Hand feeding wild baby birds

Hand-Feeding Baby Birds | VCA Animal Hospital


General Information 

Hand-feeding baby birds is only a substitute for parents raising birds, but it does have certain advantages. Hand-raised baby birds usually make better pets, as they have been completely socialized with humans. Hand-raised babies grow up with less fear of humans or other potential dangers such as cats, dogs and young children. Hand-feeding is a huge responsibility and requires time, patience, and commitment. Hand-fed baby birds are entirely reliant on you for everything. Hand-feeding is a job best left for the experienced bird breeder or aviculturist. If you’re considering hand-feeding a baby bird, you should contact your local bird breeder or veterinarian for help. This handout is designed to provide some basic guidelines on how to hand-feed.

When do I start hand-feeding a baby bird?

A chick may be removed from its parents any time before weaning, but many suggest leaving the babies with the parents for up to 3 weeks. Older birds may prove to be more challenging in their acceptance of hand-feeding. 

Where do I keep a baby bird?

Precise temperature and humidity is essential for optimum growth of newly hatched birds. Initially, relative humidity greater than 50% is required. Hatchlings (without feathers) should be maintained at 95°-97°F (35°-36°C). As the chick gets older and develops feathers, it has a greater tolerance for temperature fluctuations. 

Generally, the temperature can be lowered by one degree every 2-3 days as feathering progresses. Chicks with new feathers (pinfeathers) should be fine at 75°-85°F (24°-30°C) depending on the development of the feathers. Fully feathered and weaned chicks can be maintained at room temperature. If you are raising a chick, always monitor your bird for signs of overheating or chilling. Wings extended or drooping, and panting indicate overheating. Shivering and cuddling of chicks together indicate that they’re cold.

Poor growth or poor digestion (delayed crop emptying) may indicate poor health (including presence of gastrointestinal tract infections), improper consistency/mixing of hand feeding formula, improper temperature of formula, or improper environmental temperature and humidity. Good quality brooders are available that carefully regulate air circulation, temperature, and humidity. Paper towel, diapers, hand towels, or other soft, disposable products can be used to line the bottom of the brooder and provide secure, clean, dry footing for birds. The bottom liner must be changed frequently to keep birds clean. If the bottom texture is too smooth, chicks’ legs may splay out sideways, leading to permanent deformities. The brooder should be carefully checked to ensure that it does not contain anything for birds to get their wings or legs stuck on or that might cause injury or deformities.

What should I feed my bird?

There are numerous commercially available hand-feeding formulas for baby birds. You should choose one formula and use it until the baby is weaned. Changes in diet may be stressful on the baby's digestion. Be sure to discuss dietary choices with your veterinarian, an experienced bird breeder, or an aviculturist. 

How do I feed my baby bird?

All food must be prepared fresh for every feeding. Food retained from one feeding to another is an ideal medium for the growth of harmful bacteria and yeast. Any food prepared or heated in a microwave oven must be mixed thoroughly to ensure that the food’s temperature is uniform and that there are no hot or cold spots. Food temperature should be at 102°-106°F (39°-41°C) throughout the mixture and should be measured with a thermometer. Food that is too hot may cause severe burns to the crop.

Food that is too cold may be rejected by baby birds and may slow down digestion. Hand-feeding formulas have specific directions on the packaging and explain how they should be mixed.

In general, the younger the bird, the thinner the mixture should be. A day-old chick requires a more dilute mixture (90% water), as it is still utilizing the yolk sac as a source of nutrition. Chicks older than one or two days, should have food containing approximately 70-75% liquid.

"All food must be prepared fresh for every feeding."

Syringes are probably the preferred feeding tool, but some bird owners still prefer a spoon with the sides bent up and inward. Accurate feeding volumes can be recorded with the syringe. Charting daily feedings is important. The natural feeding response of a baby bird is to rapidly bob the head in an up and down motion. This action can be stimulated with gentle finger pressure at the corners of the mouth. During this head bobbing, the trachea is closed and large amounts of food can be given relatively quickly.

