Wednesday, 4 July 2012

LL, new squabs, Happy and Jose....and a new arrival

Sunday 17th June '12
By the early evening, both young birds, LL  (Elizabeth and Olympia) had put themselves to bed together in the old nestbox. Sky didn’t like these cosy arrangements, and routed Lizzy out. Then he sat on the ledge blocking the entrance. Happy, who had taken a shine to Jose, flew back and forth to her, roof to table. He’d spent the afternoon actually inside her hutch with her, sitting, cooing and generally making himself at home.
Happy (male, red ring) & Jose (female, two rings)
This is quite unusual. Many males try to court Jose, and some she accepts, but they are not usually invited in! Even ‘her’ pigeon, a grey speckled bird that she likes and mates with, doesn’t go inside the hutch. Birds do go in to steal the food, but once they’ve eaten they always come out pretty quickly. That’s how I caught Happy in the first place, robbing food!
Sky and Happy had had a few minor fights in the afternoon. Sky hasn’t appeared that interested in Jose before, but now Happy wanted her, he did too! Even Jose put her oar in here, pecking at Sky! She obviously likes Happy or she wouldn’t tolerate him for long in her space.
Sky (blue ring) fighting for Jose

Lizzy wanted to get in the cote, and was trying different boxes, but Sky kept getting her out. This is not unusual behaviour as it seems to me that soon after young birds have fledged their daddy doesn’t want them around any more. The little ones that they have caressed and fed so attentively only a few days before are suddenly rivals for the cote, and forced to move on. Poor Lizzy didn’t understand, and kept trying to get in – Lympy wisely staying still and dark in the original nestbox! Eventually the kerfuffle forced Summer out from her nest at the back, and this I didn’t like to see, as I had found an eggshell that afternoon and presumed at least one baby had hatched. I went to the cote, Sky flew to the roof, and I managed to block Lizzy in with wire. It was a warm sunny evening, but by 7.30pm both Sky and Happy had flown away, Summer was back with her baby/babies, LL (Lizzy and Lympy) were in the front of the cote, Jose was in the conservatory, and Fennie was in his usual roost under the gutter, and peace reigned in the garden.
Monday 18th – After a few minor fights, Sky accepted Happy in the general area of the cote. Happy happily got on with courting Jose, and soon I could see that he was more than a boyfriend! Jose has had several boyfriends since she’s been with me – the latest is her grey pigeon, and Flash was a great favourite with her – as he was with all the ladies! Happy is different – he obviously considers himself marriage material! He spent lots of time today with Jose, inside the hutch, kissing and canoodling, but also flew into one of the nestboxes of the cote (when Sky was safely in the other side on babysitting duty) and obviously seemed to be saying to Jose ‘Here’s a lovely home – come and join me!’ Jose fluttered her wings as she always does when she wants to fly, but of course she can’t, and eventually Happy came back to the hutch and was content to stay in it with her.

