||This page has been prepared for the "UK
Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the
needs of the following species: Columba
livia - Rock pigeon, Columba
oenas - Stock pigeon, Columba
palumbus - Common wood-pigeon, Streptopelia
turtur - European turtle-dove, Streptopelia
decaocto - Eurasian collared-dove.
These species are from the families Columbidae.
- Parents of these species initially feed their chicks (squabs) with
"crop milk", produced by cells lining the crop. After about four days some
partially-digested regurgitated feed is fed with the crop milk, and by about seven days
regurgitated feed is the main ingredient fed to the squabs (timing for domestic Columba
livia - Rock pigeon). (B11.24.w23)
General bird information:
- On arrival any young bird should be weighed, warmed, and given
supplementary fluids by an appropriate route to counteract dehydration.
- Cold, weak chicks may benefit greatly from a short period, for example 30 minutes, left
in a dark cardboard box at 30-35°C.(P19.1.w4)
- The age should be determined if possible.
- See: Hand-rearing
of Orphaned Wildlife for further general information.
General Care (including warmth and hygiene):
General altricial/semialtricial bird information:
- Young birds, particularly altricial or semialtricial unfeathered/poorly down-covered
nestlings, have poor ability to maintain body temperature and are prone to hypothermia,
hyperthermia and burns.
- Keep out of draughts but ensure ventilation is adequate.(V.w5)
- A thermometer should be used, within the brooder box or beside the nest box, to indicate
the temperature at which the chicks are being maintained.
- Provide heat to a maximum of 95°F directly under a heat lamp, with a temperature range
such that the chicks can choose the position at which the temperature is comfortable.
Ensure the minimum temperature is not low enough to allow the chicks to get chilled.
- An artificial nest may be made from a round container, similar in
diameter to the natural nest for the species.
- Plastic tubs are commonly used.
- Line with paper towels.
- A cardboard box may also be used.
- May be lined with cut up towels (without frayed edges) which gives a good grip for the
- The nest should be placed within a larger box:
- The floor of the box may be covered with a towel (V.w27), absorbent paper towel or sand.
- Keep covered with e.g. a wire mesh cover or net curtain material
(allowing light in).
- Keep warm , but avoid overheating.
- Heat lamp or brooder may be used to provide heat.
- Alternative means of heating include placing the artificial nest on top
of a towel-wrapped hot water bottle, placing the artificial nest in a small warm space
such as an airing cupboard, placing the container near a radiator or raising the
ambient temperature of the room.
- More heat is required for featherless nestlings than for older, birds
which have some feathers.
- Keep at about 27-32°C (B118.5.w5);
- Note both thermometer temperature and behaviour of the chicks in adjusting the
temperature (chicks which are too cold will feel cold to the touch; chicks which
are too hot will have their necks stretched out, panting, keeping away from one another).
- (B118.5.w5, B151,
Pigeon and dove specific information:
- Older squabs may be kept in a plastic crate lined with newspaper covered with a towel to
- The sides of the crate should be sufficiently high to prevent escape.
Suggested foods for hand-rearing pigeons and doves include:
- Canary rearing food, mixed as indicated on the packet.(D29)
- Mixture of chick crumbs/rearing mix/millet/water for hand feeding with boluses of food. (D24)
- Bread soaked in creamy milk may be used initially for hand feeding
with boluses of food.(B186.8.w8)
- Proprietary rearing food for tube feeding, e.g. KAYtee Rearing food (D24),
Tropican Rearing Mix (Rolf C Hagen).(B151)
- An appropriate vitamin/mineral supplement must be used in the rearing
mix. Appropriate quantities of calcium and phosphorus are particularly important to avoid
metabolic bone disease which is a particularly common finding in fledgling collared doves
decaocto - Eurasian collared-dove).(D24)
Suggested feeding frequencies include:
- Feed every 30 minutes.(B151)
- Offer food every hour initially.(B194)
Suggested feeding techniques include:
- 1) Place the food in a strong plastic bag or tube, cut a hole in the side of the bag and
push the squab's bill gently into the food, allowing it to suck the food.(D29)
- Similarly the squab may suck food from e.g. a feeding nipple with an enlarged hole (B194),
or a small container such as a egg cup.(B186.8.w8)
- 2) Hand feeding with boluses of food.
- This requires opening the bill to place the food well inside the bill avoiding the
opening to the trachea, as the squab will not gape. (B186.8.w8, D24)
- 3) Crop feed (gavage), i.e. place food into the crop using a suitable tube.(D24,
- Check crop contents to avoid overfeeding: crop should be empty before each feed and full
but not taut at the end of each feed.(B186.8.w8, D24)
General bird information:
- Regular weighing provides a good indication of growth, however a balance
must be chosen between the frequency of weighing for accurate monitoring of progress and
the stress which may be caused by repeated handling.
- Individuals in a brood or being reared in a group must be individually
identifiable in order to allow the progress of each chick to be monitored.
- Temporary identification may be made possible using small colour marks
applied to the feathers. An appropriate non-toxic material such as coloured correction
fluid (e.g. Tippex) or nail varnish may be used for this purpose.
- Alternatively, for larger chicks, lightweight leg rings made of flat
plastic may be used. These are available in a wide variety of colours. Rings must be of an
appropriate size and changed as the bird grows.
- Weighing each squab before and after feeding may be used to determine actual food intake
in young squabs. (V.w26)
- Once well feathered, add small seed to the canary rearing food.(D29)
- Grains such as wheat and maize, fresh green vegetables and grit should be available to
- Small seeds and chick crumbs (smaller species of dove) or pigeon seed mix
and pellets (pigeons and larger doves).(B151)
- Squab should start picking up food items by about one month old.(B186.8.w8)
- General bird information:
- Move to an aviary for at least two weeks prior to release, to allow exercise,
flying/swimming as appropriate, and exposure to the weather.
- See: Release of
Casualty Pigeons and Doves