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SUBSEQUENT CLUTCHES

(A Different Approach)


Last year we learned that as long as the chicks were being weaned by ourselves, and then reintroduced to the Birdroom as fledglings, our breeder pair discontinued their courting and mating ritual, producing no further clutches that season. During the off-season, we changed the breeders' diet from a seed and sunflower mix to a pelletted diet (Zupreem Breeder Pellets) and then at the onset of breeding season, we supplemented this diet with calcium-rich brocolli, to assist the hen's body in producing a good eggshell. Then we waited to see how successful we would be in our second year of breeding this pair.

After a one month courtship, on April 26, 1999 we witnessed the Cock fertilizing the Hen. For the next ten days, we observed her droppings and on more than one occassion, the droppings had the texture and color of egg yolk. During this time, we continued to increase her calcium and on May 6th a solitary egg was laid. When it still hadn't hatched some 30 days later (normal incubation is 23-26 days), we removed the egg. It's contents were strickly yolk ... not even a small embryo. (Note: We could have candled the egg a few days after it was laid but opted to not disturb the Hen due to her tremendous aggression)

Less than two weeks after pulling the infertile egg, on June 23, 1999 the hen laid a pair of eggs, followed by a 3rd egg on the 25th and a 4th egg on July 1. This is a normal clutch size for Indian Ringnecks, albeit the spacing of the 4th egg was unusually late. Two eggs were quickly abandoned by the hen as she vigilantly sat on the remaining pair.

The first (and only) chick was hatched on July 16, 1999, exactly 23 days from the date that the egg was laid. The second egg was eventually pecked open by the hen on July 24th. We should have removed that egg much earlier, but not being positive whether it was the egg laid on July 1st, we left it in the nest. All the other eggs appeared to have been eaten as we couldn't see them in the nest box. (Note: Three other eggs were found on a later inspection and were all removed with a small fish net)

Our gameplan was to pull the chick 10 days after hatchdate, but due to a conflicting schedule, we would not be able to begin the handfeeding process at that time, so a decision was made to leave the chick with the hen for two full weeks and we will be interested in seeing whether this ultimately makes a difference in how tame the chick becomes compared to his siblings from the prior year's clutch. Many other factors could affect this, so our observations will be unscientific at best.

The parents can do a far better job of feeding their young but, the question has always been "what quality of food would they offer?" In the wild, the parents are non-discriminatory and will feed the chick whatever is readily available. Generally this would be the same diet that they themselves eat as mature birds, but offered in a regurgitated format. Since we do not want our chick to be weaned, or even partially weaned, to the high-fat Zupreem Breeder Pellets, we have now modified the parents diet to include whole corn (on the cob), brocolli, nuts, fruits, cereals, grains and millet spray, and we take a quick peek in the nest box everyday to observe the progress of our new hatchling. At birth, the chick appeared to have a body of 3/4" and a head of approximately 1/4". Nine days later, the chick has doubled in size. The eyes are still closed on this, day 9 since hatchdate.

July 31, 1999 .....(15 days old)

Just before 6 a.m. this morning, I pulled the chick ("Harley", as he is going to be called by his new owner). The Hen was aggressive and I was well protected with a new pair of leather gloves. Nest box is very dark, and because I didn't have a third hand to hold the flashlight, I pinned it to my shirt to illuminate the area. Harley weighed in at 64 grams with an empty crop. I started him off with the 5 cc gauged syringe, formula mixed a bit more on the runny side, for his first feeding, and he took the full 5 cc, although his crop was not full, but he didn't beg for more. In a couple of hours I'll check on him, weigh him again, and offer a bit thicker consistency to try to emulate the Hen's regurged food. As it was, the syringe was strange to Harley, as was the formula, and he wasn't overly "into" it. His eyes were slightly open. When I'd taken a peek yesterday in the nest box, the eyes were still closed. It's of importance to note that one should place the syringe in the left side of the beak, pointed towards the right side, and depress the plunger of the syringe slowly to fill the crop. If you place the syringe on the opposite side of the beak, you could possibly asphyxiate your chick.

