Hand Rearing Diet

An article from the International Turaco Society magazine no. 15 Spring 2001 – written by David Jones.

“Pretty Bird” as Part of a Hand-rearing Diet for Turacos

I have kept and bred turacos for about twenty years. Thankfully almost all the youngsters have been parent (or foster parent) reared, but there have been a number of occasions when I have had to try to hand-rear some. This can be a very rewarding experience when the considerable effort that it requires results in a fully-grown, healthy and tame youngster. However, it can also be very upsetting when all one’s efforts are wasted because something goes wrong and the chick dies. My wife would agree with me there, as she is often left to feed chicks while I go off to work. She helped with this chore even before we were married!

I have used a variety of rearing diets, homemade and commercial, with mixed results, but in December 1999 I saw some “Pretty Bird” Handrearing Formula on a stand at the National. I had heard that although it was developed for rearing parrot-like species, it had been used with considerable success on the Continent to rear turacos. The variety available that day happened to be the 22 / 10 (22% crude protein and 10% crude fat / oil), so that was the one I bought. At the time I had a White-cheeked chick, which was about ten days old and was developing very slowly. I did not have high hopes for its survival. I added a little of the “Pretty Bird” powder to its diet and the bird grew well from then on, developing into a healthy adult.

No more turacos hatched until the middle of March 2000 when two deserted White-cheeked eggs hatched in my incubator. As no adults were sitting I was back to hand-rearing again. These two were also successfully reared using a mix including “Pretty Bird”. Throughout the season turacos hatched and were reared by either their own, or foster parents, until towards the end of September, when again chicks were hatching with no potential parents sitting. From then until now (January 2001) a further ten chicks (eight White-cheeked and two Schalow’s) have been successfully reared using “Pretty Bird”. During this time only two chicks did not thrive. They were weak when they hatched and never picked up.

Although I am singing the praises of “Pretty Bird” I am sure that to feed turaco chicks just “Pretty Bird” on its own would not be successful. I have mixed it with other things and sometimes chicks have developed huge stomachs and begun to deteriorate until I have reduced the proportion of “Pretty Bird” powder. Equally I have underdone the proportion of powder and banana, using too thin a mix until I realised that a chick had stopped growing. When I increased the proportion of “Pretty Bird” the chick grew well again.

The diet I have been using is as follows:

  • First 12 to 18 hours – no food
  • Next 3 or 4 days – mix level 2.5 ml medicine spoon of Pretty Bird, 3 or 4 mm thick circle of banana (mashed) and a little fruit yoghurt (tip of the medicine spoon) with about 20 ml of hot water. I feed 3 or 4 ml of this very watery mix, warm, using a syringe at four hourly intervals through the day, but nothing at night. For example I would feed at 7.00 a.m., 11.00 a.m., 3.00 p.m., 7.00 p.m. and 11.00 p.m.
  • From then on I gradually increase the proportion of banana and Pretty Bird in comparison to the amount of water, so that the mix is less runny. I still add a little yoghurt and I also gradually add in some Heinz “From 4 Months” Pure Fruit, either Apple & Banana or Summer Fruit. I continue to feed a slowly increasing amount at four hourly intervals.
  • As soon as the chick is able to take it, I leave a small bowl of finely chopped adult touraco diet sprinkled with Pretty Bird powder, while still feeding a viscous mix through a syringe with a large opening in the end.
  • When the chick is feeding itself sufficiently, syringe feeding is stopped.

Clearly diet is not the only factor affecting the growth of chicks, as temperature, humidity and correct “nesting” material under their feet all play a part. Minor adjustments to all these constantly need to be made to achieve the final objective of a healthy, tame, adult turaco.

Note: Pretty Bird is no longer available, so I now use Nutribird A21 instead, see my FAQ9.