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S. August Abbott, CAS
S. August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 8698
Experience:  Work w/Avian Vet; published bird care nutrition& behavior articles; consults, research
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I have a baby cockatiel that is three weeks old. I'm

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Hi I have a baby cockatiel that is three weeks old. I'm handrearing from day one. I'm worried that I've been over feeding it and its crop has stretched. Its eating well and toileting well and developing feathers nicely. I thought I should limit the quantity of food I give to 10ml each feed to give the crop chance to shrink back but I'm worried I'm starving her.She really cries for more. I keep a chart of all her feeds and weights and she hasn't been putting much on. She is going 4hrs between feeds. Should I be feeding her more often or slightly more food? Thank you for your time.
Assistant: I'll do all I can to help. The noise must be worrying. I'll connect you to the Veterinarian. Is there anything else important you think the Veterinarian should know about the cockatiel?
Customer: I have taken her to the local vet but he isn't an avian one..he said he could hear her air sacs clicking a bit but it could be normal for her plus she had a bad start with getting cold when she was first hatched and that I should monitor her for the next 3 weeks.
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Oh my! Get a new vet right away. Clicking upon breathing is never ok and never normal. It usually indicates an infection of the lungs/air sacs and absolutely should be treated with the appropriate med depending on which causation is found upon exam or testing. Most likely this is bacterial, but it could also be pneumonia from aspiration of formula which happens even with the most experienced feeders.

This can prove fatal if left untreated so I can't urge you enough to seek care asap.

It was a little 'tiel with a congenital disease that started my whole Broken Birds Sanctuary (I take the worst of the worst abused, neglected, handicapped by humans ). I still hold a high and special place in my heart for them so I want to stand by you all the way on this ok?

If you have a Pet Smart - they often have Banfield Clinic inside and a bird knowledgeable vet on staff. Any Pet Co shares their bird vet phone numbers freely

Call most regular vets and ask who they refer bird patients to. The point is, don't give up.

You did a wonderful thing in bringing him to a vet you thought would know what's what; now that you know they didn't - make one more heroic effort for him ok?

Are you keeping him in a brooder box or other nice and warm environment?

If not, here's how:

When there is an urgent care situation with a bird, most cases will require additional heat as stress can create a body temperature loss that can be quite dangerous.
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First things first: Get the bird in a safe, enclosed, secure environment where movement is limited for their own safety and comfort. You'll want a brooder box. This is a sort of ‘intensive care unit' at home.
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For a makeshift brooder, use a small box lined with soft clothes like tee shirts.
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Use a thick, clean sock and fill it ¾ with plain, raw white rice. Knot the end and microwave it for about 1 ½ minutes. Shake it afterwards to distribute the heat and be sure it's not too hot. Tuck this in just under the cloths.
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A heating pad under one half of the box is also helpful, set on low. This is one of the few times I’d ever use both heat sources if necessary to maintain incubation temp (90-105 degrees).
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If ever using an electric source for heating anything in anyway, please be vigilant and constantly double checking carefully.
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Gently drape a light cover over this box to further help hold heat in and keep light low.
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You must be on your way to professional care as soon as possible. The best you can do is help maintain them until the hands on exam.
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Will you check back with me? (sorry to keep calling it a 'he', that's what my 'tiel was and he was magnificent despite his life being very, very short)

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Hi thank you so much for getting back to me. The clicking sound has gone I havent heard it for a few days.Hes developing well and feathering up and exploring more hes even trying to nibble on millet and egg food.I'm worried about his crop I think I may have overfed him in the second week. I have limited him to 10ml per feed and he has four or five feeds a day and I've been weighing him daily its day 22 and he weighs 101g empty and 110g full. Is this right? I've got him in a brooder at 30°c he cant stand it any hotter. hes got all his feathers and hes preening. I dont know what to do because all the advice on the internet is conflicting. I just want to do the best for him. I've found an avian vet but its quite a way away and I wont be able to go until after the bank holiday. Am I doing the right things? Thank you.

I just signed back on after my computer decided to do a huge update without my permission! Bad computer.

Give me a few minutes to review and reply - you're my focus right now

Here's the 'good news' - you can stop putting yourself and baby through the hand feedings at this point and almost completely eliminate the chance of aspiration.

