Caring for Chicks

Budgerigars grow to adult in 6 weeks Without a doubt the best way to raise your newly hatched chicks is to allow their parents to follow their instincts. Every breeding pair is different but most seem to follow a similar pattern. Raising chicks most definetely is a joint effort in the world of budgies so the pair must be kept together until the chicks are weaned for them to be successfull.

In the days or weeks prior to the eggs being laid the hen usually moves into the nest box and the cock will commence feeding her. She will emerge periodically but for the most part she will remain indoors until such time as the young birds emerge from the nest. All of the food gathering will be done by the male, who will forage for food and store it in his crop to regurgitate later. When the chicks are born he may feed them directly or, more likely, feed the female who will then feed the chicks.

When the Chicks first hatch they will be blind and completely helpless but sensitive to light so be judicious with the flash on your camera. Do not touch the chicks unless hand feeding is required. They will remain in the nest for five to six weeks being fed by the female initially for the most part but both parents will feed them as they get older, however the male will be the gatherer of food as previously mentioned. When they are of an age where they are preparing to leave the nest they can often be heard scrabbling around inside the nest box exercising and developing muscles by moving.

When the oldest bird is of an age where it should leave the nest the female will emerge and the adults will stop feeding the chicks, sitting outside the nest box calling to them and encouraging them to emerge. This can be a perilous time for the chicks as they must emerge from the nest within a few days or risk starving to death. (After two days of this behaviour I have in the past removed them from the nest myself and placed them on the cage floor).

Once the young birds emerge the male will generally feed them immediately and over the following days he will give the young birds lessons ranging from flying to feeding. The chicks are usually weaned a few days after they leave the nest, having been taught by the male how to open seeds. They learn to fly rapidly and when they first leave the nest they have a strong instinct to climb, placing them out of reach of any possible predators.

Hand feeding chicks can produce very tame adult birds but it does have several drawbacks. In particular both parents will most likely reject the young birds and they will not have the benefit of the lessons they will learn from the adults such as feeding and flying. If you elect to hand feed then consider placing the young birds in a location where they can see their parents but be wary of placing them in the same cage. They would be best being moved into a different nest box and segregated as adult hens have been known to kill chicks that are not their own, unwittingly killing their own offspring.

There are many excellent commercial chick rearing foods available and you should follow the instructions on the packet as to how to prepare the mixture for the age of the chick you are attempting to feed. Generally the younger the chick the more water is in the mix. The food is usually fed to the bird using a syringe or specially made feeder and the mix if prepared correctly will be fairly runny and pour reasonably well. I have had good success with a teaspoon, simply reshape the teaspoon with a hammer and bang the sides of the spoon up so that end on it looks like a U shape approx. 6mm wide inside. Make sure you remove any burrs or sharp edges. Mix the food in a cup with boiling water as per the manufacturers instructions and allow it to cool to about 38 degrees celsius. Test its temperature like you would test the temperature of human baby food and pour the food using your modified teaspoon 2ml at a time into the chicks beak. Allow the chick to feed until its crop is full. Very young chicks may need to be fed up to 5 times a day however this can be reduced to morning and night when they reach 3 or 4 weeks of age.