Raising a Baby Pigeon
There is a small tree house for pigeons on my way to work. The white birds in residence have just hatched babies before they both disappeared.
The next day, I found myself with 2 weird looking birds on a plastic tray. I have only held a budgie’s babies previously, and they looked like tiny aliens when they don’t have their feathers yet. With these two baby pigeons, I found their features more pronounced and a little scary so I had to close my eyes before I could pick one up for feeding. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to their looks soon enough, if you’re also weirded out. But always be careful when picking them up because young birds are very delicate.
The poor pigeons were obviously hungry after feeling out their crop. A bird’s crop is like a bag in front of their chest that expands when they eat. As emergency food, we soaked some cat kibbles that we have in the house and bought pellets for young birds later, from an animal feeds store near palengke in bayan. Make sure the birds feels warm before feeding them.
Here’s what you will need to prepare to feed them:
- Tray for soaking pellets
- Hot water
- Plastic water bottle with open bottom
- A piece of cloth with a small hole
- Rubber band
- Scratch paper, old newspaper or cartons for table cover
- Old cloth or towel for cleaning the birds
It’s easier to feed baby pigeons with two people.
Here’s what to do:
1. Soak pellets in hot water to soften them.
2. While waiting, cover the smaller opening of the bottle with a cloth using rubber band.
3. Cover your table with old newspaper or carton. It can get very messy, especially during the first few times.
4. Place warm food in the bottle through the bottom hole. Make sure their food is not too hot and is soft and moist so the bird can easily eat them. You can leave some in the tray for later.
5. The bird will insert her beak through the hole in the cloth to eat.
The birds will flap their wings as they do in this video while they eat:
6. I use the spoon with my dominant hand to push the food softly to where her mouth is, whenever I find her mouth looking for some food she pushed aside. Your non-dominant hand can hold the plastic bottle while you do this.
7. You can stop feeding her when you can feel her crop is soft and about 75% full. Never let the crop become so bloated and full since it will cause big problems later on.
8. Clean up the bird and your feeding table. And keep the birds in their cages, until it’s feeding time again.
Their feeding time and the amount of food varies depending on their age. We fed them 3 times a day then later 2. There is no need to feed them during the night, and you can always check their crop if they are hungry, so you can adjust accordingly. We slowly introduced seeds and mixed them with the pellets later on, until they start to eat on their own.
We kept the birds on a plastic tray with paper that we regularly change. It was a hot month (May) so we just left them inside their cages without special protections.
Important Things to Note:
Caring for baby animals during it’s first week of life is a very difficult thing. I got lucky because the pigeons were about 2+ weeks old. Choosing to hand-rear a baby pigeon is also commitment. And we have to feed the birds at regular times, not only when we are available. We also need to be careful because overfeeding baby birds can kill them as well as improper handling.
The young pigeons also need to see another adult pigeon so they will know that they are pigeons too. The young birds will imitate adult behaviors so they can grow as proper adult pigeons. They will learn how to eat and drink by looking at how the other pigeon do it.
There is a very fine line between helping animals and teaching them how to live a miserable adult life. If we let a kitten scratch us when they were little, they will still scratch and hurt us when they are adults – and that is our fault.
Below is Pispis, weeks later when he was learning to fly and can also eat on his own. Another person took care of the other bird. Like his parents, he also disappeared for a couple of months (most likely stolen because I was told he was in the cage that time). He just came back two days ago with a new ring band on his leg, serves them right. Right? ^_^
Since avian vets are difficult to find here in Lucena City, this post hopefully can serve as a guide for people who find their pets in the same situation. Please leave handling wildlife to people with experience. But do volunteer or send donations to rescue organizations whenever you can.