Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New dove year - 2013 - Will These Babies Survive?

Happy New Year to all my blog readers - it is 1st January 2013 today, but my blog continues from Christmas Eve '12.
24.12.12 Christmas Eve – I weighed the babies in the morning before I put them back in the nestbox. These weights are only approximate as I cannot guarantee how accurate my scales are, and the babies don’t stay still in the bowl which doesn’t help. Santa weighed 252g and Snow a pitifully small 154g. The larger baby is obviously clamouring for, and getting, most of the food! That night as it was fairly mild, and the babies are bigger, and we had many guests coming in and out, I decided to leave them in the nestbox and just block them in at dark, which I did.
Some of you may remember that we took on our neighbours' cat when they had to move abroad. She didnt really take to us and we hardly ever see her, though she sneaks into our shed kitchen for her food at night, but today is Christmas eve so I went to her hidey-hole tumble-down shed across the yard just in case - and she was there! She even let me stroke her for a few seconds before she moved away.

Christmas day – All seemed well with the babies and Cloud was ok. She tumbled-flew from her box and I took her photo with the Christmas tree.

We were going out at 3.30pm, before dark, so I was not able to block the babies in, in case Sky or Summer came back to them, so I gave them some cashmere gloves (my favourite fingerless turtle-doves! )- see their lovely new website http://www.turtle-doves.co.uk/ to keep them a bit warmer and we got home again about 8pm and I blocked them in then.

Boxing day - When I unblocked the babies, before Sky and Summer’s arrival in the garden, the smallest baby, Snow, seemed floppy, not holding his head up properly, and somehow under the bigger baby, Santa’s feet. I felt something was definitely not right. Summer, at least, was in the garden by 8.30 and went to the cote to feed. Afterwards I went to feel both babies’ crops to see if they had been fed. It seemed to me that Santa had been fed, and Snow had not. I was still wearing pyjamas and dressing gown – I took Snow out of the nest, popped him inside my dressing gown and carried him carefully in. Although I have read many times about the feeding of baby pigeons, I still felt a bit panicky, but I made up the Kaytee mix and sitting on the sofa with the baby sitting in a nest of a fleecy pull on hat lined with an old flannel, I attempted to feed the mix from my finger. Although the baby’s head still seemed a bit floppy, this was reasonably successful. Hubbie, who moaned that the place was becoming over-run with pets in the house (There's only two – Cloud and Snow!) then took an interest and advised me to feed again in an hour, which I thought was sensible. I left Snow in the box cuddled up to the hat, near but not too near the aga.

I wondered whether the floppy head of the baby was due to lack of food and dehydration or whether there is something wrong with it (paramyxo??) and that’s why the parents aren’t feeding it. I can’t just leave baby Snow to die so that’s why I’m trying. I don’t hold out much hope after my experience with Jasha, but I MUST try. I have decided on an hourly feeding schedule for the first four hours – he has had two so far, and seems perkier. For the second and third feeds, I also defrosted peas and fed them still slightly warm, as advised on a pigeon rescue site. He took them very well.

At about 11.15am there were doves around, and Sky came down with some others for the grain. I wondered if he might feed the babies so I put Snow back in the nest.
Sky did sit on the hedge for a while but he didn’t go to the cote, and after 15 mins I removed Snow back to his box in the house, and fed him for the third time. I weighed Snow before I fed him this time – he only weighs about 150g and this is 4g less than on Christmas Eve! He is way way way too small, I don’t expect him to survive, but it’s not over til it’s over, and it’s not over yet!
Sky went in to the nestbox to feed at about 12.15 – whoops, I still had Snow in the house! But after Sky had fed Santa and left, I decided to pop Snow back in the nest anyway, as both parents feed – and sure enough Summer went in about 12.30. She was in there quite a while and I was hopeful that she would feed Snow as well as Santa.

I would’ve removed Snow afterwards for another feed from me, if I felt he needed it, but both parents stayed around, in and out of the cote, and very nearby, so I didn’t get the chance, and obviously it is far better if they feed and look after them than I do!

