Weaning for Success: Quaker Parrot Nutrition
Welcome back to the HARI series “Weaning for Success” in which we feature the much loved companion species, the Quaker Parakeet. In this segment of “Weaning for Success”, HARI staff presents their method and philosophy on weaning parrot chicks. While the focus of this series is on the Quaker parakeet, this weaning process is applied to the many species of companion birds raised at HARI.
Monitoring the weight of youngsters in the weaning process is a very important tool in determining weaning success. Quaker fledglings should be weighed daily until you are confident that they have successfully weaned. The weight monitoring can then be done every second day. Most baby parrot species should have a 10% daily weight gain until they reach a “plateau-level stage” which usually coincides with the emergence of the pin feathers. Once the “plateau” is reached the chick will usually maintain his weight or lose a few grams from then throughout the end of the weaning stage. The allowable weight loss should be no more than 10% of the “plateau” weight by the end of the weaning process. It is critical to be especially attentive to the weight loss, as too much loss can be indication of unintentional starvation weaning.
Introduction to the Weaning Stages
Syringe feeding continues as spoon-feeding is introduced. At this point the fledgling’s crop has reached its maximum potential and will now decrease in size.
Quaker chicks are syringe fed exclusively with the Tropican Hand Feeding Formula until approximately 5 weeks of age. At this time gradual introduction of soaked Tropican High Peformance Granules will start to replace the hand feeding formula, spoon fed a few times a day with a following small quantity of syringe fed hand feeding formula. Abundance weaning is recommended; chicks thrive best when syringe fed prior to spoon-feeding of the soaked, warm weaning granules. A chick will regress if it is too hungry, or fed a diet lacking in the optimum fat content. A record of each chick’s progress is monitored by nursery technicians and noted in the Weaning Chart
Pre-fledglings will become increasingly inquisitive nearing their fifth week of age. It is most important to take advantage of this very narrow window of opportunity of curiosity when the pre-fledgling is starting to move around and explore the nest substrate to offer a a small bowl of dry Tropican High Performance Granules in their baby pens. As the pre-fledgling is not agile enough to allow climbing or perching, food must be placed in a stable dish on the nest substrate. (note: substrate should never be corncob granules as these are easily ingested and are a playground for yeast infection). Pre-fledglings at this stage should be spending most of their time sleeping, nibbling on dry granules or preening other clutch mates. There should be no toys to distract them from the essentials. The chick pet is covered with blanket top and 3 sides to encourage exploration within the cage.
It is important for the young chicks to start digesting more solid food to prevent the GI tract from becoming lazy. Soaked granules enhance the tonus and motility of the young bird’s crop and should ideally be of the same formulation as the hand feeding diet at this age, a high performance formula.
Weaning Cage Food Set Up
The Weaning Cage only contains Tropican and occasional spray millet to encourage limited independent foraging. The importance of stimulating their young minds at this age must not be overshadowed. Fledglings that are offered over stimulation in the way toys, excessive foods, lose their focus on weaning which can lead to dietary problems in their future. Many nursery caregivers often make the mistake of offering an assortment of foods that do not meet the fledgling’s still developing needs. There is plenty of time after the fledgling has weaned and learned to eat a nutritiously sound diet to then experiment and try other foods such as fruits and vegetables.
We recommend that all feedings be done in the weaning cages, as this will facilitate the successful weaning process. Young birds must understand that food comes from within the cage.