If the bird is not displaying a strong feeding response, do not attempt to feed as there is an increased chance of aspiration of food into the trachea and lungs which can lead to death. The best time to feed is when the crop is empty. When full, the crop, which is the sac that hangs over the front of the chest at the base of the neck, will be visibly distended. 


How often and how much do I feed? 

The amount and frequency of feeding depends on the age of the bird and the formula fed. The frequency of feeding for young birds is greater than that of older birds. The following are general guidelines. With newly hatched chicks, the yolk sac is the source of nutrients for the first 12-24 hours post-hatching. Chicks less than one week old should be fed 6-10 times per day (every 2-3 hours).

During the first week of life, some birds benefit from feeding during the night. Chicks that have not yet opened their eyes may take 5-6 feedings per day (every 3-4 hours). Once birds’ eyes open, they can have 3-5 feedings (one every 5 hours). As their feathers start to grow in, they may be fed 2-3 times per day (every 6 hours). Their crops should appear full when they’re done.

Feeding between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. is not necessary at that point when birds are sleeping. The best indication of a healthy, growing chick is a good, strong feeding response at every feeding, with the crop emptying between feedings, and the regular production of droppings (feces). Weight gain should be monitored and recorded at the same time each day using a scale that weighs in grams with 1-gram increments to detect subtle increases or decreases.  Birds’ weights may fluctuate up and down daily but should trend upward over a period of days to weeks. Birds that are not gaining weight should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

When should birds be weaned off hand-feeding formula? 

Deciding when to wean a bird off of formula is often a difficult decision for both the bird owner and the bird. As a bird gets older and develops a full complement of feathers, it should be encouraged to wean off formula and to eat more on its own. Some babies start weaning themselves by refusing certain feedings.

 Birds should be offered a variety of foods including formulated pelleted diets as well as fresh fruits and vegetables to encourage exploration and experimentation. As food introduction continues, hand-feeding may be withheld at certain times, often starting with the mid-day feedings. As time goes on, the morning feeding may be withheld and ultimately the evening feeding. Some birds learn quicker to eat on their own by watching other birds or older babies eat.

Should I be concerned about disinfection? 

Baby birds have poorly developed immune systems and are more susceptible to developing infections. The brooder should be disinfected regularly. All feeding utensils must be cleaned, disinfected, and dried thoroughly between feedings. Using separate feeding utensils for every individual bird is recommended.

How do I know if something is wrong? 

If you suspect something is wrong with your bird, you should immediately contact your veterinarian. Signs to watch for include: 

  • Chirping or crying all the time
  • Fussing a lot and not sleeping
  • Listless, droopy wings or head
  • Not accepting food
  • Lack of feeding response
  • Slow or lack of crop emptying
  • Poor weight gain
  • Slow growth
  • Abnormal posturing or abnormal wing and/or leg positions
  • Abnormal or lack of droppings
  • Wetness or food on skin over the crop (indicating a possible burn)

Instructions For Hand-Feeding Baby Birds

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The idea of a new baby bird in the family is an exciting proposition that brings a new dimension to your life. However, if you decide to hand-feed your new pet, you will need some knowlege, a lot of patience, and a good diet for a growing bird.

Veterinarians and naturalists have developed techniques for hand raising nesting birds, and there are now easy-to-use special baby bird formulas for feeding the ever-hungry little babies. Higgins Intune Baby Bird Hand Feeding Formula and Higgins Intune Hi Energy Baby Macaw Hand Feeding Formula are super foods that meet the extraordinary nutritional needs of these unusually fast growing babies. It is rice based (sourced from North America) and corn free. inTune® Natural Hand Feeding uses natural and healthy, high end sources for nutritional fat like coconut oil and macadamia nut meal. It is also the only commercial hand feeding formula on the market with natural banana & mango aroma. The need to cook the formula has also been eliminated. It can now be prepared with hot water!

Most baby birds arrive in the world wet, naked, blind, and too weak to support themselves. When fallen from their nest, survival is questionable. Now, with help, they are able to grow and develop normally. Wild birds can be raised and returned to nature. Pet birds learn to accept people as friends. The real benefactors, though, are people. Nature returns many-fold for kindness performed.

