Hand raising questions...

Discussion in 'Pigeons and Doves' started by cochinGurl, Jun 24, 2011.

  1. cochinGurl

    cochinGurl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    bellingham
    hello, i have a few questions about hand raising baby pigeons. are they as demanding, as say, baby bunnies? feeding every half hour or so, or can you fill their crop and they'll be good for a while? does anyone on here have expirience with this task? I had a VERY tame iranian high flyer named lucky who was hand raised. he was so sweet, he would come and land on your shoulder and all that. [​IMG] I would like to hand raise one or two eventualy, but i am wondering about the basic requirements. ive vistited sevral websites on the subject, but havent got a lot of info. is it a 24/7 job, or more relaxed. dont get me wrong, its not that im trying to take the easy way out lol i once fed a parapelegic narcaleptic easter egger hen for 3 months with an eye dropper before her owners wanted her back and decided to put her down. anyway, any advise would be great!!
    thanks so much, -cochingurl
     
  2. pheasantfreak

    pheasantfreak Chillin' With My Peeps

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    i have tried to hand feed a couple of times without any success they always end up dieing but good luck
     
  3. franciscreek

    franciscreek Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have raised several the last couple of years. If you wait to feed till the crop is empty. It is a fairly easy process. We start them off with one of the parrot hand feeding formulas
    I found a syringe with a curved tip is easier than a spoon
     
  4. cochinGurl

    cochinGurl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    bellingham
    thanks so much for the replys. [​IMG] do you have to do it all night as well, or just during the day?
     
  5. Towman72gmc

    Towman72gmc Chillin' With My Peeps

    I've never done it but was told to keep the food very wet almost liquid, because they will get dehydrated otherwise
     
  6. punk-a-doodle

    punk-a-doodle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 15, 2011
    Compared to other altricial species, I tend to find that pigeons are a bit easier to hand-raise compared to others (doesn't mean they are easy though), and are better for someone just starting off. If you are new to hand feeding, I'd actually suggest either starting with a two week old squeaker, or have a breeding pair or foster pair of pigeons that hatch a baby, and just supplement the care they give. Basically, there is nothing wrong in working up the scale of hand feeding because there is a lot that can go wrong. Pigeon babies are nice in that you don't have to feed them every 20 minutes like some birds, because their crops can hold more than many, and because columbiformes have a unique ability to suck up food and water that can help avoid aspiration in some feeding methods. They are also unique in that (like flamingos), they feed a substance known as crop milk that is secreted from the crop. It is not like cow's milk, but is a rich substance that helps baby pigeons grow very rapidly.

    With ANY bird species, it is important to know about the glottis. If you look down a bird's open beak, above the tongue is a hole. The raised area around this hole is the glottis (there is usually a visible slit above that towards the roof of the mouth, that opens into the sinuses, ignore that). The glottis leads into the trachea. DO NOT get any food or liquid down this hole! This will aspirate a baby and they can die within seconds. I don't mean to scare, just to inform of one of the most common killers in hand feeding.

    There are three main feeding methods for pigeons, but you can find some others too. No matter the method, birds will be getting their liquids from the food you feed at first, so make sure you are soaking or adding water in some way to the food. It is easier and safer to add water to the food rather than try to drip water into the beak. That way is more likely to lead to aspiration. Most people use Kaytee Exact hand feeding formula, but if hand feeding a bird for the first few days of its life, you may want to use a Mac milk recipe which is a crop milk substitute. I personally would alter the recipe so that you use a non-dairy form of probiotic instead of yogurt, such as probiotic pills or unsalted fermented soy:
    http://www.pigeons.biz/forums/f25/macmilk-crop-milk-substitute-15236.html (there is an old and a newer version listed on this link)

    Natural beak-in-beak method:
    http://wwingsaviary.lbbhost.com/AviaryPages02/HandFeeding.html
    I like this one best, but squeakers don't seem to take to it. Just squabs. Allows them to us their unique sucking ability. In a normal setting, baby pigeons insert their beak into the parents' beaks. An upwards and downwards stroking of the beak will help stimulate a natural feeding response (head bobbing in the chick, often wing flapping), as will tapping the underside base of the beak as parent pigeons hit this area with their tongues when feeding.

