Squab (baby Pigeon) Feeding Instructions from Lafeber
Hand-Feeding Baby Birds
An exciting breakthrough has occurred in the bird world that brings a new dimension to the lives of pet and wild birds. Bird lovers and naturalists have developed techniques for hand raising nesting birds, and some years ago, the scientists at Lafeber Company developed a special baby bird formula Nutri-Start to meet the extraordinary nutritional needs of these unusually fast growing babies. Now, the team at Lafeber Company has developed Instant Nutri-Start.® The rice protein has been replaced with highly digestible pre-cooked rice protein. By increasing the quality of the rice protein, the need to cook the formula has also been eliminated. It can now be prepared with hot water!
Most baby birds arrive in the world wet, naked, blind, and too weak to support themselves. When fallen from their nest, survival is questionable. Now, with help, they are able to grow and develop normally. Wild birds can be raised and returned to nature. Pet birds learn to accept people as friends. The real benefactors, though, are people. Nature returns many-fold for kindness performed.
The most important considerations in the handfeeding process are the frequency and volume of feeding. Baby birds grow at an extraordinarily rapid rate and this growth requires a great deal of food to meet the nutritional needs of the bird. However, the crop of a young bird holds a limited amount of food, so it must be filled frequently. As the bird gets older, the capacity of the crop increases, and the number of daily feedings will be reduced. The volume to be fed is base upon a combination of observation and judgment.
Check the Fullness of the Crop
Nature designed a rather unique feature into the digestive system of birds-a widening of the esophagus at the lower pan of the neck This widening acts as a compartment to hold a quantity of food, and is named the crop.
The crop can be easily visualized in young birds while feathering is incomplete. In older birds with a well developed covering of feathers, the fullness can be checked by gently feeling the crop with a thumb and index finger.
The crop should be examined before each feeding. Ideally, in the rapidly growing young bird, the crop should never be allowed to become completely empty. Checking the crop fullness will help determine the frequency and volume of feeding to be given. Normally the crop will empty in 4 hours. A crop that remains full or is not emptying properly indicates some type of problem.
Position Bird for Hand-Feeding.
Wild birds are best fed while in a nest box. They will open their beaks and gape, making feeding very easy. Avoid excessive handling of wild birds. Pet birds are removed from the nest box and placed on a towel. By cupping a hand gently around the baby during feeding , adequate support will be given to position him for eating.
Carefully Introduce Feeding Device into the Mouth.
The introduction of an eye dropper or syringe into the mouth is relatively easy, as the baby birds will be eager to be fed and will be gaping (opening the beak wide in order to receive the feeding). Occasionally, a bird may not gape, and gentle tapping of the beak with the feeding device will encourage the bird to open its beak. The device should be carefully passed into the left side toward the right side of the mouth.
Administration of the Instant Nutri-Start should be synchronized with swallowing. Birds swallow with an unusual rhythmic bobbing of the head up and down. While the bird is swallowing, the Instant Nutri-Start is delivered quickly. With practice, a "feet" for the procedure develops, and, done efficiently, the filling of the crop can be accomplished in a surprisingly short time.
Volume of instant Nutri-Start to be Given
The volume of food given is of critical importance. overfilling of the crop could lead to backflow up the esophagus, into the throat, and down the windpipe, which could cause death. Underfilling the crop might result in starvation.
As t he food material is being delivered, the crop will begin to fill and bulge in the region of the lower neck. Careful observation and experience are necessary in order to determine when the crop is adequately filled.
Frequently, the bird will stop gaping when the crop is filled; however, some birds, will continue to gape even when filled. Watch closely when filling for any evidence of food material backing up into the mouth. If this occurs, immediately stop until the mouth is cleared.
When the bird appears to have had enough feeding material, determine the state of fullness of the crop to make sure a sufficient amount of feeding was delivered.
Any excess food material on the skin, beak or feathers should he removed with warm water when the feeding is complete. It can be followed with a few drops of warm water to aid in "cleaning the mouth." Feeding utensils should be cleaned immediately after use. Check the anus to be certain no fecal matter has accumulated. Ideally, monitor the bird's weight daily with an accurate scale. A healthy baby gains weight daily.
