Nurturing Wings: The Ultimate Guide to Hand Feeding Cockatiel

Hand Feeding Cockatiel


Hand-feeding a cockatiel is a delicate process that requires patience, care, and proper knowledge. It is a beautiful experience that allows you to bond closely with these beautiful birds. In this article, we have covered essential aspects of hand-feeding cockatiels. 

Disclaimer: It is strongly recommended to let baby cockatiels be fed by their parents whenever possible. Hand feeding should only be considered in situations where the baby cockatiel has no parent, it is abandoned by them, or if the parent has passed away for some reason.

Feeding and Hygiene

Feeding a baby cockatiel requires special attention to its dietary needs and hygiene. Here are some guidelines to follow:

1. Preparing Hand feeding Formula for Cockatiel

To prepare the bird hand feeding formula, mix half a spoon of the hand-feeding formula (you can buy it online or from a nearby pet store) with two spoons of boiling water. Stir the mixture well to avoid lumps.  Ensure that the formula's temperature should be between 36-40 degrees Celsius. If the temperature is high, then stir it for some time. It will gradually cool down. 

Homemade Hand-Feeding Formula Recipe

Take red millet, white millet, wheat, jowar,canary seeds, bajara, and chana/chole sattu. If making in small quantity take 5 spoon of white millet, 3 spoon of canary seeds, and 1 spoon of remaining seeds. After that take a kadai and roast the seeds for 1-2 min, you will notice a nice aroma. 

After that take a mixture and grind the seeds. After grinding the stain the seed power and separate the seed powder and unwanted seed cover. Now mix 1/2 tsp of chana sattu and seed powder with normal water and dilute the mixture with a water-like consistency.

Now heat the mixture until boiling and off the gas. Make sure the mixture is cooled down and now you can feed it to your bird. For 1-2 week bird mixture consistency should be like water, otherwise, it will be difficult for birds to digest.

2. Proper Handling

When hand-feeding a cockatiel, it is crucial to approach them with care and gentleness. They may initially be scared of you, so it's important to create a calm and reassuring environment. Use soft hands and support their head with three fingers to provide stability during feeding. After hand-feeding cockatiel, pet it gently. This helps in developing bonds. 

3. Feeding Tools

Use a needle-tapered hand-feeding syringe or dropper to feed the baby cockatiel. While using spoons is also an option, it may get messy. The syringe or dropper allows for precise and controlled feeding. Wash the syringe with warm water after every use. 

4. Hygiene 

A hand-feeding cockatiel can sometimes get messy, but it is important to clean the bird if any spills occur to maintain hygiene. Wipe the cockatiel with a damp cloth after feeding. 

5. Feeding Frequency and Quantity

The feeding schedule varies depending on the age of the baby cockatiel. For 1-7 day-old chicks, feed them every two hours, starting with approximately 1 ml of formula per feed. Gradually increase the quantity to 2 ml by the 4th day and 3 ml by the 7th day. Remember, they do not need additional water as the formula provides sufficient fluids.

How to Feed a Baby Cockatiel?

Let's explore the specific care required for hand-feeding cockatiels of different age groups.

hand feeding cockatiel chart

πŸ‘‰ 1-7 Day-Old Baby Cockatiels

During this early stage, extra care is needed to ensure the health and well-being of the chicks. Here are some important considerations:

Feed the baby cockatiel every two hours, providing approximately 1 ml of formula per feed.

Avoid feeding them at night, as both parent birds and their babies sleep during this time.

If you observe watery green droppings, then it may be a sign of upset stomach or diarrhea. In such scenarios, consult a vet immediately.

πŸ‘‰ 2-3 Weeks Old

As the baby cockatiels grow, their feeding routine and quantities will change. Here are the key aspects to focus on while hand-feeding cockatiel

Feed the baby cockatiel every 3 hours, gradually increasing the feed quantity to 4-5 ml per feed.

Start the feeding schedule early in the morning, with the last feed given by 10 p.m.

Monitor the crop, a muscular pouch near the throat used to store excess food, to ensure it empties within 4 hours after feeding. A crop that remains full or doesn't empty properly may indicate a problem.

πŸ‘‰ 3-4 Weeks Old

At this stage, the baby cockatiels begin to develop flight feathers and show signs of independence. Consider the following care guidelines:

Thicken the formula's consistency and increase the feed quantity to 6 ml per feed.

You can gradually increase it to 10 ml.

Feed them 4 times a day

πŸ‘‰ 4-5 Weeks Old

The fledgling stage is marked by the birds' increased independence and the development of flight feathers. Here's what you need to know:

Increase the feed quantity to 8 ml per feed.

