Feeding wild baby birds information

What to Feed a Baby Bird

How to provide the right nutrition when wildlife rescues aren't an option


Melissa Mayntz

Melissa Mayntz

Melissa Mayntz is a bird expert, certified Master Naturalist, writer, and author with over three decades of experience. She's published in several national magazines, including National Wildlife Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and WildBird Magazine. Melissa has studied hundreds of bird species around the world, traveling to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, the central Pacific, the Middle East, and more on birding expeditions.

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Updated on 08/26/22

Reviewed by

Kathleen Miller

Reviewed by Kathleen Miller

Kathleen Miller is a highly-regarded Master Gardener and Horticulturist who shares her knowledge of sustainable living, organic gardening, farming, and landscape design. She founded Gaia's Farm and Gardens, a working sustainable permaculture farm, and writes for Gaia Grows, a local newspaper column. She has over 30 years of experience in gardening and sustainable farming.

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Fact checked by

Sarah Scott

Fact checked by Sarah Scott

Sarah Scott is a fact-checker and researcher who has worked in the custom home building industry in sales, marketing, and design.

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The Spruce / Catherine Song

Every backyard birder has seen the "starving baby" act by fledgling birds, when they flutter their wings and call piteously for attention from seemingly hard-hearted, indifferent parents. The desire to nurture those fluffy balls of feathers can be strong, but it is important to understand the special needs of a fledgling's diet and know what to feed a baby bird for the best nutrition.

Do I Need to Feed This Baby Bird?

Baby birds have very demanding dietary needs. Depending on their age and species, baby birds may eat off and on for 12 to 14 hours per day, consuming a diet rich in insects for sufficient protein to ensure healthy growth. No human other than a licensed bird rehabilitator has the proper equipment, food supplements, or endurance to keep up that frantic feeding schedule. If you find a baby bird that appears to need feeding, the best thing to do is not to feed it, but to get it to an appropriate bird rescue organization. In many cases, the begging birds are not abandoned and the parent birds are nearby and tending to their babies as needed, even if they aren't seen.

If you find a baby bird that seems to be unfed, watch the bird closely for a while to see if the parents return to feed it within the hour. Bear in mind that it may take just seconds for a parent bird to deliver a bite to its chick, and inattentive observers may miss several feeding cycles. As the chicks grow, feeding may also be less frequent, and one parent bird may be tending to several offspring in different locations, so parental visits may be uneven. If the baby is being fed, rest assured that the parent bird is able to keep up with its demands, and no intervention is necessary if the baby does not appear injured or ill in any other way.

If the baby bird is not being fed and appears to be growing weaker and more lethargic, the first step should be to find a licensed rehabilitator to provide it proper care. When contacting the rehabilitator, ask for their evaluation of the bird in question before attempting any emergency feeding. If it is recommended that you feed the baby bird, he or she might have specific suggestions in mind as an emergency measure, and those suggestions should be meticulously followed.

If Feeding Is Necessary

If you find a baby bird that needs to be fed but you are unable to contact a bird or wildlife rehabilitator, it is important to know what to feed a baby bird that will provide similar nutrition to its natural diet. While every wild bird has a different diet, several types of food can serve as emergency rations when necessary. At the same time, it is critical to understand that baby birds have very different nutritional needs than adult birds, and foods you would normally feed to your backyard birds are not appropriate for young fledglings.

Good Foods for Baby Birds

  • Moist dog food
  • Raw liver (no seasoning)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Dog biscuits (moistened)
  • Dog or cat kibble (moistened)

The Spruce / K. Dave

What Not to Feed Baby Birds

  • Water
  • Bread or bread products
  • Whole birdseed
  • Milk
  • Pet bird food
  • Worms
  • Kitchen scraps

The more mature a baby bird is, the more "adult" food it can consume without harm, and the longer it can go between feedings.

The Spruce / K. Dave

Tips for Feeding Baby Wild Birds

If it is necessary for you to feed a baby bird, remember:

  • Offer food that is spongy in texture, not dripping with water that could cause choking or drowning. All dry food should be softened before being offered to a baby bird.
  • Food should be offered at room temperature only, never warmed or heated, and also never refrigerated or chilled.
  • Keep bits of food small and in proportion to the bird's size; very small birds need very tiny bites. Cut or crush food appropriately to suit the bird's size.
  • While feeding the bird, handle it as little as possible to minimize the risk of additional stress or injury. Never force the bird's bill open to eat.

