How to Feed and Care for a Wild Baby Bird

How to Feed and Care for a Wild Baby Bird

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I rescued some white-winged doves from certain death and rehabilitated them. This article goes through the steps of how I cared for them.

Have You Found a Wild Baby Bird?

In spring and fall of each year, baby birds are found by well-meaning folks. Most of the time, the fledgling was simply learning to fly, and mom was nearby. But there are instances when a bird is either lost or abandoned, and people with extra big hearts feel the need to care for it. Below you will find in-depth instructions for housing and feeding a baby bird.

Note: The birds pictured below, as well as in the videos, are white-winged doves that were rescued from certain death and rehabilitated.

Important Things to Know Before Attempting to Raise a Baby Bird

  1. The professionals will tell you not to interfere with nature. If you do, then you need to contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center instead of attempting to care for it yourself. Visit to locate your local office.
  2. If you do attempt to raise it, you must have a good heart and a caring nature. Any experience with babies or baby animals is a plus (for you and the baby).
  3. In most states, it is illegal to have certain wild species of dove (dead or alive) in your possession without a license. However, several species that are deemed appropriate are sold in pet shops.
  4. If the baby has any feathers whatsoever, it will be very difficult to begin feeding because, at this stage, it is already used to receiving its mother'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 your 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.)


You can use any of the following:

  • Kaytee Exact Formula
  • A mixture of baby rice cereal, finch seed (it is a very small seed), and cornmeal

Feeding Supplies

  • Medicine dropper with the very tip trimmed off (measured in cc or ml)
  • 2 plastic cups (small to medium)
  • Good tap water or bottled water
  • Notepad to track feedings
  • Good observational skills
  • Tenderness
  • Patience

The baby rice cereal, cornmeal, and finch seed formula will work for any bird that is a seed eater. If you have one that is primarily an insect and/or worm eater, such as a mockingbird, you should add mushed-up worms to the formula. Kaytee Exact has formulas for all types of baby birds, and you can use it instead of the homemade formula.

How to House Your Baby Bird

1. Ensure That the Baby Will Have a Warm, Dry Place to Sleep

  • Take a small to medium box, and pack it with waded paper towels. The top level of 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.

2. Find a Good Location to Place the Baby's New Home

  • It should preferably be in a quiet corner.
  • Keep the baby's new home away from any drafts, such as windows, fans, or air conditioner vents.
  • Kitchens do not make a good place for the baby. Also note that Teflon nonstick pans are hazardous because they give off a fume that is deathly toxic to a small animal's lungs.

3. Place a Heat Lamp Next to the Baby to Keep It Warm

  • You can also place a heating pad under the box if you cannot get the lamp close enough to warm the baby.
  • Use your hand to gauge the level of heat coming off of the lamp.
  • Check on the baby a few times a day to see if it is hiding from the light; this indicates that it's too hot.
  • You do not want the baby to get too hot or dehydrated, so adjust the light as necessary.
  • Cover the box halfway with a thin blanket to provide a shaded area. This way, if the baby gets too hot, it will have a place to retreat to.

How to Feed Your Baby Bird

1. Decide on a Regular Place to Feed Your Baby

  • You should use a table or desk where you can comfortably sit while you feed the baby.
  • You will feed it on this table, and then place it back into its box.
  • Babies can easily get cold, so please turn off any fans or air conditioners, and close any windows during feeding time.
  • Right after feeding, you can gently hold the baby close to your chest to warm it.

2. Prepare the Formula (or Use Kaytee Exact Baby Bird Formula)

  • The measurements for the formula are approximate, so you can adjust it. I mix approximately ¼ cup cornmeal, ¼ cup baby rice cereal, and less than a teaspoon of the finch seed into a plastic cup. (Keep some cornmeal and some finch seed in a resealable plastic bag for convenience).
  • Turn your faucet on, and get it to a temperature that is warm but not hot (a little bit warmer than lukewarm). You want the temperature to imitate that of the mother's milk.
  • Put a teaspoon of water 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. You want the consistency to be like pudding.

3. Place All Feeding Supplies on Your Table

You will need the cup of formula, the dropper, two paper towels, and a cup that is half full of water. Place one paper towel on the table for the baby to stand on and one nearby to dry your hand.

4. Carefully Remove the Baby From Its Nesting Box

  • Speak to it gently to console and reassure it.
  • Carry it close to your chest to keep it warm and secure.
  • Place it on the paper towel.

