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Hand-Raising a Baby Lovebird: A Personal Experience

Sakina loves birds and has had pet parrots and budgies. Now she has two lovebirds, one of which is a peach-faced male she hand-raised.

Adorable, isn't he? Mumu is my baby lovebird. He is waiting to be fed.

Adorable, isn't he? Mumu is my baby lovebird. He is waiting to be fed.

Hand-Raising Is a Huge Responsibility

Hand-raising a baby lovebird is a huge responsibility. It is just like raising a child. Given proper care and attention, hand-raised birds make the most loyal and loving pets one could ever find. It is like having a constant companion with you every day.

In this article, I have written about the following main topics, under which several pictures, videos, and callout capsules are included. Read on below to find all about hand-raising your baby pet:

  • Getting Started: Feeding
  • Preparing the Formula
  • How to Feed the Baby
  • What to Do After Feeding
  • Baby Lovebirds' Growth Progression (Weeks 3–6)
  • What Do Weaned Lovebirds Eat?
  • What if Your Lovebird Is Scared of New Foods?
  • Important Points to Remember
  • 10 Unique Facts About My Lovebird, Mumu

Getting Started: Feeding

To be honest, I was literally scared to touch my baby pet named Mumu. We had bought him from a pet shop on March 12th, 2016. I had never raised a baby bird before; therefore, I was clueless. The internet proved to be an immense help, guiding me in my worried state.

Nevertheless, I gathered my courage and decided to feed him. I opened the brooder and gently lifted the sleepy baby out. He was clearly surprised and lunged forward to bite me. I stifled a laugh at his trivial attempt to scare me off. Eventually, I started feeding him.

Preparing the Formula

You will need boiled water, baby bird food powder, a syringe and feeding spoon (when your baby gets older).

  1. Boiling the water is essential to kill germs that could harm your baby bird.
  2. Mix a little amount of powder and water till the consistency is fine (neither too thick nor too watery). There shouldn't be any lumps in the formula.
  3. Fill the syringe between 6–8 ml. Check the temperature of the formula on your palm. (Caution: high-temperature formula could burn your baby's throat).
  4. Feed this amount of formula every 3 to 4 hours depending on your baby's need. Check your baby's crop (the area around the stomach, check the image below).
The picture shows the full crop of my baby lovebird Mumu. See the bulging crop in this image. It indicates that your baby doesn't require anymore feeding.

The picture shows the full crop of my baby lovebird Mumu. See the bulging crop in this image. It indicates that your baby doesn't require anymore feeding.

How to Feed the Baby

You need to be very gentle while feeding your baby bird. The technique is simple, but it should be done with utmost care and caution.

  1. Feed your baby when he/she is the most hungry. You will know this when you show him/ her the syringe. He/she will make crying sounds and jump forward eagerly.
  2. The head of your baby bird should be tilted upwards.
  3. Gently place the tip of the syringe in your baby's beak and start feeding. If done properly, you will see your bird swallowing food. While swallowing your bird will bob his head or show body movement. Do not rush, always feed slowly.
  4. Check the crop; if it has bulged, you should stop feeding your bird. You will also notice two bubble-like formations at your baby's back. Do not feed after this.
This is the correct way of feeding your baby bird.

This is the correct way of feeding your baby bird.

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What to Do After Feeding

  1. Clean your bird's beak with a clean towel.
  2. Put your bird to sleep by gently caressing his/her feathers.
  3. Give your bird plenty of rest.
Put your baby bird to sleep gently.

Put your baby bird to sleep gently.

Baby Lovebirds' Growth Progression (Weeks 3–6)

It is important to note the growth progression of your baby bird. It helps to understand feather growth and your bird's health. Given below are details and pictures of the growth progression of my pet, Mumu.

Three-week-old peach-faced baby lovebird sleeping in a brooder.

Three-week-old peach-faced baby lovebird sleeping in a brooder.

Week 3

Mumu was a little baby with minimal feathers. His tail was blue in color and like a set of plastic darts. His stomach was bare, and his skin was showing. His back just had a line of feathers. Inside his wings, the skin was featherless but there were slits from which his wings would grow.

Three and a half weeks pied peach-faced baby lovebird.

Three and a half weeks pied peach-faced baby lovebird.

