Feeding a clutch of baby chicks is one of the many ways adult budgies care for their young.
Feeding time is an important part of the rearing process that solidifies the parent-chick bond. It seems simple, but how the chick is fed affects its behavior as an adult.
Adult budgies feed their young by regurgitating partially digested food coated in crop milk (to provide antibodies and strengthen the immune system) into the baby budgies’ mouths.
They continue this for 5 weeks until the chicks can eat soft foods and start foraging independently.
If your budgie is a new parent, there’s much you need to consider for the sake of the chicks’ health. The first few weeks are the most important time in a baby budgie’s life.
Monitoring feeding time is crucial since things can go wrong for first-time budgie parents.
Do Mother Budgies Feed Their Young?
Once a chick has hatched, it’s dependent on the mother until it is old enough to look for its own food.
Feeding baby budgies comes naturally to most mothers (hens). However, it’s still important that you closely monitor her during the first few days after the chicks hatch.
Not all female budgies develop maternal instincts after laying eggs for the first time. Some female budgies don’t feed their young because they have no desire to.
Newborn budgies hatch with enough nutrients in their body to not need food for a few hours. Normally, the mother will keep her chicks warm for the first few 2-4 hours.
If she doesn’t feed them after 4 hours, you’ll need to let the father do it. If the father isn’t around or doesn’t feed them either, you’ll need to hand-feed the chicks.
A female may refuse to look after her chicks because her maternal instincts weren’t activated the first time. It’s common for first-time parents to learn to care for chicks next time.
Likewise, a mother might not be feeding her young because she’s too weak. Laying eggs and caring for chicks takes a lot out of her. Ensure that she has enough calcium in her diet and enough energy to care for her babies.
How Do Budgies Feed Their Babies?
Budgies feed their babies by eating a portion of the food and regurgitating it inside the baby’s mouth.
They do this to make it easier for the baby chick to digest the food, which has already been broken down inside the crop. The crop is a pouch located right under their neck.
While in the crop, the food is partially digested and coated in crop milk, which is secreted from the crop lining. Crop milk contains antibodies that strengthen the chick’s immune system.
When a mother feeds her chicks, you may notice that she shakes her head vigorously as she pushes the food inside the mouth. Don’t worry about some of it falling on the chick’s head.
A good mother budgie will pick it up and feed the chick again. If you notice that the chick is left with food on its head each time the mother tries to feed it, it’s a sign that the baby isn’t being fed well.
A chick’s beak is small, so it won’t catch all the food its mother gives it. An inexperienced mother might not understand that she needs to push the food down.
So, you may need to step in and feed the budgie yourself. Co-parenting (when a baby budgie is both hand-fed and parent-fed) is common among breeders.
Is My Budgie Regurgitating Food or Vomiting?
It can be hard to tell if your female budgie is regurgitating food or vomiting due to illness, as both activities look similar.
Given how much breeding is a risk for female budgies, it’s not impossible to fear that she may have gotten sick while inside the nesting box.
Here are the signs of regurgitation vs. vomiting:
- Head vibrations
- Spitting food near chick’s mouth
- Cleaning up after herself
- Happy vocalization
- Spitting food everywhere
- Digested food on face/body
- No chirping
- Oddly-colored feces
- Expelling clear or white liquid out of the mouth
- Erratic movements
The main giveaway that the mother is vomiting instead of regurgitating food is when you notice dried food around the nesting box and on the chicks.
Does The Male Budgie Feed the Babies?
Budgies are hands-on parents, including the males. They’ll often participate in the feeding along with the mother, although wild budgie males may do this less.
The female will stay inside the nest and rarely leave. The male is the one that forages for food and brings it back to the nest. He’ll feed the mother budgie, and she’ll go on to feed her young.
The male budgie is more likely to feed the chicks himself in captivity because food is abundant, so the male doesn’t need to go out to find it.
If the mother neglects her young, let the father handle feeding time instead of jumping straight to hand-feeding. The health benefits a budgie gets from being fed by another budgie are far too great, so only hand-feed the baby budgie as a last resort.
Do Baby Budgies Feed Each Other?
Baby budgies sometimes feed each other. To budgies, feeding each other is more than just rearing behavior reserved for parents.
Feeding is one of the ways budgies develop a bond and express affection. Mated pairs will feed each other, parents will feed their babies, and sibling chicks will feed each other once they’re old enough.
This behavior usually begins at around 6 weeks when the budgies eat food independently. They’re still not fully weaned but can look out for their nest-mates.
How Long Do Budgies Feed Their Babies?