Then he did something that no other male dove has done for Jose before – he brought a stick back to the hutch and carefully placed it inside. Jose was impressed! A stick to a dove is like a bunch of flowers to a lady! Happy was pleased with himself, and went to get another stick! This was in the early evening, and shortly afterwards I collected Jose to take her into the conservatory for the night. LL both went into the old nestbox, I blocked them in and that was that.
The first two sticks! Small, vertical, either side of centre -
you can hardly see them - sorry!
Tuesday 19th – Delightful sunny June day. Happy spent the whole morning bringing sticks into the hutch. My heart sank a little – although I’d love Jose to lay eggs, and raise some babies, with her disability it wouldn’t be easy. But it was the worst possible timing, as we were going away for 8 days on the Friday, and though I was having someone to come in to feed the doves, Jose was going to my youngest daughter’s house for the week! These dilemmas always happen to me when I am going away – if you remember I had Cloud injured just before I went to Skye, and a baby starling just before I went to Spain. I decided to let Happy and Jose get on with it for the next day or so, and see what happens. Jose seemed quite content with the new arrangements, but when Happy left sticks in the entrance doorway, she picked one up and removed it, like a proud housewife who squeaks ‘Don’t put it there!’ when someone puts their kit down on the nearest available flat surface. I removed a few myself.
Proud Happy with a lovely stick for Jose
How the 'nest' looked by the end of the morning
The nest building stopped in the afternoon as my husband decided to cut the hedge and do some strimming. This all took about two hours, and the noise kept all the doves away. Summer stayed in the cote, with the new babies (hopefully two of them!) and I shut Jose in the hutch, but the rest of them flew to further, quieter roofs.
Doves and pigeons hate change – even the hedges being cut unsettles them. They were nervous about coming back, and I didn’t see Happy again that day. Lympy, alone, put herself to bed in the old nestbox – presumably Lizzy had gone off with the flock back to wherever they roost. They have to grow up sometime! There was no need to block Lympy in – I was only doing it to stop Sky, and other adult doves routing the babies out.
Wed 20.6.12 - It looks like Lizzy is roosting with the flock now, but Lympy still stayed the night. He (or she) but  instinct tells me he is a he! He's a big strong distinctive bird now. I can easily pick him out on the roof.
Olympia on the roof
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 Jose's pigeon turned up for a bit of the other...
Grey pigeon and Happy fight, while Jose stands on the brick, watching
and below, Jose and pigeon tussle and Happy removes himself to the wire box

In the end Jose went inside the hutch, and stood on her little branch; the pigeon looked in
but didn't follow, and I went out with a tea-towel and flapped him away!

Thurs 21.6.12 – Had to take Jose to my daughter’s to be looked after while we are on hols. I could leave her in the hutch, but it leaves her vulnerable to foxes at night. I hated splitting Jose and Happy up - the doves are wringing my heart all the time as I try to make the best decisions for them. One good thing was that I noticed Summer AND Sky with the early morning flock for the feed, so grabbed the opportunity to look in the nest with my camera – TWO lovely babies, both ‘blonde’ this time and about four days old. If all goes well they will be about 12 days old when we return and quite big.
White dove babies (squabs) about 3/4 days old -
baby siblings for Elizabeth and Olympia
Friday 22nd June ‘12 – I have not seen Lizzy for the last couple of days, but hope she’s around when I get back. Happy was still on the hutch today, waiting for Jose. God bless my doves while I’m away!
Two pigeons, plus Lampie (left, purple ring) and Lesa, yellow ring

