Hand-Feeding Baby Cockatiels: A Comprehensive Guide

Hand-Feeding Baby Cockatiels

Hand-feeding is a crucial aspect of caring for baby cockatiels, especially during their early development. While parents should care for the chicks initially, taking over their feeding after two weeks can result in better socialization with humans. Additionally, this can reduce the fear of potential dangers. To effectively hand-feed baby cockatiels, it’s essential to understand the process and prepare accordingly. In this article, I will be talking about the baby cockatiel hand-feeding process, hand-feeding formula, hand-feeding schedule, when to start and when to stop hand-feeding the baby cockatiel, and much more.

When Should I Start Hand-Feeding Baby Cockatiels?

You can separate a chick from its parents at any time before the weaning process. However, it’s recommended to allow the chicks to remain with their parents for at least the first two to three weeks of their lives.

This period is of great significance for the chick’s development and overall well-being. During these initial weeks, the baby cockatiels receive vital nutrition from their parents’ crop milk. This crop milk contains essential proteins, fats, and vitamins necessary for the chicks’ growth and overall health.

Additionally, the presence of the parents during this period allows the chicks to observe and learn important behaviors, such as:

  • Feeding techniques
  • Preening habits
  • Vocalizations

All of these behaviors are essential for their long-term development.

However, if circumstances prevent the parents from fulfilling their duties or they are unable to do so, you may need to step in and start hand-feeding baby cockatiels.

How To Hand Feed Baby Cockatiels

Newly hatched chicks are vulnerable to diseases, yeast infections, and other health concerns. Therefore, it is crucial to provide proper feeding and care during the early stages.

This is essential to ensuring the chick’s healthy development and the ability to eventually feed itself independently. Additionally, mishandling or force-feeding chicks can result in injuries.

So, let’s explore the different feeding tools available, baby cockatiel hand-feeding formula, and the correct method to nourish them effectively.

Baby Cockatiels Hand Feeding Tools

When it comes to hand-feeding chicks, it’s important to choose the right tools.

One popular option is a syringe, which closely imitates the natural feeding process of the mother birds. These specialized syringes feature a curved, narrow tip designed for precise feeding. It enables precise measurement of food quantity and gradual administration with each small plunge.

The curved part comes in different lengths, accommodating various chick sizes. Syringes are beginner-friendly tools, although it may take time for baby cockatiels to overcome their initial fear.

While syringe-feeding directly delivers food into the crop, bypassing the throat, it can be challenging to determine when the chick’s mouth is full. On a positive note, chicks fed with syringes rarely throw up the food.

Spoon-feeding using a plastic or stainless steel spoon (check out this one on AmazonOpens in a new tab.) is an alternative method. Once the chick is approximately two weeks old, it’s recommended to introduce a spoon to avoid potential choking hazards. The spoon allows the chick to control its own swallowing pace, although it may not replicate the natural regurgitated seed flow as effectively as the syringe.

Also, using an eye dropper is another alternative method. However, if you are using a spoon or dropper, you’ll need a tool to measure the right amount of formula. To achieve this, you need to get a measuring cup like this one on AmazonOpens in a new tab..

In certain cases, you may choose to use a crop needle. This is a tube that is attached to the syringe’s end and is inserted directly into the chick’s crop. Check out this one here.

But only those with the necessary skills and knowledge should attempt it.

Other tools: Formula, the container for mixing formula, tissue, soft and warm towels, and thermometer.

Sterilize the feeding tool

Whichever feeding tools you’re using, it’s essential to sterilize all of them before use and discard any unused food. You can do that by washing it with soap and water, rinsing it, boiling it for 5 minutes, and letting it air dry until cool.

To streamline the process, consider purchasing multiple feeding syringes and spoons. This allows you to sanitize several tools simultaneously, ensuring they’re readily available.

Alternatively, you can opt for a steam sterilizer designed for baby bottles, which enables the sterilization of multiple feeding syringes and spoons at once.

Baby Cockatiel Hand Feeding Formula

Commercial Hand Feeding Formulas

When it comes to hand-feeding formula for baby cockatiels, there is a wide range of options available on the market. They are nutritionally rich and often come in powder form. They are designed to provide a balanced diet for growing baby cockatiels and usually contain a blend of grains, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Check out this one hereOpens in a new tab. that I use. Also, check out the video below.

