitting a noise that helps too (suction only on chick's exhale).   I have saved some and have lost some to aspiration over the years (I day one over 200 chicks a year so the odds are that it does happen I hate it.)

 

Feed a just hatched chick just after their first defecation (this one is a very dark green) their body will now draw nutrients from the crop digestive system as opposed to the yolk.  Sometimes if you feed prior to that dark green defecation the yolk can go rancid with in the body.  If the chick was out in the nestbox and you dont know if this has occurred turn the chick up side down and look at the back end if you dont see a black line it has already occurred (fecal matter in the large intestine).  Their skin in the belly/abdomen area is a a bit transparent at this age.

 

To day one a chick hold the chick in your left hand (only if you are right handed of course) on its back (gently securing the head between your thumb and pointer finger) if you have any trouble holding on to the chick, place the chick in a tissue on its back and that will secure it in that position for you while in your hand.  For some reason they prefer to feed on their backs (with me and with the parents) at this age. With the syringe (I use a 1 to 3 cc for day ones then bump up to 5cc on 7 to 16 day olds ending up with 10 cc until weaning)  in your right hand come in from the right (chicks left) angling the tip down and to the left.  Dispense slowly.  If the chick slows down prior to being full or doesnt have a feeding response at the beginning of feeding, squirt out a little of the mix from the syringe into a cup or sink.  That usually gets you down into a little warmer fluid because it looses heat in the tip quite quick.   Like I said earlier you will feed the formula a little thinner.  I mix my cup of food up when feeding as per directions then draw the food into the syringe from the top level of the mixed solution(which tends to be a little thinner). Definitely try and stretch the crop when feeding (by feeding just a little more when you think the bump is just slightly slack) Make the crop tight.  By the time I am weaning most of my Lories (rainbow and eos)are 15 to 20 ccs.  The larger types are taking 20 to 30 ccs.  I find they eat better as adults. 

 

If a chick comes in from the nest cold NEVER feed a chick that is physically cold.  Warm the chick up first then feed.  Do not use food to "warm it up" ever.  You can aspirate a lethargic chick.


By the time they are about two weeks old they start to prefer feeding while they are sitting in an upright position.


 

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