The most important considerations in the hand feeding process are the frequency and volume of feeding. Baby birds grow at an extraordinarily rapid rate and this growth requires a great deal of food to meet the nutritional needs of the bird. However, the crop of a young bird holds a limited amount of food, so it must be filled frequently. As the bird gets older, the capacity of the crop increases, and the number of daily feedings will be reduced. The volume to be fed is base upon a combination of observation and judgement.

Check the Fullness of the Crop
Nature designed a rather unique feature into the digestive system of birds-a widening of the oesophagus at the lower pan of the neck This widening acts as a compartment to hold a quantity of food, and is named the crop.

The crop can be easily visualized in young birds while feathering is incomplete. In older birds with a well developed covering of feathers, the fullness can be checked by gently feeling the crop with a thumb and index finger.

The crop should be examined before each feeding. Ideally, in the rapidly growing young bird, the crop should never be allowed to become completely empty. Checking the crop fullness will help determine the frequency and volume of feeding to be given. Normally the crop will empty in 4 hours. A crop that remains full or is not emptying properly indicates some type of problem.

Position Bird for Hand-Feeding.
Wild birds are best fed while in a nest box. They will open their beaks and gape, making feeding very easy. Avoid excessive handling of wild birds. Pet birds are removed from the nest box and placed on a towel. By cupping a hand gently around the baby during feeding , adequate support will be given to position him for eating.

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Carefully Introduce Feeding Device into the Mouth.

The introduction of an eye dropper or syringe into the mouth is relatively easy, as the baby birds will be eager to be fed and will be gaping (opening the beak wide in order to receive the feeding). Occasionally, a bird may not gape, and gentle tapping of the beak with the feeding device will encourage the bird to open its beak. The device should be carefully passed into the left side toward the right side of the mouth.

Administration of the formula should be synchronized with swallowing. Birds swallow with an unusual rhythmic bobbing of the head up and down. While the bird is swallowing, the formula is delivered quickly. With practice, a "feet" for the procedure develops, and, done efficiently, the filling of the crop can be accomplished in a surprisingly short time.

Volume of formula to be Given
The volume of food given is of critical importance. overfilling of the crop could lead to backflow up the oesophagus, into the throat, and down the windpipe, which could cause death. Under-filling the crop might result in starvation.

As t he food material is being delivered, the crop will begin to  fill and bulge in the region of the lower neck. Careful observation and experience are necessary in order to determine when the crop is adequately filled.

Frequently, the bird will stop gaping when the crop is filled; however, some birds, will continue to gape even when filled. Watch closely when filling for any evidence of food material backing up into the mouth. If this occurs, immediately stop until the mouth is cleared.

When the bird appears to have had enough feeding material, determine the state of fullness of the crop to make sure a sufficient amount of feeding was delivered.

Any excess food material on the skin, beak or feathers should he removed with warm water when the feeding is complete. It can be followed with a few drops of warm water to aid in "cleaning the mouth." Feeding utensils should be cleaned immediately after use. Check the anus to be certain no fecal matter has accumulated. Ideally, monitor the bird's weight daily with an accurate scale. A healthy baby gains weight daily.

Preparation of Baby Bird Formula
Follow the manufacturer's directions when mixing the formula.

Important: "Use distilled or boiled water to eliminate bacteria growth from contaminated tap water." The water should be approximately 105-110 degrees. Add the water to the powder gradually while stirring. After thorough mixing to eliminate lumps, the formula should be the consistency of creamy pudding. This thickness will allow it to be drawn into an eye dropper or syringe or will roll off a spoon. For older birds the mixture may be made thicker.

Do not reuse mixed formula. Discard and mix fresh at each feeding.
If really necessary, sufficient amount of formula may be prepared at one time to last 3 days if covered and refrigerated after preparation. The amount needed for each feeding can be heated and fed but not reused. Caution: You might need to add water in the heating process. Diluting formula by increasing water will reduce the concentration of the diet.

