Friday, January 24, 2014

There is Always Something(s)

Since we re-organized the parakeet cage (just last weekend) things go something like this:

First thing in the morning Chick #1 flies up to the upper part of the cage and continually chases Mr Greenburg around begging (quite loudly) for a meal. 

He alternately avoids her, and feeds her.  He’s not eating his ‘salad’ as he did before this extreme makeover which concerns me: I want him eating more so he can feed more.  When chick #1 flies up in the cage, chick #2 hops up on the low perch, just above the makeshift open plastic nest box.

During the day Mr. Greenburg flies down to the makeshift nest box on the floor of the cage periodically to feed the rest of the chicks.  When he does so he is intercepted on the perch I set up just outside the new nest box (the low perch) by chick #2, who begs him quite effectively for a feeding.  It seems that he rarely gets around to feeding the two youngest chicks, #’s 3, and 4.  These two chicks appear not to have figured out the trick to getting up on the perch.  This may be due to their younger age and reduced development.  In any case, Mr Greenburg appears not to be feeding these two younger chicks much.  We have placed a water dish and a seed tray in the box easily reached by all the chicks.  I am happy to say I have seen chick #3 nibbling at the pellets in the seed tray, which is heartening. As I mentioned earlier, we weigh each of them, morning and night and it appears that chicks #1 and #2 are gaining weight slightly while chicks 3 and 4 are not.  Or so it would be if we were not still supplementing their nutrition via hand feeding. 

I have read that the process of weaning from mash/parental food to solid food is a challenge and chicks can be expected to lose up to 10% of their body weight during this transition.  It is just on the early side of time for the chicks to start this process.  I have only seen chick #3 eating solid food, and he is really just nosing around the feed tray.  They all seem interested in pecking through the bedding.

In the evening, after we feed and weigh the chicks I put them all back into the open nest box.  Chick #1 immediately flies up into the upper reaches of the cage, and resumes pestering Mr Greenburg.  Chick #2 takes up her post on the low perch and 3, and 4 stay dutifully on the box.  The last two nights Chick #1 has been getting into the original high elevation nest box to bed down for the night.  Before I go to bed, I retrieve her from her little hidey spot and place her back in the makeshift nest box.  We have a little floor heater under this box, but I still think they all benefit by having each other close to huddle with for warmth overnight.  The birds don’t fly after dark so they are all together when I get up in the morning. And the process as outlined repeats.

So, we are concentrating on keeping all the chicks well fed as they learn to eat solid food.  By the book, this should take a couple weeks, so that by the time the chicks are six weeks old they should be well on the way to eating solid food.  I really hope the little ones have read this part of the book.  Hand feeding them is sort of fun, but it is also stressful, for the chicks and for us.  And it is a mess and takes a fair amount of time as well.

Figuring out if they are able to sustain themselves on solid food will be a tricky business.  We’ll just monitor the use of the pellets and seeds, and continue to weigh them.  How much they beg Mr Greenburg for food should also be indicative.  We won’t be able to tell much by how interested they are (or aren’t in hand feeding because they all fight and resist the hand feedings.   None of them likes to be restrained.  I ‘burrito roll’ them in a warmed cotton wash cloth.  I have tried feeding them without any restraints but it just does not work.  Maybe next week.  Though they resist and struggle, all of them eat once I get the formula in front of them.  I use a small syringe placed just a the corners of their little mouths, and once the warm food begins to flow their little beaks begin to nom, nom, nom.  3 and 4 are the best eaters, #1 is the worst, but she is no shrinking violet, she is amazingly strong and wrapping her up in a wash cloth is like trying to put a hand full of bees in a jar.  Such strong legs, and SHE*CAN*BITE! with her sharp little beak.  Shades of her mother, who is also a little biting machine.

I have some concerns about chick #3.  Though she is the biggest eater, she does not perch well. At all.  she seems to have poor balance and is always very tippy on the perch, rarely standing up she squats on the perch.  She presents a wide stance and I worry that she may have a slight case of splayed legs.   She walks fairly well so I am hoping I am just overly concerned or that if she does have this problem she will grow through it.  We let her ramble at feeding time; fortunately she does not yet know that she can fly.

Well, OK that’s how it was  for the last couple of days, but when I came home from work last night, chick #1 and chick #2 were both up in the cage with Mr. Greenburg. 

I suppose that’s how it will be for the next little while. (emphasis on little)

So that’s the scoop here at Rocky Acres. 
It was sunny when I got home from work yesteday so I took a few pics of the birds in direct sunlight.  Enjoy:  
Chick #4 
Chick #3
Chick #2 

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