FAQ Friday #4: What does it mean to hand-feed a bird?

baby cockatiel

We fish have an entirely different way of life than our feathered friends, so I was curious about the whole idea of hand feeding. Luckily, the bird experts here at The Animal Store know what they’re doing.

It turns out that hand feeding isn’t what you think it is. I thought hand feeding meant that a person puts bird food in his or her hand and holds it out for the bird to eat. Of course, how could I know that this isn’t how it works—they don’t call it fin feeding, do they?

No, hand feeding means putting liquefied food directly into a baby bird’s crop (a kind of pouch in the bird’s throat that is part of its digestive system and is used to temporarily store food). Hand feeding is usually done with a spoon, syringe, or tube, depending on the kind and size of bird.

In the wild, bird parents chew and regurgitate food into a baby bird’s crop. (I know, yuck, right? But it works for them.) When baby birds are raised by humans, hand feeding mimics this process.

Hand feeding takes skill. The formula must have the right mix of nutrients, be fed in the right quantity, and at the right consistency and temperature. Other issues with hand feeding can include:

  • Underfeeding.
  • Overfilling the crop, which could result in the bird aspirating food into its lungs.
  • Crop stasis (sour crop), which happens when a baby bird get something inedible in its crop.
  • Dehydration.
  • Issues weaning to solid food.

Many people believe that hand feeding helps socialize birds into becoming better pets. If you have more questions about hand feeding, just ask one of our animal experts.

Sometimes I think it would be great to fly like a bird, but when I hear words like “regurgitate”, it makes me glad I’m a fish. Hey, did you catch last week’s FAQ Friday about how to feed your fish? Now that was some interesting reading.

About erniefish

Permanent resident of The Animal Story, Chicago's Family Pet Store. Working on becoming the oldest living giant gourami. Pretty sure I'm the only blogging gourami.

Posted on March 23, 2012, in Animal Store Staff, Animals, FAQ Friday, Pet Information, Pets, The Animal Store and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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