By the 8 a.m. feeding the chick has gained one gram in total body weight and is needing to be fed every two hours. He is taking the appropriate amount though, based on his weight. I feel much more confident since I've got the digital scale. The bedding material I'm using this year is "CareFresh". I lined the thoroughly cleaned 10 gallon aquarium with brown paper and then sprinkled a little bit of this pulp material to absorb his waste. It also makes a soft area for him to sleep in. Harley's a good little pooper at this age !!! Excellent color and consistency. Again, he took 5 cc's of formula. I put a 5 inch stuffed toy in the brooder and Harley immediately snuggled up to it. Have covered the brooder with a towel for increased warmth and it is located away from drafts, ceiling fans or any airconditioning vents. At this age, before feathering, we would like to maintain his surrounding temperature at approximately 85 to 90 degrees. Eyes were fully opened, as was expected with the light, and he took to the syringe much better with this feeding, although still not as well as I had hoped.

With the third feeding (10 a.m.), I've reduced the syringe size from the 5 cc to a 3 cc. Chick gained another gram (66 grams now), and again I was unable to fill the crop ... chick was refusing the formula. Harley eventually took 2 1/2 to 3 cc. I'm trying to emulate the Hen's style of feeding and am letting the chick guide me in that regard.

Noon feeding and the chick remains at 66 grams, taking 4 cc of formula. He's still not overly sure about the syringe. The Kaytee Exact formula is being mixed 2 parts hot tap water to one part formula, and stirred well to reach the desired consistency. (Note: With last year's clutch, we cut Gerber's Baby Cereal Mix into the formula but have since learned that the additional nutrients are not required with this product). Rule of thumb is once the chick successfully takes 3 to 4 cc with comfort and consistency, the feedings can then be spaced at 4 hour intervals. I'm not able to accurately judge how much is spillage, so I'll continue with the 2 hour feedings. The crop is quite empty after this interval. They say that a chick doesn't fully realize that he's a bird until 3 weeks of age. Not being totally comfortable with the syringe after the first 4 feedings should have nothing to do with the fact that we pulled the chick from the nest 5 days later than the optimum "Day 10" (subsequent to hatchdate). The transition from hen to syringe should not be more than he can handle.

Our Hen and Cock do not appear to be as overtly "depressed" as they were last season when their two chicks were pulled. I'm going to put them back on their breeder pellets. The pair will be relocated in a couple of days and we're anxious to see if they'll triple clutch this year, being totally separated from their offspring.

2 p.m. feeding ... weight is still at 66 grams. I managed to get 5 cc into the chick to fill his crop ... very little spillage but, inorder to do this, I had to gently open his beak. I've compared Harley to David McKain's parent-fed chick at age 15 days. Weight is down by 17 grams but the quill development, brightness of eyes, and plumpness of overall body is approximately the same. David made his observations in 1997 as a novice.(Note: David counted the birthdate as Day 0, so to compare our findings, I am having to refer to his chart at Day 14). Refer to: David McKain - Day 14 at netpets.com

In keeping with David's observations, the secondary flight quills on the wings have broken through (approx 1/8th inch), however there is no down on the body. David hasn't made any comment about the tail feathers - I'm seeing the quills in that location as well. As the chick is active and alert, I'm not concerned about the overall body weight ... Yet!

4 p.m. feeding ... still taking 5 cc and maintaining his 66 gram total body weight. Crop was almost full after this feeding.

6 p.m. I've changed the water content of our formula mix from 2 parts to 1 3/4 parts. Initial weight prior to feeding was unchanged at 66 grams. After consuming 6 cc, the chick weighed 68 grams with a full crop. This time he cried for the extra nourishment. Along the same pattern as what I noticed with last season's clutch, the formula intake increased with the evening feedings. The droppings continue to look normal. Chick is warm, skin color is good, eyes are bright, ears are open, no discharges, nares are free of debris. He's a cute little fellow ! Depending on how he takes the next two feedings, and whether he gains any weight, I'm hoping to let him go through the night (to fully empty his crop and discharge all waste materials). After that, we'll begin the 4 hour intervals through to the end of his 21st day, and then increase the intervals to 5 1/2 (or 6) hours. That's the gameplan and is the acceptable manner in which one hand-rears a chick.

