baby parrot care guide

How To Take Care of A Baby Parrot

Caring for baby parrots (chicks) requires hard work and dedication, but it’s also a rewarding experience. Baby parrots shouldn’t be purchased before they’re weaned.

Once weaned, baby parrots should be fed a diet of soft seeds, fruits, veggies, and greens until they’re old enough to move to pellets and dried seeds. They must be kept at temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. When choosing a cage, make sure the gaps aren’t set too far apart so that they can’t get their head stuck. Provide perches at varying widths and place them throughout their cage.

In the wild, mothers care for their young for at least a year. This involves much more than feeding, as parrots teach their chicks how to become independent. When getting a baby parrot as a pet, you’ll need to step in to keep it healthy.

Parrot Growth Stages

There are five basic development stages when it comes to a baby parrot’s growth. These include:

  • Neonate (hatchling)
  • Nestling
  • Fledgling
  • Weanling
  • Juvenile (pre-adolescent)

Neonate

During the first stage of life, newly-hatched parrots are born with their eyes closed. They’re also naked, blind, and deaf, so they are dependent on their owners.

In the wild, hatchlings are fed food that their parents regurgitate. In the absence of a mother and father, owners must provide the baby parrot with a special hand-rearing formula through a syringe.

Nestling

When the parrot reaches the nestling stage, it opens its eyes but remains dependent on its owners.

Imprinting occurs during stage two. When the chick first opens its eyes, it forms a deep bond with its parent. If another parrot isn’t present, the baby parrot will imprint on its human owner instead.

This stage is vital for a parrot’s development. As such, it will need visual, touch, and sound stimulation, as well as interactive enrichment.

Fledgling

The fledgling stage is when a parrot begins to learn how to fly. Some parrots start to lose weight, as they’re more preoccupied with flying than eating. As a result, they’re still dependant on their owners or parents for food.

Once the parrot has learned how to fly, it’s a good time to clip its wings. Doing so too early will prevent a parrot from ever learning how to fly.

Wing clipping stops a parrot from flying away and protects it from dangers around the house, such as windows, ovens, and ceiling fans.

Weanling

In the weanling stage, parrots begin to eat food independently and start to consume solid foods. Weaning parrots also begin to forage and develop skills that allow them to take care of themselves.

Juvenile

Parrots become pre-adolescent birds and can fend for themselves. They’ll be on solid food without the need for formula. They will be independent of their parents but won’t have reached sexual maturity yet.

At this stage, juvenile parrots won’t have their full adult color. This tends to develop after the molting seasons, so don’t be alarmed if your baby parrot doesn’t look how you’d expect it to.

This stage is when breeders are most likely to sell their parrots. The parrot should be at least 8 to 12 weeks old before it goes to its new home.

baby parrot feeding schedule

What Do You Feed Baby Parrots?

Hagen Avicultural Research Institute artificially incubated psittacine eggs or babies without parents to care for them need to be hand-fed for 3-5 months.

To do this, mix your chosen hand-rearing formula in boiled water that’s been allowed to cool. Stir all the lumps and bumps out to form a smooth, thickened mixture.

When hand-feeding baby parrots, the temperature of the food must be below 45°C before feeding. If it’s under 40°C, there’s a risk of it fermenting and causing infection.

However, most baby parrots will be cared for by their parents during the first stages of life. As mentioned, you should only purchase parrots that have been weaned, as hand-feeding has a range of complications that can compromise the parrot’s health.

Once the parrot has reached the weaning stage, it needs a supply of soft seeds and vegetables. Safe foods include:

It takes a little while for a baby parrot’s digestive system to become tough enough to cope with dried seeds and pellets. However, it’s safe to leave out a small dish of pellets that parrots can forage through. Also, make sure there’s always a shallow bowl of fresh water left in its cage.

Baby parrots shouldn’t be fed water orally as they can drown. They receive hydration through regurgitated foods and hand-rear formula, so they only need water bowls once they move onto solid foods when they are around 4 weeks old.

Baby Parrot Feeding Schedule

According to VCA Hospitals, how much and often to feed depends on the baby parrot’s age and growth rate. Young birds need regular feeding and eat more often than older birds.

