How to Feed and Raise a Baby Bird
Have you found a wild baby bird?
In Spring and Fall each year baby birds are 'found' by well meaning folks. Most the time the baby bird was simply learning to fly, and mom is nearby, but there are instances where the bird has been lost or abandoned, and those with extra big hearts feel the need to attempt care themselves. Below you will find in depth instructions for housing and feeding a baby bird.
*The bird pictured in this article as well as in the videos below are of the same White Winged Dove, rescued from certain death and rehabilitated.
How to Raise and Feed a Baby Bird
In this example, we use a Baby Dove
First and foremost the professionals with tell you not to interfere with nature and if you do, that you need to contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center instead of attempting care yourself. (Visit wildliferehabber.org to locate your local office.)
Secondly, this requires you have a good heart and caring nature, and any experience with babies or baby animals is a plus; for you and the baby.
Thirdly, in most states it is illegal to have certain wild species of dove in your possession (dead or alive) without a license (but also note that several species are sold in pet shops).
Lastly, if the baby has any feathers whatsoever, it will be very difficult to begin feeding, as at this stage, it is already used to receiving mother bird's milk from her crop.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's discuss what you will need and how you can assist Mother Nature in this little one's progress.
Items You Will Need
* Box - small to medium
* Paper towels
* Heating pad- optional
* Heat Lamp (a regular light bulb will work,but not an energy saver bulb)
- OR -
* Baby Rice Cereal
* Finch seed - it is a very small seed
* Medicine dropper (very tip trimmed off) - easily obtainable from your local
pharmacy (measured in cc's or ml's)
* 2 small to medium plastic cups
* Good tap water or bottled water
* Notepad to track feedings
* Good Observations
The baby rice cereal, cornmeal and finch seed formula here will work for any bird that is mostly a seed eater. If you have a bird that is primarily an insect and/or worm eater, such as a Mockingbird, you will want to add mushed up worms to the formula. has formula for all types of baby birds, and you can substitute it here, in place of the suggested formula. Kaytee exact
Steps to House Your Baby Bird
Ensure that the baby will have a warm dry place to sleep. Take a small to medium box and pack with waded paper towels. The top level paper towels can be molded into a nest shape to keep your baby secure. This is also your baby's diaper and can be changed out as necessary; usually every day or so, in the beginning. You will also use this 'diaper' to observe the baby's urine and feces. *Always be sure there is a 'white' substance included in the poop; this is a sign that everything is okay.
Find a good location to place the baby's new home, preferably in a quiet corner. Keep baby's new home away from any drafts; such as fans or air conditioner vents. Kitchens do not make a good place for the baby. *Also note that Teflon nonstick pans are hazardous to any bird's health as they put off a fume that is deathly toxic to the bird's lungs.
Place heat lamp next to baby so that baby is kept warm. You can also place a heating pad in the bottom, or under, the box if you cannot get the lamp close enough for the warmth to reach the baby. Use your hand as a guide as to the warmth level of the heat coming off the lamp. Also check on the baby a few times a day to see if he or she seems to be hiding from the light; this could signify that it's too hot. You do not want baby to get too hot or dehydrate, so adjust the light as necessary. You may also want to place a thin blanket across part of the top of the box so that if it is too hot, the baby has a place to retreat too.
Steps to Feed Your Baby Bird
Decide on a regular place to feed your baby. This should be a table or desk that you can comfortably sit and place baby and the food on while you feed. You will feed baby here and then place him/her back into her box. Babies can get cold easily, so please turn off any fans or air conditioners, or close any windows during feeding time. *Right after feeding you can gently hold your baby in your hand and close to your chest to warm him/her.
Now we are ready to prepare the formula (or use Kaytee Exact Baby Bird Formula). This is easiest next to a sink. You will need the cornmeal, baby rice cereal, and the finch seed. (Keep some cornmeal and some finch seed in a re-sealable plastic bag for convenience.) The measurements for this are approximate as you can adjust as easiest for you. Put approximately Â¼ cup cornmeal, and Â¼ cup baby rice cereal, and much less than a teaspoon of the finch seed into plastic cup. Turn your faucet on and get it to a temperature that is warm to your finger but not hot; a little bit warmer than lukewarm (you want the temperature to imitate that of the mother's milk that would form in her crop). Now this part is a bit tricky at first. You will want to put a teaspoon at a time into the dry mix. Stir with the medicine dropper. Keep adding water until you are able to suck it up in the dropper and squirt it out. The consistency you want is pudding like.
Place all feeding supplies on your table. You will need the cup of formula, the dropper, two paper towels, and a cup Â½ full of water. Place one paper towel on the table for the baby to stand on, and one nearby to dry your hand.
Carefully remove baby from his nesting box. Speak to him gently to console and reassure him/her. Carry him close to your chest to keep him warm and secure. Place him/her on the paper towel.