Summer stayed til about 3.30pm and when she left I felt the babies’ crops – Snow HAD been fed! Thank goodness! I left them in the nestbox  until once again it was near dark and I was pretty sure Summer would not return, then I removed them both into the box to carry them to the house. Santa dug his nails in and didn’t want to come but I felt if he was left in the nest box on his own, he wouldn’t have Snow to cuddle up to and he might be cold, so I felt it was best to have them both in. I didn’t want to leave them both out as I was so worried about tiny little Snow. Honestly he looks miniature compared to Santa! They look like parent and baby rather than siblings!
I weighed them both. Santa was approx 331g – which is 79g more than he was on Christmas Eve and Snow was 179g which was up 29g since I weighed him earlier. My book ‘Feral Pigeons’ by Richard E. Johnston and Marian Janiga gives a simple weight chart for squabs up to 28 days, and the approx weight for a 20 day old squab is 300g – so Santa is doing well. Poor darling little Snow only weighs the same as an 8 day old squab.

Although it was dark and raining, I cleaned out the nestbox. I usually do when the squabs are about this age as it gets so smelly and revolting. I took all the ‘nest’ out – damp and disgusting twigs, and thoroughly wiped it all out. In the morning I lined it with clean newspaper and a ball of dry hay which I flattened down, then I put folded and pressed-down kitchen paper round the edges.
Thursday 27th Dec -  I woke up several times in the night worrying about little Snow but he was still alive in the morning and I put both babies out in the newly cleaned nest box just before the doves and pigeons arrived in the garden. Currently – at this time of year – this is after 8am. The first pigeon arrived on the roof at 8.15 today and gradually more arrived and a group of white doves. Sky and Summer were not among them. I was very concerned as yesterday Summer was feeding at half eight, and I had to go out at ten. Eventually the parents arrived at 9.15am and I was relieved.... until they calmly ate up all their grain and then flew away with the rest of the flock, totally ignoring the needs of the babies! I was in a quandary and didn’t know best what to do but by 9.45am when neither Sky nor Summer had come back to feed, I decided to bring the babies in one at a time to feed them myself. I brought Snow in first and had fed him about half the quantity when Summer came back to the cote and fed Santa. I took Snow out immediately and hoped she’d come back, or Sky would. I felt that Snow had had something, and Santa had been fed, so I went out and tried not to think about them! I do have a life past the dovecote!

White dove squabs 3 weeks old - one with possible paraymyxovirus

When I got home about 3 hours later, I checked the babies first and they both felt ‘grainy’ as if they had been fed, so I was reassured and the parents were around the garden until 3.30pm. I brought Snow in almost immediately after Summer had left and ‘topped’ him up. Tonight, I decided that as Santa is big, apparently healthy and was very difficult to bring in last night, I would leave him in the nestbox tonight and just block him in. First I rolled up a piece of rough white towel into a small dovie shape, secured it with an elastic band, and put it in the nest-box right next to him, to pretend to be a sibling! Then I added a little kitchen roll draught excluder at the front, then put up the half brick which blocks him in. At 5pm I gave Snow another feed, then put him ready for the night with a rolled up pretend sibling, the same as Santa. His head is still skew whiff and no doubt pigeon fanciers would put him down, but I will give him a chance. If he grows to maturity (which I doubt), and is unable to have ANY quality of life then I would take him to the vet, but not now. Despite his disability he is the cutest little thing... and a fighter!
After some internet research I am wondering if he has paratyphoid..... this sounds incredibly nasty. I am not in the position to be able to afford big vets bills, and I live in one of the most expensive areas of the whole country. Even an assessment visit at the vets would cost about £30, and I might end up paying £££ only to have him eaten up by the hawk the minute he was cured, so I will have to do what I can for him myself. I don’t want him to infect  Santa, but I am reluctant to make the decision to totally take him away from parental care.

Friday 28th Dec 12 -  I popped Snow back in the nestbox next to Santa after I had given him a little feed, and Sky and Summer were in the garden at the correct time today and Summer fed the babies just after 8.30am. After the feeding, when the parents had left, I felt their crops and both seemed to have been fed.  I kept an eye on the cote, and after a while I could see a small fluffy white bottom edging towards the entrance – the baby birds do this so that they poop outside the main part of the nest. But I didn’t see that happen, and wondered if Santa was pushing Snow out..... Eventually Snow was balanced on the ledge!