Week 3, Day 4

Tail endings were prominent and had a mixture of colors. More feathers started appearing at the back and on his wings. His wings were growing.

Beautiful pied peach-faced baby lovebird at four weeks old.

Beautiful pied peach-faced baby lovebird at four weeks old.

Week 4

His size had increased. His wings were almost fully feathered. The tail was growing longer, and tail endings were taking the shape of leaves. But his cheeks and head still had some spots left to be covered.

Cute peach faced baby lovebird sleeping. Here, he is about four and a half weeks old.

Cute peach faced baby lovebird sleeping. Here, he is about four and a half weeks old.

Week 4, Day 5

He was almost completely feathered at this stage. He looked like an adorable little fur ball. He was onto becoming fledged (having wing feathers that are large enough for flight; able to fly).

Cute peach-faced baby lovebird Mumu sleeping on my leg at five weeks and three days old.

Cute peach-faced baby lovebird Mumu sleeping on my leg at five weeks and three days old.

Week 5, Day 3

He was fully feathered and his beak was properly formed. Tail and wing feathers were finely developed.

Beautiful peach-faced lovebird sitting on a perch. He is six weeks and two days old in this photo.

Beautiful peach-faced lovebird sitting on a perch. He is six weeks and two days old in this photo.

Week 6, Day 2

Fully grown and fledged.

What Do Weaned Lovebirds Eat?

You discover that your baby lovebird is weaned (accustomed to managing without something which they have become dependent on) from hand-feeding formula. What should you do? Here is the answer:

Offer seeds, fresh fruits, and vegetables every day. Corn is especially important in their diet. Your baby can eat almost anything you can.

Fresh Foods for Lovebirds

A lovebird's favorite fresh food list includes:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Mangoes
  • Plums
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Pasta

Remember: How you care for your bird will determine how healthy and loyal he/she will turn out be. Lovebirds are playful and sociable. Give them loads of attention and love them for who they are.

What if Your Lovebird Is Scared of New Foods?

Once you feel that your baby needs weaning, introduce new foods to him/her: feed corn, bananas, and seeds. Your pet may be scared and cry (make small short sounds) as a result. He/she may fluff out their feathers and try to attack the new food. Show the new foods daily and attempt to feed them. They will reject it initially. Continue trying to feed them till their fear is removed. This happened in my case and can happen in yours, too.

Important Points to Remember

It is very important to remember these points for the safety and well-being of your lovebird.

  • Leave fresh water for your lovebird. It only takes a second to change water.
  • Keep perches and dishes scrubbed clean as birds nibble on everything. Be sure to rinse very well after using detergent or disinfectant.
  • Never use Lysol, etc. It is difficult to get all the residue washed off.
  • Take your bird outside with you if the weather is pleasant.
  • Supervise your bird with children or strangers.
  • Supervise all animals when they are around your bird.
  • Do provide a cage large enough so that your bird has MORE than enough room to move and flap its wings.
  • Provide different and stimulating toys for your bird to chew.
  • Do not cook with Teflon; when overheated, the gas emitted could be fatal to your bird.
  • Do not smoke around your bird. Nicotine is deadly to birds.
  • Do not cook with a bird on your shoulder. Kitchens can be very dangerous.
  • Do not let your bird chew on surfaces or plants that can be fatal or toxic if ingested. Be aware of lead and zinc toxicity.
  • Do not purchase toys for your bird that have dog leash type clips or jingle type bells. (Toes can be caught easily).
  • Do not bring any other bird that has not been tested first by an avian veterinarian into contact with your bird.
  • Do not assume that a bird is 100% healthy because it has never been "sick".

Baby Lovebirds May Bite in Their Defense

Baby lovebirds are not mean; rather, they may be frightened. They use aggression as their defense. Never hit or yell at your bird. They have feelings which get hurt, too. Always talk calmly and ignore bad behavior if it occurs.