    Spoon feeding or similar:
    A way to feed that avoids force feeding and can help avoid aspiration is one that allows the bird to take tiny pieces of food at it's own pace. This is the most time consuming method. You can use a spoon, but a feeding syringe is more flexible for varying what you do with it:
    http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=17574 (No needle on this syringe. You can buy many different sizes in the horse section at most feed stores for very cheap.)
    If the baby will not take food willingly at first (pigeons won't gape, they are not a gaping species, but they will peck or suck food on their own), you can start by using your fingernail, line up the curve of your nail with the natural curve of the beak, and firmly but gently open the beak and use your pinky finger to keep it open. Then, you can place food either near the tip of the beak, or to the left of the glottis, in the back, left corner of the mouth. Let the baby swallow the food on its own, stroking the neck area if needed can sometimes help start the swallowing reflex, and in a young bird, you can actually see the food go down, so don't be freaked out when a bulge travels down the neck. Eventually, the pigeon will usually move on to start pecking at food on a spoon, on your finger, or dripped from the syringe at its own pace. Usually when it begins squeaking when it sees you is when this will happen. For whatever reason, stroking the back of the neck near the head seems to help trigger the pecking response. Here is a video of our Oriental Frill being fed by this method:
    This was the day he learned how to peck food directly from the syringe, and then to peck it off of fingers. So much easier! [​IMG]
    If the chick is struggling too much to feed, you will want to wrap the bird firmly in a towel. Place the bird on a towel so the head is near an edge. Wrap the bird up like a burrito, leaving just the chest and head free. If holding or wrapping, do NOT place pressure on the chest area. Birds expand there to breathe, and restricting the chest can lead to the bird suffocating. It's a much more secure hold anyway to put pressure on the bird from above. Even in large, strong birds like eagles, placing pressure at the point the wings meet near the head, along the back, can help restrict movement in the entire bird.

    Force/Tube feeding:
    http://forum.backyardpoultry.com/viewtopic.php?t=7933
    When using this method, the fastest of the methods, the main things to remember are do not put the tube down the trachea/glottis, do not overfill the crop as food coming back up can cause aspiration, and do not force the tube as you can puncture the crop lining easier than one would think. It is especially easy to puncture the lining with the metal feeding tubes (you can purchase pigeon specific ones on pigeon supply websites), and harder to do with softer tubing such as latex tubing. It is good to combine this method putting some food in a beak opened with your fingers to ensure that the bird properly learns to swallow food. Just one time at the beginning of each feeding is fine.

    With any method you use, there are some important things to remember about temperature. Food wise, food should be kept in the range of 102-105 degrees F when it enters the crop. Especially in younger birds, food that is too cold can cause problems with health or can chill the bird too much and put them into shock. Very importantly, food that is too hot can scald and even burn holes in the crop lining. Do not feed food that is too hot!!! The baby itself also needs to be kept warm. I usually have a brooder set up with a heat lamp or other heating device hooked to a thermostat to keep the right temperature which I keep the baby in, providing them a towel lined bowl (with a stick or two in it so they can practice perching which can help prevent foot issues later in life). Whatever bedding you use, you will have to clean it at least daily, some clean three or four times a day. When feeding, sometimes I place babies on a heating pad to keep them warm during the feeding. This is also very important the younger the bird is. Babies that are too cold while feeding can have numerous issues arise from that.

    Baby doves/pigeons tend to switch to seed at about three weeks of age. I find many actually will stop taking formula at this age or at four weeks on their own. I start squeakers on a small seed mix, such as the millet based mixes you can buy at feed stores. They can move up to larger seeds once they master how to peck up seeds. I provide a small dish (not big enough that they can crawl into it) of water, and by pecking at the water with your finger, most will naturally learn on their own how to drink, usually first by pecking, then figuring out how to suck up water. When starting out on seed, you need to make sure the crop never feels hard from eating just seed with no liquids.

    The exact amount fed depends on the breed of pigeon. You do not need to feed at night, though some do until the bird is two or three days old. Some start feeding about 1ml every two hours including during the night for the first 24 hours, other feed every two hours just during the day, then move to every four hours, then every six hours as the bird ages. Some just go for three or four feedings spaced out during the day. I find people really vary with this. Here is another guideline:
    "Feed 1cc every 2 hours at days 1 - 2
    3cc every 3 hours for days 3-4
    10-11cc every 5 hours days 5-7
    By day 20 they should be taking 30-40 ml 3 times a day from a 60ml syringe"

    Here is a photo of a rounded crop:
    http://www.freewebs.com/kjcii/handfeeding.htm
     
  7. cochinGurl

    cochinGurl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    bellingham
    thanks so much for all your advise! i realy appreciate that you took the time to be so thorough. [​IMG] very helpful. [​IMG] thanks again for being so detailed!!! [​IMG]
     
  8. punk-a-doodle

    punk-a-doodle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 15, 2011
    No problem at all, and good luck to you on any hand-raising you do! [​IMG]
     

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