Make a hand-feeding baby cockatiel formula by using Kaytee Exact.

Note: It’s important to select one formula and continue using it until the baby cockatiel is fully weaned. Switching diets can cause stress to a baby’s digestion. Also, always consult with a veterinarian or experienced bird breeder regarding your dietary choices.

However, if commercial formulas are not accessible, it’s possible to create your homemade formula.

Homemade Formulas

In some cases, many experienced breeders are recommending homemade formulas.

These formulas can be prepared using ingredients such as ground corn, wheat, oats, soy, cereals, nuts, or boiled eggs. Blend or mix all the ingredients until you achieve a smooth texture. Adjust the consistency by adding more warm water or formula as needed.

Additionally, certain breeders also add calciumOpens in a new tab., yeast, and vitamin supplements to the mixture. However, it’s recommended to refrain from adding extra vitamins to the mixture.

During the initial days, the chicks should consume a liquid diet without any solid food.

Also, it’s important to give your baby cockatiel time to accept the food and be open to trying different combinations if one doesn’t work. Additionally, ensure that the mixed grains are sun-dried before using them.

Preparing The Formula

Always prepare fresh food for each feeding to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria and yeast.

Start by creating a mixture that resembles the consistency of applesauce. This texture ensures that the food is not too thick for them to swallow. To achieve the desired consistency, gradually stir the mixture while adding sterile, warm water.

Always use a thermometer to measure the food’s temperature every minute or so. If you don’t have a good thermometer or don’t have any at home and are considering getting one, check out this one on AmazonOpens in a new tab..

For proper digestion, the formula temperature should be between 100° and 106°F (38° and 41°C). This range guarantees optimal comfort and safety for the chicks. Be cautious not to feed formula that is too hot, as it can cause severe burns to the crop.

Baby cockatiels may refuse food that is too cold, which can also slow down digestion.

If you’re using a microwave oven, ensure thorough mixing to achieve a uniform temperature throughout the mixture and eliminate hot or cold spots. However, it’s a better option to keep the formula warm during feeding by placing it in a bowl of hot water.

Also, keep in mind that each brand of formula has specific instructions on how to prepare it. It’s essential to follow these instructions carefully to ensure proper nutrition for your baby cockatiels.

In general, the consistency of the food should be adjusted based on the age of the baby cockatiel. For day-old chicks, a more diluted mixture with 90% water is needed, as they still rely on the yolk sac for nutrition. However, chicks older than one or two days should have a mixture of approximately 70–75% liquid.

Hand Feeding Process and Techniques

Hand Feeding Process and Techniques

Now that you’re prepared, let’s dive into the actual hand-feeding process of baby cockatiels.

Hold the baby cockatiel gently in your hand and place it on a warm towel.

Ensure the towel is warm, like your body temperature, by sitting on it for a few minutes. Lay the towel on your lap or a tabletop. Use a loose grip to cup your hand around the base of the bird’s neck with your thumb and forefinger. Keep holding the bird gently while you feed it.

Remember, baby cockatiels can wiggle, so be careful not to squeeze them.

Note: It’s crucial to keep young chicks warmOpens in a new tab. during feeding. To do that, always place them on a soft towel or similar cozy surface to mimic the warmth of a mother hen. The goal is to create a comfortable and nurturing environment for the chicks during their feeding sessions.

Gently touch the side of the baby cockatiel’s beak with the feeding tool

Instead of aiming directly at the front, approach from the side and slightly above. Hold the syringe at a 45-degree downward angle. Tap the feeding toll gently against the side of the beak, just like a mother bird does.

This helps the baby open its mouth wide. If the baby cockatiel won’t open its mouth for hand feeding, try tapping the other side. If it still won’t open, wait for 30–60 minutes and try again. However, if the chick continues to refuse food, contact your vet for help.

Once the baby cockatiel’s beak opens, start feeding it slowly

Press the corners of its mouth very slowly and steadily to deliver the food into the bird’s open beak. This will trigger a natural response, and the baby cockatiel will bob its head up and downOpens in a new tab. and start to squawl or screech. This means that it is hungry, which allows you to give it a formula quickly.