The following guidelines set out how much food the average baby parrot needs. All feeding should be carried out between 6 am and midnight:

  • 1-2 weeks: Feed 6-10 times a day, every 2-3 hours
  • 2-3 weeks: Feed 5-6 times a day, every 3-4 hours
  • 3-4 weeks: Feed 4-5 times a day, every 4 hours. At four weeks old, the bird can be put into a cage with a low perch and a shallow water bowl
  • 5-6 weeks: Feed twice daily. Soft seeds, fruits, veggies, and a small bowl of pellets can be put in the cage
  • 7 weeks: Place the bird in a large cage with pellets in cups scattered across the floor
  • 8 weeks: The weaning process should be started. Provide nutritionally complete pellets for the parrot to eat by itself

After feeding, examine the parrot’s crop. While the bird has few feathers, you can easily see when it is full. However, a gentle examination using the thumb and index finger can also help you check the crop’s fullness.

Healthy parrots should respond well to every feed, and the crop should empty between feedings. They should also produce regular droppings.

How To Keep A Baby Parrot Warm

When a parrot is old enough to live in a cage, the ideal temperature is between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below 40 degrees are dangerous for birds and can lead to a range of health problems.

Similarly, temperatures above 85 degrees cause heat stress. Parrots also need appropriate ventilation to remain cool and comfortable.

However, keeping young chicks warm is a more complicated story, as even the smallest temperature changes can be fatal. However, in the absence of parents, you’ll need to provide the baby parrot with plenty of warmth to help it survive. To do so, follow these steps:

Make A Brooder

You’ll need a container for the parrot to live in. Commercial brooders are expensive, but you can easily make one yourself with a fish tank or plastic container.

Opt for metals or plastics that are easy to sanitize. Cardboard boxes don’t last long and can’t be cleaned. Also, try to choose a brooder that allows the parrot to move about it as it grows.

Fill It with Substrate

You’ll need to cover the floor of your chosen container with a substrate. Small parrots do well with folded-up newspaper on the bottom of the brooder. You can also use paper towels or nappies.

Avoid wood shavings or cat litter, as curious chicks will try to eat it. 

Heat The Brooder

If you’re using a commercial brooder, it will already have a heating function that can be thermostatically controlled.

If you’ve made your own, you’ll need to line it with a heat mat suitable for reptiles. Make sure your chosen source of heat has a thermostat so that you can amend the temperature when you need to.

You can also use a desk lamp set up over the brooder. With this method, use a red bulb that won’t disturb the chicks. Always keep an eye on the temperature, too. The temperature inside the brooder should be:

  • One to five days: 96°F
  • Day five to ten: 95°F
  • From 10 days until they have developed a few feathers: 91°F
  • When they have most of their down feathers: 84-89°F
  • When the wings and head are mostly covered by feathers: 78-82°F

Once the chick reaches 3 to 4 weeks of age, it can regulate its own body temperature. At this stage, you can remove the heat source. To keep a baby parrot warm, make sure the room the parrot lives in is maintained at the right temperature.

Do Baby Parrots Sleep A Lot?

The majority of parrots are either tropical or subtropical. They live near the equator, which gets 12 hours of darkness each night. As a result, parrots are awake from sunrise to sunset and need between 12 to 14 hours of uninterrupted sleep each day.

Baby birds will need more than this as they’re growing and developing. Though, it’s hard to know how often they’ll sleep for certain. The reality is chicks will rest as much as they need to.

It’s not uncommon for baby parrots to only wake up when they’re being fed, sleeping at all other times of the day until they’re older and stronger.

how to keep a baby parrot warm

How To Set Up A Parrot Cage

Parrots live in cages from around the age of 7 weeks. Because they’re still growing, it’s important to select a cage that’s going to provide enough room for your parrot to be comfortable in when it’s fully grown. Follow these baby parrot cage setup tips to get started:

Determine the Space of the Bars

This is a crucial step because parrots can get their heads stuck or escape from cages with bars set too wide apart. It’s not something you should risk, especially if you’re out of the house and can’t supervise it all hours of the day.

Small parrots, such as conures, need bars spaced ¾ inch apart. Medium-sized birds, like parakeets and cockatiels, need bars spaced ½ inch apart. Large parrots, like the Amazon and Macaw, need 1 inch between the bars.

Find a cage that allows your parrot to roam freely without too much restriction; otherwise, it can become claustrophobic and stressed.

Perches

Parrots are always on their feet, even while sleeping. Therefore, perches are an essential part of the cage’s setup. In the wild, trees and branches provide resting spots of all shapes, sizes, and widths. Try to emulate this inside the cage.

