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Question:

October 12, 2020

My 7 week old cockatiel still wants to be handfed 4 times a day


He was already on 3 hand feedings at 5 weeks, but it seems he has regressed. He now cries for formula 4 times a day, every 3 hours. I give him about 8ml of thick-ish formula each feeding.

I’m sure he is capable of eating moistened pellets I have seen him. Also he can open seeds on his own. He sometimes eats millet, but will refuse it ones he starts crying. He is in a large flight cage and weighs between 87-91g in the morning.


Answer:

Hi Alex,

It’s OK for him to not be weaned yet. Some cockatiels will regress a bit, and this can be normal. But you need to be aware of his overall health as far as activity, self feeding, droppings. If you feel like he is off even a little, you might go ahead and take him to an Avian Vet to make sure he hasn’t developed a bacterial or yeast infection, which are common in handfeeding chicks. A yeast infection especially can cause excessive begging and crying, but also the food doesn’t digest as quickly.

If he is digesting well and overall robust, then he may be overwhelmed with the big cage. A young bird does better in a starter cage. Something smaller, which is good to have on hand anyway in case you need to take him somewhere, or board him or if he ever gets sick. I’m not sure how large your cage is, but when you say flight cage, it makes me feel like it is too large for him. He may feel too exposed and at 7 weeks, he isn’t fully developed physically so flying is a huge effort for him. It’s a big change to go from a nestbox or brooder to a big flight cage. I always recommend using a starter cage until the bird is fully weaned, and then slowly introduce him to the large cage. You can place the smaller cage in the flight cage if it is that big, and let him come and go from the small cage until he is comfortable with the larger space.

As for weaning, I do not like to force wean a bird. I recommend the abundance weaning method. For this, you will end up wasting a lot of food, but it will wean your baby in a way that is physically and emotionally beneficial. First thing in the morning, before you hand feed him, give him several types of food to try – warm soft food like cooked brown rice with mixed veggies, soaked and dry pellets, foraging foods like our Nutri-Berries and of course fresh water. Leave him with these foods for about an hour, and go where he can’t see or hear you. He needs to focus on the foods and not on begging. If things get quiet, then he is probably exploring the foods – set up a web cam to spy on him! You can even put a small dish of thick, warm formula for him to try on his own. After an hour, prepare his formula and feed him. Leave the foods in his cage during the day – refresh anything that might spoil after a few hours like the formula, soaked pellets, or soft foods. And basically repeat this daily until he is eating on his own and finally rejects the formula. In the wild, the parents would take weeks or longer to fully wean him while teaching him to find food. Many captive raised birds are forced to wean much too early so that they can be sold, especially since it is illegal to sell handfeeding chicks in some States.

Here is a link to our bird food guide to give you some more ideas.

Bird Food Guide

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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