We came home from holiday at 3am on Sunday 1st July '12 extremely tired – Fennie was in his place under the gutter on the roof -  thankfully one bird ticked off my list! I didn’t look at the cote – I didn’t want to know if it was bad news. I set my alarm for the 7am feeding time and crashed into bed!
At 7am I got up reluctantly and fed the doves/pigeons. I didn’t really notice who was around, but there was a dove wandering & poorly on the patio – oh no, green ring, slightly fan tail – it was my young one, Elizabeth who had been missing before we went away. I caught her easily, tried to give her a drink by dipping her beak in water a few times, and locked her in Jose’s empty hutch with food and water and went back to bed.
Later in the day I was able to see that most of my regular flock seemed to be around – Sky, Summer + the babies in the cote, Happy, Rosie, Fennie – much improved and nearly healed, Lampie, Lesa, Bianca2, Bobbie3, Cloud - only the slightest limp now, Charlie and many others that I recognise by sight. Olympia was missing, and hasn’t been seen since. Moonshadow hasn’t been seen for quite a while. Elizabeth, in the hutch, seemed thin and very poorly indeed. I wondered if she had managed to get back here but hadn’t been able to find enough to eat on the way. It’s such a shame I was away as I might have been able to do more for her if I’d been at home. I dipped her beak again in water, but she wasn’t drinking or eating and I didn’t hold out much hope. Also, according to my book pigeons aged 6-10 weeks are more susceptible to disease than at any other time.
I had a special party to go to that afternoon, and had arranged to pick up Jose from my daughter on the way home. Driving there I went underneath a modern railway bridge – mainly smooth concrete, but I noticed some pigeons had found a perch. I’ve never ever seen any there before, and it’s somewhere I pass through occasionally. As I drove through, I saw a pigeon on the ground. I realised from the shape of it that it was a young one, so at the first convenient place, I turned round and drove through again. The pigeon was still sitting still near the road, so I drove out of the tunnel, parked, leaving my hazards on, and went back to it. I always have plenty of junk in my car (mobile skip my hubbie calls it) so had a towel to hand which I took with me. I could see that there were some nests, or at least some pigeons sitting, way high up. There was absolutely no way I could ever have got this bird back to the nest, and it was much too young to have fledged. It must have tumbled out of the nest, and was doomed to die if I did nothing. Although it’s possible the parent pigeons might have fed it on the ground, it is more likely that they would not, as pigeons go back to the place (nest) where their babies are and don’t look much beyond the immediate area. I read this somewhere in my book I’m sure, but couldn’t find the reference (Feral Pigeons by Richard F, Johnston and Marian Janiga). Therefore, this squab would die from starvation, or more likely would be run over, or eaten by a fox/cat. I didn’t really think twice, but dropped the towel lightly over it, and cuddled it up in a nest shape in my car. I named him Jasha (combo of my great-nieces names for whom the party I had just been at was for). At home, I briefly examined Jasha – he (or she of course) was warm, had a full crop and seemed healthy. Perhaps in the excitement of being fed, flapping and reaching, he had leaned too far out of the nest, and fallen down. I’m surprised he wasn’t killed when he hit the ground. I judged his age from my own experience, and used this site and reckoned he was about 20 days old, and therefore approx 8-10 days or more from properly fledging, and several days longer before he will be able to fully feed himself.
First photo of Jasha - squab rescued from under railway bridge
Mon am 2nd July '12   When I opened the hutch this morning I found Elizabeth dead. Poor thing, she was only about 7 weeks old. I laid her gently on the ground underneath the hutch, awaiting her watery grave, and cleaned it out thoroughly so that I could get Jose out to start her day. Faithful Happy was there within seconds of Jose being put on the table. This was literally seconds, no exaggeration. ‘ Hiya mate, I’m glad you’re back! And they mated!
White doves mating
They stayed together throughout the day, with Happy only flying off if I came right up to the table. Jose’s pigeon arrived again, had a short scuffle with husband Happy and departed.
Of course it had dawned on me properly that Jasha was used to being fed and needed to be fed. I looked on my saved favourites on the pc and found the following - (no need to read unless you are interested!)  They recommend porridge oats so no problem there and I mixed some of the smaller grains into it, with water to make quite a sloppy mix. Feeding a squab proved to be much harder than spoon feeding my 7 month old granddaughter. Food ended up on the towel I’d wrapped Jasha in, my top (mental note to wear a pinny next time) and the floor. I don’t know how much he ate. I felt his crop, but I still couldn’t tell if he’d had enough. Afterwards, I wiped him up a bit, especially round the eyes, and dipped his beak in water – partly to clean it and also to give him the idea of drinking on his own.
Jasha, pigeon squab, after first hand feed!
He spent the day in Jose’s crate, outside in the garden, with the small box inside, padded with a towel, positioned so he could see the other pigeons.