Temperature to Feed Formula
The formula should be served warm- 104-106 F- but not hot, as excess heat may damage the digestive tract. It should feel Slightly warm to the touch. It is highly recommended to use a thermometer to measure the temperature.

In order to maintain the heat of the hand-feeding formula mixture, a double-boiler type arrangement can be set up with the container of prepared formula placed in a bowl or pan of warm water during the feeding process.

Feeding Area
Psittacine birds while being fed should be placed on a surface, such as a towel, where there will be insulative properties to prevent excess heat loss and a surface where they can grip with their feet, preventing slippage and possible injury.

Frequency of Feeding
Cockatiels and Small Parrots
Baby birds can be removed from their parents from between 8 to 21 days. Waiting until 2 1/2 to 3 weeks is safer for the beginner, as the bird is hardier due to the presence of some feathering.

Hatching to 1 week.
If the bird was removed from the nest shortly after hatching, for whatever reason, feeding requires special care. There should be no attempts to feed the bird for at least 12 hours after hatching. The crop is very small and will hold only a limited amount of food. After continued use, it will expand. The first feeding at 12 hours should be one drop of water. Approximately 1/2 to 1 hour later, another drop of water may be given. Feeding too frequently during this period may overload the crop and lead to aspiration and death.

After these initial feedings, if the baby appears normal and is excreting, a few drops of very thin formula can be given. In order that the baby bird receive enough food, the hand-feedings are repeated every two hours around the clock.

One to two weeks - Birds can be fed every 2-3 hours around the dock. If the birds are kept especially warm and comfortable, the night feedings after midnight can be eliminated. However, feedings must begin again at 6:00 AM.

Two to three weeks - This is a relatively safe age to remove the baby birds from the nest for hand-feeding. It is easier to check the crop and feed them. The birds of this age can be fed every three to four hours from 6:00 A.M. to midnight.

Three to four weeks - Feed the birds every 4 hours. As feeding frequency tapers off, the formula can be slightly thickened. At 4 weeks, the birds can be put in a cage with low perches. Water in a bowl may be placed inside.

Five to six weeks - Feed the birds twice daily. A pelleted bird food and other foods may be placed in the cage to encourage the bird to eat on its own.

Seven weeks - Birds should be placed in a large cage with pellets in cups and scattered on the floor. Introduce the birds to a variety of succulent foods, but these should not make up more than 20% of the diet. Vegetables such as peas and corn are well accepted.

Birds should not be weaned before 7 weeks, usually about 8 weeks. Before weaning the bird off hand-feeding, keep close watch to see that the bird is actually eating adequate amounts of pellets on its own and not merely nibbling at the food. Handle the crop to determine the fullness and check the breastbone for degree of muscling. A weaning bird may lose as much as 10% of it's weight normally. Any more than that may be an indication of a problem. It is recommended that the bird be weighed regularly through this period.

When first weaning the bird, give them pellets, as these are a nutritionally complete and balanced diet for the bird. It is a good idea to keep an older bird in a cage next to the cage with the young weanling to teach them to eat through mimicry.

If the baby birds are not weaned, they will become "spoiled" and will not eat on their own, preferring to be hand fed. However, if they are weaned too early, they will not eat adequately, gradually lose weight, become weak and die. Therefore, if baby birds are begging to be fed, even after they are weaned, there may need to be a reversal back to hand-feeding as they may not be eating adequately.


Age in Weeks Number of Daily Feedings


Every 2 Hours (Around the Clock)
1 Every 2 Hours (Around the Clock*)
2 Every 3 Hours (6 a.m. to Midnight)

"Safest" Period To Begin Hand Feeding
Every 4 Hours (6 a. m. to Midnight)
4 Every 5 Hours (6 a.m. to Midnight)
5 to 7 Two Feedings Daily

 *If bird is kept especially warm and comfortable, the 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. feedings can be eliminated.

Weaning Period - Important -
Make sure bird is eating adequately on its own before discontinuing hand-feeding. Check fullness of crop.

