Hand Feeding

Hand Rearing orphans

These type of electric seed Propagators are what I use to hand rear birds they can be obtained from any local DIY store for between 10 and 15 pounds, Care must be applied when using these items as they are not really meant for the job but I add a thermometer raised on a dish to give a better reading of the temperature, a dish of water for humidity and lift the nesting receptacle up of the heat pad to stop the nest and babies from  getting to warm, and inspect the condition of the young birds and the temperature at regular intervals, all the Information below that I use  is available in full from Priors Pets the same company that supplies the rearing formula I have adapted there rearing technique that they use for parrots.
Brooders and Containers
There are as many different and successful baby brooders as their are hand-feeding formulas. Some are home made wooden boxes with electric elements or lights to keep the babies warm. Others are adapted metal game chick brooders or glass aquariums with custom made heaters to partially cover the top or bottom of the tank. Brooders set up with heating pads often result in cooked babies, thermal injuries or cold babies since precise, constant temperature maintenance is difficult (Stoddard, 1988). Another problem with home made or adapted brooders is their usual lack of humidity control. Human baby incubators and specific commercial baby bird brooders have more accurate temperature and humidity control but are difficult to obtain or can become expensive when many babies have to be housed.
 If you intend rearing baby birds on a regular basis follow the suggestions below. the above type of brooder may not get hot enough for new born or babies in the first week of life as they only reach a temperature of 30 degrees C. The professional brooder opposite or similar will be the best type to use. 

 Brooders should be relatively small as an important part of disease prevention with babies is to keep clutches separate and this is limited with large brooders. They should provide constant, even heat that can be finely adjusted, be well ventilated, easily cleaned and have a water receptacle to add humidity.

The ambient temperature and humidity of baby antiracial birds must be regulated. Young, up until they are feathered out, need supplemental heat above room temperature to thrive and even survive. Chilled babies, either because of neglectful parent birds or power failure to the brooder heater, will deteriorate quickly. These chicks may die later even after being warmed up. Nursery room temperature should be kept warm between 78 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. (as I never try to rear babies until they are 4 or more days old this is the normal temperature that I use rearing birds from day old is very difficult but from 4 or 5 days it is much easier depending on the size of the species)
The brooder temperature for recently hatched chicks can remain at the hatching temperature of 35.0-36.5C (96-98F) for the first few days. Once the baby is eating more solid food, at about 2-3 days of age, it should be kept at a lower temperature of 33.5-35.0C (92-96F) depending on the species and its metabolism. From there up to about two weeks of age babies should be in an environmental temperature of 32.0-33.5C (90-92F) (Table 2). If temperatures are to high the chick may exhibit panting, unrest, hyperactivity and have dry, reddened skin (Clubb and Clubb, 1986). Cold temperatures may result in death, poor gut motility, crop stasis or other digestive disorders, failure to feed or beg, inactivity or shivering (Clubb and Clubb, 1986).

Table 2. Approximate Brooder Temperature
All birds differ so change the temperature to suit the individual

   Age                     Temperature
                            C       F

    Hatch to Day 2-3     35.0-36.5  96-98
    Day 3 to Day 6-8     31.1-34.0  88-94
    to fully feathered        25.0-30.0  76-86

If only one bird is being reared on its own use the higher temperatures

Natural nesting cavities in wooden tree trunks probably have a high relative humidity. Moist droppings from any babies within them will add to this, resulting in an environment of high humidity. These are unfortunately not the humidity levels found in most nursery brooders (Clipsham, 1989b). Most babies are traditionally raised on dry heat with heating pads, light bulbs or electric coils. A range of 55-70% humidity produces quieter, fatter babies with a greater growth rate than those kept at levels of 15-35% (Clipsham, 1989b). Ambient humidity for hatching eggs and hand fed chicks can be increased by increasing nursery room humidity and, more effectively, by using containers of water as a source of both heat and humidity.

Young babies, less than two weeks of age, can be kept on paper towels in plastic cups, re-used yogurt containers or small aquariums. Babies should be sitting on clean and dry bedding which is therefore changed at each feeding. This may not provide firm enough footing for some birds which should be transferred onto paper or wood shavings or towels to avoid splayed legs



 I use Hagen Tropican no other food is necessary until the birds are self supporting, click on the image below for more product details.

It is easier to feed very young birds with a syringe, but as the birds get bigger I find a spatula  better it is not quite so messy, as youngsters start to jump about to apply the syringe into a moving birds mouth is very difficult and I don't like to keep handling the young birds, as the youngsters get older they will start to peck at the food from the stick and this helps with weaning. Tweezers are to remove faeces and keep the nest  area clean.

Hagen Tropican

Hand Feeding Formula

Available from

Priors Pets

Click Here

Easy to prepare  Just add hot water to dry formula and mix.
Contains "Human Grade" Sunflower kernel and peanut meat. Contains the optimum levels of Vitamins, Minerals, Amino acids and other nutrients required by birds. 
Protein: 22.0%, Fat: 11.0%, Fiber: 3.5%

 young hand fed Hawfinch cock  from above, 3 birds were successfully hand reared out of 4 that were taken from the hen, this bird is  about 20 days old in the photograph, It is still not eating on its own, hand fed birds don't learn to eat from there parents but will eventually start to peck as a natural instinct, at this time sprinkle some scraps of food on a white surface and the young birds will eventually learn that its food this usually takes longer than if the birds are parent reared so do not rush them.


Once birds start to peck they can be offered the spatula that you feed the bird with and they will start to peck the food from it, this will encourage them to peck at the food.

There is nothing more rewarding than saving the life of a young bird, Hand rearing is very time consuming and takes real commitment but once the bird is reared it will pay you back for years always coming to you for the odd titbit even though you do not want to make the bird silly tame offering the bird  daily  a few mealworms will keep the bird friendly.

Hawfinches are very shy and timid birds and parent reared birds often fetch blood when handled there beaks are so powerful they can crack open a cherry stone, so your finger does not stand a chance. Hand reared birds don't mind being handled and even though they will still peck you they don't hurt you and don't mind your presence or interference even when breeding.

Two Young Hand reared Hawfinches cock left and hen above in adult plumage both at 4 months old