Preparation of Instant Nutri-Start
Instant Nutri-Start is mixed in a ratio of 2 1/4 parts hot water to one part powder.
Important: "Use distilled or boiled water to eliminate bacteria growth from contaminated tap water." The water should be approximately 105-110 degrees. Add the water to the powder gradually while stirring. After thorough mixing to eliminate lumps, the formula should be the consistency of creamy pudding. This thickness will allow it to be drawn into an eye dropper or syringe or will roll off a spoon. For older birds the mixture may be made thicker.
Do not reuse mixed formula. Discard and mix fresh at each feeding.
If really necessary, sufficient amount of formula may be prepared at one time to last 3 days if covered and refrigerated after preparation. The amount needed for each feeding can be heated and fed but not reused. Caution: You might need to add water in the heating process. Diluting formula by increasing water will reduce the concentration of this diet.
For babies previously fed another hand-feeding preparation, a minimum of 24 to 48 hours is recommended for the dietary changes. During this period both products should be prepared (as directed) and mixed together, with the Lafeber's Instant Nutri-Start Formula slowly being increased in proportion until the previous diet has been eliminated.
This diet contains no less than 8% fat, there is no need to add peanut butter to increase energy.
Unnecessarily cooking this formula may require adding more water to achieve the desired consistency, consequently reducing the concentration of this diet.
Temperature to Feed Formula
The Instant Nutri-Start should be served warm- 104-106 F- but not hot, as excess heat may damage the digestive tract. It should feel Slightly warm to the touch. It is highly recommended to use a thermometer to measure the temperature.
In order to maintain the heat of the Instant Nutri-Start mixture, a double-boiler type arrangement can be set up with the container of prepared Instant Nutri-Start placed in a bowl or pan of warm water during the feeding process.
Psittacine birds while being fed should be placed on a surface, such as a towel, where there will be insulative properties to prevent excess heat loss and a surface where they can grip with their feet, preventing slippage and possible injury.
Frequency of Feeding
Cockatiels and Small Parrots
Baby birds can be removed from their parents from between 8 to 21 days. Waiting until 2 1/2 to 3 weeks is safer for the beginner, as the bird is hardier due to the presence of some feathering.
Hatching to 1 week.
If the bird was removed from the nest shortly after hatching, for whatever reason, feeding requires special care. There should be no attempts to feed the bird for at least 12 hours after hatching. The crop is very small and will hold only a limited amount of food. After continued use, it will expand. The first feeding at 12 hours should be one drop of water. Approximately 1/2 to 1 hour later, another drop of water may be given. Feeding too frequently during this period may overload the crop and lead to aspiration and death.
After these initial feedings, if the baby appears normal and is excreting, a few drops of very thin Instant Nutri-Start can be given. In order that the baby bird receive enough food, the hand-feedings are repeated every two hours around the clock.
One to two weeks - Birds can be fed every 2-3 hours around the dock. If the birds are kept especially warm and comfortable, the night feedings after midnight can be eliminated. However, feedings must begin again at 6:00 AM.
Two to three weeks - This is a relatively safe age to remove the baby birds from the nest for hand-feeding. It is easier to check the crop and feed them. The birds of this age can be fed every three to four hours from 6:00 A.M. to midnight.
Three to four weeks - Feed the birds every 4 hours. As feeding frequency tapers off, the formula can be slightly thickened. At 4 weeks, the birds can be put in a cage with low perches. Water in a bowl may be placed inside.
Five to six weeks - Feed the birds twice daily. A pelleted bird food and other foods may be placed in the cage to encourage the bird to eat on its own.
Seven weeks - Birds should be placed in a large cage with pellets in cups and scattered on the floor. Introduce the birds to a variety of succulent foods, but these should not make up more than 20% of the diet. Vegetables such as peas and corn are well accepted.
Birds should not be weaned before 7 weeks, usually about 8 weeks. Before weaning the bird off hand-feeding, keep close watch to see that the bird is actually eating adequate amounts of pellets on its own and not merely nibbling at the food. Handle the crop to determine the fullness and check the breastbone for degree of muscling. A weaning bird may lose as much as 10% of it's weight normally. Any more than that may be an indication of a problem. It is recommended that the bird be weighed regularly through this period.