Seconds from disaster - if I hadn't been there..... but managing to hold his head up!

 I moved him back again, and when he and Santa had settled down I felt confident enough to leave them to pop to the shops!
I’m keeping a feeding schedule of the feeds I see the parents give – obviously I may well not see all the feeds. So the babies were fed at 8.30am and then again at 11.50am. After that feed I again brought Snow in for another top up. I weighed him as well – he doesn’t seem to put on any weight and this time weighed only 147g. He’s lost weight since last time – I’m surprised he stays alive, poor poor little darling!  He is obviously under-nourished and underdeveloped, but even Santa doesn’t seem as vocal as the squabs usually are at this age. They are over 3 weeks old now, but Snow’s more like a 2 week old. I checked my scales – after all I did drop them a while back! But no, I think they are fairly accurate. I weighed him again without the bowl – and he was the same. But he IS alive, and so there is hope!

The parents’ feeding schedule today worked out at 8.35am/11.50am/2.15pm/3.10 – 3.30pm continually on and off, so that is pretty reasonable and I am sure they are feeding both babies.
Sat 29th Dec 12 – The dovie day started with baby Snow squeaking in his box in the kitchen at 7.15am, and I fed him and put him back to snuggle in with Santa just after 8.00am.
Hand feeding poorly squab with defrosted peas

For those who are interested - and pigeon people ARE , believe it or not, interested in pidgies poops, this poorly baby is doing normal looking poops - which is very encouraging!

Like on Thursday, Sky and Summer didn’t show up with the other doves and pigeons, and didn’t show up..... and didn’t show up.... very very stressful for me. I decided to wait til 10.00am as that would be fifteen minutes after Summer came to feed on Thursday, but neither parent arrived, and as Snow had already had a feed, I took Santa out of the nest. I weighed him before feeding and he weighed 284g so losing weight. I think these babies are slowly being abandoned......While I was feeding Santa, who didn’t take to it as easily as Snow, I saw a bird I thought might be Summer and went to check. Yes, it was Summer but she wasn’t eating very enthusiastically, despite me throwing peanuts. I popped Santa back into the nestbox but after picking about a bit, Summer flew to the roof again. It is now 10.15am and I have watched all the time – I can see the dovecote from where I sit with my laptop – and Summer hasn’t come to feed the babies, and Sky hasn’t turned up. Maybe Sky and Summer are ill....or maybe they realise the babies are, but I can’t leave them to starve to death in my garden so I will continue to do what I can for them, but will also leave them in the cote during the day in case the parents do decide to feed. I think you will understand how sick I feel and how worried I am, but other people raise squabs to maturity, and at least the babies are old enough to take solid food so feeding is easier. They are about 24 days old today. Later – it is now nearly quarter to eleven, a very grey, slightly rainy and very blowy day – that’s the only excuse I can give for Sky and Summer. I felt Santa had had quite a good feed, so I left him and took Snow in for his 2nd feed of the day, which went well. He is a greedy little piglet! Now they are back in the cote, and I will have to leave them to go out, but hopefully this is just a blip and S & S will remember their babies and return! I was back in an hour by noon and a small flock of pigeons were in the garden with two white doves – Sky and Summer! I fed the birds again, targeting S & S for choice grains and peanuts, and Sky did fly up to feed the babies. Thank heavens! My anxieties are relieved for a while. They may have fed them while I was out as well, but after a while when I was pretty sure they weren’t going back to the cote, I felt the babies’ crops and think they had both been fed, While I was still standing on the steps, Snow wiggled his fluffy bottom towards the light. I expected him to poop but he didn’t, he just kept wiggling, like the day before, and I put my hands ready in case he wiggled over the edge. Sure enough, if I hadn’t been there he would’ve plummeted to the ground. This is another worry as how long would he survive in this  miserable weather on the ground without protection? Not long I know – and I can’t be at home all the time.
The pigeons stayed on the roof with Sky and Summer who seemed to have not a care in the world, billing and cooing together....

And they are not the only ones with love on their minds - the back of the cote (Happy's old pad) has been taken over by a pair of white doves - Mr. Sunshine - ringed with a yellow ring on each leg, and an unknown little female. Can you see them in there together?