10 Unique Facts About My Lovebird, Mumu

  1. He has been an unusually fast runner since the beginning.
  2. He used to walk backwards to pass poop.
  3. He used to follow us whenever we were going away.
  4. He had a heart-warming way of snuggling to my stomach when he felt sleepy.
  5. He understood commands even though he was so little.
  6. He used to chatter a lot, making different sounds. Currently, he has the rare ability to say 2–3 words.
  7. He imitates kissing sounds even before we kiss him. Adorable!
  8. He mimics our actions. If we hold a mobile phone, he jumps on the screen, pretending to use it himself. Yeah, we love his silly antics.
  9. He has an obsession with the metal gold. He holds the record of breaking two chains and one ring! (It's a pun.)
  10. He is very curious and loves to explore his surroundings. There is this cute questioning look on his face whenever he sees something new.
Peach-faced baby lovebird wearing a cute hat.

Peach-faced baby lovebird wearing a cute hat.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: At what age can I stop feeding the baby formula?

Answer: That is when the baby is 1.5 months old. After that, wean your baby by introducing seeds, fruits, and green leaves.

Question: If I touch the baby lovebird to feed it when I go to school, can I put it in the cage with its parents? (The eggs haven't hatched yet.)

Answer: The baby lovebird should be fed by the mother lovebird till it's two weeks old. You can hand-feed the chick when it's around three weeks old.

Question: How many days does it take to hatch a lovebird egg?

Answer: It usually takes around 21-23 days for an egg to hatch, but my lovebirds' chick was born after 25 days.

Question: Should I feed my baby lovebird chicks at night? When did you feed Mumu?

Answer: Feed them once before you sleep. The time between morning till night can be divided into a feeding pattern of every two to three hours.

Question: Should I leave fresh water for the baby lovebird or the slightly grown ones?

Answer: You need to keep fresh water available for both baby lovebirds that are at least a month old, and mature lovebirds.

Question: Should I keep the baby lovebird away from the mother once I start feeding it?

Answer: No, you can feed the chick and place him/her near the mother lovebird after you're done.

Question: Can I make a formula for the baby lovebird without baby bird food powder? What should I make it of?

Answer: You can make a slurry-like feed with mashed fruits and veggies (avoid seeds, avocados and sugary/savoury items). It's best to buy the formula powder available in pet stores. Good brands contain all the necessary nutrients needed for healthy growth.

Question: Will all eggs hatch?

Answer: No, only some eggs hatch.

Question: How do you know the female lovebird from the male?

Answer: A female lovebird lays eggs, sits with a wider stance and is slightly heavier than the male.

Question: Is it okay to pick out the baby lovebird (27 days old) to feed them?

Answer: Yes, it's okay to feed them once they are around three weeks old.

Question: How can I keep my 3-week-old baby lovebird clean?

Answer: Please give the chick a bath when he/she turns 5 weeks old. Till then you can gently rub its beak and body with a soft, wet towel if it's dirty after feeding.

Question: Should I feed my 3 to 4 week-old-lovebird with boiled bird food seeds?

Answer: No need to boil the seeds.

Question: I have a lovebird that is now 5 years old, I raised her by hand. She keeps laying eggs each year. Would it be wise to introduce her to a new baby lovebird?

Answer: Please introduce her to a healthy, adult male lovebird and let them get acquainted. A baby lovebird will be taken care of by her if she's good with new birds/people.

Question: Should we give a 2 weeks old love bird water?

Answer: No, please wait until the bird is a month old.

Question: I am wondering if your bird just had an egg and you have not noticed it. If you leave it on the table by accident, will it die if it is not warm?

Answer: If the egg is fertile, the chick won't grow unless it is given heat.

Question: At what age/stage should I remove the baby lovebirds from their parents in order to hand-feed them?

Answer: A lovebird of three weeks of age can be held and fed comfortably.

Question: Can I feed a four-week-old baby love bird fresh water?

Answer: You can give a baby lovebird water once he or she is 1.5-2 months old.

Question: What do I feed a baby lovebird? Is there special formula?

Answer: Yes, there is special formula for lovebirds. It will be available in a local pet store.

Question: What happens if your baby lovebird is a slow developer?

Answer: It's okay, but if it's too slow, it would mean the baby is not getting enough nutrients.

Question: My female lovebird has laid 7 eggs. One hatched last night while I was asleep and I only noticed this morning. I went to school and came back but I haven't seen her feeding the baby yet. What should I do? Should I just let them be and wait for the baby to be older to begin hand feeding? Or should I step in?

Answer: If the female lovebird is not feeding the baby, you need to feed it yourself. Is the chick active? Do you see it moving?

