Hand-feeding Methods & Tools
Spoon FeedingSpoon feeding is the easiest and "fool-proof" way to feed babies. It takes advantage of the baby's natural feeding response and introduced it to the taste of food.
The size of the chick will dictate the size of the spoon. I have a couple of small spoons that I like. I bent the sides up to form a trough. This allows me to control the flow of the formula quite easily. I watch carefully to see if the baby's mouth is full, or if it needs to take a breath.
The negative part about spoon feeding is that it gets very messy. Have some wet paper towel available for a clean-up after the feeding.
Syringe FeedingSyringes are widely used for handfeeding. It also benefits from the chick's natural feeding response and teaches the baby to eat. The handfeeder can easily control the flow of the formula. I prefer the syringes with the rubber-tipped plungers, as they operate very smoothly.
However, it is more difficult to know when the mouth is full. Another potential problem is that syringes are very difficult to disinfect.
Still, I personally like to use syringes. Spoon-fed chicks can get really messy (although I still like to use the spoon at times or in certain situations. I keep the syringes very clean and never really had a problem with bacterial infections.
Dixie CupSome breeders swear by this method. They use a Dixie cup with one edge pinched to a point. I personally have never used this method, but it sounds easy and the big benefit is that there are no dishes to wash afterwards.
Force Feeding / Gavage / Tube FeedingForce-feeding is also known as gavage or tube feeding. Gavage feeding is a method of feeding, in which the food is pumped into the crop through a tube that has been put down the esophagus and into the crop. (Click here for gavage feeding / tube feeding instructions.)
Gavage feeding is typically used by handfeeders with too many babies to feed. Birds fed in this manner never learn to eat and can be very difficult to wean.
If the tube is pushed too far, or if the baby jumps, the tube may be pushed through the crop membrane and the outer skin to cause a puncture. If this happens, food put into the crop will leak out of the puncture. The only way to correct this problem is to suture the inner and outer layers of the crop and skin. Antibiotics must be administered to prevent infection. If left uncorrected, infection will set in, and the baby will starve to death because the crop will no longer hold food.
Another big negative is that gavage feeding bypasses the birds natural feeding response.
Tube feeding may be necessary when birds are too sick to feed themselves, or with babies that don't have a natural feeding response.
- If tube feeding or using a crop needle is inevitable, please follow the instructions on this page on using such utensils.
My hope is that the educated pet owner will not purchase birds from anyone practicing this method of feeding their young, except in cases when the chick's health condition requires them to do so.
Power FeedingEven though a syringe is used, it is equally not a method that is conducive to producing well-adjusted and socialized pets. Just like tube feeding, this feeding method is usually used by breeders with many babies to feed.
After a feeding response is elicited, the syringe is quickly emptied into the bird's esophagus. The force of the formula being ejected from the syringe keeps the esophagus open and the trachea closed and the whole contents of the syringe can be delivered in seconds. It is similar to gavage feeding in that the food bypasses the mouth.
Both power and tube feeding are feeding methods that are generally not recommended.
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