I really didn't want any more nests being built - you can see the state of the cote, I wanted to take it down and repaint it!


A parent – not sure which – fed again at 1pm. At 1.50pm I had a quick glimpse of a strange quite bright brown big bird fluttering near the garden table – which is just forward of the cote – I think it was a hawk, but the pigeons and doves stayed on the roof, which they wouldn’t have done if they’d seen it. I brought Snow in for a top up feed, and Summer fed them again at 2.15 and 2.30pm – and that was it for the day! It was gloomy and the birds all flew away, except for Mr. Strong who is a big pure white male I ringed in the summer and who seems to come at the last knockings for a feed at the moment. I brought both babies in, one at a time, for a feed – Santa first, and then left him for the night in the nestbox with his dummy towelling sibling, and brought Snow in. If I hadn’t fed the babies, the parents fed them 4 times – the last feed being 2.30pm, and if  S & S don’t feed again til noon that’s a long long time for the babies to be hungry. So obviously, I will feed them if they turn up late. After his feed with me, Snow kept on peeping and peeping, though I think he had had enough, and I intend to feed him again for the last time at 5.30pm – so I went to find him a cuddly toy to snuggle up to. When I came back he had stopped and gone to sleep! It has been so stressful that I am glad darkness has fallen, and Santa is blocked in, and Snow in the house – both safe and fed! I had to wake up Snow for the 5.30pm feed, and wasn’t sure I should, but I did, and he fed again, and then I gave him his cuddly....ah bless!
In the last 3 days I have spent much time researching what could possibly be wrong with Snow, and several dove/pigeon people have given me support and advice - you know who you are, thanks so much! These babies were hatched at the wrong time of year - Sky and Summer have minimal interest in them, but I think Santa has a chance of fledging, if I keep an eye on him and make sure he's fed. Snow, I now think, has paramyxo - he may not live, but at least if he dies, it won't be from starving to death. That I just couldn't bear.

Sun 30th Dec – Sky and Summer were in the garden with the rest of the flock before 8.30am and Summer went to feed but as she was flying up, the flock were startled from the lawn and flew to the roof, and she diverted and went with them. After a short while they all flew away, but a few came back to the roof. Summer made another attempt, went into the nest-box and I think started to feed, but the flock were startled again and she just came out of the cote and flew away. So it was coming up to 9.15am and the babes had not been fed by the parents. I had hand fed Snow before I put him out  in the nest box, but now I brought both babies in, one at a time (as I wouldn’t want S or S to arrive at the nest and find it empty) and hand fed them. I don’t feed them til they are stuffed, I want them still to respond to their parents if they do come to feed them. I kept a close watch on the cote, and several times went to see if S & S wanted more grain. It seems to me that there is something wrong with Summer – she seems only to be able to eat small grains. She picks up peanuts and larger grain and drops them, but when I pulled apart a few peanuts with my nails (very bad for nails!) she ate the small pieces. At 10am first Summer, then Sky went and fed the babies properly – though I daren’t go too close and don’t know whether both squabs get fed by both parents, or even if Snow gets fed much at all!

Hand fed Snow at 11am. What am I feeding? Well both babies take the normal grain that the adult doves eat – dried peas (pale blue, cream and brown) and corn. 

The smaller grains that are in the mix (wheat, barley and milocorn) are too small for me to handle individually, but I mix these up with the Kaytee mix, and some ground almonds, to make little pellets, which I dry out on the aga, and dip in water just immediately before popping in to the little beak. When I make these I feel like the Victorian pharmacy!

What is milocorn? I didn’t know so looked it up. I think it could be called, or is a form of, sorghum – anyway to you and me, just a small grain! I also give defrosted and still warm, not most definitely not hot!, ordinary peas from the packet in the freezer - small ones, petit pois!  I also give some of the peanuts if they are not too large.
Poorly baby white dove in my hat!


I weighed the babies this morning – Santa – 295g  and Snow – 134g. On Boxing Day evening Santa weighed 331g and Snow 179g, so both have lost weight. This is not good at all, but they are both alive, Santa seems well and Snow is my little soldier! Today we are blessed with a bright and sunny morning after all the rain and damp – it makes a lovely change. Here are some photos of the babies together after I weighed them - Snow was in floppy mode.

