Easy To Make Handfeeding Utensil & Its Use
by Ruxandra Lucaciu

Thanks to ADA member Ruxandra Lucaciu for sending in the following information and pictures.

As I acquired many pairs of very young, inexperienced pairs of foreign doves for the past two years, I was left to handfeed many abandoned chicks. Along the way, I came over an article on Jeff Dowing's web site about feeding the young from a finger cot. Later on, John Pire suggested feeding the young from a dropper's plastic bulb as an alternative. "This might be it!" I thought to myself when I saw the bulb's attached picture. I took a syringe with a Luer Lock and a dropper plastic bulb, trying to fit the plastic bulb to the syringe. It worked. Next, I cut an orifice in the bulb, I filled the syringe with Exact handfeeding formula and I took an eight day old chick from it's parents to test the syringe. I was amazed how easily the new bulb-syringe set up helped feed the chick even though she was never handfed. I highly recommend this handfeeding utensil, easy for anyone to make; with no risk of aspirating the bird, no mess and more than all, it works very fast with all ages of squabs. They get right to it, learning very quickly. 

命uxandra Lucaciu
Items needed: the syringe & only the black rubber bulb from the eye dropper. These two items can be of different size then what is pictured depending on the species being handfed. This sizes does work for many of the common species kept though. If a DD is being fed, cut a smaller hole in the bulb tip that corresponds with the baby's bill size.

命uxandra Lucaciu
Enlarging the hole inside the "Luer Lock" area. The screw being screwed into the tip opening will snap off the tip & thus the hole is enlarged to allow large particles within the mixture to pass thru..

The below pictures show the feeding of a Green-winged Dove hatchling.

命uxandra Lucaciu
#1 (1 day old)                                                                                              #2 (2 days old)

命uxandra Lucaciu
#3 (2days old)                                                                                      #4 (2 days old)

For the first two days, I feed the chick every two to three hours, day and night. I am using the EXACT Handfeeding Formula For All Baby Birds. Under the Formula Preparation label they say to combine the formula with hot water and to allow it to sit for a minute. In doing so, I had to constantly shake the syringe as the formula kept settling. Not long ago I have noticed that if I bring the formula to a boil it becomes a paste and it no longer settles. For the first five days I mix the formula to a milky consistency. This is very important as the food can easily get undigested, causing the chick to become dehydrated. If this occurs, I mix in the Exact formula baby applesauce, yogurt and water. If the crop is not full I also gently massage it to break up any food aggregates that might have developed. If the crop is near full I skip the Exact formula from the apple sauce, water and yogurt mix and I feed the chick keeping in mind to allow the crop to near empty before the next feeding. This will ensure all the food possibly spoiled to be digested.

As a measure of not aspirating the chick I don't allow it to insert it's beak into the bulb for the first two days. I start by filling the plastic bulb and feed the chick as seen in picture #1 where the chick is 1 day old. I'm also making sure those tiny nostrils are clear at all times. In the third day the squab is allowed to insert its bill into the bulb, wiping it's nostrils every time to facilitate breathing.  Once the chick is older and very comfortable with the syringe, I fill the bulb half way as they stick their bills into it, often eating the entire 6ml portion in one shot. What make this feeding technique work so well is that it gives the squab the option to eat as much as it wants, at the rate it feels comfortable, taking as many brakes as it needs. It works very well with all doves and pigeons sizes, starting with the DD.

Another very important point is to never hold the chick with cold hands as they easily get hypothermia. I have lost a chick because of this. It was a night feeding and, as I was using a dropper at that time, the food got cold but I felt to tired to warm it up again. As soon as I filled it's crop I placed the cold chick back in the brooder only to notice a few minutes later that it passed away. On the other hand I have found a cold chick this morning pushed by the parents out of the nest. I took the chick away thinking that it was dead and realized that it had shallow breathing. I then rubbed it's back with my finger tip, alternating from hand to another until the chick felt warm once again. I then placed it in the incubator.

I have also attached a picture showing the nest I made for this chick. I fold the edges of a coffee filter in a few places and reinforce them with masking tape for a firmer nest wall. Since this chick is going to be by itself, it is very important to make sure the legs are under the body at all times to avoid splayed legs. For this reason, as nesting material I use fine dried grass so I can easily tuck in the little chick, helping it hold it's legs in the proper position. I keep the nest in the incubator for the first five days, lowering the temperature gradually from 100F on the first day to 90F on the fifth day. An emergency brooder can be made from a small container ( preferably non-metal ) and a heating lamp, making sure the chick is not to hot or to cold. A baby that is too hot will stretch out when sleeping

命uxandra Lucaciu

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