You can feed them 12-15 ml depending upon their capacity to digest it before every feeding schedule.

Feed them 3 times a day.

πŸ‘‰ 6-7 Weeks Old

By this stage, the young cockatiels become quite independent, and it's time to transfer them to a cage. Here's what to keep in mind:

The frequency and amount of hand-feeding cockatiel can be gradually reduced as they grow older. 

The bird can be introduced to weaning foods to encourage independent feeding.

Offer mixed bird seed and weaning foods as part of their diet.

Begin the weaning process by offering mixed bird seeds, including millet, foxtail millet, finger millet, sunflower seed, etc.

Maintain their hydration by providing fresh drinking water daily, along with periodic offerings of grit and cuttlebone.

Transition from Hand-Feeding Cockatiel to Self-Eating

Training a baby cockatiel to eat independently is important for its development. By gradually introducing them to solid foods and encouraging independent feeding, you can help them become self-sufficient. 

1. Introducing Solid Foods

As your cockatiel baby grows older, start introducing solid foods alongside their hand-feeding formula. Offer soft and easily manageable foods like crushed biscuits, bits of toast, and grated boiled eggs. 

2. Placing Food in Reach

To encourage your cockatiel baby to explore and try new foods, place small portions of the introduced foods near them. Use shallow dishes or plates to make it easier for the bird to access the food. You can also scatter the food around their cage.

3. Providing Food Variety

Offer a variety of foods to your pet. Include fresh fruits and vegetables. Cut the fruits and vegetables into small pieces.

4. Demonstrating Eating Behavior

Cockatiels are social learners, so show your baby bird how to eat by demonstrating eating behavior in their presence. Eat similar foods in front of them with enthusiasm and enjoyment. They are more likely to imitate your behavior and try the foods themselves. Encourage and praise your cockatiel baby's efforts in self-feeding.

Sudden Death in Chicks(Tips to Care)

  • Bacterial Infection from used food(Don't reuse the mixed formula, Prepare freshly every day.
  • Spilled Food( Clean the food from Birds beak, wings, and body after feeding)
  • Expired Feeding Formla( Check the date before buying)
  • Crop Burn( Check the Temperature before feeding, the Very hot formula can kill the chick)
  • Avoid Heating the Formula in the Microwave
  • Dont use a Plastic container( Since the formula is warm, use a glass container)
  • Aspiration- Food passing into lungs( Dont force the formula into birds mouth)
  • Choking death( Give time for the baby to swallow)
  • Overfeeding Death( Dont overfeed)
  • Wrong Mix( Prepare the formula properly and consistency must be maintained)
  • Dehydration Death( Lack of water/Low humidity causes dehydration)
  • Inserting string Deep( Proper use of tube and syringe should be learned from experienced breeders)
  • Sour Crop( Formula that is cold spoils the food)
  • Fracturing Beak (Baby birds have soft beaks, so hold softly while feeding)


Essential elements of hand-feeding cockatiels, such as nutrition and cleanliness, the procedure for feeding a newborn cockatiel, and the ultimate transfer to self-feeding, have all been discussed in this article. For people who find themselves in a circumstance where hand-feeding is required, these topics offer insightful advice

Read More: Top 5 Soft Food For Cockatiel & Budgies: Recipes


1. How long do cockatiels need to be hand fed?
Baby cockatiels are often hand-fed for six to eight weeks until they are completely weaned and able to feed on their own.

2. Do cockatiels drink milk?
No, cockatiels do not drink milk

3. How do I know if my cockatiel is hungry?
They could become more animated, speak more frequently, or have a greater need for food. Additionally, they could pace, bobble their heads, or excitedly approach their meal bowl. 

In addition, hunger may be indicated by an empty or almost empty crop (the pouch-like structure in their throat where food is stored). To make sure their nutritional requirements are satisfied, it is crucial to pay attention to their feeding habits and seek advice from a veterinarian.

4. What is the best age to hand-feed a cockatiel?
The best age to start hand feeding a cockatiel is when they are around 2 to 3 weeks old

5. When to stop hand-feeding cockatiel?
Once the cockatiel demonstrates that it can eat on its own, hand feeding should gradually stop. When they are entirely weaned, which normally happens at 6 to 8 weeks of age, this happens.

6. How much to hand feed a baby cockatiel?
Depending on its age, size, and personal hunger, a newborn cockatiel receives varying amounts of hand-feeding formula. 

Generally speaking, you should give them little quantities frequently—every 3 to 4 hours—at regular intervals. Feed them until their crop is pleasantly full but not too stretched. The amount can vary, but this is a good general rule to follow.
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