Allowing your parrot to adjust its feet to the different widths of the perches ensures that they stay supple and flexible, preventing health problems later on.

Rope perches are also a good choice, as they can be adapted to fit the cage. Also, add a Pedi perch to the cage so that your parrot can keep its claws filed down and beak and under control.

When adding perches to the cage, space them out cleverly so that the cage doesn’t become crowded. Parrots prefer high perches, but this means that they tend to ignore all others in the cage.

To start with, place the perches around the mid-level of the cage to allow your parrot to get used to them. Then, once the parrot has settled after a few weeks and the perches feel familiar, move them up higher.

Food and Water Bowls

Most cages come with at least one food and water tray. However, with trays that rest on the bottom of the cage, it’s too easy for parrots to drop empty seed husks back into it, especially while the baby parrot is learning how to forage.

This leads to a risk of starvation, so it’s a good idea to put a couple of upright feeders into the cage as well. That way, you’ll know that there’s always food available for your parrot.

Position them close to your parrot’s favorite perches so that it can easily reach its food.

Substrate

To make your parrot’s cage easier to clean, line the bottom with a layer of substrate. Newspaper will suffice. It just makes it easier for you to remove old seed husks and feces when it’s time to sanitize the cage.

How To Train A Baby Parrot

The breeder will have done most of the work when it comes to training. However, to get your parrot used to your presence and encourage it to behave appropriately, you’ll need to do some of your own training.

It will take time and patience, and training is essential if you want a sociable, tame parrot. To successfully train a baby parrot, follow these steps:

Start Handling Your Parrot

Your parrot will need to become comfortable with you touching and holding it. If you don’t do this part right, the parrot will believe it is in charge.

Always stand above your parrot so that it knows you’re the master. Then, encourage it to move onto your finger by gently placing it against its lower breast. You can begin to add commands such as “up,” “step up,” or “come on.”

Every time your parrot does what you want it to, reward it with a tasty treat to reinforce the message positively.

As you and the parrot become more comfortable around each other, practice laddering with your hands. This is where you keep moving your hand to a higher position while encouraging the parrot to step up onto it. Not only is this fun, but it will help to develop a bond between the two of you.

Continue using the positive reinforcement technique while commanding your parrot to “step up” each time. Keep practicing these motions again and again until your parrot moves on command.

Don’t Overfeed Treats

While it’s natural to want to feed your parrot its favorite treats, you should only do so when you want to encourage it to do something.

If you feed your parrot treats too often, it won’t associate them with training. There’s also too much potential for over-feeding, and your bird may start to reject its regular food in favor of something it prefers.

Discourage Biting

Parrots should never be allowed to bite or behave aggressively. Biting is different from a gentle nibble, in which your parrot will use its tongue to touch your skin.

Also, many parrots use their beaks to balance and may use your hand to co-ordinate themselves. If your parrot moves towards your hand, don’t assume it will bite you, or it may become nervous.

That being said, biting isn’t something you should leave unpunished. If you do get nipped, don’t scream or shout at your bird. Instead, remain calm and say “no” firmly, placing your hand (palm facing forwards) in front of your parrot’s face as a stop gesture.

If your parrot bites you and refuses to let you go, blow on it with a sharp puff of air to make it release. Place it back in its cage without a treat.

How To Entertain A Baby Parrot

As parrots spend a significant amount of time in their cage, you must provide entertainment and enrichment to keep your baby parrot mentally and physically healthy. Birds without stimulation can become irritable and destructive. Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do to keep your parrot occupied, including:

Toys

The first stages of your parrot’s life are crucial to its environmental awareness and development. If this isn’t nurtured, the bird could grow up with a range of behavioral problems. One of the best ways to combat this is to provide toys for your baby parrot to play with. Toys can include:

  • Puzzles
  • Toilet paper for parrots to shred
  • Paper sticks
  • Chewable objects
  • Ladders
  • Preening rope
  • Bangles
  • Building blocks

It’s not feasible to put all toys into the cage at once. Not only will this confuse the parrot, but the cage could quickly become saturated. Instead, regularly rotate the toys and games to keep your parrot alert and entertained.

baby parrot not eating food

Exercises

Aim to let your parrot out of the cage daily for a change of scenery. Parrots that spend too much time in their cage may become withdrawn and reclusive. Allow them to walk around the house to stretch their legs and wings.