When first weaning the bird, give them pellets, as these are a nutritionally complete and balanced diet for the bird. It is a good idea to keep an older bird in a cage next to the cage with the young weanling to teach them to eat through mimicry.
If the baby birds are not weaned, they will become "spoiled" and will not eat on their own, preferring to be hand fed. However, if they are weaned too early, they will not eat adequately, gradually lose weight, become weak and die. Therefore, if baby birds are begging to be fed, even after they are weaned, there may need to be a reversal back to hand-feeding as they may not be eating adequately.
FREQUENCY OF HAND-FEEDING COCKATIELS and SMALL PARROTS
Age in Weeks
Number of Daily Feedings
Every 2 Hours (Around the Clock)
Every 2 Hours (Around the Clock*)
Every 3 Hours (6 a.m. to Midnight)
"Safest" Period To Begin Hand Feeding
Every 4 Hours (6 a.m. to Midnight)
Every 5 Hours (6 a.m. to Midnight)
5 to 7
Two Feedings Daily
*If bird is kept especially warm and comfortable, the 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. feedings can be eliminated.
Weaning Period - Important -
Make sure bird is eating adequately on its own before discontinuing hand-feeding. Check fullness of crop.
Instant Nutri-Start Is Not Meant To Be Fed To Insectivorous Birds Or Raptors.
Housing and Heat
A small cardboard box approximately 12" x12"xl2" or a small fish aquarium with layers of paper towels over a one inch padding of cloth toweling on the bottom will serve as an incubator and holding area while the babies are young. A heating pad is placed under 1/2 of the box or aquarium. A towel is placed over the top. Either the heating pad setting or the amount of the top that is covered by the towel may be adjusted to provide a constant 85-90' for non-feathered birds. The temperature is gradually reduced as they become feathered and mature. It is recommended to observe the babies carefully to determine their comfort level. A cold baby will shiver and a baby that is too hot will not sleep well and will breathe heavily through an open mouth. A bottle or tin filled with water and holes punched in the lid to allow for evaporation will help to provide humidity.
Frequency of Feeding
The frequency and volume of feedings given to baby birds are largely determined by their age. Judging the age of wild birds is difficult if untrained, so the best way to determine feeding requirements is through the use of readily observable changes in the bird. For example, whether or not the eyes are open, and if the bird is standing up "off their hocks."
Before the eyes are open
If the baby birds appear strong and are peeping with their mouths gaping open, then they can eat as much as they want. Ideally, baby birds of this young age should be fed every 15-20 minutes until their eyes are open. They can go up to 30 minutes without a feeding with no ill effects; however, more frequent feedings are preferred. They do not require around-the-dock feeding as in nature, they are fed only during daylight hours. In accordance with this, they are given feedings for a 12 hour period. Nonetheless, hand-feeding wild birds is quite a commitment, as it requires nearly 50 feedings per day.
When the eyes are open
As the bird becomes older, the frequency of hand-feeding can be reduced and the volume increased. Efforts can be initiated to get the bird to eat on its own. When a bird initially opens its eyes, it can be fed every half hour unless hungry or peeping.
When birds are "off their hocks"
When birds become stronger and begin to stand on their legs ("off their hocks'), then feedings can be given every 45 minutes. Time between feedings can steadily increased, and when the bird is out of the nest, feedings can be given at 2 hour intervals.
FREQUENCY OF HAND-FEEDING FOR WILD BIRDS
Number of Daily Feedings
Before Eyes Are Open:
Feed Bird Every 15 Minutes (12 Hour Period)
Eyes Are Open:
Feed Bird Every 30 Minutes (12 Hour Period)
Off Their Hocks
Feed Bird Every 45 Minutes (12 Hour Period)
Bird Out Of Nest:
(Standing On Their Own)
Feed Bird Every 2 Hours (12 Hour Period)
*Wean at 15 Days
IMPORTANT-Bird must be eating adequately on its own.
Wild birds should begin showing interest in their surroundings and start to eat on their own by 15 days. Provide live food (meal worms) and grass, twigs, etc. in the nest to stimulate interest in the environment. Spreading seed on the bottom of the nest will also encourage the bird to eat on its own.