Caring for Baby Birds

Remember that feeding a baby bird should be an emergency measure only. If a baby bird is abandoned and needs care, it should be taken to a bird rescue organization or experienced rehabilitator as soon as possible. Rehabilitators can not only feed it an appropriate diet for its species but can help it learn how to find its own food, evade predators, and learn other skills necessary for a successful life in the wild.

If there is no rescue organization or experienced rehab specialist available in your area, keep these tips in mind:

  • Identify if the bird is a nestling (few or no feathers) or a fledgling (a feathered bird approaching adulthood). Nestlings will require much attention for a longer period than fledglings, which may be nearly ready for independence quite soon. An older fledgling can sometimes be fine if you simply place it high on a branch where its parents can find it. Nestlings, on the other hand, may require several weeks of attention (assuming a bird rehab organization is not available) to give them a chance for survival.
  • Protect it from predators—including family pets. Normally, a simple cardboard box lined with a towel, placed high enough to be out of reach of pets, will suffice. If using a lidded container, make sure it is well-ventilated. Ordinary room temperature is normally fine, though a gentle heat lamp can be used if the room is very cold at night. But take care not to overheat the young bird—in most cases, no heat source is necessary.
  • Give it a "nest" by using a small towel or cloth diaper formed into a concave shape and placed in the bottom of the box. This will help support the bird's body until it grows stronger.
  • Small nestlings are best fed with moist, well-softened food from a syringe, offered very gently, in small drops. Even a kitchen baster may be too large to be useful. As a nestling grows older, you can offer it food by dangling it from tweezers in front of its beak.
  • Never try to feed water directly to a baby bird. Nestlings will get their water needs met through moisture in food. A fledgling can be offered water in a shallow dish—if it's ready to consume water this way, it will drink on its own.
  • When a fledgling bird has fully feathered out and is beginning to exercise its wings by flapping, it can be given time outdoors and encouraged to begin flying. Often, it is enough to simply set the bird's containment box outside in a safe location, open the lid and wait for nature to take its course.

But remember that raising a featherless nestling bird through the fledgling stage and into a mature adult bird is no easy matter. It's always better to leave this to professionals who are experienced in the practice.

Article Sources

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  1. Picking up baby birds can do more harm than good. Oregon State University.

This Is What To Feed Baby Birds — And How To Feed Them

If you’re wondering how to feed a baby bird, there are a few important things you need to know. Baby birds usually eat what their parents eat for dinner, since the parent has to burp its food into the mouth of its offspring. Birds cannot break down food at birth, so their parents must first partially digest the food to make it safe for chicks. Since baby birds are dependent on their parents not only for food but also for instructions on how to be a bird, it is essential that it stays with them. So, if you find a baby bird on the ground, try to bring it back to the nest rather than looking after it yourself. If you cannot return the bird to its nest, contact a rehabilitation center that can take care of it.


  • Consult the experts if you think a baby bird isn’t being fed
  • What to feed a baby bird
  • What not to offer when feeding baby birds:
  • DIY baby bird food
  • How to feed a baby bird




15 minutes

What You Need

  • Dog or cat food, boiled eggs, or raw unseasoned liver

  • Small pieces of fruit or veggies

If you’re raising domestic birds or are licensed to take care of wild animals, however, then it’s important to know how and what to feed baby birds — and sometimes, even learn how to DIY baby bird food.

Maslov Dmitry/Shutterstock.com

Consult the experts if you think a baby bird isn’t being fed

If you find a baby bird that does not seem to be fed, look for an hour or two to see if its parents provide food for it again. Note that the mother bird only needs a few seconds to feed its baby, so inattentive observers could miss several feeding cycles. However, if one parent bird has to look after several baby birds in different places, parental visits could be irregular. When the baby bird is fed, you can be sure that its parents have provided its needs, and there is no unnecessary intervention if the baby bird does not appear injured or sick.