8 p.m. Harley is getting the hang of it .. was 68 grams prior to, and 70 grams right after this feeding. His crop wasn't totally empty when I pulled him for this meal, so we may be safe to let him go through the night. I'll know better at 10 p.m. I filled him up good this time and he should sleep well ! Seriously though, I've changed the way that I'm handling him. I'm actually having to open his beak with my fingers and am giving him little opportunity to spill his formula. He's got no choice but to swallow, albeit slowly. Each of the feedings today has taken 15 minutes ! With this latest feeding, he took somewhere between 5 1/2 to 6 cc.

10 p.m. feeding and I'm smiling. Harley weighed in at 68 grams (scrambling all over the scales, so I've gone with the lowest digital figure that was reported as the numbers constantly fluctuated). After 6 cc of formula, greedily taken, he was more sluggish and the reading was probably more accurate without all his motion ... he weighed 72 grams. I'm going to continue to take the pre and post weights for another day to better guide me with his progress. The crop still had a little bit in it before this feeding and that too is a guide for me. I'm going to let him go through the night and won't wake my little chick until 6 in the morning. One thing I noticed with the digital scales ... if you try to hold the chick steady in place, and not even touch the scale itself, that is enough extra weight to give a reading of at least 10 more grams. Also, depending on where you place the chick on the scale, the readings differ. I'm trying to be consistent with the location that the chick stands on the scale before taking a reading. Such variances could explain why David McKain's weigh-in was so much greater than our own. Also note for future comparisons to McKain's observations of a parent-fed chick, the crop of his chick is not always emptied prior to the weight being recorded and the time of day is also not consistent throughout his study. As a chick will gain weight throughout the day, we are not using McKain's study for anything further than to compare the photographs of his chick with our own, every second day. We also keep in mind that, just like children, no two chicks are the same. This was evidenced with the prior year's clutch ... two chicks hatched on the same date with one lagging behind the other in development.

August 1, 1999 .....(16 days old)

6 a.m. Harley was MUCH easier to feed this morning. Pre - 66 grams, Post - 70 grams. In 24 hours, a net "pre"-gain of +2 grams. He took 7 cc of formula. Note: (Last years' clutch only took 5 cc for each feeding on Day 16, however we were incorporating the 2:00 a.m. feeding last year).

10:00 a.m. Pre - 66 grams, Post - 70 grams. Crop was empty. Chick took 8 cc of formula.

2:00 p.m. Pre - 68 grams, Post - 74 grams. Crop was empty. Chick took 9 cc of formula.

6:00 p.m. Pre - 70 grams, Post - 78 grams. Crop was empty. Chick took 9 1/2 cc of formula.

10:45 p.m. Pre - 72 grams, Post - 82 grams. Crop has some food left. Chick took 10 1/2 cc of formula.

August 2, 1999 .....(17 days old)

6 a.m. Harley checked in at 70 grams with an empty crop and took 11 1/2 cc of formula. This will be the last day that I weigh him prior to each feeding and beginning tomorrow, I'll do the charting with the 6 a.m. feeding only, showing his net gain or loss. Harley is beginning to explore around the brooder.

10:00 a.m. 76 grams with an empty crop and took 10 1/2 cc of formula. His elimination is increasing accordingly ... a nice green with clear colored urine.

2:00 p.m. 76 grams with an empty crop and took 10 1/2 cc of formula.

6:00 p.m. 76 grams with an empty crop and took 10 1/2 cc of formula.

10:00 p.m. 78 grams with an empty crop and took 12 cc of formula.

