Handfeeding Help by Helen in England

I am in the UK, but have years of experience in hand-rearing pigeons from day one. For a first timer it is difficult, but easy once you have done it a few times.

I do not know of your Exact, but friends in California tell me they use it successfully. We have nothing like that in the UK, but I use poultry rearing crumbs, which I soak in hot water for 30 minutes - not boiling as that will destroy the enzymes in the food. Then I liquefy in a blender, and finally strain through a sieve so I have a nice smooth liquid, which will flow through the tube.

I use syringes with a tube on the end, which I put straight down into the crop. I have different sizes for different ages. For the first week, while they are so small I grease the tube with something called liquid paraffin, which I gather you people in the States have not heard of, but it is medicinal and often used to shift blockages in the digestive system for both humans and animals. Maybe you have something similar.

The consistency of the food varies with the age of the bird. The younger the chick the more runny the fluid needs to be. Tiny chicks soon get dehydrated.

I have found through experience that the first thing a newly hatched pigeon needs in its crop is a probiotic and a rehydrant. This introduces fluid and natural flora into the digestive system, without which the chick will die. A probiotic can be obtained from your vet, or natural yogurt will do. NOTE yogurt with live active cultures is recommended.

For the first meal, 1ml of natural yogurt or probiotic is recommended.

For the first 24 hours, 1ml at each feeding, every 2 hours including during the night. If you miss feedings the bird will become weak very quickly.

By day 2, 2 mls will be needed at each feeding and by day 3 if they are growing well, you could be up to 5 mls. At 1 week, they should be on 15mls and will only need feeding every 6 hours. Then you can get a nights sleep. At 2 weeks of age if they are growing ok, mine are usually on 40mls every 8 hours. Never give more than 40 mls at one sitting. Mine are usually picking up for themselves - the earliest has been 20 days, but certainly by 4 weeks. A word of caution. By the time they are 2 weeks of age try to use a length of aquarium tubing on the syringe to feed them with. It is very soft, and they are usually so eager by then to be fed that they leap up as you are inserting the tube, the end can then tear the crop lining, you will not notice this, and food will leak out and into an airspace, finally through to the respiratory system, and you have a dead bird on your hands within hours.

Keep a daily weight record, that way you spot problems immediately and can take appropriate action. Make sure all utensils are sterilized, best using a steam sterilizer, however you can dispense with this at 1 week of age, but keep all feeding utensils in fridge in between feeds.

Have some antibiotics handy. Amoxycillin is best. Baytril inhibits bone growth and should only be used in an absolute emergency. Give antibiotics at the first sign of any trouble. I have found you cannot afford to take any chances, at that age they are not as tough as people think they are. A general dose would be 0.1ml per 100 gms body weight twice daily for 5 days. 48 hours after the last dose, give a probiotic to replace the natural gut bacteria, which will have been destroyed by the antibiotic, which is not discerning when it comes to killing bacteria. This is vital, as once a bird has had a course of antibiotics it is vulnerable to invasion by any nasties which may be lurking and ready to invade a 'clean' digestive system.

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