Step 1: If the baby bird does not appear to be fed and becomes increasingly weak and lazy, the first step should be to find a licensed rehabilitator to provide, or guide you through, the appropriate care.

Step 2: If you have found a baby bird that needs to be fed but does not have contact with its parents or an animal rehabilitator, it is essential to know what a baby bird needs a portion of food similar to its natural diet. While each wild bird has its own diet, different types of food can serve as an emergency ration if necessary.

What to feed a baby bird

In nature, baby birds eat the same things that their parents eat: Worms, insects, and seeds. However, chicks can eat different types of food if they are taken care of by whoever found them. You could use puppy food soaked in water until it’s like a sponge. Moist dog or cat food can also be used in a jam when at room temperature. You can also use finely chopped fruits and vegetables (such as corn or peas) and even small insects.

It is equally essential to recognize that baby birds have very different nutritional needs than adult birds. What an adult bird eats can harm its young. As a baby bird grows, its diet can be adapted to more raw meat, giving them the protein that’s needed. As for water, a baby bird gets what it needs from the food it eats.

Food suitable for baby birds:

  • Boiled eggs
  • Moist dog food
  • Wet cat food
  • Raw liver (without seasoning)

What not to offer when feeding baby birds:

  • Water
  • Milk
  • Bread and bakery products
  • Kitchen waste

Unlike mammals, birds do not drink milk and their digestive systems won’t tolerate milk. Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that mixing together bread and milk makes for an ideal feed for baby birds. Milk can be toxic to birds, so avoid feeding it entirely.

When a baby bird is older, it can consume ”adult” bird foods without harming itself and the longer it can stay between strokes.

Cathy Hargreaves/Shutterstock.com

DIY baby bird food

One easy recipe for feeding baby birds involves just two ingredients: pet food and water.

  • Soaking dog biscuits or kibble in water will create a mushy consistency that’s easy to take and digest for young birds. This mimics the texture of the food given by mama birds in the wild and is also a high-protein option, which is extra important for nestlings.
  • A classic biscuit treat like Milk-Bone is ideal for recipes like these. To forgo the mixing and mashing, a canned pet food like the Cesar brand is another great option. You still might want to stir in a tiny bit of water if your bird is particularly young, though.

How to feed a baby bird

Step 1: If you need to feed a wild baby bird, remember to offer foods that have a spongy consistency instead of dripping with water, which can suffocate or drown it. All dry food should be softened before offering it.

Step 2: Food should only be offered at room temperature, never heated or refrigerated.

Step 3: Keep food pieces small and proportional to the size of the bird — tiny birds need tiny bites. Cut or crush food properly to fit the size of the bird.

Step 4: When feeding the bird, be as careful as possible to minimize the risk of additional stress or injury. Never force a bird to eat its food.

Lastly, remember that feeding a baby bird should be only an emergency measure. If one is abandoned and needs care, it should be taken by a bird-rescue organization or an experienced rehabilitator as soon as possible. They can not only feed baby birds with a diet suitable for its type, but they also teach it to live independently, avoid predators, and master other skills to live in nature successfully.

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Keeping and feeding chicks of wild birds of prey at home

Nocturnal and diurnal predators belong to the group of birds that have the stage of fledglings in their maturation cycle. Information about who the fledglings are and the expediency of their rescue is described here. This article is about the nuances of feeding fledglings of predators.

Usually they decide to take care of the “rescued” chick on their own, focusing on various, to put it mildly, inaccurate ideas about feeding. Listed below are a few aspects of the physiology of digestion that make raising such a bird almost impossible for most laymen (i.e. people who are not fanatically passionate about this topic).