August 3, 1999 .....(18 days old)

6 a.m. Harley checked in at 78 grams with an empty crop and took 12 cc of formula. Gain / Loss (from 6:00 a.m. prior morning) +8 grams. (Note: We did not expect a change in weight from the 10 p.m. feeding of the prior night).

August 4, 1999 .....(19 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 84 grams. Formula 9 cc. Gain / Loss +6 grams.

Comments: Harley graduated to the 5 cc syringe with this morning's feeding. He began to explore the kitchen counter. Primary flight quills are coming out nicely. There is a blue tinge across his head, first noticed last night, but much more evident this morning. His development at this age strongly parallels that of his older siblings at the same age.

August 5, 1999 .....(20 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 88 grams. Formula 10 cc. Gain / Loss +4 grams.

Comments: I introduced a couple of small toys to the brooder ... a chick-safe plastic ball and plastic ring. Our baby isn't sleeping constantly anymore and since he's at the exploring stage, I thought he might amuse himself with these items during his waking hours. With both last night and this evening's late feedings, Harley still had some food left in his crop from the prior feeding. His consumption is down just a tad although he continues to gain weight. We must be getting close to increasing the intervals from 4 to 5 1/2 hours. Still have that first feather to look forward to.

August 6, 1999 .....(21 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 96 grams. Formula 13 cc. Gain / Loss +8 grams.

Comments: Harley's body is covered with a fine down. Although we need a magnifying glass, we can see a hint of feathers. By later on today they should become more apparent with the naked eye. This morning I had to wake him for his feeding, as I've had to do on several occassions recently. Nice to see that he's not awakening to the sounds of a growling tummy. He is quick to grab that first 5 cc of formula. After that he pulls away from the syringe and wanders off for a private poop before returning to continue his nourishment. Overall, I'm quite satisfied with his development.

The 2 p.m. feeding saw Harley begin to reject his formula. If he does this again tomorrow, we'll drop the 2 p.m. formula feeding and offer the moistened pellets, etc. Feathers are still not apparent with the naked eye.

August 7, 1999 .....(22 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 100 grams. Formula 14 cc. Gain / Loss +4 grams.

Comments: For the last few days, whenever I go to handle the chick, I preface my approach with the words "step up". I'm also permitting him a little longer time on the kitchen counter to explore. His favorite spot seems to be on top of the digital scale. It's at an elevation of 3 inches from the surface of the counter. Harley has outgrown the small plastic reptile container (9"x4") that I used to place him in when I was preparing his formula. Still no feathers to view ... I've increased the lighting in the Nursery.

10:00 a.m. feeding and Harley took 8 cc of formula, clearly rejecting any more.

2 p.m. feeding ... The chick's weight has been maintained since the 10 a.m. feeding. For this mid-afternoon interval, I offered a combination of baby food and bird food, supplemented by formula. The foods offered were a few very moistened Zupreem pellets (which the chick refused); a few tiny cut-up slivers of green beans (Harley tried one and spat it out, then tried a second and swallowed it) and a Gerber Peas and Rice mix (same consistency as his formula however it's a different taste, and the soften rice grains offer a different texture). Harley showed his preference to this mix and took a few small swallows from a spoon. I then pumped him up with 10 cc of formula (not quite enough to fill his crop) and put both him and a small crock of the Gerber's (wedged in a corner, tilted on it's side) back in the brooder. He's just hungry enough that he's now eating this mix on his own. (Note: We removed the small crock at 4 p.m. because after a couple of hours it becomes a potential source of bacteria. Observed the chick's crop and there appears to be sufficient foods remaining to sustain him until his next feeding). (Further Note: With last year's clutch we opted to use cut-up frozen vegetables thawed in hot water to room temperature and then drained).

6 p.m. and Harley's weight is still constant from that recorded at 10 a.m. He took 15 cc of formula. I managed to measure his wingspan and from tip to tip he's 7 inches. All mature birds require 12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, and young chicks even more. Since I've had the lights on in the Nursery for the last 4 hours, I've now turned them off and won't disturb Harley again until his 10 p.m. feeding.