Housing and Heat
A small cardboard box approximately 12" x12"xl2" or a small fish aquarium with layers of paper towels over a one inch padding of cloth towelling on the bottom will serve as an incubator and holding area while the babies are young. A heating pad is placed under 1/2 of the box or aquarium. A towel is placed over the top. Either the heating pad setting or the amount of the top that is covered by the towel may be adjusted to provide a constant 85-90' for non-feathered birds. The temperature is gradually reduced as they become feathered and mature. It is recommended to observe the babies carefully to determine their comfort level. A cold baby will shiver and a baby that is too hot will not sleep well and will breathe heavily through an open mouth. A bottle or tin filled with water and holes punched in the lid to allow for evaporation will help to provide humidity.

Frequency of Feeding
The frequency and volume of feedings given to baby birds are largely determined by their age. Judging the age of wild birds is difficult if untrained, so the best way to determine feeding requirements is through the use of readily observable changes in the bird. For example, whether or not the eyes are open, and if the bird is standing up "off their hocks."

Before the eyes are open
If the baby birds appear strong and are peeping with their mouths gaping open, then they can eat as much as they want. Ideally, baby birds of this young age should be fed every 15-20 minutes until their eyes are open. They can go up to 30 minutes without a feeding with no ill effects; however, more frequent feedings are preferred. They do not require around-the-dock feeding as in nature, they are fed only during daylight hours. In accordance with this, they are given feedings for a 12 hour period. Nonetheless, hand-feeding wild birds is quite a commitment, as it requires nearly 50 feedings per day.

When the eyes are open
As the bird becomes older, the frequency of hand-feeding can be reduced and the volume increased. Efforts can be initiated to get the bird to eat on its own. When a bird initially opens its eyes, it can be fed every half hour unless hungry or peeping.

When birds are "off their hocks"
When birds become stronger and begin to stand on their legs ("off their hocks'), then feedings can be given every 45 minutes. Time between feedings can steadily increased, and when the bird is out of the nest, feedings can be given at 2 hour intervals.


Age Number of Daily Feedings

Before Eyes Are Open:

Feed Bird Every 15 Minutes (12 Hour Period)
Eyes Are Open: Feed Bird Every 30 Minutes (12 Hour Period)
Off Their Hocks Feed Bird Every 45 Minutes (12 Hour Period)
Bird Out Of Nest:
(Standing On Their Own)
Feed Bird Every 2 Hours (12 Hour Period)

*Wean at 15 Days
IMPORTANT-Bird must be eating adequately on its own.

Wild birds should begin showing interest in their surroundings and start to eat on their own by 15 days. Provide live food (meal worms) and grass, twigs, etc. in the nest to stimulate interest in the environment. Spreading seed on the bottom of the nest will also encourage the bird to eat on its own.

During the weaning period, it is critical to keep a close watch on the bird in order that good nutrition is maintained. Many times, a bird may be pecking at seed, giving the impression that it is eating, when in actuality, it is not taking in enough for maintenance. Therefore, it is very important to observe if the bird is eating seed during this period and regularly check the crop for fullness.

If other young birds who are eating on their own are present, placing the baby bird in the same cage will hasten socialization, and the bird will learn to eat on its own through the imitation of others.

Housing For Wild Baby Birds
Following nature's design, a nest is constructed. The sides are formed from cloth rolled to a diameter of 1 1/2 inches and then forming a circular shape like a doughnut.   The nest would have a diameter of 4-8 inches, depending upon the number and size of the babies. The 1 1/2' height makes the sides of the nest sufficiently high to keep the babies in the nest, but low enough to allow the baby bird to scoot backwards and pass his waste over the side of the nest.

Paper towels are placed in the bottom of the nest to a depth of 1/2 inch and then placed over the top of the entire nest. The towels are arranged to form a sloping surface which enables the bird to back up to the top of the nest to eliminate, and the paper towels can be easily replaced to maintain cleanliness.

Heat and Humidity
To provide heat in the nest box, a heating pad can be placed under half of the nest and dialed to a setting which will maintain temperature of 85-90 degrees for non feathered birds and gradually reduced as they become feathered. By placing heat under half the nest, the bird is able to select the area where the temperature is most comfortable. The box should be kept covered. A bottle or tin filled with water and holes punched in the lid to allow for evaporation will help to provide proper humidity.