I fed him approx every two to three hours. I wasn’t happy with the porridge mix, so I ordered some Kaytee Exact from ebay - never used it before, but I've heard of it - and then went to the pet shop who advised me to buy some ‘chick crumbs’ which I hadn't though of.
Chick crumbs
There are various suggestions for getting food into squabs on the internet. None that I attempted were terribly easy or successful.I tried just using my fingers, then using a syringe with the nozzle cut off. I then thought that the finger of a rubber glove with the tip cut off might be good. It wasn’t bad, but not much better than the other ways. The chick crumbs I felt were more nutritious than porridge, but I mixed some of the smaller seeds in with it too, and of course mixed up with water. The mix was still sloppy at this stage.
Chick crumbs mixed with water, and small grains
Jasha went into a box in the conservatory,, where he could see Jose in the crate, in the evening. I fed him last at 7pm and hope he will be ok til the morning. Of course I left a shallow dish of water in his box, and some small loose seeds, and unsoaked chick crumbs.
Sky and Summer’s new squabs are now approx 12 days old and when we came home from holiday I realised they were being left at night. They looked healthy but the nestbox was disgusting, so I decided to clean them out. Sky and Summer were again playing mummies and daddies in the front (first) nest box again, exactly the same stage Elizabeth and Olympia were when they started these new ones.
So after feeding Jasha and doing our own supper, I scooped both squabs out into a padded box. At this age they can make little resistance so it wasn’t too hard, and I put the box into Jose’s hutch, shutting the door to keep them safe. As when I cleaned out the nestbox at the same stage for Elizabeth and Olympia, there was an abundance of m*ggot infested poo., probably even worse as I had been away so not 'pooper-scooping'. I loathe those wriggly things, they make me feel sick. I can’t even write the word! When I’d pulled all the old nesting material out, and cleaned up, I lined the nestbox with newspaper and made a nest using some of the contents from our paper shredder! I ringed the babies and named them – Elizabeth II (in memory of the first Elizabeth dove) and Philip (what else? – but Pip for short). Elizabeth has one green ring, like the first Elizabeth, and Philip was given two rings in princely purple. I couldn’t give him just one ring, as all the colours have been used for current doves/pigoens, and Lampie has one purple ring. After examining and ringing them, I replaced them in the nestbox, and checked them after 10 mins to make sure they had settled down away from the opening. They had had very full crops which made me worried about Jasha. Hopefully I can feed him up a bit more tomorrow – if he survives.
Elizabeth II and Philip baby white doves after ringing -
approx 12/13 days old
White dove squab wing (12/13 days) - very delicate, like lace!
Squab 12/13 days old and still not totally feathered up

Jasha, and Lizzy2 & Pip's story will continue asap - your comments are always welcomed.  Please scroll down for the comments box if there is a big gap., thanks.


Fennie said...

Most fascinating as always. It's like the Archers, or Mrs Dale's Diary - an everyday story of pigeon folk - and you always leave us with a cliff hangar - will Jasha live? - what will happen to Happy and Jose? and where are the hawks. Good to know that Fennie Dove is OK and mending. Maybe he's like an olive branch if you have one so he can practice getting back to his regular routine when his wing is healed. A real United Nations dove is Fennie. I hope you are recording all these blogs for posterity - they would make a marvellous little book.

Faith said...

Thanks Fennie, I suppose the internet is preserving them. Fennie dove sends his love and says all the good vibes have helped. I notice he has a friend sleeping over - and it's not Laura dove who stayed before!

Lesa said...

When I hand-raised our Bertie pigeon, I used the tip of a rubber glove, but my feeding mixture was different. I don't think that product is sold anymore, but it was made by Kellogg's. Bertie had been abandoned in a nest on a concrete floor, no protection, during the coldest month of the year. What could his mother have been thinking? Anyway, I found him at about an hour old with his sibling. They were extremely cold. I was unable to save the other one, but Bertie was with us for over 20 years.

You are so observant about your birds and I love reading your stories about them!

Faith said...

Lesa, that is an amazing story and incredible achievement to raise a pigeon from only one hour old. Maybe the poor mother was killed. I love the name Bertie, have been thinking about that for a suitable dove. Great minds think alike eh? 20 years for pigeon is a great age - I bet you have a lot of stories about him.

Guernsey Girl said...

I agree with Fennie here, Faith. You have the makings of a really good book...

Faith said...

Thanks GG!