10 p.m. feeding ... I used the 10 cc syringe with this feeding and my chick did exceptionally well with it, consuming 10 cc without hesitation, and shortly thereafter an additional 5 cc. I'll be interested to see how his weight is in the morning after this, his first day of limited self-feeding.

August 8, 1999 .....(23 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 104 grams. Formula 18 cc. Gain / Loss +4 grams.

Comments: Hard to be accurate with the formula consumed ... there was spillage this morning. First feathers have broken ! I can see tiny little green "paint brushes" at the ends of two quills ... 1/8 inch. In comparison to last year's clutch, the feathers have broken 3 days later than those of Harley's older siblings. I'm going to stick with the 5 feedings again today, offering the variety of tastes and textures with the 2 p.m. meal. McKain's parent-fed chick at this age was quite shy. Harley is shy as well.

10 a.m. and Harley consumed 16 cc with no spillage (or rejection). There are several more pin feathers coming out. After the feeding and weighing ritual, I took Harley to the kitchen table for a little bit of socialization and play time. He needs to get used to handling at times other than feeding hour. I'd like to introduce a small dowel to the brooder at ground level, wedged in, but that will have to wait until our chick begins to perch on our finger.

2 p.m. Not a good self-feeding session. The chick ate from my fingers but virtually didn't touch anything from the crocks. (Moistened pellets in one of them, baby foods in the other). At 3:30 I removed these untouched foods and weighed Harley. He was down 4 grams and back to his 10 a.m. weight. He took 14 cc of formula including the spillage and rejection. Crop is about 1/2 full ... this will hold him until the next feeding interval.

6 p.m. feeding was uneventful except for a moderate weight gain.

August 9, 1999 .....(24 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 104 grams. Formula 11 cc. Gain / Loss +0 grams.

Comments: 15 minutes before the final feeding of last night and I accidently fell asleep. Harley had to go 12 hours with 14 cc in his crop from 6 p.m. the day before. He lost all his gains from the previous day.

10 a.m. More socialization time on the kitchen table ... chick is less shy. Have introduced a small dowel to the brooder. Also switched back to the 5 cc syringe, not because the chick couldn't handle the larger one, but because I was having problems with stubborn air bubbles !

2 p.m. Instead of using the small crocks, I prepared a feast on the tops of sterilized plastic lids. The logic was to emulate natural foraging on the ground. After an hour of Harley not getting the hint, I fed him the foods with either my finger or a small plastic spoon. The tastes and textures from yesterday were repeated and in addition I introduced soft peaches and pears. He seemed to enjoy all of it and even ate a few pellets. (Note: Moistened cut-up Cheerios could be substituted at this stage as the chick needs to taste cereals and grains as well).

6 p.m. Harley lost 4 grams of weight between the 2 p.m. and this feeding, but some weight loss is expected during the weaning off stages. His formula intake this evening more than compensated ... he took 18 cc. (Note: The ears are now covered with small quills).

August 10, 1999 .....(25 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 112 grams. Formula 15 cc. Gain / Loss +8 grams.

Comment: Took the chick out of the brooder at 9 a.m. and have been carrying him around tucked under an overshirt that I'm wearing. Interaction like this goes a long ways towards bonding and taming your chick.

2 p.m. and Day 4 of foods other than formula. Apart from a quick taste off my fingers, I'm letting the chick figure it out today. He's got the three crocks to choose from with the same combination of foods as offered yesterday. Harley had a good weight gain during the day (12 grams) so I'm not too concerned how much he eats during this session. After 10 minutes, I took a peek and yes, he has figured it out, although not eating much.

August 11, 1999 .....(26 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 116 grams. Formula 17 cc. Gain / Loss +4 grams.