White dove siblings, one much larger than the other

About quarter to one and no parents around so I brought Santa in first for a top up as he hadn’t been fed since 10am. This only takes 5 minutes as he’s used to it now, and gobbles it up, but when I took him back I discovered little Snow on the muddy lawn under the cote! He’d tumbled out as I feared and was squeaking pitifully on the ground. Thank goodness the ground was soft from the rain we've had.  How much more can this pathetic little bit of dove-baby take? I bundled Santa quickly back into the nest box and scooped Snow up into my carrying towel to bring him into the house. He seemed unhurt and accepted more food readily. Afterwards I put him back into the cote, and by 1pm the doves and pigeons had come to be fed. Summer and Sky were amongst them, and Summer went into the cote to feed. Below, Snow in floppy mode again, and a bit later, sitting up better! This gives me hope he will recover.

It’s is obvious that I will not be able to leave the cote unattended if Snow is in it, so I will have no choice but to bring him into the house before I go shopping etc. If he misses parental feeds, then so be it because he just wouldn’t survive for more  than 5 minutes on the ground. The sharp eyed jays are always watching and would carry him off.

Mr. Sunshine - recovered from his breast injury - and now interested in taking lodgings at the back of the cote - on the roof with his young lady love. Every time the cote gets a little 'shaken' when I take the babies out, they fly out of their new home, but I can't help that as the babies must take priority.


In the cote, Santa acts as 'mum' for tiny baby Snow to cuddle up to....

Summer went to the cote again at 2pm and a parent fed at 2.30 and 2.50pm. Then they left for the day. I brought Snow in at 3.30pm for a feed and Santa at 4pm, also for a feed.  I will feed them both again at 5-5.30pm and that will be it for today. I’m keeping Santa in the house tonight as maybe keeping him in the warm will mean he won’t have to spend energy keeping himself warm and will put on weight.
Big difference in siblings - both approx 25 days old

I won’t bore you every day with the feeding schedule of me and the parents, but if it changes I will let you know! Luckily at the moment I am not really having to go out, so can take great care of them. Next week when things are back to normal after Christmas/New Year I will have to see what to do then.
New Year's Eve - 31st Dec '12 -  I weighed the babies again this morning. Santa was 308g, slightly heavier than yesterday, and Snow was 155g - quite a lot heavier than yesterday, but I could tell he was worse, and there were less poops in his night-box, so maybe the extra weight was due to lack of elimination. He was floppy, yet stiff in places, less co-ordinated and generally sicker looking.

Well squab - approx 26 days
Ill squab - approx 26 days

I knew that it was no point putting Snow out into the cote. He wasn't taking food properly, so I settled him as comfortably as possible, fed Santa and put him back in case Sky and Summer came early.

The first pigeons arrived on the roof - later more white doves turned up, about 25 white ones - but Sky and Summer were not among them.


Snow is alive in the photos above, but very poorly indeed. There was nothing I could do for him except read a prayer from my book 'Pet Prayers & Blessings' by Laurie Sue Brockway & Victor Fuhrman - Prayer for the 'Highest Good' - and I shed a few tears while I read it aloud.

Spirit, I pray that you surround Snow with your mercy and love. I would love to see him healed and whole and ask this if it be your will. I gracefully and gratefully accept your judgement and trust that the outcome be in accordance with your Divine Plan for the Highest Good. Amen

After a short while, Snow was a fraction more 'with it', I could hardly say 'better'......

Summer and Sky arrived in the garden at twenty past 10, and picked about in the raised bed.

Eventually, at 11am, Sky flew up to feed Santa (he's the white blur up near the cote) - while Summer stayed on the garden table.

Santa had been fed and I had to go out, so I settled Snow and left him for little over half an hour, but when I came back, his tiny spirit had been released from his body, and my dovie-angel baby, was dead......

The next two photos show Snow, dead, poor little scrap. I have to presume that he contracted paramyxovirus or some other illness, or had a congenital illness or disability. He failed to thrive and was much smaller than Santa from the time I was able to get them out of the cote and photograph them.