1. For normal digestion, predators need prey. Prey which is swallowed whole. At the same time, in addition to meat as such, skin, wool, feathers, chitin, bones, liver, intestines, lungs, brain, blood and other important ingredients enter the stomach. Only in this case the body receives the vitamins, microelements, fiber it needs, and the proper formation of litter and pellets takes place. Chicken meat from a poultry farm or beef (tenderloin, breast, fillet, etc.) should not be identified with a whole carcass of a still alive or recently killed small animal (bird, fish, rodent, insect). These are fundamentally different foods.
2. Predator chicks also feed on prey, ie. mice, swifts, pigeons, sparrows, lizards, locusts, etc. Moreover, they eat them whole or tear them to pieces. And no chicken meat, meat with skin or beef heart will replace a full-fledged prey for a chick. What can we say about bread and other cereals with milk.
3. The fundamental principle of feeding and keeping predators is creating conditions close to natural . This is feeding with full-fledged food objects suitable for this species, keeping in a spacious aviary, etc. Usually the situation looks diametrically opposite. There is a "humanization" of a wild predatory animal, an attempt to feed it with "human food", keeping it in an apartment, in a cage. And the pity for the so-called “food objects” (white mice, rats, quails, chickens) inherent in most “lovers to save the bird” dooms the predator to illness and death.

Most often, the result of such a “growing” of chicks (initially, they were not sick at all, had no injuries and simply fell into the field of view of people) is pronounced exhaustion, developmental delay and significant underweight, rickets, impaired formation of the feather cover, paralysis of the limbs, deformation joints. Everything ends with a fatal outcome.

What conclusion follows from all this?
Due to the fact that it is almost impossible for a non-professional to properly feed, raise or rehabilitate a bird of prey chick, there is only one recommendation: they saw (in a forest, park, on the outskirts of a city) a predator chick (unless it is a swift lying on the ground or there are obvious threats to life chick), pass by. Nature and natural selection will figure out if this individual has a chance for life.

For those who still prefer to believe in their own strength, a small note.

Some moments of rehabilitation of chicks of birds of prey:
- low-fat live quails (up to 3 weeks of age) are ideal for feeding. You can also feed pigeons, sparrows, crows and similar birds. Feeding day old chicks is unacceptable due to their low calorie content.
- while the chicks are very small, the parents bring the food object to the nest, where they tear it into small pieces and give it to the beak. Then, as they grow older, they simply bring the whole carcass, and the chicks tear it themselves. When rearing in captivity, it is necessary to proceed similarly.
- how much food does a chick need per day? The calculation formula is simple - feed twice a day until full (how much you can eat), i.e. this is 1-2 doves or quails per day for a large predator chick for 4-8 weeks.
- drinking the blood of dead birds, the standard way to resuscitate predators in serious condition. Severely malnourished birds should not be given meat, so they are soldered with blood to restore the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract.
- very small chicks are fed with minced meat made from the carcasses of adult mice, rats or hamsters. Such food is best suited for feeding owls, harriers, buzzards, kites, falcons. It is better to feed hawks with small passerines, pigeons and adult quails, also first in the form of minced meat, and then chopped pieces that the bird can swallow at a time.

Are you ready to do this at home?

Veterinarian Kazakov A. A.

How to feed a chick and take care of a small wild bird. Site about animals. PiLife

Section: Birds.. Date (published): 24-08-2020 20:13

This story took place in the hot summer of 2010. June 20th. Sunday. Twelfth hour of the day. I'm in a hurry about my business, and not far from the entrance to the store, a friend of mine, Lidia Ivanovna, calls out to me:

Corncrake chick.

— Look what bird I am bringing home!

Grown up baby corncrake.

She took her ladies' bicycle with a metal mesh basket attached to the front, opened the bag that was there and showed a tiny black chicken sitting quietly between the packages and bundles.

Seals who were interested in the chick.

- I was turning hay in the meadow, and he clung to me. I tried to drive it away - it was useless, I had to take it, otherwise, inadvertently, they would be crushed by any transport. I will release to my chickens - let them grow.

Perforated chick (corncrake).

The fact that this little one has nothing to do with chickens, I understood right away. And he clearly imagined that the first cat that came across would devour him, no matter what. Even if village cats are trained not to touch domestic chickens and ducklings, then this foundling is just a game for them, like a mouse or a sparrow.

I had to leave my affairs, and I returned home, clutching a black fluffy ball to my chest. Didn't feel much joy. But pity for this tiny creature was stronger than other feelings.

Adult corncrake chick.

The chick was very hungry and apparently hadn't eaten anything since the day he was born. The villagers know that the first chicken food is a finely chopped hard-boiled egg, millet groats and, of course, water. I planted my purchase on such a “table”: the chicken joyfully ran in circles all over it and did not peck at anything. This means that in nature such “children” are first fed from a “spoon”, they are given food in their mouths. For me, this was not news, and I used the usual medical tweezers.