Comment: Harley was difficult to feed at dawn this morning. His interest was more in snuggling under my shirt than having his formula. (Note: With last year's clutch, we were already on the 5 hour intervals at this date ... the 2 p.m. feeding had been dropped and non-formula foods were offered for the other feedings, excepting the early a.m. and late p.m. feeding. Those chicks were foraging well at this age and also perching better).

By lunchtime Harley is perching nicely on the dowel in his brooder. He went on a "field trip" this morning to meet his new owner. Lots of cuddle time ... he did well with a different pair of hands snuggling him.

I entitled this article "Subsequent Clutches - A Different Approach" because we are hoping to discover new techniques that may help other breeders in weaning their chicks. Today is Day 5 of the weaning off process and I am still not happy with Harley's progress in this direction. At 5 p.m. I weighed him and he was down 8 grams from 2 p.m., however overall, he was up 2 grams for the day. I offered him a small crock with a combination of moistened Cheerios and the Exact Weaning Pellets. Put him and the crock in a corner of his brooder where he wouldn't have any choice but to stick his head in the food. Only when I'd actually put the crock to his face would he take a pellet or Cheerio, yet he is clearly very hungry at this hour. I'll leave the crock in for 60 minutes and see whether he finally gives in and eats on his own. He certainly will take it from my fingers but I have to wean him off the idea that my fingers are his serving plate. Later on, once he is eating well, then we can reintroduce the fingers with the occasional treat item as a reward during training sessions.

Famous words last said ... "wean him off my fingers". I gave in at 6:15 p.m. and helped Harley to eat the small meal offered. His crop is nowhere near being full but he did put away 6 grams of food which will hold him until his 10 p.m. formula. Tomorrow I'll have to be tougher on him (without letting him starve of course). I remember last season when one chick lagged behind the other in self-feeding. They were housed together in the same brooder. The more advanced chick used to take food and then feed it to his smaller sibling. I had to separate the two of them during meal time to force the smaller chick to forage for himself. Tomorrow I'll increase the intervals between feedings ... from 4 to 5 1/2 hours and offer the weaning pellets at 11 a.m. That might just work !

August 12, 1999 .....(27 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 118 grams. Formula 19 cc. Gain / Loss +2 grams.

Comment: Fair bit of spillage (spitting out) this morning ,,, the 19 cc figure is not accurate. We'll see just how hungry our chick is by 11:30 and if this is enough to induce him to self-eat.

This chick is the most stubborn I've ever had experience with ! The different tastes and textures are not the problem ... he simply refuses to self-feed. I weighed him at 4 p.m. and he was back to his early morning weight. Decided to introduce another feeding, this time it was formula, but served in a small crock. He would only self-feed if I held the crock up to his beak ... he refused to bend his neck and take care of matters himself. The formula doesn't stay fresh for more than a few minutes so I had to remove it shortly after introducing it, but he did gobble enough to fill his crop 8 grams worth as far as total body weight goes. At 6 p.m. I put in his brooder another crock of the weaning pellets, moistened. He's not touching them ! I'm too far into this to go back to regular formula feedings. Harley will now have to wait until 10 p.m. to get his quick fix for the night. No telling what will happen tomorrow. I've been told to make sure that he is very hungry when foods are introduced which is why I increased the intervals. Perhaps I shouldn't have inserted the 4 p.m. crock of formula ... it didn't really serve to prove anything except give him the necessary sustinance he required. He'll eat off the spoon without a problem, but will not forage for himself.

August 13, 1999 .....(28 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 118 grams. Formula 15 cc. Gain / Loss +0 grams.

August 14, 1999 .....(29 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 122 grams. Formula 20 cc. Gain / Loss +4 grams.

Comment: Chick is still not self-eating very well but I did see evidence that he's been exploring the crock. There were moistened pellets on the floor of the brooder.

August 15, 1999 .....(30 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 122 grams. Formula 20 cc. Gain / Loss +0 grams.

Comment: It's normal to have smaller gains and some losses of weight at this age, however our chick is lagging just slightly in feather development, compared to McKain's chick. Weight is down. Our prior year's clutch were already consuming dry pellets and drinking water on their own at Day 30. I've removed the stuffed toy. This might make a difference with Harley's independence.

