Raising Babies In Baskets

Undyed, unglazed natural-fiber baskets are an excellent "house" to use in raising baby birds. There are precautions, however, that need to be taken.  Baskets are more apt to absorb germs; they are harder to clean and sterilize. They get chewed on by fledglings and must be replaced periodically.

Plastic tubs don't breathe, they can be too hot, or cold to the touch; they can be toxic if a shred is ingested by a growing baby; they are hard for claws to grip; and most often they are either opaque so a bird cannot see out, or fishbowl clear leaving chicks limited darkness and privacy.  And they soon smell when soiled with wet fecal matter.

Baskets on the other hand, breathe and stay dry, allow babies ease to grip, resemble wood of a natural nest site, and have dozens of tiny openings for young birds to peek through while staying hidden and secure.

Handfed birds should be pulled from the nest well after their eyes are open, the size basket chosen for each clutch depends upon the number, sizes and kind of chick. Small groups of babies like lovebirds and cockatiels are raised in lightweight six to eight inch baskets. Conures and ringnecks get larger, sturdier baskets, and medium parrots like grays and eclectus ones with thicker handles for their feet and a stable base (in cases where an older bird can tip the basket when it begins to perch on the handle, a heavy flat rock is placed in the bottom).

If a basket initially is too large for small babies, the excess space is taken up with a rolled cotton towel or clean stuffed animal. These are also necessary when raising a single pet since baby birds need something to lean against, rest their neck muscles upon and burrow under when they are taken from Mom and their birthplace.

Care of baskets for babies is relatively simple. When a clean one is chosen for the bird(s), lay a soft unfrayed towel in the bottom, folded to conform slightly up the sides forming a depression. Lay a double or triple layer of paper towels on top of the cloth. At each feeding, the papers should be changed and the towels shaken out, dried or laundered depending on soiling. At intervals, if fecal matter gets on the basket, it is recommended that the basket is, wetted, then scrubbed with a soft-bristled brush (a toilet bowl brush works well) and left in the sun to dry. Some keepers choose to brush with disinfectant before drying. It's a good idea to so when a basket is being prepared for a different group of young.

Drape a thick towel over the basket handle and down the sides during the first weeks when chicks are of an age to be in the dark for security and calm digestion. If the towel is left up one side, light will seep through to entice babies to peek out through the weave. Remove babies for handfeeding so no formula gets into the environment with them. Fecal matter in a clutch is one thing, undigested food entirely another!

When parrots begin to grow and explore the world outside their darkness, baskets come into their own as tools for handrearing. Most precocious chicks will crawl up the sides and peek out under the towel. If they are seeking a place to snuggle, drape the towel inside. Lovebirds, for example are known to not stay put in some baskets without a cover.

Young birds before weaning will tongue the texture of their basket and begin chewing on the rattan before learning to crunch food just as babies in the wild learn to nibble the walls of a hollow log. When raising strong chewing species such as derbyans, goffins, quakers, the choice may be to let wear and tear on the basket progress or transfer older birds to a cage to wean. At any rate the goal is not to discourage chewing.

As fledging begins, birds will flap inside the basket to develop their wings. Pull the cover back to give them room on the edge and wedge a stable branch in the bottom for the chicks to perch.  Add millet sprays, a toy and a feed dish as the young grow. If foodstuffs are spilled, change papers regularly and make sure babies are not tempted to eat soiled morsels. When fledging week arrives, remove the towel during the day to allow the babies to climb on the sides and on up to the handle to perch and flap. First flight training involves putting babies on a table, then taking the basket two to six feet away and calling them "home." Quickly the basket becomes their firm landing site; within days they will be able to fly across the room to it. They recognize it instantly as a safe place. If fledglings are up at the ceiling, or if one escapes, you will be able to call them back to their basket easily.

Most pets can learn to ride or be carried in the basket.  Be careful to cover them tightly if they are taken outside to the car.  If birds are transferred to a new home with their weaning basket, they feel secure the first night or so, until owners can buy another basket or teach them about a new cage.

More Articles on Breeding Birds:

Anatomy & Physiology of Avian Reproductive Systems - Scott E McDonald, DVM; Beakers
Artificial Incubation...of Bird Eggs - HARI
Articles on Breeding - Howard Voren; Beakers
Blue & Gold Macaw (breeding) - Geoffrey & Barbara Gould; PPS & Birdworld
Cardboard Nestboxes - Kevin Burch; SPBE
Cockatoo Talk (Major Mitchell, Red-tailed Black and Gang-gang) - Klaus Sietus; PSA
The Cost of Death vs The Cost of Veterinary Care - Raven; NCS
Crop Stasis & Vomiting in Young Birds - Carol Curry, DVM; Beakers
Essential (?) Genetics For the Terrified - Chris Rutt; LB-L
Disease Prevention... in an Indoor Psitticine Breeding Facility - HARI
Introduction to Handfeeding - Wanda Barras; EBBA
Incubation Notes Spring 1995 - Geoffrey & Barbara Gould; PPS & Bird Breeder
A Jenday Eggbinding Rescue - Geoffrey & Barbara Gould; PPS & ACB
A Major Event (Breeding Major Mitchells) - Steve Groom; PSA
Mate Aggression in Cockatoos - Various Breeders; Cockatoo Heaven
New Breeder Basics - Linda Greeson, ACS
Nutritional Considerations for Breeding Birds - Jeanne Smith DVM; Foothill Club, Bird Breeder
Nutritional Observations, H/F Formulas & Digestion - HARI
Primer on Setting Birds Up for Breeding - Monica Sudds, CAS; Beakers
Psitticine Pediatrics: Housing and Feeding of Baby Parrots - HARI
Raising Jendays in Arizona - Geoffrey & Barbara Gould; PPS & CBH
Reproductive Disorders of the Hen Parrot - Brett Gartrell B.V.Sc; PSA
Sour Crop In The Neonate - Robert A. Irmiger DVM, David McCluggage DVM; NCS
Tips From the Vet (on raising babies) - HARI
Ventilation Systems for Indoor Breeding Facilities - HARI
Weaning Baby Birds - Kellie Sharpe; Springville