He clamped a small piece of egg white with tweezers and brought it to the chicken's beak. He grabbed and swallowed it so deftly and quickly, as if he had done this for the first time. The chicken did not really like the egg yolk, and he did not react to the cereal at all. But the squirrel ate plenty, took two sips of water (by forcibly immersing its beak in a glass of water) and calmed down, sitting in the palm of its hand.

The problem with the "kindergarten" appeared immediately. The chicken, planted in a small cardboard box, squeaked heart-rendingly, demanding my constant presence. And besides, he turned out to be bouncy for his age and constantly jumped out of it.

We have cats in our house and in the garden (two cats and three cats), which were a potential threat to the life of my ward. Given this circumstance, I had to replace the box with a taller and more spacious one. And on top I covered it with a fine metal mesh. And although the squeak did not become less - I calmly sighed that the chicken is now safe, and you can go about your business.

I had to feed the chick very often: in 30-40 minutes the baby was hungry like the first time. The main food was ant eggs-pupa of not yet hatched worker ants (smaller white eggs) and female settlers (larger brownish eggs). This is the most complete food for a growing bird's body and, probably, the most delicious, since any bird is crazy about it.

In one sitting, the baby killed up to 20 or more of these pupae, and began to refuse chicken eggs more and more often. Between feedings, he constantly ran around the box and jumped up, trying to get out to freedom.

It was a real chicken, in any case, outwardly it did not differ much from domestic ones. Only it didn’t come out in size - the size of a matchbox, it easily fit in a clenched fist. And the fluff, and the legs, and the beak, and the beady eyes - everything was black - a kind of avian Negro child. But his legs were a little longer than those of domestic chickens.

Whose chick this is - no one could determine. Initially, it was assumed that this was the child of a marsh hen, which also has a black color. But her paws are slightly webbed, which my chicken didn't have. Quail and partridge disappeared by themselves, as there were experts on this game. The most likely version was suggested by a neighbor: perhaps this is a chicken of pheasants, which are still found in our area.

Because of the tight feeding schedule, I was not allowed to leave home for long periods of time. Once, I was late for an hour and a half, I come up and I can’t believe my eyes: there is no one in the box. Rummaged through the entire bedding of pieces of fabric - empty! Not knowing what to do, he began to call the usual "chick-chick-chick-chick." And suddenly my chicken jumps out from under the neighboring hive and rushes to my feet with a joyful squeak. Well, thank God, alive and well! It didn't take long for him to figure out how he managed to get out. But an hour later, right in front of my eyes, the chicken demonstrated its unique ability to gain freedom. The fact is that the fruit box in which he was located had 4 ventilation holes with a diameter of 2 cm. Only the head of my ward could fit in them. And the whole trick was that this little one incredibly stretched into a string and, with the help of wings and legs, with difficulty, but crawled through such a small hole ...

The summer was unusually hot. At lunchtime, when the thermometer started to go off scale, we took a break for one and a half to two hours: it was a little cooler in the house at that time. While I was having lunch, the chicken ran around my legs, then I fed him, and together we lay down on the sofa in front of the TV to watch the news. The little Negro child would sit on my chest and only here would he show his fatigue. First, he sits down, then crawling (on half-bent legs) moves into the recess between the pillow, neck and shoulder and begins to doze. After about five minutes, he again crawls to another place, then to a third ... And after 30-40 minutes he already unbearably wants to eat, and he begins walking on his chest and stomach, asking for ingratiating chirping and examining my nasal openings and auricles for food resources. You have to get up and feed this fidget.

The chicken did not want to spend the night in its box and squeaked heart-rendingly even in a dark room. I had to take him to my place without any box and put him against the wall of the sofa on his personal sheet. He liked this place right away: he calmed down and sat silently until the morning.

The "child" turned out to be surprisingly clean: from eleven at night until morning, he never once soiled either his bedding or my bed. The same thing happened at lunchtime, sitting on me, and at any other time, when he was in my arms. The instinct of self-preservation in wild species works flawlessly - the resting place should not have any smells! But this rule did not apply to the one running around the room, and every 5-10 minutes the chicken gave out a white "blot". Such cleanliness is not typical for poultry.