11 a.m. feeding and once again I offered the moistened foods, this time mixing the Exact Weaning Pellets in with a generous serving of Zupreem Pellets. I also offered a crock of orange juice. Still nothing. In the interest of this being a Different Approach, I had one more trick up my sleeve. I brought the brooder into the kitchen and placed it in view of the dining room table. Then I brought out my two best eaters from the birdroom ... the Severe Macaw and CherryHeaded Conure. I set up similar looking crocks of food and water for them to eat from. Harley walked to the glass side of the brooder and watched intently. Within a couple of minutes, he was at his own crock ... self-eating and drinking his orange juice ! I'm delighted !

August 16, 1999 .....(31 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 126 grams. Formula 20 cc. Gain / Loss +4 grams.

Comment: It's amusing to watch the chick try to eat his formula from the little cup that I mix it in before drawing it into the syringe. He's been flapping his wings quite vigorously the last few days in preparation for his first flight.

Harley's brooder is moved into the kitchen (center of activity in this house) during the day to help him make the transition from little chick to a member of the family. He enjoys watching everything I do. Brooder temp is now at 80 degrees which he tolerates well.

Three non-formula meals were offered today, the first coming at 11 a.m., consisting of Zupreem pellets (not as moist as yesterday), peas, corn, carrots and a crock of water. With these foods spoiling so quickly, they were removed at 1 p.m. and a second meal was offered at 3 p.m., this time being an all fruit meal. At 5 p.m. the third meal was offered ... pellets (again moistened less) and meat (roast pork). The chick did well with each of these feedings, his preferences being the vegetables, fruits and meat. Since 80% of a bird's diet should consist of human foods, I'm satisfied with his choices. Before the 5 p.m. feeding, Harley was weighed and had dropped 2 grams. Considering the new experience of self-feeding in conjunction with exercising his wings, this figure is within tolerable limits. The 10 p.m. feeding will be the Exact formula.

August 17, 1999 .....(32 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 124 grams. Formula 20 cc. Gain / Loss -2 grams.

Comment: Harley's wingspan measured at 12 inches this morning. I transferred him to the weaning cage. After 30 minutes of playing shy, he began to explore it ... first the food and water, then the 1 1/2 inch high perch and finally his new toy, a plastic block and rawhide combination that I made. Due to a scheduling conflict, I won't be home to offer him a choice of foods at 11 a.m. This will be his first exposure to totally dry pellets. I've prepared a mix of Zupreem and the weaning pellets. Not sure if he'll eat them yet. He's already gone for a few sips of water though. He's also trying to mount the perch and I'm guessing that he'll have figured that out by the time I return home.

August 18, 1999 .....(33 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 124 grams. Formula 20 cc. Gain / Loss +0 grams.

Comment: I don't believe that Harley ate any of the dried pellets yesterday however for his next two self-feeding sessions he did well with the fruits, vegetables and moistened pellets ... well enough, that is, to maintain his body weight over a 24 hour period. Again, I'm satisfied with his progress considering his "stubborn" start. Harley steps up from within the cage when my hand is given to him. He hasn't yet mastered the 1 1/2" high perch, stooping down and walking underneath it instead. There's a perch at ground level as well, but he's not using it. He prefers to stand on the grate of the cage.

August 19, 1999 .....(34 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 120 grams. Formula 20 cc. Gain / Loss -4 grams.

Comment: Harley has been self-feeding well today with the pellets just slightly moistened. While his weight loss doesn't concern me, his overall weight does. I'll begin to offer him a few cracked sunflower seeds and some peanut butter to see if that improves his situation.

By this evening, Harley was perching on the 1 1/2 inch high dowel.

August 20, 1999 .....(35 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 124 grams. Formula 20 cc. Gain / Loss +4 grams.

Comment: Chick continues to eat well, albeit the pellets are still having to be moistened. Harley's new owner is anxious to take him now. I'll let him leave the roost once he's able to manage the dry foods.