Since he/she is such a little bitty baby, he's (I'm calling it a he, hope that's ok) going to adjust to any first foods you feed and to insure a very, very long life with as few health complications as possible. A life span of 15-18 yrs is expected, but I've seen a well cared for 'tiel go well into their 20's and we're seeing even more record holders in their 30's (unusual, but happening)

Cockatiel fledglings can be started on solid food as early as 2 1/2 weeks, but closer to 3 is my preference.
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I also prefer to remove slowly. Take them out to their own cage which is right next to their parents, for 1/2 a day (afternoons right up until bedtime) and then replace them. Do this for two or three days, then start taking them out first thing in the morning and only replacing them at night for another 2-3 days.
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Finally let them stay in their own cage all day and night. If they really seem to be stressing over this or not eating well, start all over.
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You need a gram scale to monitor their weights during weaning.
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Do it at the same time each day and write it down (not an ounce scale, a gram scale is absolutely necessary for birds).
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If weight goes down by 5% -- you need to modify feeding and make more efforts for them. Weight staying the same or dropping by less than 5% is ok for a week or so - it should adjust and start going up as the bird becomes more independent and confident.

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http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww50eii.htm
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It’s not easy for some birds to make the conversion, but quite often that’s because their owner is too easily swayed by their demands and fear that the bird isn’t going to eat at all if they don’t get their junk food.
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When I take in rescues, one of the most common problems is nutrition. The birds are either terribly underweight or obese. Changing their diet is often a matter of life or death and I haven’t lost anyone to date.
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Ideally start with a no color, light tan/brown pellet like Harrison's or Exact or whatever you feel you can stick with for 20 years. In picky eaters I’ll try every type of pellet out there, whether fruity or plain, spicy or a combination – just be sure to get the size & type appropriate for your individual bird (cockatiels)
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Offer a pellet from your fingers as a treat (if your bird is used to taking treats from your fingers that is) and go ahead and try one yourself so the bird can see. I’m serious – try it yourself. Your bird shouldn’t be expected to eat anything that you wouldn’t eat yourself. Pellets are made from real fruits and vegetables (not cereal like some people mistakenly think).

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I’ve mixed pellets in with cereal too, especially a good, healthy, low sugar type. Try crushing them into an all natural yogurt or baby food of mixed vegetables, sweet potatoes, squash or the like. One of our macaws started to love them when she found them in with her blueberries and other cut up fruit.
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I’ve found it’s not a good idea to mix the pellets in with the seeds, but be creative otherwise.

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One warning is that if you mix the pellets in with anything wet or even make a ‘mush’ out of the pellets using plain water, a natural, low sugar fruit juice – you must remove the dish (must!) after an hour or two, tops. There’s too much chance for bacterial growth in wet foods and this only makes a problem worse.
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Cockatiel fledglings can be started on solid food as early as 2 1/2 weeks, but closer to 3 is my preference.
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I also prefer to remove slowly. Take them out to their own cage which is right next to their parents, for 1/2 a day (afternoons right up until bedtime) and then replace them. Do this for two or three days, then start taking them out first thing in the morning and only replacing them at night for another 2-3 days.
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Finally let them stay in their own cage all day and night. If they really seem to be stressing over this or not eating well, start all over.
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You are so smart in already having that gram scale to monitor his weights - especially now during weaning.
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Do it at the same time each day and write it down (not an ounce scale, a gram scale is absolutely necessary for birds).
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Here's how to know how he's doing: If weight goes down by 5% -- you need to modify feeding and make more efforts for them. Not necessarily by hand feeding again (they can hold out for this!) but by trying more tricks. Weight staying the same or dropping by less than 5% is ok for a week or so - it should adjust and start going up as the bird becomes more independent and confident.

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http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww50eii.htm
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It’s not easy for some birds to make the conversion, but quite often that’s because their owner is too easily swayed by their demands and fear that the bird isn’t going to eat at all if they don’t get their junk food.
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When I take in rescues, one of the most common problems is nutrition. The birds are either terribly underweight or obese. Changing their diet is often a matter of life or death and I haven’t lost anyone to date.
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You don't want to make a habit of millet though. It's very high in fat calories. Appropriate millet servings are about the size of a thumbnail. Once a week. Surprised right? Otherwise your baby might end up obese and with liver disease among many other issues that are not good.

Have you been able to determine sex for sure yet? He may still be too young - but you know how right?

