After the egg hatches from the parrot incubator and is moved to the parrot brooder, you need to hand feed the baby parrot until it can eat on it’s own – anywhere from four weeks to four months depending on the type of bird.
When hand feeding baby parrots, especially the Macaws, along with the other larger parrots, Cockatoos, Amazons, and African Greys, what starts out as a tiny portion soon becomes a big gulp of food. That little bag of premium hand feeding formula is great for starting birds but soon eats up your profits.
Have you ever noticed that anything with the word “parrot” attached seems to carry a premium price? These specialty foods cost per meal than a burger from the local fast food value menu.
It was before my time, and I’ve been raising baby parrots for eighteen years, many breeders made their own hand feeding formula. They would start with Monkey Chow… yes not a misprint… and add some banana or some beans to it. Throw it in a blender and they were done. I suspect they fed using the paper cup method of delivery because it would be hard to get the mix fine enough for a syringe style of feeding.
I’m sure there are breeders today still doing some variation of that. I never knew where you bought Monkey Chow, I assumed Purina made it. What I did know was that there other ways to make hand feeding formula.
I would buy pine shaving for my nestboxes from the local farm and ranch supply house. One time in the store I noticed that a fifty pound bag of Chicken Pellets (Purina Chick Starter, Feed n Grow), or something like that. I compared the breakdown of protein, carbs, etc and it was very similar to the hand feeding formula I was using. And fifty pounds was $12.00. Five pounds of something with a parrot on it was over $20.00. That’s 2000% (two thousand percent) more. More or less.
I was spending over $100 to hand feed one macaw baby all the way through to weaning. This fifty pound bag of Start n Grow was $12.00. That was a big difference.
So I tried an experiment. I bought a fifty pound bag of Start n Grow, ( not the medicated stuff – I didn’t want anything but food in the feed) I took a cup of it and threw it in the blender to grind it up smaller and the blender choked on it. So I added some water to the mix, – what a mess that was. I really began to appreciate the quick – just add some water to the ready made hand feeding formula – feeding process. Time is money too – right? The extra time to mix up the cheaper formula and the extra mess was the tipping point back to the parrot hand feeding formula.
There had to be a better way. And there is. The answer is a flour mill. Check amazon.com or just Google “flour mill”.
Get one with a motor – and fast is good. Some mills are too slow. A mill will turn your pellets back into the flour they were before they were pellets.
Kinda funny when you think of it. They start with flour, Charge a premium for it when it goes in a bag with a baby parrot on it, Then they make the rest into it into pellets for chickens. Then they break some of the pellets into crumbles for baby chickens to eat.
Anyway, back to the topic… A home flour mill will make flour out of the parrot pellets you toss in it and make it into hand feeding formula you can use just like store bought and way cheaper than hand feeding formula from the store. Chicken Start n Grow – same thing – and way cheaper than parrot pellets. One clutch of 3 baby macaws and you are even on food costs using your flour mill/chicken pellet investment. after that save over $100 per baby macaw you hand raise..
If you think that isn’t big, think again. Now we’ve just talked about the money. Saving money is great, you also have little to no extra time grinding the hand feeding flour. So using the home milled flour isn’t any more work that using the store bought. So the last question – I can phrase this several ways, and perhaps the most important is “Is it healthy? Will my baby macaws grow up as well, will they gain weight at the same rate?
I wanted to know the answer to these questions too. So I did an experiment. I took on clutch of macaw babies (three) I already had weight gain charts from previous clutches. I knew what to expect and had the records to prove it. These were day one babies (A day one baby is one I feed from the day it hatches in the parrot egg incubator).
I started them on the store bought hand feeding formula. After a week ( They don’t eat much the first week) I switched them over to my home milled formula. And charted their weight gain. I saw no difference in how they gained weight and how they turned out. I was amazed. I never went back. From then on I always started the first week on store bought, and then switched to home milled hand feeding formula – milled from Chicken Start N Grow crumbles.
Hand feeding parrots is a healthy investment of money and time. From a quality parrot egg incubator and brooder for parrots that are needed for the best results, to the late hours feeding babies, you don’t need to spend any more than you have to. I could now cut my food cost to a minimum. If you raise large parrots, macaws, or have a large quantity of birds to feed, this is a way to be more profitable. This is a tough business, one done out of love for the animals. Give yourself a raise, take some financial pressure off. Do the same experiment yourself. See the difference.
Teach a friend or acquaintance all you know about raising birds. Pass on your knowledge. There are old breeders that have held their knowledge close to the vest, not sharing their tips and tricks to surviving in this business. Many of the breeders I knew when I was starting are gone now.
Hand feeding baby parrots is one of the most rewarding hobbies or profession you can experience. It has to be because it is tough to succeed. If you love baby parrots – give it a try. Get a local bird club person to teach you to hand feed. If you already know, teach someone – don’t be afraid of competition – that is the short view. In the long view you’ll be ensuring that these skills and this knowledge endures.
Jim Avey, is an expert at raising macaws, and manufactures related breeder equipment. Learn more at www.aveyincubator.com or www.precisionincubators.com