During the weaning period, it is critical to keep a close watch on the bird in order that good nutrition is maintained. Many times, a bird may be pecking at seed, giving the impression that it is eating, when in actuality, it is not taking in enough for maintenance. Therefore, it is very important to observe if the bird is eating seed during this period and regularly check the crop for fullness.
If other young birds who are eating on their own are present, placing the baby bird in the same cage will hasten socialization, and the bird will learn to eat on its own through the imitation of others.
Housing For Wild Baby Birds
Following nature's design, a nest is constructed. The sides are formed from cloth rolled to a diameter of 1 1/2 inches and then forming a circular shape like a doughnut. The nest would have a diameter of 4-8 inches, depending upon the number and size of the babies. The 1 1/2' height makes the sides of the nest sufficiently high to keep the babies in the nest, but low enough to allow the baby bird to scoot backwards and pass his waste over the side of the nest.
Paper towels are placed in the bottom of the nest to a depth of 1/2 inch and then placed over the top of the entire nest. The towels are arranged to form a sloping surface which enables the bird to back up to the top of the nest to eliminate, and the paper towels can be easily replaced to maintain cleanliness.
Heat and Humidity
To provide heat in the nest box, a heating pad can be placed under half of the nest and dialed to a setting which will maintain temperature of 85-90 degrees for non feathered birds and gradually reduced as they become feathered. By placing heat under half the nest, the bird is able to select the area where the temperature is most comfortable. The box should be kept covered. A bottle or tin filled with water and holes punched in the lid to allow for evaporation will help to provide proper humidity.
While raising wild birds is rewarding, please, do not make a wild bird a pet. For more information contact your local Wildlife Agency, local Rehabilitation Center, Humane Society, State Fish and Game Agency or the Federal United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Weaning Pet Birds With Avi-Cakes Food
Your pet birds have received a good start in life through the nutritional benefits of Nutri- Start baby bird food. It is important to continue with high-quality nutrition during the weaning stage and beyond. Lafeber's Avi-Cakes are an excellent weaning food for your birds.
When birds reach the weaning stage, simply break Avi-Cakes into small pieces and spread them near the babies. They will first investigate the food; then, pick it up and start self-feeding. (Supply fresh Avi-Cakes daily.) When the babies are eating the Avi-Cakes you will first want to eliminate the middle of the day hand-fed meal. As the birds continue eating on their own, discontinue the morning and finally the evening hand-fed meal.
Since Avi-Cakes provide complete nutrition for pet birds, you may continue feeding Avi-Cakes or you may choose one of the other fine quality foods manufactured by Lafeber Company.
This bit of information was brought to you by Lafeber Company
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If a bird doesn't seem to get a hang of picking at and eating seeds, try this
Take a small container like a pill bottle and fill it with seed. Take a thin piece of cloth and close it over the top. Keep it taut and tie it to the bottle with a rubber band. Make a slit in the center of the cloth and put his beak into it and let him pretend he's put his beak into his mother's mouth. See if that does it..
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Releasing Young Birds
A young pigeon can't just be let go in New York City as you may plan to do. If its parents had raised it, it would stay with them while they taught it how to live in the city, where to find food and water, what to be careful about, where to find shelter, and it would have been socialized with other pigeons. With you raising it, it doesn't have a way to learn any of these things or even how to relate to other pigeons.
That is why we always recommend that if people find a baby pigeon, if its parents are caring for it and it is not in a dangerous location, the baby pigeon should be left where it is. Once you take a baby pigeon into your care, it becomes very dangerous to just let it out in the city when it's old enough to fly. It will starve or die of thirst. It needs to be taught how to live in the city by other pigeons while it is growing up.
That's why, if you plan to let it go, you need to find someone who can give it a "soft release" (gradual, in the company of other birds it can learn from), or a rehabber outside of the city or experienced in this. If you are planning to just turn the pigeon loose, it is possible it will be ok but there is much danger that it won't be. It has no idea how or where to find food or what it needs to fear.
Releasing Young Birds by Gone To Seed:
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