Let's Celebrate Pet Birds!
T.J. Lafeber D.V.M.

Feeding a Hungry Bird


Feeding A Hungry Bird

Birds' Need:      Food availability governs the lives of birds.

Bird Behavior:  Birds instinctively know that survival depends upon food gathering. When hunger develops, the need to eat takes precedence over everything else. Even in the face of danger they will gamble for what they know they need. They subjugate their instinctive suspicions and fear to reach food. Through a learning process birds begin to be convinced that they need us, and that their owners are kind, benevolent people.

Owner's Role:  Feeding a hungry animal is always a sure method to begin a friendship.

Everyone seems to feel that the answer to making a fearful bird love you, is through food. But providing food is not enough. The solution lies in regulating feedings and having a consistent caring attitude. The following example will make this clear.

Being good to a stray puppy or taming a pet bird, is it the same?

A very understandable answer might begin with thinking about a frightened, stray dog that you have noticed in the prairie in back of your home. From a distance the dog appears to be young, terribly underweight and so nervous and terrified, that he seems to be startled, and on his toes, ready to run for any reason.

Feeding a hungry animal is a sure way to begin a friendship.

You decide to place some food in an area where he is likely to find it, and then return to your house to observe from the window.

During the next week you repeat this procedure daily, and find that the puppy now anticipates the feedings and will distance himself only a few feet from you. A few more days of patience, sitting quietly and letting the dog become familiar with you, and he will probably eat out of your hand. He needs to begin to trust you.

With more feedings, playing together, and pleasant conversation, a friendship develops.

The puppy's love of his new found friend can now be extended to others.

Procedure:    The same basic technique as described on the ''wild''  dog works well on birds. Start by feeding two or three meals daily, and removing the food dishes from the eating area between meals. Leave food available for a minimum of ten minutes, and a maximum of one hour. The length of time is not critical, but there should be some consistency from day to day. Your bird might miss his first meal, but after that, he will fill his crop in a short time. Birds are not dumb!

Contrary to established thinking, birds do not ''starve to death'' when fed two meals daily. In fact, the degree of hunger brought about by separate feedings is only sufficient to develop a hearty appetite.

As feedings are continued day after day, birds feel the regularity and begin to look forward to you bringing food. Birds soon learn that they need you. More information on page 116.

Rewards and Treats
Like other animals, birds respond to rewards. About the only type of prize a bird will take is food, and then, only if hungry or it happens to be a particular food that he loves. If hunger and favorite foods are combined into a response program, the results can be very positive.

Occasions for the use of rewards could be:

for talking   

for shaking hands

for leaving the cage

for returning to the cage

for doing tricks


There is at least one time when giving a reward would not be beneficial. If a bird is noisy, you would not give him a treat to make him quiet. A reward at this time would only make the bird believe the reward came because of his noise. The result would be a noisier bird.

No Frame Index