5. Use a Feeding Chart

Below is a chart that will tell you how much your baby needs to eat based on its age. Find the age and note how many cubic centimeters you will need to feed it. This is important because the baby doesn't know when to stop eating. Note: 1cc = 1ml.

6. Learn to Feed

These first few times of feeding are a learning experience, not only for you but the baby too.

  • To begin feeding, place one hand slightly over and around the baby, with two fingers around its head. Fingers should be touching the beak; this causes the baby to naturally open its beak and "chug." Chugging is when a baby bird opens wide and bobbles its head up and down to quickly take in food. When a baby is in chugging mode, its airway is closed properly, and there is little chance of aspiration.
  • At this time, you can squirt the formula into its mouth a little at a time using the dropper. Dispose of all leftover food.


  • Do not force open the beak and force-feed the baby as it could aspirate.
  • Do not overfeed it either. When a baby's crop is full, you will still be able to see its neck. The crop should not bulge out above the shoulder area. Feel the crop area gently; it should feel a bit like a balloon.

7. Feeding Time Can Get a Bit Messy

Maintaining the baby's hygiene is very important.

  • Use the half cup of water to clean your hand(s) and to get your fingers a bit wet so you can clean off the baby's beak and crop.
  • Don't rub it hard. Be gentle.
  • Pat it dry with a paper towel, and then place it in the palm of your hand to warm it up before you place it back into its box home.

8. Have Patience

The first feeding may not go as planned, and the baby may not take in much food. If this is the case, wait an hour and try again.

Feeding Schedule and Food Quantity

Bird's AgeAmount of FoodFeeding Frequency

2-3 weeks old

4-5 cc

4 times a day

3-4 weeks old

5-7 cc

4 times a day

4-6 weeks old

7-12 cc

4-3 times a day. It should be 3 times a day as you get closer to the 6-week mark.

6-9 weeks old

12-15 cc

2.5 times a day

Giving Treats and Cleaning


  • You can also give your little friend treats like millet spray (found at pet shops) or fruits and vegetables (finely diced).
  • Frozen vegetables work great.
  • Peeled peas, carrots, spinach, and pealed fresh grapes are also good choices.
  • Remove and/or replace all uneaten food within three hours to prevent bacteria or mold growth.


  • Clean and replace water and seed feed every other day.
  • Remove soiled paper towels every three or four days, and replace with fresh ones.

Feeding 3-Week-Old Bird

How to Wean a Baby Bird

At around six weeks, you are ready to begin weaning. Again, follow the feeding instructions in the chart above. By now, the baby should be moved into a cage.

  • To make weaning easy, slowly stop feeding it with the chugging process and medicine dropper.
  • Instead, squirt the formula into your cupped hand. This way, it will learn to take food by itself.
  • Doves are ground feeders, so remove the bottom of the cage so they can walk on the floor of the cage.
  • Line the floor with paper towels rather than newspapers, which can make their feet dry.
  • Supply a deep dish that is at least two inches deep (doesn't have to be wide), and fill it with water.
  • Put finch seed in a shallow tray or dish, and show/offer it to your bird once in a while.
  • Once your baby bird is completely weaned, you will notice some differences in its feces. Texture and color change may occur.

Feeding 6-Week-Old Bird

Tips for Caring for Your Baby Bird

  1. Birds are notorious for pooping in their water and food. You can get creative with their feeders and water dishes by using butter dishes as feed containers and plastic bottles for covers to keep your bird from roosting on top of the water or food containers.
  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. Fully rinse away any soap residue.
  4. Do as much research as possible about the species of dove you have. Learn about their habits, what they eat, their habitat, etc.
  5. Observe your baby.
  6. Observe droppings, and be sure there is always a white substance in the feces.

Things to Be Aware of When Raising Birds

  1. Never force-feed your baby.
  2. Teflon nonstick pans are hazardous to any bird's health as they give off a fume that is deathly toxic to the bird's lungs.
  3. Do not use your self-cleaning oven. Ovens also have Teflon and will give off toxic fumes.
  4. Strong perfume or cologne should not be worn around birds. They have small lungs, so what is strong to us is overpowering to them.

Questions & Answers

Question: How can you tell the age of a bird?

Answer: By the growth of its feathers. When they are first born they do not have feathers - they look like tiny plucked chickens. Little spears appear, and feathers start growing out of them. Also, their first few days their head is very wobbly. Within a week+ they will be fully feathered, and they have much better control of their head. At two weeks they look like a mini dove and are fully in control of their movements, but still a bit crazy with fluttering their wings about when time to eat! I hope this helps. I'm not an expert and am only reporting from memory!

