how to hand feed cockatiel

The easiest way to become best friends with your bird is by hand feeding it from a very young age, as early as about fifteen days. Don’t worry, it is not that hard once you get used to the process and we are here with every detailed process on hand feeding cockatiels.

Feeding your feathered buddy will not be as challenging as you are imagining and the rewards of your hard work will be wonderful. These days you will be able to find everything you require easily from your local pet store, starting from utensils and food to whatever you need to keep them comfortable. You can start feeding your cockatiel using either of the three methods: Spoon, Syringe or Dropper and you can even find the right food for every age.

The unconditional love you will receive from your cockatiel when it grows up will make the whole process worth it, so keep reading to provide the best care for your little friend!

How to Hand Feed Baby Cockatiel?

Two words, time and patience, are what you will need to care for your new birds. The babies have just come into this world and they don’t understand how to do basic things, just like human babies. Hence, you will need the time to invest in a baby bird, or a cockatiel in this case, as you will have to feed them a lot. Next, as the saying goes, patience is the key. You need to keep persevering if you are new to this. You will learn what or how your baby friend likes to eat or when they prefer to eat soon if you give yourself and the cockatiel enough time to understand each other.

During such vulnerable times, your baby cockatiel will need the best care and that includes the best kind of food, utensils, a place to stay and most importantly, warmth. If you still have the courage to take care of the baby cockatiel, you are welcome to keep reading our guide to understand the best ways to hand-feed your new friend.


feeding set for baby cockatiel

You can use either of the three methods to feed:

Other utensils: Bowls, Tissue, Soft and Warm Towel

Keeping Bacteria from Forming

To keep bacteria from forming on the utensils, please sterilize them in boiling water for ten minutes before feeding. After feeding, you may wash them using regular soap and water. Also, store them in a room-temperature clean place. You may use an air-tight box or container if needed.

Baby Cockatiel Food/Formula

Food/formula is the most important thing for a baby cockatiel. Bad food can cause serious health issues. So be careful while choosing the food or materials for the food.

How To Choose The Right Commercial Hand-Feed

There are so many formulas available for every age it may get hard to choose. We recommend looking up reviews online or asking for suggestions from your local pet shop people. You may also ask other cockatiel owners on various forums. Additionally, if your cockatiel does not like that specific formula, it will let you know. So, we suggest you buy the smallest box first to see if your bird accepts it.

How To Make Homemade Formula

We understand that you may have reservations about commercial-based formulas and you may want to go the extra mile to prepare a homemade feed. That is an option too!

Here is what you will need,

  1. 20% High Protein Component
  2. Mixed grain containing fiber, carbohydrates, calcium, iron, etc.
  3. Water or Milk

For instance, a combination can be an egg (protein) and ground oats (mixed grain). Now, mix all these in a blender or mixer until you notice a smooth consistency. You may add more water or formula to soften the mixture. Your bird may need a softer, almost runnier, mix during the earliest stages. Please note to allow your baby cockatiel to accept the food. You may try other combinations if a certain one doesn’t work. Also, make sure to sun-dry the mixed grains before using them.

The Process

hand feeding cockatiels

Adjusting Feeding Temperature

Most package instructions require you to mix the formula in 37-40 degree celsius water or milk. You may have to keep mixing to bring it to a lukewarm temperature before feeding or it may damage their throat. Again, notice if your baby friend appreciates the comfort of the temperature.

Feeding With Syringe

Step-1: Place the bird on a soft towel, preferably warm.

Step-2: Put the food inside the syringe and get rid of any air bubbles in it.

Step-3: Gently nudge the bird’s beak with the syringe to allow it to open.

Step-4: If Step-3 doesn’t work, softly open its beak by prying the top.

Step-5: Gently hold the syringe inside its mouth, as close to the throat as possible. Remember not to poke the throat with it.

Step-6: Again, slowly push the food inside using the syringe.

Step-7: Repeat steps 2-6 again if needed.

Feeding With Spoon

Step-1: Place the bird on a soft towel, preferably warm.

Step-2: Pick a small amount of formula on the bent part of the spoon from a bowl.

Step-3: Gently nudge the bird’s beak with the spoon to allow it to open.

Step-4: If Step-3 doesn’t work, softly open its beak with the spoon by prying the top.

Step-5: Gently drop the food inside its mouth to let it swallow at its own pace.

Step-6: Continue this step till the food finishes.

Feeding with Dropper

Step-1: Place the bird on a soft towel, preferably warm.

Step-2: Put the food inside the dropper from a bowl and get rid of any air bubbles in it.