While raising wild birds is rewarding, please, do not make a wild bird a pet. For more information contact your local Wildlife Agency, local Rehabilitation Center, Humane Society, State Fish and Game Agency or the Federal United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Weaning Pet Birds With Avi-Cakes Food
Your pet birds have received a good start in life through the nutritional benefits of Nutri- Start baby bird food. It is important to continue with high-quality nutrition during the weaning stage and beyond. Lafeber's Avi-Cakes are an excellent weaning food for your birds.

When birds reach the weaning stage, simply break Avi-Cakes into small pieces and spread them near the babies. They will first investigate the food; then, pick it up and start self-feeding. (Supply fresh Avi-Cakes daily.) When the babies are eating the Avi-Cakes you will first want to eliminate the middle of the day hand-fed meal. As the birds continue eating on their own, discontinue the morning and finally the evening hand-fed meal.

Since Avi-Cakes provide complete nutrition for pet birds, you may continue feeding Avi-Cakes or you may choose one of the other fine quality foods manufactured by Lafeber Company.

This bit of information was brought to you by Lafeber Bird Foods

Feeding chicks of wild birds

Wild bird chicks often fall out of their nests. The first impulse is to save them and bring them home, where they later feed them. This is not always the right decision, because the chicks can often leave the nest on their own, hiding in the grass from numerous enemies. Birds lurk, feeling danger, and their parents always know where to look for chicks. Therefore, it is worth first considering the situation in detail, and then making a decision about saving the chick. Of course, if you stumble upon a nest in a city where chicks are sitting, you need to provide them with proper protection, and in this case it will be advisable to take them under your control. nine0012

Feeding wild chicks is not an easy task, it is worth remembering this. Subsequently, such a chick will no longer be able to elude predators in the wild, will not be able to maneuver, as many adult birds do. Chicks require very frequent feeding, constant attention and care. There are some care rules that should be remembered and taken into account.

Don't feed your baby worms. Not all birds feed on them. It is best to offer the chick a choice of several types of food. The food that he chooses will need to be added to his daily diet. As types of food, you can offer the chick grain, fruits, and also meat. nine0012

Usually the chicks open their beaks, anticipating feeding, as soon as someone approaches the nest. During the feeding process, each chick receives a uniform amount of food. Adult birds usually know which chick they have already fed and which one is still waiting for food. It is often difficult for a person to understand, seeing a cluster of open beaks, which of the chicks has already been fed. If you departed for a new portion of food, then finding a hungry chick will be problematic. After all, they can change their location in the nest. The best option is to keep the chicks separately, 2-3 birds per nest. nine0012

The best way to feed the chicks is with a special pipette or straw. You can also give with your fingers if the chicks are already accustomed to solid food. If you feed the chicks from your hands for a long time, then you will no longer be able to release them into captivity. These birds will become domesticated, and in the wild they will simply die.

In order for the bird to get stronger, it should be fed quite often - almost every hour. If the bird is sick or injured, then you need to feed it as often as possible, otherwise it will not be able to restore its strength and will die. nine0012

Older birds are usually quite shy. They are always trying to escape from their owner. To feed such birds, you need to take it in your hands and gently press the beak on both sides. Then you will need to put food in her mouth. The bird must understand that you are not going to harm it. Over time, it will gradually calm down and become more pliable. It is possible that the chick is already able to eat on its own. In this case, you do not need to feed him by hand.

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

Pi Life

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 lady's 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. nine0012

The cats 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).

I understood right away that this baby had nothing to do with chickens. 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. nine0012

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. nine0012

I 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. nine0012

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: after 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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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.

Due to a 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 ... nine0012

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. nine0012

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 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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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. nine0012

The chicken was growing up, and the ant eggs became too small food, and harvesting 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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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 rained 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! nine0012

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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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.0028 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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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 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 Rus', bake larks for their arrival...”. nine0012

How did my baby 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 even all 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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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. nine0012

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: underage chicks of wild birds usually do not survive at home. 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. nine0012

Author - Mikhail Chernousov.

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