On the third day, I found the sides of the box bloodied: the chicken knocked on them so hard that he broke the tip of his beak, and blood constantly oozed from there. I had to urgently change the place of his daytime stay. I bought a meter-long plastic mesh with the smallest mesh and built a small enclosure around the drying dogwood bush, a little more than one square meter in size. From the scorching sun, he covered this structure with a shading net in three layers. I dug up a piece of meadow turf with soft grass on one side, set up a bird's drinker with automatic water supply from a glass jar and put my ward there.

In order not to attract the attention of cats, I wrapped the side walls of the enclosure with a light non-woven covering material forty centimeters from the ground. Free left only one far corner. But because of the constant squeak, the whole cat family opened a real hunt for this tiny creature - they had to apply extreme measures of “training”: they took the hunting “beast” by the withers, lifted it so that it could see the chicken and painfully whipped it in the face with a soft rag. Such study was enough for the cats to bypass him.

In the new environment, the chick was still trying to get free, trying to get through the cells, but they were so large that only the beak passed. Due to the endless protrusions above the beak, a bald patch soon formed, which did not affect his well-being in any way. And the tip of the beak is now no longer injured and soon healed.

After a week or more, the baby began to take food on his own, and the need for tweezers disappeared. He drank water surprisingly rarely, which cannot be said about domestic chickens. And the drinking procedure itself was completely different. If the pets first draw water into the beak, and then tilt their head up so that the water rolls inward, then this baby dips the beak and, with the rotational movements of the tongue, sucks the water into itself.

The chicken was growing up, and the ant eggs became too small food, and preparing them was not a very pleasant experience. By this time, a new generation of grasshoppers had noticeably grown in number in the meadow, which, on succulent feed, increased in size by leaps and bounds. They have now become the main food and really liked the baby.

I have a special device for getting grasshoppers. In the past, I worked for a long time on my collective farm as an agronomist-entomologist, or, more simply, as a plant protection agronomist. The main tool in this profession is an agricultural entomological net, which determines the species and quantitative composition of harmful insects on a particular crop.

The diameter of the net is large and is about 30 cm. Working with it is called mowing (from the word - to mow). You go, for example, into a flowering field of peas and start “mowing”: you wave from right to left and vice versa so that the metal rim touches the upper part of the plants and shakes off all insects located there into a cloth bag. Hunting for food with such a tool takes a matter of minutes: a handful of grasshoppers can be “mowed down” in five to ten minutes. And try to catch the same amount with your bare hands - it will take at least an hour of tedious work.

It was interesting to watch how my chicken skillfully put grasshoppers in his mouth. His tongue seemed to rotate 360 ​​degrees, and he always turned any grasshopper in his beak head first to make it easier to swallow. He did the same with pieces of egg white, trying to swallow with a thin edge first.

When it was raining and in very damp weather I carried a chicken with me. With such dimensions, he freely fit in the breast pocket of a summer T-shirt and sat quietly in the warmth and dryness and, probably, dozed off until the next desire to eat. In this case, he would get up, stick his head out and squeak plaintively, pleadingly. If I had to work with slopes, I put the chick in my bosom, and there he cruised, depending on the position of my body, around the entire perimeter of the shirt. And not once in such a situation did he stain my clothes!

The first feathers appeared on the chest, then on the wings - flapping, the largest. Their design was very beautiful: a very dark reddish-gray middle with a light thin border along the edge of each feather. The female pheasant has exactly the same plumage from the illustration of the encyclopedia "Birds" edited by V. Flint. Everyone was waiting for my chicken to start growing a long tail.

As the feathers grew, the chick began to spend a lot of time on hygiene. Having sat down for the night, he endlessly combed with his beak all the places where real feathers make their way. After each such procedure, a mass of translucent scales remained on his sheet.

Since the chicken began to feed on its own, I have less and less taken it in my hands. He now put the half-strangled grasshoppers in the fence. He was very fond of chasing jumping and crawling insects. He also fed earthworms, which, wriggling and crawling, aroused special delight in the chicken. Every day, the sweltering heat dried up the earth more and more, and by mid-July the earthworms had almost completely disappeared.