Reyvenisis on September 03, 2020:


We had a big storm and next day my husband found a white wing dove in there work yard. It’s a fledgling, still figuring out how to fly and bc he knows there are wild dogs about he scooped him up and brought it home.

I’m on day 1. I didn’t know what to do so for food. My husband bought parrot bird seed mix. I took a bit of that and grinder it, mixed a bit of kitten formula and a bit of grits with warm water and have been giving it 6-12 cc of this mix. I fed it twice today. It’s pooping and yes it has some white so I know he’s at least not starving and digesting fine. I have to wrap it up with a hand towel when I try to feed it with a dropper or it tries to flap and get away. Poor thing is scared. I have him in a small box for now but hoping to get a cage this weekend for it.

Anyone, have any other tips I’ll be super grateful.

Amrita on September 01, 2020:

Hi, thank you so much for the informative post. I live in India and there are no legal issues here. After a thunderstorm we found two baby birds in the garden and recued them from predators outside. I am worried about how we can rehabilitate them safely. There are many predators (cats, dogs, hawks) outside. I had also rescued a kitten who I am keeping in a separate wing of the house but this also makes me feel that I will not be able to keep both of the birds permanently especially if I want them to be able to fly a bit. Any tips on how to keep their natural instincts alive?

Angela on July 22, 2020:

Hi um i recently found a baby dove but it doesn't seem to want to so anything other than rest is it a sign that its still healing or is it bad? Bc mine is injured from either falling or cats but im just making sure its fine

Diane on July 11, 2020:

What to do for a older baby bird with stuffy nose

Ari+kriste on August 26, 2017:

Thank you so much cause we found 2 baby doves in hurcane Harvey the nest was to high and we took them in

easymgmt on August 15, 2013:

Now I'm wondering whether or not I did the right thing with the baby pigeon from my garden - feel free to view my lens "The Pigeon That Wouldn't Fly" and leave a comment.

patti-e-beasley on September 03, 2012:

Thanks for asking about the White Wing Dove. We named him Chico. I managed to raise him in my house with a curious Mini dauchshund and a Siamese cat. I took Chico to work everyday and he learned to fly in the house I work in. We cleaned up after him all day and it was worth it to see him grow. He was very attached to me and whistled at me when he heard my voice. I released him back into my parents yard where I found him. He sleeps in a hanging basket plant, comes when my parents call him and follows them around the yard. Everyone loves Chico and looks out for him. My parents even sit in on the patio and hold him. If mom stops petting him he whistles and flaps him wings to remind he to not stop. This has been an extreame rewarding time for my family. Chico has a following on my Facebook.

Brady800 on September 03, 2012:

@patti-e-beasley: Hi Pattie I was wondering how your WW dove is doing. Right now I have 2 I am raising. I also have two ring neck doves.

darrah-williams-9 on August 22, 2012:

My grandpa found a baby Mourning Dove yesterday, and as usual, he brought it to me knowing that I love animals. That was about lunchtime yesterday, and he's doing good so far. However, this morning, when I gave him his morning feeding, I found little worms on the towel he's on. I have no idea what kind they are or where they came from. They're little and mostly gray with white tips. Any idea what they might be and where they come from so I can get rid of them?

patti-e-beasley on August 11, 2012:

I got a baby white wing dove after a big windstorm and 4 hours of no momma bird showing up to claim him. I got the baby bird food from the local pet store and it didn't take long for me and the bird to figure out how to best feed him. He is anxious to eat and I already see him gaining strength as only hours have passed since we got started. I look forward to seeing him grow up big and strong. Thanks for the information in your post. It was very helpful!

obabosheva on July 31, 2012:

found a baby dove near my house. it's small but has feathers, it also looks like the wing is damaged and also turns out that my neighbor found the bird 2 blocks away from my house on a busy street and placed by my house where it is safe then i found and i couldn't leave it behind because i noticed the wing is damaged. i brought home put it in a box with a heating pad on low with a blanket covering the heating pad and a paper towel over the blanket, the only thing i had to feed is nutrament(it's a shake like ensure) itt actually drank out a dropper and pooped white green poop and its sleeping now breathing is calm, i don't know what do to now? it's late at night and the vets are closed, what kind of food should i feed the baby? i feel really bad for it i would 've left it alone but as i saw the wing is hurt i couldn't because we have cats and really mean kids in my neighborhood and i couldn't find a nest to place it in. Did i do the right thing or what is the right thing to do? HELP!!! i keep checking it and it looks fine...for now

ccc123828 on July 07, 2012:

Thankyou so much I have learned a lot from this site. I love animals and this site helped me a lot with my new baby white wing dove

Tina Hesskew (author) on June 08, 2012:

@fatimamurphy527: I wish I had seen this earlier :)... this one wouldn't have made it without intervention and u could have used just the cornmeal; the seeds are cereal are for when it is older. You can also call wildlife rescue for your area.