Budgies feed their babies for 5-8 weeks. At around 5 weeks, the baby budgie will begin to look for food by itself. It’ll also begin to eat normal foods, but it might still need the help of its parents.
By 8 weeks, the budgie should be fully weaned. If you notice that the mother still feeds her young past 8 weeks, don’t worry about it because budgies feed each other to show affection.
She’s not just doing it as a mother but as a member of the flock. As long as the adolescent budgie can feed itself without a parent present, there’s no cause for concern.
What Age Can A Baby Budgie Feed Itself?
Baby budgies finish the weaning stage after 7-8 weeks. Before then, the budgie might begin to eat on its own, but it still needs help from its parents.
You can encourage a baby budgie to finish the weanling stage sooner by placing food nearby around the 5-week mark. This will ignite its foraging instincts and encourage it to look for its own food rather than rely on its mother or siblings.
Will My Budgies Be More Aggressive If Parent-Fed?
There’s a common misconception that allowing a budgie to be parent-fed will result in aggression, but this isn’t true. When budgies are fed by their parents, they tend to be harder to train. However, the small challenge of training them is nothing compared to the stress they endure when hand-fed.
Wild budgies and those raised by budgie parents are harder to train because they aren’t dependent on humans. They bond with their flock and are accustomed to communicating with other birds.
Of course, budgies are intelligent and friendly, so it’s not impossible to train one that has been parent-fed. It just takes longer to win them over than hand-fed budgies.
Hand-fed budgies grow up to be dependent on human beings. They interact with humans from the moment they’re born, so they tend to be friendlier and more receptive to people. However, you shouldn’t hand-feed chicks unless you have to because it causes abnormal behavior in adult birds.
According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, parent-reared parrots show fewer signs of problematic behavior than hand-reared parrots.
This study was done on African grey parrots, but experienced owners and breeders see this happen regularly with other parrot species, including budgies.
The budgie needs to spend the first few weeks of its life interacting with members of its species to learn how to develop healthy bonds.
Without early budgie socialization, they may become overly attached to their owner to the point where they become stressed when apart. They might also display signs of aggression towards other birds.
This is why, if you must hand-feed your budgie, you should at least allow it to stay in a nest with other budgies that are similar in age.
Is it Healthy for Budgies To Feed Their Young?
It’s normal and healthy for budgies to feed their young, both for the parent and the chick. When it comes to the mother, caring for her chicks can be exhausting.
Not only will she lack nutrients due to the egg-laying process, but she may eat and exercise less because she’s so busy caring for her babies. Part of caring for chicks is ensuring the mother has enough energy to feed her young.
As for the babies themselves, being fed by their mother is healthiest for them. Not only do they experience an important part of budgie socialization, but they also grow up healthier due to the crop milk they ingest from being parent-fed.
Being parent-fed is healthier for a baby budgie even if you hand-feed it food coated in crop milk. Even owners with experience can hurt the baby budgie’s beak by feeding it with a spoon or tube.
What Do Baby Budgies Eat?
Baby budgies eat the regurgitated food given to them by their parents until they’re fully weaned. However, in captivity, they can begin to eat other kinds of soft food at around 5 weeks of age.
To accelerate the weaning stage, you can begin placing these kinds of foods near the chick:
- Soft, boiled vegetables
- Fresh fruits
- Small boiled egg pieces
- Ground oats
- Cooked corn kernels
- Cooked brown rice
Baby budgies can begin to eat adult budgie foods past 8 weeks. Some budgies might take longer to wean off crop milk, so it’s not uncommon to see a 10-week-old budgie dependent on its mother for food, but past that age, you should encourage the budgie to eat alone. There’s a point where the budgie must learn to seek out its own food.
Before the 5 weeks of age, allow the mother to take care of her babies. If you must hand-feed the chicks, you can get hand-rearing formula.
Baby Budgie Feeding Schedule
How often baby budgies are fed varies as they grow up.
Barring any special cases, a normal feeding schedule for a baby budgie looks like this:
|Budgie Age||Feeding Schedule|
|Neonatal-3 weeks||Every 1-2 hours|
|3-4 weeks||Every 4 hours|
|4-5 weeks||Every 5-6 hours|
|5-8 weeks||Occasional hand-feeding until fully self-sufficient|
Part of the reason it’s advised that you allow the mother budgie to feed her chicks is the importance of adhering to the feeding schedule. If they survive their first few weeks, neglected budgies grow up with behavioral and health problems.
Feeding a baby budgie every 1-2 hours for weeks is difficult, especially when you need to sleep.