An article from the International Turaco Society magazine no. 18 Autumn 2002 – written by David Jones.
My family are all really happy that it is now the summer holiday. My wife is particularly pleased that I am at home to feed the numerous turaco chicks we are having to hand-rear this year. I like to parent, or foster-parent rear as many as possible, but it has been a strange season and many chicks have come inside. To start with it was wet and very cold at night. Chicks were hatching well, but dying in the nests. Thankfully the weather has now improved and chicks are doing better again.
My system is that I collect eggs as soon as they are laid and substitute either infertile turaco eggs, when I have any, or very small bantam eggs. I do this because sometimes the parents don’t sit properly, or don’t sit at all. The turaco eggs go into an incubator until they are chipping. I then move them into a second incubator to hatch.
Being used to hatching ducklings under broody bantams, I was under the impression that the turacos would need to actually hatch the chicks to accept them as their own. So I used to put chipping eggs under broody turacos, but often the chicks were killed as they hatched. I then found that waiting until the chicks have hatched and are dry before putting them under a new mum was much more successful. I put the chicks under whichever turaco is still broody and has been sitting the longest. In this way the adults rarely have to sit for the full twenty-two days. A friend came for a look round last Sunday and was amused that a pair of White-cheeked are rearing two Fischer’s chicks, while in the aviary next door a pair of Fischer’s are rearing two White-cheeked! When more chicks hatch than I have places for I put them out three chicks to a nest. Any more have to come into the kitchen to be hand-reared.
In April this year I had to do some building work in the garden. This upset all the sitting turacos so I had to hand-rear a batch. The next lot suffered with the cold weather so the adults all laid again. Few of them sat and most of them laid again! They did then sit and took the chicks as they hatched. When the next batch of eggs hatched there was nowhere to put them as the parents all had chicks already. So into the kitchen they went. There are now fifteen chicks of different ages inside. The adults have just started laying again as their chicks have now fledged. Hopefully the next lot of chicks will be parent reared!
When they come into the kitchen I put them in a hospital cage to keep them warm. They live in a small plastic tub lined with kitchen roll with a layer of sticks in the bottom. They need the sticks to reduce the risk of splay-legs. (See figure 1.) The paper is changed and the sticks replaced with clean ones every feed.
They are fed on a diet of banana, mixed fruit, Pretty Bird, yoghurt and multivitamins. This is mixed with warm water and fed through a small pipette at four hourly intervals with a gap overnight. For example, I would feed at 8 o’clock in the morning, midday, 4 o’clock in the afternoon, 8 o’clock in the evening and finally at midnight. I used to get up to feed chicks in the night, but found they do just as well with an eight-hour gap. More details about my hand-rearing diet can be found in an article in the Spring 2000 ITS magazine.
It becomes quite a tie to have to have someone at home every four hours to feed chicks! However, there are advantages – some people particularly want hand-tame birds and my children love messing about with youngsters. My three-year-old loves to help me! (See figure 2.)
As the chicks grow they come out of the hospital cage and live beside the Rayburn. They are gradually moved away from the heat and placed in larger containers, such as ice-cream tubs and hamster cages. (See figure 3.)
I place a stick in the cage to encourage the chicks to scramble up it when they can. If chicks have problems with their legs splaying they must still be placed on a rough surface. Straw looks good (see figure 4), but soon gets very mucky and presents a risk from mould spores.
A wire base (see figure 5) does not look as comfy, but is much easier to keep clean.
Parent reared chicks seem to have less problems with their legs, although you have to check that there is plenty of nesting material in the nest as some parents throw everything out.
When big enough hand-reared chicks can go outside to join the others.