Tina Hesskew (author) on June 08, 2012:

@raymelhamor: if it has feathers, i would leave it; it is probably learning to fly and the mommy is nearby

raymelhamor on June 07, 2012:

i've found a baby robin alone in the ground

fatimamurphy527 on May 05, 2012:

hi i found a baby bird nest on my porch its about 7 feet high in the air one of the babys fell out its about 4 days old its still pink n have very little fuzzes in one spot we put it back it fell twice i am very soft hearted when it comes to animals i would hate for this bird to die i have the heat the cornmeal but not baby cereal or seeds what should i do it needs to eat

Fcuk Hub on June 25, 2011:

What a nice lens. Worth a title LOTD :)

pawpaw911 on June 03, 2011:

Very useful information. Nice lens

Carol Goss on September 28, 2009:

Great lens. I do always feel bad for a young bird learning to fly. There are so many things tht can happen to them.

mlkemk on September 28, 2009:

Great first lens! Great information, really well laid out. If you get a chance (after you headache goes away) I'd like your feedback on my most recent lens. You could probably use a little wine after finishing that first lens.

hayleylou lm on September 28, 2009:

Excellent lens, will really help anyone in this situation. 5 stars for a great first lens

sciencefictionn on September 28, 2009:

Helpful and complete lens, a valid tool for whoever has to raise a baby bird...

Very nice. 5*

RinchenChodron on September 28, 2009:

The info on avoiding a teflon pan seems quite important and was something I did not know. Great first lens - keep up the good work. Five Stars!

SpellOutloud on September 26, 2009:

NIce job! We're always finding baby birds by our house. Nice to know what to do if we ever needed to.

anonymous on September 26, 2009:

What a wonderful lens! I give you a 5* rating ^_^

Merlinx from Southern California on September 26, 2009:

I just finished my first lens, too. I'll be posting it in the Critique Me forum soon. So I just wanted to say great Job on this lens! Lots of useful information.

biddingt on September 26, 2009:

Thank you for a great lens! I saw a baby bird on the ground this spring and just hoped that his/her mother was around watching.

jjj1 on September 25, 2009:

An excellent lens - especially for a first lens. Well done. I've given it 5 stars!

KellydeBorda on September 25, 2009:

I love this lens! We frequently find Pacific doves near our home, and haven't had much luck. Hopefully we'll do better with the information you have here.

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on September 24, 2009:

This is great information. I used to work at a wildlife rehab center in upstate New York (an internship during college), and I remember people bringing in baby birds by the dozens. The problem was, there was a particular type of bird that nested on the ground, so people would come across the babies and think they'd been abandoned. We really tried to educate the public and stop them from picking up the chicks. What a summer that was!

Pet Health, Interesting Facts, and Trivia Printable Instructions For Hand-Feeding Baby Birds

The idea of a new baby bird in the family is an exciting proposition that brings a new dimension to your life. However, if you decide to hand-feed your new pet, you will need some knowlege, a lot of patience, and a good diet for a growing bird.

Veterinarians and naturalists have developed techniques for hand raising nesting birds, and there are now easy-to-use special baby bird formulas for feeding the ever-hungry little babies. Higgins Intune Baby Bird Hand Feeding Formula and Higgins Intune Hi Energy Baby Macaw Hand Feeding Formula are super foods that meet the extraordinary nutritional needs of these unusually fast growing babies. It is rice based (sourced from North America) and corn free. inTuneВ® Natural Hand Feeding uses natural and healthy, high end sources for nutritional fat like coconut oil and macadamia nut meal. It is also the only commercial hand feeding formula on the market with natural banana & mango aroma. The need to cook the formula has also been eliminated. It can now be prepared with hot water!

Most baby birds arrive in the world wet, naked, blind, and too weak to support themselves. When fallen from their nest, survival is questionable. Now, with help, they are able to grow and develop normally. Wild birds can be raised and returned to nature. Pet birds learn to accept people as friends. The real benefactors, though, are people. Nature returns many-fold for kindness performed.