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Thank you so much for all your help and advice..theres a lot of information to take on board. Hes doing ok. I think I panic too much and are looking for things that are not there but when you have raised a baby from the egg and you spend a lot of time with them it's hard not to worry. I actually have an aviary outside with 15 cockatiels the oldest is 22 years old hes the great grandad of this chick. The chicks parents have had eggs all season the mother a pearl is good but unfortunately the father a white face forgets to take his turn so the eggs go cold hence not having chicks for a long time. I dont know how this chick survived but I heard the egg cheaping and it was so cold. I warmed it and watched but something told me to help and he was born on the 1st August. I kept trying to get the parents to take an interest but alas they didnt. I made the decision to pull him out to hand rear that later that day. I have done this before when some parents were feather plucking the older chicks and the youngest of the four was an egg. It was easier with four they kept themself warmer and they had company. This was over 10 years ago so I'm a little rusty. Everyone is telling me I'm doing a great job but I feel guilty because I'm sure I've stretched his crop by over feeding but like I said I've cut back to 10ml and hes put weight on today so I'm less worried. They are so small and precious even more so when you've put time and love into handrearing. I just wanted to know if I was doing the right thing for him. I think this one will hopefully become a house bird for my father who lost his bird and the one he has now wont go to him because it's my bird that I raised from an egg and she is totally bonded with me. This bird is most settled with my dad so I really need her to be ok its like extra pressure for me not to do anything wrong. Thanks again for your help
Customer: replied 2 months ago.
I know about millet being junk food the aviary get just two small fronds per week for all of them but the baby is just using it to practice foraging I dont think hes eaten any. I feel that this one is a boy I've heard a few stronger chirps hes got dark orange cheek patches coming too but I cant tell yet if hes got bars or not on his tail..hes coming through pearl but if its Male I think they loose that at the first moult..it doesn't matter to me boy or girl pearl or normal..the fighting survival spirit of this little one is awe inspiring.

I know, I know, I get pretty passionate about giving way more info than was even asked for! It's just that your description reminds me of my little guy. Oh that awful, grating noise they make in order to get fed, right? As hard as it is, you have to stand your ground - my baby was looking for feedings months after weaning completely! I rescue birds and whenever he saw a syringe he went back to baby mode.

So yep, I totally know how you feel and honestly, it's better to be a fussy, worried parent than miss something !

It seems to me that this little baby was not just destined to survive, but is truly blessed to have a one-on-one relationship with humans. They grow such incredible personalities that way.

And with dark orange cheeks? That's a "Mr" ! The one who inspired my building Broken Birds Sanctuary wasn't supposed to live a year so I never named him. I just called him 'Baby'. When he surpassed his first year, I called him "Mr Baby" . He eventually succumbed to his disease one month short of his 2nd b'day. That was nearly 19 yrs ago and I still miss that little man.

So whatever you and yours needs, I'm here for you

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
I call him Shelley ..he has the brightest canary yellow quiff that I've ever seen. Hes sat preening on me and hes started stretching and flapping his wings. Yes that noise its unmistakable..and I know what you mean they aren't just cockatiels they all have a different personality..hes eating his feet!! I thought tango the one who's 22 wouldn't last long because his cheek patches bled into his face colouring and I read it was a liver thing? I just make sure they have a balanced varied diet and lots of toys to forage from. When do their crops shrink back is it once they are fully weaned? My mum told me to stop comparing him.to the others because this one is totally different. I'm using kaytee exact handrearing formula. Before I could take the chicks into the aviary and the parents helped feed them alongside.This is the first chick I've hand reared all by myself. I need to relax and enjoy it more and stop stressing about everything I've got him to 22 days so I must be doing something right?

You are doing just fine and now it's time to stop the hand feeding. You can still supplement his 'big boy food' with some formula fed from a spoon. No more syringe though. Expect a few temper tantrums making that awful noise for a feeding, but just comfort him and love him - offer the fresh foods and he'll be good.

Seriously though, no seeds. You wouldn't believe the complications that happen from seeds in an in-home bird. They just don't fly enough to burn off the extra fat

The cheek color 'bleeding' is an old wives tale. Sometimes it's just the way the color goes and it's actually unique variations like this that prompts breeders to try to make more like it.

We don't actually 'see' liver disease until it's pretty far along and that's why a pelleted diet is ideal. Much fewer cases of this.

Continue to keep Shelley (from Big Bang Theory?) warm since he's still very young and talk talk talk to him. The first words out of mine was the question I asked him every night while he was covered up and too quiet: Are you alright?

He'd rustle a bit and I'd know he was fine. Then one day as I rushed around busily getting things done - he wanted my attention and all of a sudden I heard as clear as a bell: Are You alright?

He went on to learn 33 different words and would speak in intelligent sentences of up to 5 words: Mommy, I want a cookie (little cockatiel treats he Loved) and when he wanted out of his cage, "Mommy, I want to come out" - I left him in his carrier on a seat at an airport once while I checked in and the whole room heard "Mommy, I'm RIGHT HERE"

So talk talk talk and whistle fun tunes. Mr Baby whistled the 1812 Overture constantly. No idea why I taught him that. I think the bond your forming will be lifelong - so let's do it right , right?

S. August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 8698
Experience: Work w/Avian Vet; published bird care nutrition& behavior articles; consults, research
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