Any Macaw purchased from a breeder is fully weaned, so no special care practices are necessary. However, if you are planning to breed Macaws or your set of Macaws have unexpectedly bred, you must learn the ins and outs of taking care of babies because their needs are different from birds that are weaned and those that have reached adulthood.
The good news is that it is entirely possible to raise a baby Macaw into a healthy and happy bird. The bad news is that it’s not easy. Hand feeding is a big part of the process, which can be tough to master overall. But with a little direction and a great deal of commitment, you can succeed when all is said and done. Here is a guide to caring for baby Macaws that should make your job as the caretaker an easier and more pleasurable experience.
First Things First: It’s All About the Parents
If a baby Macaw’s parents are in the picture, the parents should be doing most of the work when it comes to caring for the baby, especially during the first 2 weeks of life. It is important to offer the parents a larger amount of food in a wider variety. Provide fresh veggies, like celery, carrots, and spinach, and fruits and berries, like melon, banana, and blueberries. Whole grains, including oats, are also a good idea.
This extra food will be used by the parents to feed their new baby, which is why the types of food offered daily should greatly vary in terms of nutrition, flavor, and texture. The parents will regurgitate the food and feed it to the baby, which provides the baby with natural intestinal enzymes that help strengthen its digestive system.
In addition to extra food, it is a good idea to provide more bedding in the habitat so the parents can ensure warmth and comfort for their babies. With these extra tools and resources in place, parent Macaws will do most of the legwork. However, supervision throughout the day and regular interactions with the parents and baby are necessary.
Caring for a Baby Macaw on Your Own
If a baby Macaw’s parents are not around, you must take on the role of primary caretaker yourself. The biggest aspect of caring for a baby Macaw is feeding. Baby Macaws cannot feed themselves, so they will rely on you for every morsel of food that they consume. To start, you should gather all the tools necessary for the proper hand feeding of baby Macaws.
The Process of Hand-Feeding Baby Macaws
You will need both your hands to feed a baby Macaw, so the baby should be placed in a small, soft container, such as a bowl lined with a soft towel, so it can reach out for food without the risk of falling over or injuring itself. Once the baby bird is situated for feeding, prepare the macaw formula using boiled water and the directions that are included with the formula product.
Fill a pipette or syringe with the formula, and then offer it to the baby macaw by placing the opening of the pipette or syringe over the baby’s open mouth and then lightly dripping the formula into its mouth. You will know that you are feeding the baby enough if it is gaining weight daily. If weight gain is not apparent, increase the amount of formula being offered at each feeding.
When and How Often to Feed Baby Macaws
Newborn Macaws should be fed every 2 hours, even throughout the night, so multiple human caretakers should consider taking shifts to meet this need without putting too much pressure on any one person. Once the newborn becomes a chick (at about 2 weeks of age), it only needs to be fed once every 4 hours, including throughout the night.
Weening Baby Macaws
At about 3 months of age, baby Macaws are ready to be weaned from hand feeding. This means that the bird can learn to start pecking at whole food and digesting it on its own, and the formula can be eliminated. However, the weaning process should be a slow one. Start by offering the formula in a bowl rather than through a syringe or pipette. You may still need to hand-feed the bird for a couple of weeks between bowl feedings to ensure that it is getting enough calories and nutrients.
Once the bird can easily eat formula from a bowl and finishes every meal that is offered to them, you can start to introduce the same types of foods that an adult Macaw eats, such as seeds, berries, tropical fruits, veggies, and whole grains. A commercial parrot mix should be offered as the main part of any meal in a given sitting.
You May Also Like: How Much Does a Macaw cost? (Updated Price Guide)
Working With a Veterinarian
It is extremely important to work with a veterinarian when caring for a baby Macaw to minimize the risk of making mistakes and to ensure that you are prepared to handle and problems that might arise, like the refusal of a baby to eat any formula for whatever reason. A veterinarian will provide guidance and encouragement so you do not feel so alone throughout the hand-feeding process. Regular veterinarian checkups should take place throughout the entire life of a Macaw, from beginning to end.
Featured Image Credit: VCoscaron_Shutterstock