Monday, 25 July 2011

And now for something completely different

If last week was all about death, then this week is all about sex. Sex and birth. I suppose you can't have one without the other.

Most of my recent conversations with Mike involve which animals are pregnant, and which animals ought to be pregnant. The ewes are looking like they swallowed a football sideways and the pointy ends are lodged in their midsections. Eudora in particular. (Who else, right?) Their due dates start less than two months from now.

The 'which animals ought to be pregnant' discussion centres around the spaniels. Dulcie, Jazzie, and most especially Podge are in season. Podge is ready N.O.W. When I fed her this morning all she wanted was a cuddle, then she cocked her tail over her back and fixed me with a mad, hormonal stare. Poor thing. She's not made the cut for motherhood, at least not now, because she's our main 'dogging in' dog - chasing young pheasants home every morning and night until they remember where they live. Podge has got a heavy work load until mid-September. We can't afford to have her sidelined.

We have wanted a pup from Dulcie, a dog Mike bred from his own 30 year-old line of springers. She's getting older but after missing last year's shoot season recovering from a ligament repair, I worried it wouldn't be fair for her to miss another season of what she loves best. However, if the dog visits her next week, she could have pups and still be fit for November 1st, and the majority of the winter. It will be Dulcie's first litter, and mine. I've never bred a litter, I've only had secondhand dogs up to now.

Until then I have the orphan lambs still to care for, and a few hens guarding clutches of eggs. I've tried putting quail eggs under a bantam hen, but I'm not sure if they'll hatch. The hen's had some commitment issues and she seems to lose track of the eggs when she gets off the nest, remembering to cover only a few or half when she sits down to brood after a wander over to the feeder.

I came home from work to find this baby in a Tupperware pot, in hay, in my sink-

I think it's a baby bullfinch chick. It's got a worm stuck to it so I think Mike tried unsuccessfully to feed it. My mother taught me the hamburger trick for feeding found fledglings. I must have brought home dozens as a child, though few survived the trauma and my own inept but well-meaning childish love.

I have ground venison in the fridge and the chick eagerly choked down a few good-sized strands. I've put it in a basket with a light for warmth. Its best chance for survival is if I can find a nest with similar sized chicks in it and add it to the brood. Mike claims birds can't count and a gaping mouth is enough of a trigger to get fed, no matter who your real momma is. It works on me too, not just with birds, but with the boys who work with Mike. I can't resist a hungry creature whether it's got feathers or camo trousers.

If I can't find a nest, I'll keep feeding it and hope it survives in spite of my inept but well-meaning childish love.


Poppy Cottage said...

Dulcie pups..................

Good luck with young Mr Bull and the full nest search.

C x

Anonymous said...

If it does stick around, make sure there's grit available, though without a mother it might not know to eat it. A friend of mine had a pet baby sparrow that died and only afterwards found out that it hadn't learned to eat grit. But you probably already knew that, what with all the pheasants you raise :)

Anonymous said...

From Jen@M&T

Cantalkdyeing - I absolutely didn't know about the grit, though of course it seems common sense. I don't know how you would teach them those kinds of skills either.

Sadly the little bird didn't live. I have to say they rarely do, at least when I try to care for them. Tiny bodyweights, stress, temperature, it's hard to provide the optimum conditions.

Sometimes we luck out with bigger birds like blackbirds, or nearly ready to fledge ones. I just can't NOT try, if you know what I mean. Each one still breaks my heart.

Heidianne said...

I was one of those save every fledgling girls, so I do know what you mean. They rarely made it, but you have to try.

Ingrid said...

I'm a wildlife rehabilitator in the States and just came upon this blog post. I thought you might like to know what some of us do in these emergency situations.

A suitable short-term emergency food I've used for birds is thoroughly soaked kibble with hard-boiled egg, mixed until completely smooth with a food processor. Food must be moist, with the kibble soaked in plenty of water for a couple of hours before blending, particularly since a rescued baby bird may be dehydrated. Alternatively, dry kibble can be ground to a super-fine consistency in a blender, before adding warm water and mixing/blending thoroughly until totally smooth.

At the facility where I'm affiliated, we obviously have a variety of formulas we make, depending on species, and all of those formulas contain vitamins and other nutrients. But for short-term care, until you can reach someone who can provide you with the proper recipe, this would work -- with careful feeding so as not to aspirate.

As far as frequency of feedings and quantity of food, we feed baby birds every hour during daylight hours, with breaks at night while they sleep, as they would in nature. We do not wait for them to gape before feeding, although many will gape when they see the syringe appear.

'With respect to quantity, some species will stop gaping when full, others will not. House finches, for instance, are known to gape and take food until the point where you can accidentally kill them from over-feeding. Scrub jays will stop gaping when they're full. Average quantity for a small finch is a 1 cc syringe per hour, but we always check their crops before each feeding to make sure they are not overfed (bulging crop) or not digesting food properly in the crop.

A heating pad set on the lowest setting provides a good source of heat for baby birds. With slightly older babies, part of the nest should be on the heat, part off, so they can escape if they're too hot. But the warmth is very important for a baby this young, without proper plumage.

Ingrid said...

p.s. in response to canttalkdeyeing, only certain species of birds (like quail and pigeons, for instance) need grit.

Anonymous said...

Jen at M&T says:
Ingrid - Thank you so much for the information. I've often wondered how much dehydration is a factor in a bird's demise. And quantity to feed has always been hard to gauge. It's great to have an experienced person weigh in. I'm sure other readers will find it helpful too.