Below is a chart to give you an idea of how much your baby will need. You will need an idea of how old your baby is. So in the chart below find the age of you baby and note how many cc's you will need to feed your baby, this is important because baby doesn't know when to stop. *CC's and ml's are equal; 1cc equals 1ml.
2-3 weeks 4-5 cc's 4 times a day
3-4weeks 5-7 cc's 4 times
4-6weeks 7-12 cc's 4 to 3 times as you get closer to the 6 week mark
6-9 weeks 12-15 cc's you are down to about 2 1/2 feedings a day and things change quickly at this point because of the weaning. *Feces and urine may have changes in texture and color
Time to feed baby! Remember these first times are a learning experience for not only you, but baby too. Use the chart for the proper feeding amount, and dispose of all leftover food. To begin feeding, you will want to place one hand slightly over and around the baby, with two fingers around his/her head. Fingers should just be touching the beak, this should cause baby to have a natural reaction to 'chug' and his/her beak should open (never force the beak open). Chugging is when the baby bird opens wide and bobbles its head up and down to quickly take in the food. When the baby is in chugging mode his airway is closed properly and there is little chance of aspiration; at this time then you can 'squirt' the food in a little at a time.
*Do not force open beak and force the food in as baby could aspirate.
**Do not OVER FEED baby, when baby's crop is full you will still be able to see his/her neck. The crop should not bulge out above what you would perceive as the shoulder area. Feel the crop area gently it should feel a bit like a balloon.
***See resources below for clickable link to a video feeding a baby white winged dove several weeks old
Feeding time can get a bit messy. Cleanliness of baby is very important. To minimize things, use the Â½ full cup of water to clean your hand(s) and to get your fingers a bit wet to clean off baby's beak and crop. Don't rub him hard, be gentle. You can lightly, ever so lightly, pat him/her dry with a papertowel and then place baby in the palm of your hand to warm him/her before you place baby back into his/her box home.
Have patience. The first feeding may not go as planned and baby may not intake much food. If this is the case wait an hour and try again. If baby was properly fed, feedings should be 4 times a day at the amount specified.
At around 6 weeks you are ready to begin weaning baby. Again follow the feeding instructions in the chart above. By now you will want to already have baby moved into a cage. To make weaning easy, slowly stop feeding him/her with the chugging process and medicine dropper. Instead, squirt the formula onto your cupped hand and let baby learn to eat this way. This way, baby will learn that he/she needs to take the food in his/herself. Dove's are ground feeders, so remove the bottom of the cage so that the bird may walk on the floor of the cage. Line the floor with paper towels as they do not dry the birds' feet out like a newspaper will. Supply baby with a deep dish (at least two inches deep, doesn't have to be wide) almost full of water. Put finch seed in a shallow tray or dish and show and offer it to him/her once in a while.
You can also give your little friend treats, such as a millet spray (found at pet shops), and fruits and vegetables; finely diced. Packages of grocery store frozen vegetables work great. Peeled peas, carrots, spinach, and pealed fresh grapes are good choices. Remove and/or replace all uneaten food within 3 hours to prevent bacteria or mold growth.
Clean and replace water and seed feed every other day. Fold soiled paper towels up and remove every 3 or 4 days, replace with fresh.
Feeding a Baby Bird Video - Hand feeding a baby bird
Below are videos of feeding a baby dove bird as described in the article above. One is at around 3wks old, and the next video is taken around 6 weeks old.
Items You May need to feed your Baby Bird
Tips for Caring for Your Baby Bird
1. Birds are notorious for poo-ing in their water and food. You can get creative with their feeders and water dishes and use butter dishes as feed containers, and plastic bottles for covers to keep your bird from roosting of top of the water or food containers and poo-ing/urinating in them.
2. Keep water and food dishes clean and free of any feces or urine.
3. When washing water dishes, be sure to use a brush to remove the film that builds up after a few days. Full rinse away all soap used.
4. You will need to wash food dishes if they get contaminated with urine or feces. Be sure to scrub these as well and to remove all soap residues. Wash containers regardless of contamination by urine or feces at least once a week.
5. Research as much as possible about the species of dove you have. Their habits, what they eat, their habitat, etc.
6. Observe your baby.
7. Observe droppings and be sure there is always a white substance in the feces.
8. Once baby is completely weaned you will notice differences in his/her feces. Texture and color change may occur.
Warnings About Raising and Caring for Birds
1. Never force feed your baby.
2. Teflon nonstick pans are hazardous to any bird's health as they put off a fume that is deathly toxic to the bird's lungs.
3. Do not utilize your self cleaning oven with birds in the home; these also have Teflon and will put off toxic fumes.
4. Strong perfume or cologne should not be worn around birds; they have small lungs, what is strong to us, is over powering to their tiny lungs.
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