Baby birds are incredibly frail creatures. They need warmth, a quarantined environment, and regular feeding to help them grow quickly. Almost every backyard owner has seen, on occasion, a starving nestling bird fluttering helplessly and calling out in distress for its parents.
This sort of picture tends to awaken dormant motherly instincts in anyone. But if you’re going to raise one, you need to know what do baby birds eat, how to feed them, and what not to feed them.
What Do Baby Birds Eat?
What do baby birds eat? It depends on the species. Not every wild bird follows the same diet. You will need to identify the type of garden bird you’re housing, research its nutritional requirements, dietary restrictions, and find the richest nutrient sources.
As for what to feed the birds? If you’re ever in a rush and need something quickly, here are some foods found at home you can feed birds:
#1. Moist Dog Food
#2. Hard-boiled Eggs
#3. Moistened Dog Biscuits
#4. Moistened Dog or Cat Kibble
Otherwise, the ideal option would be to purchase a good-quality commercial bird formula that contains all the essential nutrients that a baby bird needs.
Once birds reach a certain age, they can be fed more solid foods as well such as insects. Insects are a rich source of protein and contain many essential fatty acids that are only found in insects.
What Baby Birds Should Not Eat
First things first, you should not feed a baby bird the same foods as an adult bird. The right time to change their diet is when their eyes have opened, wings have developed with feathers, and they can walk around.
There are 5 stages of a baby bird’s life that you should be aware of. Until birds grow to become fledglings, avoid feeding them any of the following:
#5. Kitchen scraps
#7. Commercial pet bird foods
Should I Feed Baby Birds?
The right thing to do if you ever spot an abandoned baby bird is to take it to a safe and warm location indoors. Make a small temporary nest for it where it can stay warm and call a licensed bird rehabilitator or bird protection agency.
Your parental instincts may tempt you to feed them but oftentimes this has done more harm than good. Many bird organizations that have received birds after being contacted have found babies with food stuck in their lungs. Feeding them the wrong food or preparing it incorrectly can lead to serious and sometimes fatal consequences for baby birds.
Your compassion is admirable, but unless you’re an expert, nestling birds are better left to professionals.
Nonetheless, if for any reason your local bird rehabilitator can’t take your bird or perhaps you can’t get in touch with an appropriate agency nearby, it’s still okay to try and raise the bird by yourself. If it’s not going to an agency, it’ll be far safer with you than out in the wild unprotected.
How To Feed Baby Birds
Baby birds are tough customers that demand constant feeding.
Chicks in their first week of life need to be fed 6-10 times a day every 2-3 hours. Once their eyes open, they may be weaned down to 3-5 feeding sessions a day. The precise feeding schedule varies with the formula being fed and the species but usually falls within the above-mentioned range.
Baby birds need to be fed very carefully using proper tools. You can either purchase custom tweezers or forceps used to feed birds or use a chopstick that’s thin enough to fit through the tiny beak. Do not use any apparatus with even remotely sharp or rough edges to feed baby birds.
They might bite on it so hard it could damage their beak or the rooftop of their mouth. Injured baby birds seldom live. And lastly, make sure the apparatus you’re using has been properly washed, sanitized, and dried.
#1. Baby birds have very poor eyesight in the initial stages of their life, so sometimes they can’t see the feeding stick pointed right into their mouth. Don’t ever try to force the food in. Wait for the baby to sense the food by touch; it will close its mouth on its own.
#2. If you can drop the food into the baby’s mouth, that would be the best.
#3. If the baby won’t open its mouth, you can lightly tap on its beak to let it know it is feeding time.
#4. Keep feeding until the bird starts rejecting the food and then wait for the stipulated period before the next feeding session.
How To Make Baby Bird Food
Baby birds require foods high in protein. A lot of experts tend to agree that it doesn’t matter what the food is as long as it’s rich in protein. What matters more, in the case of baby birds, is the preparation.
The main thing you need to keep in mind is that everything you feed a baby bird needs to be cut up into pieces small enough for the baby to swallow. There cannot be any lumps or large chunks in the food.
If you’re making kibble or dog food, moisten it with water until it starts to feel spongy but do not soak it in water. It’s dangerous to feed baby birds water orally at this stage because they’re very tiny. The water can get into their lungs and drown them. You can mix this up with some hard-boiled eggs and mealworms.
Once the baby reaches its adolescent stage you can start to introduce some fruits and seeds into their diet.
A Few Parting Words
Raising a bird can prove to be a surprisingly rewarding and educational experience. It requires basic knowledge about health and nutrition, discipline, patience, and a very gentle touch to successfully raise a healthy bird.
Hope this blog answers your questions about what do baby birds eat. And just a final pro-tip, check the diet, feeding schedule, and quantity you’ve prepared with a veterinarian once. Some breeds require a special diet.