Sometimes he treated his child with drone brood larvae from the apiary. White, fat and soft larvae in domestic chickens always cause a real stir: they stuff so many of them into themselves that the goiters begin to blow out strongly from under the fluff, exposing the delicate, bare skin. And my "wild" did not really like this delicacy. It will eat 3-4 larvae and that's it, the next time it will touch them no earlier than tomorrow.

Two weeks later, from the moment of "adoption", the chicken stopped squeaking from loneliness, and this made me especially happy. Now, after feeding, he sat down at an open corner and studied through the grid cells a piece of the free world. And in this place he had perfect cleanliness: traces of vital activity were visible throughout the other territory, but not in a place of permanent rest. Another resting place was a patch of meadow grass dug in the middle of the enclosure: here it merged with the surroundings and was almost invisible.

Due to the small size of the mesh enclosure, the chick could not train to fly. But when, after sunset, he found himself in the house, here he finally spread his no longer small wings and made running “flights”. At lunchtime, the chicken climbed onto the chair without any help, then on my shoulder and settled down near the neck to rest. If I walked around the rooms, he ran after me, and I had to try not to step on this "dog". He liked very much when he was stroked on the neck and tickled under the beak. From happiness, he closed his eyes and could sit like that indefinitely, as long as I had the patience.

In addition to cats, the baby was in danger of being crushed during the night. Try as I might, one night he crawled under me and was nearly strangled to death.

It should be noted that "from the cradle" for my ward was observed one interesting habit. When he was interested in something, and this “something” was hard to see because of the barrier, he stretched himself “to the side” and could stand in this position for a long time. At first I did not attach any importance to this, similar behavior is observed in domestic chickens. But they are all short-lived. And with my savage, this was more the rule than the exception.

At one month old, my chick is fully feathered into her gray outfit. However, the tail did not grow and did not think. Sitting in a patch of meadow grass, he surprisingly resembled a children's paper boat. Small neat upturned ponytail. The wings are not pressed to the body, but are slightly apart and rest on the ground. And the joyful trembling of the whole calf during a conversation with him. He began to shy away from me more and more, and in the afternoon heat he now sat in his fence. After sunset, I caught him with great difficulty and let him out into the room. Here he first trained his long gray wings with a brownish underside, then ran around the room around the perimeter, pecked at all the gaping flies and spiders and sat down behind the bedside table in such a way that, stretching forward, watching me. It seems to me that the chicken learned to understand my speech, because at the words "Come on, let's go to bed, chick-chick-chick" he calmly left his secluded place. Although with a dissatisfied look, he was given into his hands and went to his "bed". If at the very beginning of his stay the baby slept at night, putting his head on the sheet, then lately the overnight stay looked like a rest in constant "combat" readiness for any surprises.

As the chicken matured, his eating habits changed: he completely refused egg white, but 1-2 times a day he ate plenty of yolk, which at first he could not stand. Millet was still indifferent to him.

One afternoon, escaping from the unbearable heat, I again took out the encyclopedia and began to look through it. I read about the bittern and did not find anything in common with my fosterling. Again I re-read the whole detachment of the Chicken-shaped ones and again nothing of the kind. And then Figure 9 caught my attention.0053 crake in his signature upright stance. Well, of course, I have a crustacean! I had absolutely no idea that my chicken was not a chicken at all, but a real crane! According to the classification, the corncrake belongs to the Cranes-like order and the Shepherd family.

The most interesting thing is that everyone in the village knows the voice of the corncrake, but almost no one manages to see it live. Few people even know the name of this bird, and its local name is “dyrkach”. From the second half of May or a little earlier, when the grass in the flooded hay meadows grows up to 30-40 cm, the mating season of these invisible birds begins. And then, in all the meadows, even near human habitation, in the evening, inviting rude “quacking” songs of the corncrake sound. All the time I thought that this was the voice of wild ducks, until an experienced hunter explained who it really was: “This is how small waders cry - holes. And few people saw them in the eyes.