This head-bobbing helps close the trachea, allowing for larger amounts of food to be given at a time.

Aim to give about 14 percent of the total food amount in 15–20 seconds, then pause for a second. Tap the baby’s beak gently and continue feeding if it opens up again. Repeat the process every 15–20 seconds.

Stop when the chick stops

It’s essential to prioritize the bird’s safety and well-being during the feeding process. Avoid the temptation to pour all the food from the syringe at once, as this can lead to choking. Instead, allow the chick sufficient time to swallow and regulate its intake. Pay attention to its cues.

When the baby cockatiel closes its beak and refuses further food, it indicates satiety. It’s crucial not to force-feed the bird if it hasn’t consumed its usual amount. This is because there is a higher risk of food entering the trachea and lungs, which can be fatal.

If the bird continues to show no interest in eating after several feedings, seek veterinary assistance.

Creating a hand-feeding schedule for your baby cockatiel can help you regulate its intake.

Check the baby’s crop

After each feeding, gently touch the underside of the baby cockatiel’s beak to feel the crop. The crop should appear swollen and firm to the touch. When the crop is barely protruding and feels soft, but not empty, it’s time for the next feeding. The crop is telling you when to stop hand-feeding your baby cockatiel.

Remember, you don’t have to check the crop after every feeding, just once every 1-2 days to see if it’s still emptying on a similar schedule.

Sometimes a baby cockatiel can have a blocked crop. To help, you can gently squirt a little warm water and give a gentle massage to the crop. But be careful; it’s important to know what you’re doing.

Always keep the phone numbers of a vet or breeder nearby, just in case you need help.

See Also: How Do Cockatiels Get A Sour Crop?Opens in a new tab.

Wipe the bird’s beak area

To keep your baby cockatiel clean after eating, gently wipe its beak with a soft cloth dampened with warm water. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing the beak to remove any leftover food.

Leaving uneaten food in the beak can cause bacteria to grow, so it’s important to keep it clean and free from food particles. Remember to be gentle and careful when cleaning your baby cockatiel’s beak to ensure its comfort.

Baby Cockatiel Hand Feeding Schedule

Baby Cockatiel Hand Feeding Schedule

Hand-feeding a baby cockatiel requires following a schedule that changes as the chick grows. Here is a breakdown of the hand-feeding schedule from day one to 4-5 weeks old baby cockatiel:

  • Day 1–3: Feed the chick every 2 hours, with 1 ml of formula per feeding.
  • Day 4–5: Increase the feeding frequency to every 2 hours, offering 2 ml per feeding.
  • Day 6–7: Continue feeding every 2 hours, providing 3 ml of food per feeding.
  • Weeks 2–3: Reduce the feeding frequency to every 3 hours, offering 5–6 ml per feeding.
  • Weeks 4–5: Further decrease the frequency to 3–4 times a day, with 6–8 ml per feeding, and gaps of 8 hours between feedings.

The best time to feed a cockatiel chick is generally in the morning. It’s recommended to start the first feeding of the day around sunrise or shortly thereafter. This aligns with the natural feeding patterns of cockatiels in the wild, as they are diurnal birds and tend to be more active and hungry in the morning.

Providing the first feeding early in the day ensures that the cockatiel chick receives essential nutrition and energy to start its daily activities.

Remember to continue following the designated hand-feeding schedule for baby cockatiels throughout the day. Considering the appropriate intervals and amounts according to the chick’s age and development.

Additional Tips

  • The chick’s crop should empty between feedings, indicating proper digestion.
  • Use fresh formula while hand-feeding your baby cockatiel, avoiding the preparation of large batches in advance.
  • The mixed food should have a porridge-like consistency, resembling regurgitated food.
  • Monitor the chick’s weight gain daily, ensuring it increases by about 15 percent of its body weight during the first two weeks.
  • Introduce other foods gradually from 4-5 weeks old while still monitoring their feeding behavior and crop fullness.
  • Adjust the hand-feeding schedule and amounts based on the chick’s preferences and crop conditions.

By following this hand-feeding schedule, observing the baby cockatiel’s development, and ensuring a healthy feeding response, you can help your baby cockatiel grow and thrive.

When Should I Stop Hand-Feeding Baby Cockatiels?