Step-3: Gently nudge the bird’s beak with the dropper to allow it to open.

Step-4: If Step-2 doesn’t work, softly open its beak by prying the top.

Step-5: Gently hold the dropper inside its mouth, as close to the throat as possible. Remember not to poke the throat with it.

Step-6: Again, slowly push the food inside using the dropper.

Step- 7: Continue this step till the food finishes.

Note: We recommend using either a spoon or a syringe to feed than a dropper.

Pro Tip!

  1. Use a tool to measure the right amount of formula for the age if using a spoon or dropper.
  2. You can let it drink some drops of water to wash the residual food from its throat.
  3. To understand if the baby had enough food, you can notice or feel its “crop” just under its throat. If it is almost baggy but soft, it had just enough!

Precautions To Maintain While Feeding

  1. Remember to be gentle and slow at first. Once your bird gets used to the process, it will want to eat faster.
  2. Make sure no food gathers on its body or beak. Be sure to rub with a soft towel to prevent fungal infections.
  3. Make sure the formula is soft enough and at a comfortable temperature for the bird.
  4. Never force feed!

Here is a video to understand the process easier:

Baby Cockatiel Feeding Schedule

During the first few days, the feeding schedule will be hectic. The smaller they are, the more they will have to be fed and feeding times may reach up to twelve to thirteen times during their first hours into this world. Here is a basic feeding schedule that you may use to follow.

AgeNo. of Feeding Times/DayFeeding GapsAmount to Feed
1 week12-13 times2 hours1 ml (Day 1-3)2 ml (Day 4-5)3 ml (Day 6-7)
2-3 weeks8-10 times3 hours5-6 ml
4-5 weeks3-4 times8 hours6-8 ml


  1. After 4-5 weeks, your baby cockatiel or now fledglings will want to start exploring other foods. By this time, you can start introducing them to various seeds, fruits or vegetables for a taste in the smallest quantity.
  2. Feeding times and amounts may first fluctuate, but they will decrease and eventually stop completely. This will happen once your cockatiel becomes independent enough or when it starts eating other solid food properly.
  3. Feeding time and amount may differ depending on your bird preference. Keep an eye on their crop so they don’t stay hungry for too long.

Common Hand Feeding Problems and How to Solve Them


This happens when the babies don’t accept the food for many reasons. Basically, they vomit the food out. While regurgitation is normal with mature cockatiels as they voluntarily do it, it is harmful to younger ones. A cockatiel may vomit out the food for reasons like wrong formula, too much food, too hot formula, irritation of the food pipe, etc. To solve this problem, you can watch out for the temperature of the food and feed it in multiple intervals to allow it to swallow slowly.


Aspiration is probably one of the most dangerous ones on the list. This occurs when the food accidentally goes down their breathing pipeline instead of the food line. This may be fatal for the birds, so new owners should be extra cautious while hand rearing.

Crop Stasis

Crop stasis occurs when a bird’s stomach cannot digest its food from the crop, which is under the throat. This may happen if the food is too hot or if the formula is not sitting right with your baby bird. It is fairly common with new bird parents. To prevent this, you should maintain the comfortable food temperature that your cockatiels prefer.

Note: If any symptoms increase, it is highly recommended that you take your bird to an avian veterinarian.

Wrapping Up

Finally, from an early age, hand-feeding a cockatiel may be a lovely experience for both the pet and its owner. Even while it might initially appear difficult, anyone can learn how to hand-feed their new companion with the proper utensils and knowledge. You may develop a close relationship with your cockatiel that will last a lifetime by starting young and by utilizing the right feeding techniques and foods. All the work and dedication will have been worthwhile because of the happiness and love your pet will bring into your life. Take the time to learn how to hand-feed these beautiful birds, and you’ll reap the benefits of a companionship that is happy and healthy.


How Often Should You Feed A Baby Cockatiel?

Ans: Depending on the age, you may have to feed from 4-12 times per day. This will lessen as the cockatiel grows up and becomes independent.

How Long Can Baby Cockatiels Stay Without Food?

Ans: Depending on the age, they may be able to stay without food for a minimum of 2 hours to 8 hours. Keep an eye on the crop and don’t let them stay hungry for so long.

Is Homemade Baby Formula Safe?

Ans: Yes, the homemade formulas are safe to feed your little friend as long as you maintain the right ratio to make the food. Make sure to get good-quality ingredients!

Which is the easiest method to feed a baby cockatiel?

Ans: All methods are easy once you get the hang of them!

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