I have hand-reared English Shortfaced Tumblers for years, I am unable to confess to how many, but it is a fair few. All varieties of pigeons can be reared this way if necessary.
I already had purchased an Ecostat Brooder for other bird breeding projects; therefore, housing the birds once taken from the nest was solved. I needed to find a suitable hand –rearing feed. I was advised of many feeds, from Ready Brek to soaked bread, but I took the advice of my local vet, he advised me, and gave me, some Kaytee Exact Hand-Rearing Formula. This has all the necessary nutrients and vitamins required to raise healthy birds. I will just add that Ready Brek is not a suitable feed.
Once the eggs have hatched, I tend to hold back as long as possible until I remove the babies from the nest. I hope the parents will be able to raise their young for at least seven days, of which most do. This is long enough for the babies to receive the essential pigeon milk from their parents. I put the babies in the brooder at a temperature of 26 – 28 degrees centigrade, but I adjust the heater accordingly. As the babies grow, the temperature is decreased. The amount of birds in the brooder plays a part in the temperature also, and it really is a case of keeping an eye on the temperature for the first day or two. When the babies are feathered, I remove them from the brooder and put them into a “nursery” (which is just an open box), and when old enough to fend for themselves, I put the young ESFT into the young bird section of the loft.
To feed them is a simple enough process. Kaytee Exact Hand-rearing formula comes in powder form. It is mixed with warm water. The consistency varies on the age of the bird. Very runny for five day babies, then as they mature, gradually thicken the consistency until it resembles a runny paste.
I use a 2ml syringe, without the needle. When the bird’s crop is empty of food from its parents, I gently insert the tip of the syringe into the mouth of the bird, by very gently holding the head of the bird and gently prizing the beak apart with the syringe and my fingers; this is a very delicate procedure. Once the syringe is in the mouth, I slowly feed the bird. This is a messy process for the first day or two, and feeding more than three times a day will be required, but after a very short time, the bird becomes adjusted to being fed this way, it will push its head between my thumb and index finger, open its beak and wait for “din dins”. I find this an easy method to feed the babies, as no forcing is required at all, they automatically open their beaks. After the first day or two, I feed the birds three times a day, which is morning, afternoon and evening, and as the birds grow, less frequently, but increasing the amount and thickening the consistency. Always check that the crop is empty from the previous feed to avoid over feeding. Once the babies are around two weeks old, I use a larger syringe; otherwise it will be too time consuming feeding a larger baby with a 2ml syringe.
When the babies are old enough to eat “solids”, I feed them soaked seeds, as before, the bird will push its beak between my fingers and open its beak, and I give them water through the syringe, of which they come to hand, beak wide open. The birds are incredibly excitable during feed time, and it can be quite amusing.
I have learnt with ESFT that there comes a time when you just have to cease feeding, as the bird becomes too lazy and dependant, and will not even attempt to eat and drink for itself.
Hand-rearing is very rewarding, and not time consuming as some may think. Healthy babies are raised, which are also incredibly tame.