BB8 – Week 1. Dynamite comes in small packages


This week was a roller-coaster, putting it lightly. My primary goal was to try and get food into him. We were recommended formula especially for young parrots. Avi-Plus was recommended by Dr Pete Wood, and so we went with this as our first choice. The first few days I only managed to feed it 15-40 ml each day. I was using a metal teaspoon to feed the chick – very messy and not at all easy. This was recommended by Donald Kemp and his wife who had hand-reared two African Grey chicks before. By day 3 I was at my wits end at the mess in inefficiency with the spoon, switched to a 20 ml syringe, and the rest is history.

Using a syringe, I was able to get considerably larger quantities in at each feed. The chick was less aggressive and more content with having had a decent meal. And I was much less stressed knowing that I was fulling its crop each feed. By the next day I was doubling the quantity of formula, clearly the chick had some catching up to do! William Horsfield recommended that I ditch Avi-Plus and go for Kaytee formula instead. Kaytee was ordered, delivered, tried, but the parrot was not so interested! It preferred Avi-Plus. So, I started to mix both formula, mixing in less and less Avi-Plus until it was just Kaytee. That worked.

At this stage he wasn’t drinking, as he was getting enough water through the runny formula mix. During each feed, I would fill the syringed with formula, and squeeze 1 ml at a time into the side of the open bill. He would swallow, then I’ll squeeze another 1 ml, and so on.

The chick was inside the brooder throughout the day, which was initially kept at 23 degrees C. This was later increased to 26 degrees to reduce shivering. It was still quite aggressive during each feed, and we were using gloves to handle it to save our fingers. I was weighing the chick first thing each morning. Weight was fluctuating, but more losses than gains.

After day 4, things got easier. With the syringe, I didn’t have to handle the chick as much, which meant both the chick and I were a lot less stressed. I was using a large blue bowl in which to feed it. It began getting get used to climbing in and out of this bowl before and after each feed. Having it in the bowl meant I could weigh it easily and move it in and out of the brooder without having to touch it. By the end of the week, it was climbing out of the bowl on its own as soon as it had eaten enough. I placed non-slip in the bowl, making it easier for him to climb in and out of, without slipping.

Evenings were difficult. The brooder maintains heat using a lamp. If the temperature in the brooder dips below the set temperature, the light comes on and the brooder warms up, then the light switches off again. And this continued and on all through the night. The poor bird waking up every time the lights would click on and off. One night I turned off the brooder, surrounded the brooder with heaters, and maintained the temperature myself, carefully watching a thermometer placed inside the brooder right at the front. After a long night, the chick woke up feeling refreshed. Me, not so refreshed having slept very little. A plan was made the next night however to cover the light, allowing some light in at the back, and the heat along with it, but significantly reducing the amount of light in the brooder during night. Both the parrot and I slept better after that. The cover however must be placed inside the lamp section, so that there is the brooder wall between the parrot and the foam cover. Any cover for the light placed inside the brooder will get chewed.

Important lesson:

  • Use syringe to feed, not spoon.
  • Cover brooder lamps on the inside to prevent chewing, and to allow for the parrot to sleep better!