The most important considerations in the hand feeding process are the frequency and volume of feeding. Baby birds grow at an extraordinarily rapid rate and this growth requires a great deal of food to meet the nutritional needs of the bird. However, the crop of a young bird holds a limited amount of food, so it must be filled frequently. As the bird gets older, the capacity of the crop increases, and the number of daily feedings will be reduced. The volume to be fed is base upon a combination of observation and judgement.

Check the Fullness of the Crop
Nature designed a rather unique feature into the digestive system of birds-a widening of the oesophagus at the lower pan of the neck This widening acts as a compartment to hold a quantity of food, and is named the crop.

The crop can be easily visualized in young birds while feathering is incomplete. In older birds with a well developed covering of feathers, the fullness can be checked by gently feeling the crop with a thumb and index finger.

The crop should be examined before each feeding. Ideally, in the rapidly growing young bird, the crop should never be allowed to become completely empty. Checking the crop fullness will help determine the frequency and volume of feeding to be given. Normally the crop will empty in 4 hours. A crop that remains full or is not emptying properly indicates some type of problem.

Position Bird for Hand-Feeding.
Wild birds are best fed while in a nest box. They will open their beaks and gape, making feeding very easy. Avoid excessive handling of wild birds. Pet birds are removed from the nest box and placed on a towel. By cupping a hand gently around the baby during feeding , adequate support will be given to position him for eating.

Carefully Introduce Feeding Device into the Mouth.

The introduction of an eye dropper or syringe into the mouth is relatively easy, as the baby birds will be eager to be fed and will be gaping (opening the beak wide in order to receive the feeding). Occasionally, a bird may not gape, and gentle tapping of the beak with the feeding device will encourage the bird to open its beak. The device should be carefully passed into the left side toward the right side of the mouth.

Administration of the formula should be synchronized with swallowing. Birds swallow with an unusual rhythmic bobbing of the head up and down. While the bird is swallowing, the formula is delivered quickly. With practice, a "feet" for the procedure develops, and, done efficiently, the filling of the crop can be accomplished in a surprisingly short time.

Volume of formula to be Given
The volume of food given is of critical importance. overfilling of the crop could lead to backflow up the oesophagus, into the throat, and down the windpipe, which could cause death. Under-filling the crop might result in starvation.

As t he food material is being delivered, the crop will begin to fill and bulge in the region of the lower neck. Careful observation and experience are necessary in order to determine when the crop is adequately filled.

Frequently, the bird will stop gaping when the crop is filled however, some birds, will continue to gape even when filled. Watch closely when filling for any evidence of food material backing up into the mouth. If this occurs, immediately stop until the mouth is cleared.

When the bird appears to have had enough feeding material, determine the state of fullness of the crop to make sure a sufficient amount of feeding was delivered.

Any excess food material on the skin, beak or feathers should he removed with warm water when the feeding is complete. It can be followed with a few drops of warm water to aid in "cleaning the mouth." Feeding utensils should be cleaned immediately after use. Check the anus to be certain no fecal matter has accumulated. Ideally, monitor the bird's weight daily with an accurate scale. A healthy baby gains weight daily.

Preparation of Baby Bird Formula
Follow the manufacturer's directions when mixing the formula.

Important: "Use distilled or boiled water to eliminate bacteria growth from contaminated tap water." The water should be approximately 105-110 degrees. Add the water to the powder gradually while stirring. After thorough mixing to eliminate lumps, the formula should be the consistency of creamy pudding. This thickness will allow it to be drawn into an eye dropper or syringe or will roll off a spoon. For older birds the mixture may be made thicker.

Do not reuse mixed formula. Discard and mix fresh at each feeding.
If really necessary, sufficient amount of formula may be prepared at one time to last 3 days if covered and refrigerated after preparation. The amount needed for each feeding can be heated and fed but not reused. Caution: You might need to add water in the heating process. Diluting formula by increasing water will reduce the concentration of the diet.

Temperature to Feed Formula
The formula should be served warm- 104-106 F- but not hot, as excess heat may damage the digestive tract. It should feel Slightly warm to the touch. It is highly recommended to use a thermometer to measure the temperature.

In order to maintain the heat of the hand-feeding formula mixture, a double-boiler type arrangement can be set up with the container of prepared formula placed in a bowl or pan of warm water during the feeding process.

Feeding Area
Psittacine birds while being fed should be placed on a surface, such as a towel, where there will be insulative properties to prevent excess heat loss and a surface where they can grip with their feet, preventing slippage and possible injury.

