Handfeeding Green Cheeks and other Pyrrhura Conures
by Wanda. These articles are
wonderfully detailed and where I first began reading many years ago.
Another common question I get from others is how to handfeed a Green Cheek. Many people will say that they have fed other birds, but not a Green cheek and what should they do differently. I find them very easy and fun to feed and very like other species of smaller birds. Cooking for me is done without recipies and destinations are reached without a map. Does that tell you how hard headed of a woman I am? But, we are well fed and only lost some of the time...and our babies grow up to be healthy, happy birds.
When we began handfeeding baby birds, we started with Cockatiels and Lovebirds. My curiosity started working on me and thoughts of seeing a Sun Conure feather out were in my mind. My bird "mentor" warned me that if I was going to add parrot pairs, I needed to clean house first. By this, she meant that I needed to either sell all of my Tiels and Lovebirds or to disease test them all. This is because these 2 species, along with Budgies, are the ones most likely to carry the parrot diseases. Regretfully, I started selling them all. After disinfecting the aviaries, I started adding Conures.
And, they have been prolific! I am going to talk specifically about Green Cheeks in this article. Our Green Cheeks are raised outdoors and almost always start laying in January. They incubate their eggs for about 23 days and then, they start hatching. I believe in leaving the babies with parents as long as possible for proper socialization and to get as much as possible nutritionally from them. However, some parents chew off legs or throw out legs when a foreign object appears. (the band) So if you are going to band, you need to be careful that the babies don't get too big to get the band on. I always toss a few bands in the nest box a few days before I band so that I can let the parents get used to seeing a band in there. Even though it is just a loose band, I hope to desensitize the parents....maybe it is only superstitious of me. When the oldest baby is about 18 days old, we pull it inside. Banding them is the first thing we do, along with carefully looking the baby over to make sure there are no problems. Green Cheeks are banded with the large Cockatiel sized bands from L & M Bands. Click here to see a video of us banding a Green Cheek. I have always picked our babies out of their nest boxes in the evening and put them into the brooders to make sure their crops are empty by morning. The crop should be empty in the morning. I would not feed formula if the crop was not empty. It is critical to me that the crop is emptied out every morning. If it not, I start right away adding Papaya to the baby or Prozyme. Green cheeks do not have this problem as often as we had it years ago when we were feeding cockatiels.
With the majority of our pairs, we have been able to pick up one baby at a time to handfeed while leaving the remainder of the clutch in the box for mom and dad.
Years ago, we would weigh everyone in the morning and feed 10-12% of their body weight. We would also feed on a strict schedule. How experience has changed us. If the baby looks unusual, I would weigh it, but typically, we just start feeding at this point. At 18 days, they are about 2.5 weeks old, so for a few days, I feed them 4 times a day. Once the baby is 3 weeks old, I drop them to 3 times per day. We don't weigh them anymore, but merely feed them until their crops are full. If you were to watch my daughters and I feed, you would see us often checking the crop as we feed to 'feel' if it is full. "A squishy grape" is the feel you are looking for. I will feed to the squishy grape feel when we first start the babies eating inside. I tell my daughters that young babies when full should feel like a squishy grape, but as they mature, we feed until it is a bit firmer. Handfeeders tend to put big meals a few times per day; whereas the parent birds feed more frequently and smaller meals. I
I feed hotter that what I was first told. I was always told to feed at 103 to 105 degrees and to make my formula consistency the same as ketchup or yogurt. When we began feeding African babies, we fed hotter (at about 109 degrees), and we have stuck to that for everybody. They like it better. You do have to very careful for 111 degrees and burn a crop and cause fatal problems. I would never feed over 110 F for fear of burning the baby. We do not supplement our handfeeding formula with anything other then a drop or two of apple cider vinegar.
My brooders are set around 88 degrees. When the babies get to the stage where you can see more feathers on their backs, I move them to a cage. When they get to the cage, they also get millet, plates of our mash, sprouts and fruits, a water dish (with ACV) in it and a dish with a pellet/seed mixture in it. We have used Zupreem cockatiel size fruit maintenance for our conures for years and they love it. If the house is chilly, I will start them in a cage that has a heating pad hanging on the outside wall so they have somewhere to warm up if need be. We tend to wash our babies after feeding which could cause a chill and slow down their ability to metabolize. Thus, you do want them to stay warm.
Once in the
cage, they stay on 3 times per day until I see them eating well on their
own. I don't follow a set schedule, but judge when to drop a feeding by
how much eating I see an individual baby doing. I want to see them
eating in the various dishes in their cages before I drop a feeding.
Baby Green cheeks mature quickly and they will clamp those little beaks
shut. It is almost like a human 3 year old saying, "No Mommy, I can do
it ALL BY MYSELF!" The baby Green Cheeks know when they can feed
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