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baby parrot care guide

How To Take Care of A Baby Parrot (from Hatchling To Juvenile)

(Last Updated On: March 13, 2023)

Caring for baby parrots (chicks) requires knowledge, patience, and consistency. Ideally, baby parrots should be weaned by their parents to reduce the risk of health and behavioral problems.

Some wild parrots, like macaws, care for their young for about 12 months, teaching them survival skills, such as learning to fly and feed independently.

Parrots learn to fly (fledge) before weaning, where they develop the necessary skills to find and eat food. During the weaning process, baby parrots will transition from crop milk (or formula) to solid foods.

Adults hold their young in position with their feet and beaks to assist with weaning. So, you can replicate this process by finger-feeding baby parrots moist and warm food, such as cooked carrots and yams.

If feeding is withdrawn prematurely (known as force-weaning), behavioral and health problems can arise. This can lead to stress-related sickness, hyperresponsivity, and highly-strung behavior.

Parrot Growth Stages

There are 5 development stages of a baby parrot’s growth:

  1. Neonate (hatchling).
  2. Nestling.
  3. Fledgling.
  4. Weanling.
  5. Juvenile (pre-adolescent).

Neonate

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

In the wild, hatchlings are fed food that their parents regurgitate. Without a mother and father, owners must give chicks a special hand-rearing formula through a syringe.

Nestling

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

Imprinting occurs during stage 2. When the chick first opens its eyes, it bonds deeply with its parents. If another parrot isn’t present, the baby parrot will imprint on its human owner.

This stage is vital for development because it needs visual, touch, and sound stimulation.

Fledgling

The fledgling stage is when a parrot learns how to fly.

Some parrots start to lose weight as they’re more preoccupied with flying than eating. As a result, they’re dependent on their parents (or owners) for food.

Weanling

In the weanling stage, parrots consume solid foods independently. Weaning parrots learn to forage and develop skills, enabling them to care for themselves.

Juvenile

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

Juvenile parrots won’t have their full adult color at this stage, which develops after the molting season.

The parrot should be at least 8 to 12 weeks old before it’s given a new home.

baby parrot feeding schedule

What Do You Feed Baby Parrots?

Hagen Avicultural Research Institute artificially incubated psittacine eggs, and babies without parents were hand-fed for 3-5 months.

To do this, mix a hand-rearing formula in boiled water that had time to cool. Stir out all the lumps and bumps to form a smooth, thickened mixture.

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

However, most chicks will be cared for by their parents during their initial life stages.

Once the parrot has reached the weaning stage, it needs these foods:

It takes a while for a baby parrot’s digestive system to become robust enough to cope with dried seeds and pellets. However, leaving a small dish of pellets for parrots to forage through is safe.

Baby parrots shouldn’t be given water as they can drown.

They receive sufficient hydration through regurgitated foods and hand-rearing formula, so they only need water bowls once they move onto solid foods at about 4 weeks old.

Baby Parrot Feeding Schedule

According to VCA Hospitals, the amount and how often you feed a baby parrot is age and growth rate-dependent. 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 daily, every 2-3 hours.
  • 2-3 weeks: Feed 5-6 times daily, every 3-4 hours.
  • 3-4 weeks: Feed 4-5 times daily, every 4 hours. The bird can be put into a cage with a low perch and a shallow water bowl at four weeks old.
  • 5-6 weeks: Feed twice daily. Soft seeds, fruits, vegetables, and pellets can be added to 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 over. Then, provide nutritionally complete pellets.

After feeding, examine the crop. While the bird has few feathers, you can see if the crop is full. However, an examination using the thumb and index finger enables you to 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 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below 40 degrees are dangerous for birds, leading to health problems.

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

Keeping young chicks warm is more complicated, as the slightest temperature change can be life-threatening. Without parents, you must provide the baby parrot warmth to ensure it survives.

To keep a baby parrot warm, follow these steps:

Make A Brooder

You’ll need a container for a baby parrot to live in. You can get a commercial brooder or make one with a plastic container. Opt for metals or plastics that are easy to sanitize.

Choose a brooder that allows a baby parrot to move about as it grows and develops.

Fill It with Substrate

Cover the floor of the container with a substrate. Small parrots do well with folded-up newspaper on the bottom of the brooder, but you can use paper towels.

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

Heat The Brooder

If you’re using a commercial brooder, it’ll already have a thermostatically controlled heating function.

If you’ve made your own, line it with a heat mat. Ensure the chosen heat source has a thermostat so you can adjust the temperature.

You can also use a desk lamp over the brooder, which uses a red bulb that won’t disturb the chicks. The temperature inside the brooder should be:

  • 1-5 days: 96°F.
  • Days 5-10: 95°F.
  • From 10 days until they’ve developed some feathers: 91°F.
  • When they’ve 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 body temperature.

At this stage, you can remove the heat source. To keep a baby parrot warm, ensure the room’s 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. So, parrots are awake from sunrise to sunset and need between 10 to 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep each day.

