The best time to introduce weaning foods is when the baby birds start investigating, picking up items and “gumming” them with their beaks. At around the age of 4 ½ to 5 weeks of age, we begin to offer small pelleted food in bowls in the aquarium along with water, while still maintaining hand feeding. When they reach approximately 6-8 weeks of age, they will start eating food on their own, they will accept less of the hand feeding formula, so don’t be alarmed if your babies only eat half as much as they did before. Usually it is the “lunchtime” feeding that they drop first followed by the morning feeding. It may take a little while before they will drop the “last meal before I go to bed” feeding. I personally think it gives them a feeling of security to hang onto that last feeding!
You may also notice a change in their attitudes when they begin to eat pelleted food. They may not be quite so excited to see you approach, as if they know and they probably do) that they are no longer entirely dependent on you to provide their food by hand feeding. Quakers wean around 8-10 weeks of age on average, although some could take a little longer. I have also noticed that a number of babies will spend almost all day sitting in their food bowl once they realize what the pellets are, as if to guard them from predators! Hand feeding baby Quakers can be a relatively easy and mostly enjoyable task even for a novice breeder, as long as you have armed yourself with knowledge and some experience.
Five to seven clutches per year consisting of anywhere from four to eight babies per clutch is common for Quakers after their second year, and they can usually be depended on to continue to produce this number of babies quite regularly. They make excellent parents, as if they had been in training for it all their lives! A word of caution, however: Some Quakers do not “take “ to parenting with their very first clutch. With some their first clutch of two may seem to be merely a practice run.
They may not sit on their eggs properly, if at all, or the eggs may not be fertile. One of our pairs laid 5 eggs in their first clutch, only to roll them into the corner of their nest box and completely ignore them, prompting us to invest in an incubator and attempt to hatch them artificially rather then lose them. If the eggs do hatch, the parents may very well ignore the babies and refuse to feed them, requiring human intervention if they are to survive. Fortunately, these birds seem to learn from experience, and by the time they lay their second or third clutch, they manage them like professionals, and human intervention is usually not necessary after this point. If you do run into some problems, do not give up too soon. I bred Quakers for several years but always lost a baby now and then. Practice makes perfect, and it won’t take long to become truly adept at hand feeding baby birds.