Can’t Say No to Turacos

My first attempt at hand-feeding a red-crested turaco chick turned out fairly well. Sadly, of the two chicks I was given, one didn’t make it overnight. But the remaining one grew and thrived and is now happily matched to a female in hopes he might be a daddy soon. I loved his personality and curiosity, but living inside is bad for a turaco. Much as I hated to part with “Mort”, I loved knowing how happy he would be.

070217 beautiful eye (440x640)
Mort the adult turaco

His parents gave the laying eggs thing a go once more, but those eggs didn’t hatch. So they tried again. This time, both chicks hatched, and in a few weeks, one of them got out of the nest. The smaller of the two wanted to go walkabout as soon as possible.

No idea if the parents would have followed him around and fed him, but the man who keeps them stuffed the chick back in the nest. And again. And again. He asked me if I could hand feed these two for him. I didn’t want to do it until after the November 4th bird mart, but the chicks couldn’t wait. So in early November I picked up the two babies and brought them to my house.


The New Kids


The smaller one who kept getting out of his nest, or maybe being kicked out by the older sibling, I named Trouble, the other one became Double. The first thing I noticed was that these two were a bit older than Mort had been when I took him in. They didn’t mind waiting a bit for their first meal of the day. They were ready to eat fruit and pellets and simply became model residents.

Because turacos eat so much fruit, they poop a lot and a rather messy load at that. Which means cleaning the cage bottom regularly. The first cage I put them in when they outgrew the brooder tank had no grate on the bottom. This meant the chicks were walking in their own waste most of the time. They did perch well so that helped some. But because they would perch on the side of their dishes, things got dirty constantly.


turaco showing color
One of the new babies, starting to show colors


I created a bottom grate for the cage but it didn’t seem to work very well. As I wrote last week, my Congo African Gray, Bo Dangles, got a new cage so her old cage, we decided, would make a great home for the turacos. Only it needs a deep cleaning. Scrubbing with a wire brush. Sandblasting. Sanitizing. You get the idea. The bottom trays were wooden and Bobo has chewed them up so they can’t really continue in their role as trays. And once again, there is no grate. I have some workarounds in mind that will be available soon, but in the meantime, I realized I had a cage I was looking right past.

My backyard has so many empty cages in need of cleaning that you would think it was a mini bird mart. I stood there looking at the available cages with the turacos in mind, and realized I had a pretty good contender. It’s tall and has a grate and it even has two doors.

They have settled in with minimum problems, and seem to enjoy bouncing off the one shelf and the bottom grate, producing a rattling sound that gets the conures all upset. They no longer need to be fed by hand, but they do like to come nibble on fingers next to where I’m holding the food.


121017 mort last time
Mort on his way to a happier life


The biggest difference between feeding two and feeding one is that two turaco chicks will try to steal food from each other. Often right out of the other bird’s beak. I had to say many times, “Don’t eat your sibling’s face.” They also went through a bit of aggression, chasing each other off the preferred perch under the heat lamp. But now that they are closer to equal size, there’s less of that going on.

I plucked a feather from each bird a few days ago and sent them off for DNA sexing. Two identical birds would be a problem in this case, so I had to snip off the end of the tail feathers of one of them. Now we wait a week or two to find out if we have two of one sex or one of each. My friend is hoping for one of each because he wants to keep them and set them up with mates. I’m hoping that works out for him. But it will be more work for me, as I will have to keep snipping tail feathers. Nonetheless, I will miss these two when they move on.


121017 mort again
Can you see the smile?


The parents already have eggs in the nest again. My friend has offered to give me one of those if they hatch. I’d love it, but where would I put it? Too messy to have run of the house and my aviary is too small. Still, anything might happen. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back next Sunday.

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