Frequency of Feeding
Cockatiels and Small Parrots
Baby birds can be removed from their parents from between 8 to 21 days. Waiting until 2 1/2 to 3 weeks is safer for the beginner, as the bird is hardier due to the presence of some feathering.

Hatching to 1 week.
If the bird was removed from the nest shortly after hatching, for whatever reason, feeding requires special care. There should be no attempts to feed the bird for at least 12 hours after hatching. The crop is very small and will hold only a limited amount of food. After continued use, it will expand. The first feeding at 12 hours should be one drop of water. Approximately 1/2 to 1 hour later, another drop of water may be given. Feeding too frequently during this period may overload the crop and lead to aspiration and death.

After these initial feedings, if the baby appears normal and is excreting, a few drops of very thin formula can be given. In order that the baby bird receive enough food, the hand-feedings are repeated every two hours around the clock.

One to two weeks - Birds can be fed every 2-3 hours around the dock. If the birds are kept especially warm and comfortable, the night feedings after midnight can be eliminated. However, feedings must begin again at 6:00 AM.

Two to three weeks - This is a relatively safe age to remove the baby birds from the nest for hand-feeding. It is easier to check the crop and feed them. The birds of this age can be fed every three to four hours from 6:00 A.M. to midnight.

Three to four weeks - Feed the birds every 4 hours. As feeding frequency tapers off, the formula can be slightly thickened. At 4 weeks, the birds can be put in a cage with low perches. Water in a bowl may be placed inside.

Five to six weeks - Feed the birds twice daily. A pelleted bird food and other foods may be placed in the cage to encourage the bird to eat on its own.

Seven weeks - Birds should be placed in a large cage with pellets in cups and scattered on the floor. Introduce the birds to a variety of succulent foods, but these should not make up more than 20% of the diet. Vegetables such as peas and corn are well accepted.

Birds should not be weaned before 7 weeks, usually about 8 weeks. Before weaning the bird off hand-feeding, keep close watch to see that the bird is actually eating adequate amounts of pellets on its own and not merely nibbling at the food. Handle the crop to determine the fullness and check the breastbone for degree of muscling. A weaning bird may lose as much as 10% of it's weight normally. Any more than that may be an indication of a problem. It is recommended that the bird be weighed regularly through this period.

When first weaning the bird, give them pellets, as these are a nutritionally complete and balanced diet for the bird. It is a good idea to keep an older bird in a cage next to the cage with the young weanling to teach them to eat through mimicry.

If the baby birds are not weaned, they will become "spoiled" and will not eat on their own, preferring to be hand fed. However, if they are weaned too early, they will not eat adequately, gradually lose weight, become weak and die. Therefore, if baby birds are begging to be fed, even after they are weaned, there may need to be a reversal back to hand-feeding as they may not be eating adequately.


Age in Weeks Number of Daily Feedings


Every 2 Hours (Around the Clock)
1 Every 2 Hours (Around the Clock*)
2 Every 3 Hours (6 a.m. to Midnight)

"Safest" Period To Begin Hand Feeding
Every 4 Hours (6 a.m. to Midnight)
4 Every 5 Hours (6 a.m. to Midnight)
5 to 7 Two Feedings Daily

*If bird is kept especially warm and comfortable, the 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. feedings can be eliminated.

Weaning Period - Important -
Make sure bird is eating adequately on its own before discontinuing hand-feeding. Check fullness of crop.

Housing and Heat
A small cardboard box approximately 12" x12"xl2" or a small fish aquarium with layers of paper towels over a one inch padding of cloth towelling on the bottom will serve as an incubator and holding area while the babies are young. A heating pad is placed under 1/2 of the box or aquarium. A towel is placed over the top. Either the heating pad setting or the amount of the top that is covered by the towel may be adjusted to provide a constant 85-90' for non-feathered birds. The temperature is gradually reduced as they become feathered and mature. It is recommended to observe the babies carefully to determine their comfort level. A cold baby will shiver and a baby that is too hot will not sleep well and will breathe heavily through an open mouth. A bottle or tin filled with water and holes punched in the lid to allow for evaporation will help to provide humidity.

Frequency of Feeding
The frequency and volume of feedings given to baby birds are largely determined by their age. Judging the age of wild birds is difficult if untrained, so the best way to determine feeding requirements is through the use of readily observable changes in the bird. For example, whether or not the eyes are open, and if the bird is standing up "off their hocks."