Assign time each day to interact with your baby parrot. This will help you form a bond that the parrot will take through to adulthood.

And when your parrot is in its cage, place ladders and other games inside it to encourage your parrot to keep moving. This will stimulate its mind, too.

Parrot Playlist

When you need to leave the house to go to work or run errands, create a playlist for your parrot to listen to.

A study published in Current Biology confirms that parrots can process the sound of music. They also spontaneously move to music, meaning they can dance. A study by Dr. Franck Péron found that Parrots seem to enjoy:

  • Pop music
  • Rock music
  • Folk music
  • Classical music

Avoid high-tempo electronic dance music because the same study discovered that parrots subjected to this type of music squawked in distress.

Signs A Baby Parrot Is Sick

In the wild, parrots don’t show their sickness. Sick birds are the first to be attacked by predators if they sense that the parrot is weak and easy to kill.

As a result, it’s hard to tell when chicks are unwell. That being said, there are many symptoms to look out for that indicate when a parrot is sick:

  • Poor feather quality
  • Unusually fluffed feathers
  • Changes in appetite or eating habits
  • Changes to drinking habits; drinking more or less often
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Crop not emptying
  • Crop not getting full
  • Vomiting
  • Drooped wings
  • Refusal to move
  • Increased sleeping
  • Inactivity
  • Depression
  • Bleeding or signs of injury

If you notice any of the above signs affecting your baby parrot, you must take the chick to an avian vet for attention. Baby parrots are particularly vulnerable and shouldn’t be left to get better. Even the smallest health conditions can be fatal at this delicate stage.

When Can Baby Parrots Leave Their Mother?

In captivity, baby parrots are normally ready to leave their mothers at around 7 to 8 weeks of age. Once a parrot hatches, it matures quite quickly and, once weaned, is ready to leave the nest at around 8 weeks old.

However, some breeders prefer to wait until 12 weeks before allowing the baby parrot to go to its new home. Some parrots also take longer to wean than others. This comes down to the baby parrot’s personality and genetics.

Why Is My Baby Parrot Shaking?

Baby parrots shake and shiver for several reasons. It could be cold, scared, or excited. It could also signal an illness. Some of the most common reasons why a baby parrot would shake are as follows:

Cold

As determined, baby parrots need to be housed in temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If the room is too cold, the parrot will shiver to generate heat.

A parrot shakes after having a bath, too. To generate heat and keep itself warm, a parrot’s muscles contract involuntarily. As soon as the parrot is warm, it will stop shivering.

Hot

Parrots also shake when it’s too hot. The parrot will lift and shake its feathers to move cold air around its body to cool itself down. The parrot isn’t technically shivering, but it looks like it.

Scared or Stressed

After moving your baby parrot to its new home, it might shake out of nervousness or stress, especially when it’s away from its mother for the first time.

Birds are sensitive to their environments, and small changes can upset the bird. When you’re around your new pet, speak gently and move slowly so that you don’t frighten it further.

Work on building your bond but move at your parrot’s pace. If you go too fast, your parrot will never settle.

Unwell

Baby parrots hide their sickness, so it’s difficult to determine whether the bird is unwell. Parrots can’t tell us when they’re ill and rely on us to pick up on it through their behavior and body language.

Shaking is just one of the ways that parrots show us they’re not well. If you’re unsure, take your parrot to the vet to be on the safe side.

My Baby Parrot Is Scared Of Me

Understandably, baby parrots take a while to adjust, especially after moving to a new environment. As prey animals, they’re hard-wired to fear their surroundings until they know you don’t pose a threat. Until that time, they will be wary and fearful of you.

Also, the reality is that some parrots don’t enjoy being handled and never will. Unfortunately, this is a fact of life. Attempting to win your parrot’s trust by touching it more often is unlikely to help and will only make it more scared when you’re nearby.

However, baby parrots are young enough to get used to your presence and even become comfortable in it with time and patience. The following steps can help:

  • Don’t make any loud noises
  • Let it live in a quiet, neutral room
  • Don’t handle the baby parrot too often
  • Keep it out of the way of other pets
  • Don’t disturb your parrot when it’s sleeping

Over time and with care and attention, your baby parrot should start to trust you, allowing you to begin building a bond with your new pet.