Hand-feeding and weaning African grey parrots is rewarding but requires skill and patience. Owners with access to expert support and advice can enjoy watching their baby grow up while maintaining a good diet for him with the correct formula and weaning foods. Of the two African grey subspecies, Congo African greys are larger, but Timneh African greys are calmer and may be easier to hand feed.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Formula feed for African grey parrots
- Small bowl
- Large bowl
- Syringe with 35 cubic centimetre capacity
- Clean, damp cloth or paper towels
Clean all surfaces and utensils with hot water and disinfectant, and rinse thoroughly. Mix formula according to manufacturer's instructions in a small bowl. Using the thermometer, test the temperature is at 43 degrees Celsius. To heat or cool down formula, place the small bowl inside the larger bowl, filled with hot or cold water.
Hold your African grey gently in one hand, and touch the pads on the sides of his beak with forefinger and thumb. This should start the feeding response, when his head bobs up and down, and his windpipe closes, preventing choking. Touching a little formula on his tongue can start the feeding response, too.
Squirt formula over the tongue and towards the back of the mouth as soon as the feeding response begins. African greys need about 12 percent of their weight in formula volume at each feed, three times a day. Reduce this to 8 to 10 percent as weaning age nears. Clean any spilled formula from his beak and feathers with a damp cloth or paper towel immediately after feeding.
Feel your African grey's breast gently. His crop, a small bag where food sits before moving into the intestines, feels firm in a well-fed bird, but not tight. It should empty before the next feeding session.
Weigh your African grey. Record the date and time, his weight, amount of formula taken and any unusual behaviour. Records are useful for vets in case of illness.
Offer a variety of pea-sized pieces of food such as fruit, vegetables and cooked egg or chicken as playthings, scattering them on paper at the bottom of the cage as soon as your bird is walking around. If he never tries to eat, dab a little soft food on his tongue, so he can get used to new tastes. Add a water supply as soon as you offer adult food. African grey parrots usually wean by between 12 and 14 weeks old.
Decrease formula feeds as your bird starts eating more food. Drop evening feeds last as he needs nourishment during the night when his cage is empty of food. Check he continues to gain weight for at least one month after weaning.
Feed your bird a diet of fruit, vegetables, cooked meat or fish, toasted wheat bread, cooked rice or oats, low fat cheese and cooked egg. Also include specialised African grey pellets.
Tips and warnings
- Check your baby's poo to see how much of his diet is adult food, if you aren't sure how much he's eating. Formula poo is large, liquid and a consistent colour. Adult food poo is smaller, drier, and varies in colour.
- African greys are more prone to lose the feeding response than other parrots. If this happens, consult a professional breeder. Don't attempt tube feeding. This is harmful if done incorrectly, and scientists at the University of Berne found it makes African greys more aggressive as adults. Don't force your bird to wean by starving him as a hungry bird loses its appetite after a few days.
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- Aves International: Congo and Timeh African Greys
- The Parrot University at Hartman Aviary: The Science of Handfeeding and Weaning the Baby Parrot
- Applied Animal Behaviour Science: The Inﬂuence Of the Breeding ... African Grey Parrots
- The Parrot University at Hartman Aviary: The Why and How Of the Weaning Process
- The Parrot University at Hartman Aviary: The Basics of Handfeeding and Weaning
- Bird Channel.com: Average Bird Weaning Age Ranges