Underdeveloped ill white dove squab - died 26 days old
At his age, this is what he should've looked like. September and October, also Sky and Summer's squabs, at 25 days old.

I wrapped Snow's poor fragile little body and put it in a small box in the sitting room next to a lighted candle for the afternoon, with his funeral planned before dusk. Rest in Peace little Snow, return to the Everlasting Light.... I will never forget you.

A group of 6 or 7 tiny pink and black Long Tailed Tits arrived at my feeders, to cheer me up - this is the first time I've seen then since last year! They are adorable!

The day was appalling - grey and solidly raining. One of the parents gave Santa a last feed at the ridiculously early time of 1.30pm - the parents gave 4 feeds today, all between 11am and 1.30pm, and I gave 5 - the last at 5.20pm. All the doves & pigeons had left the garden by 2pm, except for a pretty pair who stayed on the roof looking very white in the gloom. I thought at first it was Mr. Sunshine and his mate.

Then I saw the red rings on both legs, and knew it was Bandit, and his new mate!

Tuesday 1st January 2013 - Happy New Dovie Year!

I think I forgot to mention a while back that I ringed Santa with a blue ring on each leg, which is a combination I have never used before. I never ringed Snow as he was too young at first, then too poorly. This morning I weighed Santa before I fed him - he weighed 316g (up 8g from yesterday - good!) Out of interest, I weighed him again after feeding and he was 330g - then I weighed the quantity of food that I had given him approx and it was exactly right!


I gave him more food this morning in case his parents didnt come til late again, like yesterday. If you remember, he didnt get fed til 11am but typical, today Sky and Summer arrived with the rest and fed at 8.50am and have since fed again at 9.35am.

There is a lot of interest in the cote this morning - it's a bright sunny day and at least four doves including Summer are in and around the cote.


Charlie,  (a pigeon but easily recognisable with his white wing feathers  and purple ring) is feeling chipper, and making up to a lady dove. Charlie is a success story - he was rescued at the end of January '12 from the clutches of the hawk and despite having feeding problems on and off, has been around the garden ever since. Here he is straight after his nasty experience last January....

and now, courting on the lawn....
The doves on top of the cote are, I think, Mr. Sunshine and his mate, and the ones in the side are Sky and Summer.  Santa of course is in the lower front, but tucked away so you can't see him. He doesn't peek out at all - he is less advanced than previous squabs of his age. Tomorrow he will be 28 days and many squabs fledge 28-32 days, but I can't see him fledging until 35-40 days.

I hope neither pair is thinking of building a nest just yet! We have Santa to bring up first!
To be contd.


Fennie said...

So sorry that Snow died. But it seemed ever more unlikely he would pull round. You couldn't have done more for him though. Lovely pictures!
Do hope all the others are well and won't breed again until the spring.

Jayne said...

Lovely but sad story Faith, I so hope that Santa will continue to do well.
I noticed two Collar doves mating yesterday the weather has not been mild maybe spring is on the way.

Happy New Year, hope its a happy pidgy year too.

J x

hopeinparis said...

If little Snow ever had a chance, it was because of you, Faith. I'm very sorry for your loss. I'm glad you tried to save her, and thank you for sharing. If you ever wonder if you should be going into such detail, the answer is YES! Your readers want to know everything about the birds, and exactly what you do, how and what and when you feed them and why. I was very touched by the prayer, and thank you for including it verbatim in your post. Your blog is a gift. God bless you always.

shirlw said...

Such a lovely sad but intresting read you are so very patient with the dovea

CAMILLA said...

So terribly sorry Faith to know that little Snow died. You did all that you could for him with your kindness and caring. RIP sweet Snow.

Do hope the others are continuing to do well Faith.

Love Camilla.xx

CAMILLA said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarai Loftis said...

Even though bird stains affects the condition of your roof, you can't blame them because they love to stay there. Plus they look cute when they're all together on top of the roof. The best thing you can do is to keep it clean and well-maintained to prevent it from getting damaged. Anyhow, I am fascinated with all the babies you have there. Do your best to take care of them. They are real treasures! :)

Sarai Loftis