Question: How many cc to feed African lovebirds?

Answer: That depends on your lovebird's age and diet. You need to feed every hour if it's a newborn (till it's around a week old). You can feed it every 2-3 hours if it's three weeks old or more. This can differ according to the lovebird's needs.

Question: When should I feed a one-day-old lovebird? What food should be given? How should it be given?

Answer: The mother lovebird will feed the chick. It's easier to handle the baby when it's three weeks old. You can feed it bird formula, which will be available at a local pet store. Feeding is done with a syringe.

Question: Will the father lovebird take care of the baby if the mother has passed away?

Answer: Father lovebirds take care of chicks when they are older--that is by the 6th or 7th week. The fathers then feed the chick till they are fledged (capable of feeding themselves). In this case, you need to feed the baby lovebird yourself.

Question: When can I start offering water while hand feeding a baby lovebird and how do I do it?

Answer: You can start offering water once the chick is around 1.5 months old. Take a small bowl and fill it with little water. Whenever your chick is fed, offer it. Continue doing this and your chick will starting drinking it on a daily basis.

Question: If I leave water for my baby lovebird, will it accidentally drown in it?

Answer: No, the bowls made for a lovebird's cage are small; your pet won't drown in them.

Question: How long can a baby lovebird survive without food from its mother?

Answer: It cannot survive. Please feed the chick if the mother lovebird is not feeding it.

Question: My baby peached face lovebird snuggles when she is in her cage. She is ok for a while when she is out, but then she starts snuggling. How can I train her not to snuggle?

Answer: Do you mean she snuggles with the cage? Pull her close to you when she is out. Pat her head and make her feel loved.

Question: At what age can you move a lovebird into a cage?

Answer: It is okay to move a 2-month-old lovebird in a cage. Give them time to settle in it.

Question: When will the lovebird mother start feeding her chicks? Is it after they all hatch or when the first one hatches? And is it ok to leave the first bird alone without food before the other bird hatches? What to do with the eggs that are not going to hatch? (I have a baby lovebird and the other one hasn't hatched yet. Out of the four eggs, I know that only two would hatch because I had handled them.) Could you help me, please?

Answer: The mother lovebird will start feeding the chicks immediately after they are born. Please don't leave any bird without food. They will not survive. If by chance, the mother lovebird is not feeding her chicks, please do so yourself. The eggs, which do not hatch 25 days after laying, should be thrown away.

Question: When should I start hand-feeding baby lovebirds after they hatch?

Answer: You can hand feed them once they are around three weeks of age. It is easier to hold them at that age.

Question: Why does a mother lovebird pretend to kill her offspring when they leave the nest box?

Answer: Are the offspring around three weeks of age? If so, the mother lovebird wants them to become independent. That is why she pushes them out of the nest box. If you think she is hurting the chicks, please transfer them to a brooder.

Question: So I have a baby lovebird with me. How much sleep should she get everyday? She's at least 4 weeks old. Also, her mom flew away, and since I have school, I have no one to watch my lovebird. Is it ok to leave her alone for at least 8 and a half hours?

Answer: Baby lovebirds sleep a lot. After you feed her, she will fall asleep again. It's not okay to leave her because she'll need to be fed at least 2 times in those 8 hours.

Question: I am not sure about my baby lovebird's age. When I got it the breeder told me he is less than a month old. He looks older than birds 3 weeks of age when compared to pictures. I read that I should feed him around 4 times a day, but he ate only 2 cc at a time, so I started feeding him 3 times a day with no timing just when I feel he is hungry. Is that right?

Answer: You can feed your bird in a gap of 2-3 hours. To feed him when he's the most hungry is okay, nothing wrong in that. Please make sure the crop (stomach) is empty (not bulged) while you're feeding him.

Question: Do I need to provide a lamp to a baby lovebird for warmth?

Answer: It is not necessary if you have a brooder for the chick.

Question: My baby Lovebirds are 2-weeks-old and you wrote that I can start hand feeding them at about 3 weeks. Does that mean I have to remove them from the parents? Or can I feed them once or twice a day and return them to the nest for the mother's lovebird to keep feeding too?

Answer: You can do both, actually. Please check whether the mother lovebird is feeding the chicks after you have fed them. If not, please separate them and feed them yourself.