Before the eyes are open
If the baby birds appear strong and are peeping with their mouths gaping open, then they can eat as much as they want. Ideally, baby birds of this young age should be fed every 15-20 minutes until their eyes are open. They can go up to 30 minutes without a feeding with no ill effects however, more frequent feedings are preferred. They do not require around-the-dock feeding as in nature, they are fed only during daylight hours. In accordance with this, they are given feedings for a 12 hour period. Nonetheless, hand-feeding wild birds is quite a commitment, as it requires nearly 50 feedings per day.

When the eyes are open
As the bird becomes older, the frequency of hand-feeding can be reduced and the volume increased. Efforts can be initiated to get the bird to eat on its own. When a bird initially opens its eyes, it can be fed every half hour unless hungry or peeping.

When birds are "off their hocks"
When birds become stronger and begin to stand on their legs ("off their hocks'), then feedings can be given every 45 minutes. Time between feedings can steadily increased, and when the bird is out of the nest, feedings can be given at 2 hour intervals.


Age Number of Daily Feedings

Before Eyes Are Open:

Feed Bird Every 15 Minutes (12 Hour Period)
Eyes Are Open: Feed Bird Every 30 Minutes (12 Hour Period)
Off Their Hocks Feed Bird Every 45 Minutes (12 Hour Period)
Bird Out Of Nest:
(Standing On Their Own)
Feed Bird Every 2 Hours (12 Hour Period)

*Wean at 15 Days
IMPORTANT-Bird must be eating adequately on its own.

Wild birds should begin showing interest in their surroundings and start to eat on their own by 15 days. Provide live food (meal worms) and grass, twigs, etc. in the nest to stimulate interest in the environment. Spreading seed on the bottom of the nest will also encourage the bird to eat on its own.

During the weaning period, it is critical to keep a close watch on the bird in order that good nutrition is maintained. Many times, a bird may be pecking at seed, giving the impression that it is eating, when in actuality, it is not taking in enough for maintenance. Therefore, it is very important to observe if the bird is eating seed during this period and regularly check the crop for fullness.

If other young birds who are eating on their own are present, placing the baby bird in the same cage will hasten socialization, and the bird will learn to eat on its own through the imitation of others.

Housing For Wild Baby Birds
Following nature's design, a nest is constructed. The sides are formed from cloth rolled to a diameter of 1 1/2 inches and then forming a circular shape like a doughnut. The nest would have a diameter of 4-8 inches, depending upon the number and size of the babies. The 1 1/2' height makes the sides of the nest sufficiently high to keep the babies in the nest, but low enough to allow the baby bird to scoot backwards and pass his waste over the side of the nest.

Paper towels are placed in the bottom of the nest to a depth of 1/2 inch and then placed over the top of the entire nest. The towels are arranged to form a sloping surface which enables the bird to back up to the top of the nest to eliminate, and the paper towels can be easily replaced to maintain cleanliness.

Heat and Humidity
To provide heat in the nest box, a heating pad can be placed under half of the nest and dialed to a setting which will maintain temperature of 85-90 degrees for non feathered birds and gradually reduced as they become feathered. By placing heat under half the nest, the bird is able to select the area where the temperature is most comfortable. The box should be kept covered. A bottle or tin filled with water and holes punched in the lid to allow for evaporation will help to provide proper humidity.

While raising wild birds is rewarding, please, do not make a wild bird a pet. For more information contact your local Wildlife Agency, local Rehabilitation Center, Humane Society, State Fish and Game Agency or the Federal United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Weaning Pet Birds With Avi-Cakes Food
Your pet birds have received a good start in life through the nutritional benefits of Nutri- Start baby bird food. It is important to continue with high-quality nutrition during the weaning stage and beyond. Lafeber's Avi-Cakes are an excellent weaning food for your birds.

When birds reach the weaning stage, simply break Avi-Cakes into small pieces and spread them near the babies. They will first investigate the food then, pick it up and start self-feeding. (Supply fresh Avi-Cakes daily.) When the babies are eating the Avi-Cakes you will first want to eliminate the middle of the day hand-fed meal. As the birds continue eating on their own, discontinue the morning and finally the evening hand-fed meal.