Stop Hand-Feeding Baby Cockatiels

As baby cockatiels grow, they eventually need to transition from being hand-fed to eating on their own. However, it can be difficult for bird owners to know exactly when the right time is to stop hand-feeding.

While it may be tempting to continue hand-feeding for as long as possible, it’s important to ensure that the birds can eat and drink on their own before fully weaning them.

One of the key indicators that it’s time to stop hand-feeding baby cockatiels is when they start showing an interest in solid foods (the weaning process). This can include pecking at seeds or other types of food that are available in their cage.

Additionally, it’s important to monitor their weight and ensure that they are gaining weight at a healthy rate. If they’re not gaining weight or are losing weightOpens in a new tab., it may be necessary to continue hand-feeding for a bit longer.

Ultimately, the decision of when to stop hand-feeding baby cockatiels will depend on a variety of factors, including their age, weightOpens in a new tab., and ability to eat on their own.

Baby Cockatiel Won’t Open Mouth For Hand-Feeding

Most baby cockatiels will eagerly open their mouths when offered food. They are not easily scared by larger objects. However, there will be times when your baby cockatiel won’t open its mouth for hand-feeding.

If your baby cockatiel doesn’t open its mouth, gently massage its throat and tap its beak to mimic a mother cockatiel’s actions. If that doesn’t work, try inserting a fingernail between the beak to gently open it.

The chick may still refuse to eat or show signs of distress. In that case, you need to check if its crop is full. Overfeeding can lead to crop infection, so it’s important not to feed it excessively.

If the baby cockatiel continues to refuse food despite having an empty crop, it may have a health issue.

Common Hand Feeding Problems

During the hand-feeding process, you may encounter various feeding problems with the baby cockatiel, such as:


Regurgitation can occur when the baby cockatiel refuses to eat the food for various reasons, leading to the food being vomited out. While mature cockatiels naturally regurgitateOpens in a new tab., it can be harmful to young chicks.

Reasons for regurgitation may include using the wrong formula, overfeeding, feeding food that is too hot, or irritation of the esophagus. To address this issue, it’s important to ensure the food temperature is appropriate and feed the chick in small intervals, allowing it to swallow at a comfortable pace.


Aspiration is a highly dangerous situation where the food enters the bird’s respiratory system instead of its digestive system. This can be life-threatening for the baby cockatiels, so new owners must exercise extreme caution during hand-rearing. If aspiration happens, you need to stop hand-feeding your baby cockatiel and take it to the vet immediately.

It’s crucial to be attentive and take preventive measures to avoid accidental aspiration while feeding the chicks.

Crop Stasis

Crop stasis happens when a bird’s stomach struggles to digest the food in its crop, located below the throat. This can occur if the food is too hot or if the formula doesn’t agree with the baby’s cockatiel. It is a common issue for new bird owners. To prevent crop stasis, it is important to maintain a comfortable temperature for the food that your baby cockatiel prefers.

Air In Crop

Another common concern among bird owners is the presence of air in a baby cockatiel’s crop. This air pocket, often mistaken for a problem, is a natural occurrence and should not cause unnecessary worry. Baby cockatiels naturally gulp air while feeding, resulting in the formation of an air pocket. This air pocket can disappear and reappear as the chick swallows and gulps air.

If left undisturbed, the air in the chick’s crop will gradually rise to the top and be released through its digestive system.

You might also want to read: Why Do My Baby Cockatiels Keep Dying?Opens in a new tab.


Hand-feeding a baby cockatiel from an early age can be a wonderful experience for both the owner and the bird. It may seem challenging at first, but with the right tools and knowledge, anyone can learn how to do it.

By starting early and using proper hand-feeding techniques, making a suitable formula, and following a schedule for feeding your baby cockatiel, you can build a strong bond that will last a lifetime.

The time and effort you put into hand-feeding will be rewarded with the joy and love your bird brings to your life.

Take the opportunity to learn how to hand-feed these beautiful birds, and you’ll enjoy a happy and healthy companionship.

Cockatiel Enthusiast

My name is Bojan. I have been around Cockatiels for the past 7 years. I love writing about Cockatiels and helping people understand how these beautiful birds live, what they like, and how to provide them the best possible care.

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