I can never cover all the benefits of belonging to a bird club. I’ve had the privilege of helping to rehome birds from a hoarding situation. I’ve been invited into many private bird collections. I’ve reached a wider audience for my blog and a nice customer base for rehoming my baby birds.
Recently, I had the honor of being asked to hand feed a turaco chick. When first hatched, most turacos look like little black balls of fluff. Rather like a soot sprite from Spirited Away. Eventually, you can make out the shining black eyes and the pointed beak. The fact that the chicks all look alike, with few exceptions, means that you can foster the eggs under any sitting hen and she will dutifully raise the babies.
Unfortunately, the parents of this chick, after some successful clutches, began to toss the chicks out of the nest. After losing a few in this way, the keeper asked if I could try to hand feed the chick. Almost before I was ready, I got the call to pick up the babies. I arrived with a warm brooder and an optimistic outlook.
Two beautiful babies came home with me, along with a container of low-iron pellets. Turacos can get overdosed with iron very easily. For that reason, a special pellet must be fed along with fresh food. Toucans have a similar requirement, but they come from a very different part of the world.
I had very little in the way of fresh fruit at the time. I hope that didn’t contribute to the death of the younger chick. I was so sad to lose one, but more than every determined to keep the remaining chick alive. I found an awesome paper on the internet with all the information I needed, brooder temp, schedule of feeding, aging milestones, and so on.
First, I took a shopping trip to get bananas, grapes, and human baby food that only had fruit involved. I also got an organic pear juice for soaking the pellets. Currently, I have a spice and coffee grinder that I use to grind game bird feed into a fine powder for baby button quails. I also use it for grinding sunflower seeds for my green cheek conure who is missing his upper beak. He really loves his ground seeds with a bit of peanut powder and chia seeds added to it.
I decided I would grind up the low-iron pellets and use that to make a “gruel” for the chick. I added the pear juice and brought it up to 90 degrees f before feeding. The chick loved it and took it readily. Soon he was throwing himself at the syringe whenever I showed up.
The biggest difference between turacos and the parrot species I have fed before is that he doesn’t have a crop. I watch his esophagus which runs down the right side of his neck. When it is nearly full, he usually stops accepting food and drifts off to sleep in my hand.
Turaco chicks are susceptible to splayed legs, just like button quail. In the first few days that I had the chick, I noticed his left leg wandered off too far from under his body. I got a small dish and lined it with paper towels, then put the chick in it inside the brooder. In a very short time, he was able to hold the leg in properly.
He’s now at 14 days with me, and 16 days old, I believe. He takes pieces of fruit readily, as long as they are in small enough bites. He still likes the pellets soaked in juice but isn’t thrilled with the gruel any longer. He goes for bananas above everything else. No wonder there is a related bird called a plantain eater. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_plantain-eater
In the next few days, I will be putting him in a cage and providing food and water that he can feed himself with. He will be flying in another two weeks or so. And then he goes back to the collection, awaiting a determination of his gender and then a chance for a mate and chicks in the future. Of course, I will miss him, but his life is going to be pretty wonderful. What more could a mama hen want for her chick?
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back next Sunday.