If You Find a Baby Bird, DO NOT…

  1. Move Them: Baby birds often leave the nest several days before their wings are strong enough to fly well. While these fluttering babies may initially seem abandoned, the parent birds are easily able to keep track of their young and will return to feed and care for the chick. Moving the bird may take it out of reach of its parents, denying it the essential care and instruction those parents provide. - The Exception: If the baby bird is bare-skinned and too young to have left the nest, it should be placed back in the nest so parents can continue to care for it. Similarly, if the baby bird is in immediate danger, such as on a busy street or in reach of predators, it should be moved to a nearby but safer location.
  2. Cuddle Them: While parent birds have a poor sense of smell and will not reject a baby bird because it has been touched by humans, the scent even a gentle touch leaves behind may attract predators to the young bird. Furthermore, baby birds have very fragile bones and handling them could inadvertently cause serious injuries, and they may carry mites or other parasites that can be detrimental to humans. - The Exception: If a very young bird cannot be replaced in its nest, it should be put in a warm location with soft towels or cloths to keep it warm until it can be turned over to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Baby birds can lose body heat rapidly if their feathers are not developed, and it may be necessary to help them stay warm, but they should not be held in the hand to do so.
  3. Study Them: Young birds are very susceptible to stress and while it can be intriguing to study them closely when they arrive in a yard, getting too close can be detrimental. Furthermore, a human nearby may keep parent birds from returning to care for their offspring. Instead, use binoculars to watch the baby bird from a distance so it does not feel crowded or threatened. - The Exception: When a baby bird is first spotted, it may be necessary to check it carefully for any sign of illness or injury. Once that observation is made, ideally without any physical contact, the bird should be left alone.
  4. Feed Them: Baby birds have very specialized diets that need to be high in protein for proper bone and feather formation. Malnutrition can lead to a range of health problems, even fatalities, and baby birds also require smaller bites of food they can easily digest, which they get from the regurgitated meals their parents provide. While baby birds may beg incessantly, that does not mean they are starving, and their parents will return with appropriate food as often as necessary. - The Exception: If careful, prolonged observations show that the parents are not returning to feed the young bird, it may need an emergency feeding. Ideally, this should only be done by an experienced bird rehabilitator who knows exactly what to feed baby birds to mimic their natural diets and fulfill their nutritional needs.
  5. Adopt Them: It can be heart-wrenching to leave baby birds to care for themselves. That is the best course of action, however, as birds raised by humans will not develop the necessary behaviors to survive in the wild. Furthermore, keeping any wild bird captive, even with the intent to release it later, is a violation of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and can result in fines and criminal charges. While this law only applies to the United States, many countries have similar legislation prohibiting wild birds from being adopted as pets. - The Exception: When parent birds have been killed or otherwise do not return to care for their chicks, it may be necessary to care for the babies to ensure their survival. Because of baby birds' specialized needs, however, this can only be done properly by experienced rehabilitators, and birders should know where to find bird rescue organizations so any baby birds they find can receive the proper care.

It is a harsh truth that infant mortality is very high among wild birds, and the majority of chicks do not survive to maturity. While it can be tempting to care for baby birds, understanding what not to do when finding young birds is essential to provide them the best chances for a healthy, wild life.

Do I Need to Feed This Baby Bird?

Baby birds have very demanding dietary needs. Depending on their age and species, baby birds may eat every 10 to 20 minutes for 12 to 14 hours per day, consuming a diet rich in insects for sufficient protein to ensure healthy growth. No human other than a licensed bird rehabber has the proper equipment, food supplements, or endurance to keep up that frantic feeding schedule. If you find a baby bird that appears to need feeding, the best thing to do is not to feed it, but to get it to an appropriate bird rescue organization. In many cases, the begging birds are not abandoned and the parent birds are nearby and tending to their babies as needed, even if they aren't seen.

If you find a baby bird that seems to be unfed, watch the bird closely for one to two hours to see if its parents return to feed it. Bear in mind that it may take just seconds for a parent bird to deliver a bite to its chick, and inattentive observers may miss several feeding cycles. As the chicks grow, feeding may also be less frequent, and one parent bird may be tending to several offspring in different locations, so parental visits may be uneven. If the baby is being fed, rest assured that the parent bird is able to keep up with its demands, and no intervention is necessary if the baby does not appear injured or ill in any other way.

If the baby bird is not being fed and appears to be growing weaker and more lethargic, the first step should be to find a licensed rehabber to provide it proper care. When contacting the rehabber, ask for their evaluation of the bird in question before attempting any emergency feeding. If it is recommended that you feed the baby bird, he or she might have specific suggestions in mind as an emergency measure, and those suggestions should be meticulously followed.

Watch the video: RESCUED BABY BIRDS FIRST FEEDING how to feed baby birds