Question: Is it normal for the mother bird to step on a baby bird?

Answer: No, it's not okay if the mother lovebird steps on the baby. She should sit beside the chick, not step on it.

Question: My love bird is 2 weeks old. What to keep under the bird to keep it warm?

Answer: Please keep the bird in a brooder. That will be enough to keep the chick warm. Put a towel at the bottom of the brooder and spread dry grass on it.

Question: I have 2 four-week-old Fischers. Is it okay for me to give them toys to chew? They love the very first toy I gave them, but I realised that they're way too young.

Answer: It's okay to give them as long as the material is safe.

Question: My lovebird’s feathers only started looking good at two months and a week, and I got her at two months. I’m still hand feeding her! Is it normal? She’s tiny so obviously, I named her Tiny. I somehow think the girl lied about her age, could that be?

Answer: Hi! Have the feathers completely developed? You can compare with the weekly stages and the fully matured one to know. Hand-Feeding isn't an issue until the chick is 1.5 months old. After that, he/she has to be familiar with seeds, fruits, and green leaves.

Question: How can I teach a lovebird to eat sunflower seeds?

Answer: If the lovebird lets you touch him/her, you can place sunflower seeds on your palm and encourage your pet to eat it. If not, place the seeds in the seed bowl (outside and inside the cage).

Question: I have baby lovebirds that hatched a week ago. I was told to start feeding them separately but the parents are still feeding them, should I still do this?

Answer: If the parent lovebirds are feeding the chicks, let them do it. If they are not feeding them, then you will need to do it.

Question: What should be in the formula for a baby lovebird and how do I make a homemade formula?

Answer: A formula is available in the local pet store. That has all the requirements. I'd advice you to use that.

Question: How did you avoid splayed legs in your baby lovebird?

Answer: I made sure the brooder had a somewhat rough plastic base (it shouldn't be slippery). If it's slippery we can add materials (sand, hay, bird-safe wood shavings) to make the base rough and to give the chicks a fine grip.

I had spread 2-3 fistfuls of hay in the brooder and my bird had a good grip. You can do the same if you have a nest box instead of a brooder.

Question: My lovebird dropped an egg at the bottom of the cage. I picked up the egg and put it in an incubator. My pair doesn't show interest in this egg. Will my lovebirds accept/feed the chick after it hatches?

Answer: You would have to keep the chick near them and see what happens. If the mother lovebird doesn't feed the chick, you would have to do it yourself.

Question: After feeding the baby lovebird, should I put it back in the nest?

Answer: Yes.

Question: How would I know if a baby lovebird is not alive anymore?

Answer: You will see the baby lovebird kicking its legs in the air and hear small "crying" sounds. Apart from that, the mother will feed it and clean its body.

Question: How did you keep your lovebird warm?

Answer: I placed my lovebird, Mumu in a brooder (filled with 2-3 fistfuls of hay) to keep him warm.

Question: Can a 6-week old baby lovebird be taken in and out from the parents' cage to be hand-raised?

Answer: Yes, that can be done.

Question: Mumu, my lovebird, used to chatter a lot making different sounds. Currently, he has the rare ability to say 2-3 words. Do you have a video where he says the words?

Answer: Yes, I do. It's uploaded on my YouTube account (Sakina Nasir). Mumu can say "Step," "Ai aaw" (means come here in my native language) and he used to say "come here."

Question: Hi I have 2 baby lovebirds, one is 22 days old and another is 28 days old. He has started to eat seeds but I noticed that the younger one has started to nibble too. Is that ok? And how should I reduce time between feedings from 4 to 3?

Answer: Nibbling fingers should be discourage. Just stroke the bird's beak and tell a firm no. The feedings can be reduced to 3 times in a day and incorporate seeds, fruits (without seeds) and veggies in the diet.

© 2016 Sakina Nasir

Comments

Sakina Nasir (author) from Kuwait on September 02, 2020:

Hi Talha! :)

I feel the bird doesn't like fruits or veggies. Was she brought home from a local pet shop? If that's the case, these birds are happy with seeds/millets and don't like eating other foods.

My female lovebird, Juju does the same thing. She doesn't understand what fruits and veggies are. Try giving a blanched spinach leaf and see if your bird eats it (Juju likes green leaves).