Hand Feeding Baby Seraphim

At some point this will happen to every Seraphim breeder – a situation will arise when a baby needs to be rescued.

Most of the time I figure if a new baby is too weak to make a go of it, then it’s best to just let nature take it’s course. However there are a number of situations that can arise when perfectly healthy genetically sound babies that¬†should be raised successfully by their parents won’t be. Examples: 1. Some parents always let the second hatchling perish, feeding only the first. 2. Young parents sometimes don’t quite figure out what to do for a round or two – they tend to get better at parenting as the years go by, so their first youngsters may perish unnecessarily due to inexperience. 3. An abrupt cold snap may place poorly feathered youngsters at risk of hypothermia in that narrow age gap of 7 – 14 days when quills are becoming feathers and the parents have stopped warming the babies routinely. 4. You may have eggs you want to hatch in an incubator for any number of reasons.

Thankfully nowadays it is remarkably easy to manage a baby for the few weeks it takes to grow it up to weaning size, and if the conditions in the loft are otherwise perfectly safe the baby can be left right in its own nest to be tended by its parents while you help it out a little just once a day.

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In the photo above are two babies. The baby on the left is a couple of days old. You can see that it’s little crop is full of crop milk. The baby on the right just hatched the night before. It’s crop is still flat and empty. The parents fed both babies for three days, and then stopped feeding the second one. They are first time parents. At the same time, another pair in my loft pulled the same stunt with a baby that hatched the same day as this little one. Due to my busy schedule, I elected to pull both from their nests and hand-rear them in the house.

Keep on hand some Kaytee Baby Bird Formula – you can order it as a case of small containers or in a single big container from Amazon – as you never know when an emergency might arise. Decide if the threatened baby can stay in the nest or needs to be fully managed in the house. If it is secure where it is and is just being underfed,¬† the best option is to leave it in the nest and supplement it daily with formula. The parent won’t care – just make it a quick in and out visit. Make sure you have a Toomey Syringe (70cc’s with a large tapered tip) to feed it, as this will work for all babies from age 5 days and up. (Sets of syringes can be obtained from Foy’s and Spiegel’s Pigeon Supply stores, but they don’t necessarily have the Toomey Syringe which is hands down the easiest to use.) An eye dropper and a smaller syringe with a smaller tip may be necessary for tinier babies, though usually there is no trouble for the first few days and most have gotten through the tiny stage before feeding or weather issues arise. It is important that new babies get crop milk from their parents, as that aids in their immunity as well as populating their crop and gut with the needed microscopic organisms to aid digestion, so if at all possible always let babies hatch under their own parents (or foster parents in some cases) and be fed for at least two or three days with crop milk before confiscating them for hand-rearing.

If you’ve left the neglected baby with its parents, keep an eye on the crop when you go out daily to give formula, as sometimes the parents will abruptly start feeding the baby again. If so, that’s great, but keep a watchful eye and check it daily. They are never as attentive to the second one as the first if they start with that pattern.

In the house it’s easiest to keep the babies in a regular pigeon nest bowl. I put a coconut fiber pad down, a paper towel, and then put the baby on top of it and cover it with fluffed Kleenex. If the baby is less than three days old it may need some supplemental heat, but after three days they generate enough on their own that simply keeping them covered is enough. They DO need to be touched, handled, and stimulated in order to grow up without neurologic deficits, as all babies do, so don’t feed them but otherwise completely ignore them. Rub their heads and backs when you walk by on occasion, and talk to them. I keep a little furry stuffed animal in with small babies so they can burrow into something that feels vaguely alive. I think this is important. Once they are 8-10 days old this becomes completely unnecessary, as does covering them. They begin to get pretty lively and generate a lot of heat so you have to keep freeing them up a bit.

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On the right above is that same little baby from the earlier photo, along with its psuedo-sibling on the left. It’s just been fed and the paper napkin changed. Both babies are very alert and content. They were banded a few days after this photo was taken. Below is a video of the same two babies at about three weeks of age demonstrating how quick and easy it is to feed baby Seraphim:

Once they are approaching a month old it’s time to get them weaned. Leave a small bowl in their cage with a typical seed mix in it. They will automatically start pecking at it little by little, especially if you let them get hungrier between feedings. By four and a half or five weeks of age they can be put out into the loft with the other pigeons. I put them in a box in the corner, tipped on it’s side so they can run in and out. In this way they can watch and learn from the adult Seraphim how to eat from the feeder and drink from the waterer. The adults won’t harm them; in fact, they seem to behave as if they have conern for them and recognize they are babies. Continue to feed them their formula once a day until you are sure they are eating on their own, either by direct observation or by palpating their crops to see if you can feel any seeds there. Keep a little bowl of water handy as well. Generally just keep a close eye on them during this period to make sure they make the transition.