Baby birds need more sleep (up to 20 hours) due to growth and development. Although it’s hard to know how often they’ll sleep, chicks will rest as much as they need to.

It’s not uncommon for baby parrots to only wake up when fed, sleeping at all other times of the day.

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. As they’re still growing, selecting a cage that’ll provide enough room for them to be comfortable when fully grown is important.

Follow the cage setup advice below to get started:

Bar Spacing

Parrots can get their heads stuck or escape from cages if the bars are set too far apart.

  • Small parrots, like budgerigars and parrotlets, need bars spaced 1/4″ to 1/2″ inch apart.
  • Medium-sized birds, like cockatiels and Senegals, need bars spaced 1/2″ to 5/8″ inch apart.
  • Large parrots, like Amazons and Macaws, need 1 to 1.5″ inches between the bars.

Find a cage that allows a parrot to roam freely without too much restriction.

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.

Allowing a parrot to adjust its feet to the widths of the perches ensures it stays supple and flexible, preventing health problems like bumblefoot (pododermatitis) later.

Rope perches can be adapted to fit the cage. Also, add a Pedi perch to the cage for a couple of days per week so the parrot can keep its claws filed down to a comfortable length.

When adding perches to the cage, space them out to provide options. Parrots prefer high perches and tend to ignore all others in the cage.

Food and Water Bowls

Most cages have at least 1 food and 1 water tray. However, with trays that rest on the bottom of the cage, parrots drop their food. So, adding a couple of upright feeders to the cage is a good idea.

Substrate

Line the bottom with a substrate like newspaper or paper towels to make cleaning a parrot’s cage easier.

How To Train A Baby Parrot

You’ll need to perform training to get a parrot accustomed to your presence and promote positive behavior. To successfully train a baby parrot, follow these steps:

Start Handling The Parrot

A parrot will need to become comfortable with you touching and holding it.

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

When the parrot does what you want, reward it with a treat to reinforce the message.

Once you become comfortable around each other, practice laddering with your hands, which involves moving your hand to a higher position while encouraging the parrot to step up onto it.

Don’t Overfeed Treats

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

Discourage Biting

Parrots shouldn’t be allowed to bite or behave aggressively. Biting differs from a gentle nibble, where the parrot will use its tongue to touch your skin.

Also, many parrots use their beaks to balance and may use human hands to coordinate themselves. If the parrot moves toward your hand, don’t assume it’ll bite, or it may become nervous.

Don’t shout at the bird if you get nipped. Instead, remain calm and say “no” firmly, placing your hand (palm facing forwards) in front of the parrot’s face as a stop gesture.

If the parrot bites and refuses to let you go, blow on it with a sharp puff of air to make it release. Then, 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 them mentally and physically healthy.

There’s plenty you can do to keep a parrot occupied, including:

Toys

The first stages of a parrot’s life are crucial to its environmental awareness and development. The bird could develop behavioral problems if it isn’t nurtured. This can be avoided with the following:

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

Regularly rotate the toys and games to keep the parrot alert and entertained.

baby parrot not eating food

Exercises

Let the 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, which will help you form a lasting bond with the parrot.

Parrot Playlist

Create a music playlist for the parrot to listen to when you need to leave the house.

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 it leads t distress.

Signs A Baby Parrot Is Sick

Wild parrots avoid showing signs of sickness. Sick birds are the first to be attacked by predators if they sense the parrot is weak and easy to kill. As a result, it’s hard to tell when chicks are unwell.

That said, many symptoms 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.
  • The crop isn’t emptying.
  • The crop isn’t getting full.
  • Vomiting.
  • Drooped wings.
  • Refusal to move.
  • Increased sleeping.
  • Inactivity.
  • Depression.
  • Bleeding or signs of injury.

If you notice one or more of these affecting the baby parrot, take them to an avian vet.

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 chick hatches, it matures quickly and, once weaned, is ready to leave the nest at around 8 weeks old.

Some breeders prefer to wait until 12 weeks before allowing a baby parrot to go to its new home.

Why Is My Baby Parrot Shaking?

Baby parrots shake and shiver when cold, scared, excited, or sick.

The most common reasons why a baby parrot would shake include the following:

Cold

Baby parrots must be housed in temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The baby parrot will shiver to generate heat if the room is too cold.

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

Hot

The parrot will lift and shake its feathers to move cold air around its body to cool itself down. It isn’t technically shivering, but it appears that way.

Scared or Stressed

After moving the 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, meaning small changes can unsettle them. Speak gently and move slowly to avoid frightening it further.

Unwell

Baby parrots hide their sickness, so it’s difficult to determine whether they’re 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.

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 hardwired to fear their surroundings until they know you don’t pose a threat. Until that time, they’ll be wary and fearful of you.

Some parrots don’t enjoy being handled and never will. Attempting to win a 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 can adjust to your presence if you avoid the following:

  • Don’t make loud noises.
  • Let it live in a quiet, neutral room.
  • Don’t handle them too often.
  • Keep other pets away.
  • Avoid disturbing them while sleeping.

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