Now I know who is, and I will never forget how he looks both as a baby and as an adult. The Latin name for the corncrake is Crex crex (crex crex). Approximately so (cre-cre-cre) adult birds cry in their short mating season on the eve of summer.

Corncrake is a bird of twilight and night, and during the day it sits in secluded places. These birds move so quickly and silently on the grass that it is not possible to notice them. Corncrakes do not really like to fly and do it in the most extreme conditions, escaping from the chase. Although they fly perfectly, and migration to warmer climes is carried out by flights. They feed on all kinds of insects and invertebrates, and do not refuse the seeds of wild plants. There are no more than 12 buffy eggs with brownish spots in the nest. All chicks are black.

If in the southern part of our country, a corncrake is called a dyrkach, then among the inhabitants of more northern regions, a corncrake is called a dergach. You will find the mention of this bird, memorable for its creaky voice, in many Soviet writers: M. Prishvin, K. Paustovsky and others. V. Astafiev has a very memorable story from early narratives about nature “Why did I kill the corncrake?”.

“Not adapted to flight, but fast on the run, this bird is forced to fly over the Mediterranean Sea twice a year. Many corncrakes die on the way, especially when flying over the sea. How the corncrake goes, where, in what ways - few people know. Only one city gets in the way of these birds - a small ancient city in the south of France. The coat of arms of the city depicts a corncrake. On those days when corostels go around the city, no one works here. All people celebrate the holiday and bake figurines of this bird from the dough, just like we, in Russia, bake larks for their arrival...”.

How did my little one end up alone in the meadow? One can only guess: the nesting site was mowed down, the parents, apparently, could not gather all the children together, or in general, all of them died, except for one. Corncrakes are inhabitants of floodplain hay meadows. And the moment of nesting coincides with the harvesting of hay. If, with manual mowing, the birds manage to hide and remain alive, then in the age of civilization and mechanized haymaking, most of them die, and there are fewer and fewer corncrakes.

I've always been amazed at how quickly the chicks of wild birds grow. Some two weeks - and already teenagers who can fly and look no different from their parents. So my chicken in 3 weeks fully fledged and grew, having increased in size by more than 3 times. Domestic chickens grow much more slowly and become like adults only at 4 months old.

The turning point for my korostelka came after the arrival of the guests. He had to spend the night alone in a non-residential building. This went on for 4 days, and during such a period he probably managed to wean himself from me, although everything else was unchanged. After the departure of relatives, the chicken suddenly began to eat less and especially inanimate food, i.e. grasshoppers, which had to be strangled before feeding, otherwise they would all have evaporated outside the enclosure. He ate earthworms more readily, but they were no longer to be found. And then July 26 came, when he almost stopped eating, although he looked cheerful and chased flying and crawling insects.

My chicken has grown! He no longer needs a mother. He needs freedom!

The kostelka spent the last night no longer sitting on his sheet, but climbing onto the back of the sofa above me. He stayed on his feet all night. I also slept badly. At dawn, I tried to feed him, but he refused inanimate food. I put it in my bag and we were on our way. Thirty minutes at a brisk pace across the meadow away from human habitation and closer to the river, where one could quench one's thirst in this hot summer. I released him on the bank of a very shallow river, on both sides of which there was an open grassy area with many grasshoppers and other insects. Farewell two frames in the photo, and my chicken quietly went into the sedge thickets on the shore, sat down in a secluded place and hid.

He will probably sit here all day. And in the late afternoon it will come out in search of food and its relatives. As long as it is warm and there is enough food, the kostelka will grow up a little more, its wings will get stronger, it will learn to fly well in the wild and, I hope, will survive to return to its native places next spring.

Be happy, my kostelka!

I didn't want to take pictures of my chick often for one reason: young wild bird chicks usually don't survive indoors. And I consider it blasphemy to make a photo show of a “child” who has lived for several days or weeks. Yes, and I was just afraid to jinx it. Filmed only 3 times. The first - after 6 days from the moment of appearance in order to determine whose chick it is. The second is a fully fledged teenager and for the same purpose. Only a few days later, based on the drawing in the encyclopedia and these pictures, I finally realized who I really am. And the third time - farewell two shots.

Author - Mikhail Chernousov. Photo of the author. Source: Animal World Magazine 2012, No. 8.

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