August 22, 1999 .....(37 days old)

4 p.m. Weight 124 grams. Formula None since 6 a.m.. Gain / Loss +0 grams.

Comment: Harley has sustained his weight over the last two days. We did not spend the weekend at home and he obviously did well in a new environment. He's been well socialized, even enjoying the gentle strokes from a 16 month old baby boy (who absolutely loved him). Today is the first day that he's attempted to eat dry pellets.

August 23, 1999 .....(38 days old)

6 a.m. Weight 124 grams. Formula Much rejection. Gain / Loss +0 grams.

Comment: The chick may have taken 15 cc of formula with much rejection. His after feeding weight was 145 grams which is constant with his AFW for the last 7 mornings. Immediately after this feeding, Harley went to his dry pellets and began eating them.


Final Comments and Observations:

One of our objectives was to parallel a situation in nature where birds will not lay another clutch until their chicks fledge. We had hoped to relocate our breeding pair during the weaning process to see if they would lay a third clutch this season. As it turned out, the pair remained in the house, and did not lay another clutch, so this objective wasn't met.

To some degree we have been comparing the weight and physical development of our chick to that of David McKain's while making other comparisons to our prior year's hatchlings. We made several observations about McKain's data compared to our own and in summary these are as follows:

  • Crop wasn't always empty when McKain weighed his chick while Harley's crop was empty
  • Weight will fluctuate depending on where the chick stands on the scale. Harley HAD to stand on the "X" before I recorded the weight
  • McKain didn't always weigh his chick at the same time of day, sometimes not scaling them until noon or later. I have consistently weighed Harley at 6 a.m.
  • If one holds the chick in place on the scale, the reading could be skewed high by 10 grams or more, simply by the weight of one's fingers, even though you're not applying any apparent pressure. I always let Harley free-stand when I weighed him
  • McKain's chick was PARENT fed which meant a different quality, quantity and consistency of foods and the feeding schedule might not have been as rigid as our own
  • There may be variations in the accuracy between our digital scale and that of McKain's.

  • Harley is now 38 days old and he's finally eating dry pellets. Last year one of our chicks (Poop) still required the pellets to be slightly moistened on Day 40. Our other chick (Peep) was able to climb the bars of his cage by Day 38. Harley's own activity has been nothing more than to sit on the 1 1/2 inch high perch. On the other hand, he's well socialized, responds to his name and steps up on command. When I prepare the formula he sits on the counter and gets so excited that he almost dives inside the cup that I'm stirring it in. He has no problem eating off a spoon, and has eaten every human food that I've offered him, including meat, cereal, pasta, grains, pellets, fruits and veggies. McKain's chick was timid even though he was handled daily for his weigh-in. As my breeding partner always tell me ... THE CHICKS ARE ALL DIFFERENT !

    Harley will be moving to his new home this afternoon. I'll show his owner how to prepare and offer the 10 p.m. formula feeding and make sure that she has a good understanding of his overall care and needs. Every chick should be handled and understood for what it is ... a truly unique individual !


    PostScript:

    September 3, 1999 .....(49 days old)

    5 p.m. Weight 116 grams. Formula 0 cc. Gain / Loss -8 grams.

    Comment: I was invited to visit Harley in his new home. He took his first flight at 46 days of age and had his primaries slightly trimmed the next day. That wasn't enough to slow him down. His wings will be trimmed again when he visits his Avian Veterinarian. At that time he'll undergo a general wellness examination and be DNA sexed. Harley was totally weaned on day 47 and his appetite is excellent as is his overall appearance. Feathers are perfect ! Beautiful eyes ! Extremely well socialized ! He's experiencing lots of freedom and hasn't hesitated to explore his new surroundings. So many times have I thought back to the words of my partner Tammy who said "Birds are a gift from Heaven, with angelic wings to descend upon us. For those that believe in angels, experience their breathtaking beauty". How true !


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