Someone in another thread mentioned fostering, but was uncertain how it worked, so I thought I'd help out.
We do a LOT of fostering...and have been very successful at it. Although we have about 50 "pairs" of birds, only about 20 of them are the right colour (we are trying to raise mostly whites and grizzles), or racers worth raising babies from...so the other 30 pair foster for us. We even have one cock bird who is a terrific racer...he has 4 hens of his own. All of their eggs are presently being fostered.
Timing is crucial to fostering....pigeons develop "pigeon milk" to feed their babies....it forms in response to the period of time the birds have been sitting on the eggs. In other words, it starts to form a day or two before the babies are due to hatch (17 days from the 2nd egg). If the eggs don't hatch within the 17-19 days from the 2nd egg, the milk starts to dry up. If you put eggs under pairs too late, there won't be any "milk" for the foster babies when they hatch, and they'll die.
You can foster eggs two ways:
Pair "A" (the pair you want babies from) lay eggs. Pair "B" (the fosters) must lay their eggs within 2-3 days of Pair A. Once both pairs have laid two eggs, remove the eggs from Pair B's nest, and immediately put Pair A's eggs under them. Pair A will lay again in about 10 days.
If your pairs don't lay within the 2-3 days of each other, you can either try Method 2, or you can throw out the eggs from both pairs at the same time. 10 days later, both pairs should lay again, and you can foster.
You can "hold" eggs. We're just trying this method for the first time this year, so won't know for a another week if we're successful. I've heard of other people who do it quite often, quite successfully.
Pair A lays an egg. You take that egg, and put a plastic or wooden egg under her. Store that egg in the house, at room temperature, somewhere safe. Turn the egg twice a day. Two days later, Pair A lays again. Take that egg too, storing it in the house, turning both eggs twice a day. If you now take away the plastic egg, Pair A will lay again in about 10 days.
Now....you've done this, because you know that another pair is due to lay again soon, but aren't sure if they will within 2 days or so of Pair A, but you are sure it will be within the next 5-7 days.
Pair B lays their first egg. Wait until the second egg is laid. Take the "held" eggs from the house, remove Pair B's eggs, and put Pair A's eggs in the nest.
REMEMBER YOU MUST TURN THE "HELD" EGGS TWICE A DAY WHILE YOU ARE WAITING FOR THE FOSTER PARENTS TO LAY
You can have a pair lay 5-6 clutches, and foster all (or most) of them, without harm to the hen. It is the raising of babies that is hard on the parents, not the laying and sitting of eggs. We will often foster the first two sets of eggs from a pair, let them raise a 3rd set, then foster one or two more clutches, and let the pair raise one more set of their own before we separate hens from cocks for a break.
Why foster? Well, in our case, it is because we are trying to achieve two things....raising white pigeons for our business, and raising white or grizzles that are good racers (hard to do), along with a few coloured birds with good racing ability.
As others have mentioned, they would like to foster because they have pairs who aren't good parents, but they would like babies from. And yes, fantails can raise homing pigeon babies (we do it now), and I guess, vice versa.
Hope this helps.
oops! Meant to talk about fostering babies too.....
Sometimes, only one egg in a nest will hatch. If you have two such nests, it is possible to put both babies in one nest. In our lofts, we keep track of parentage by band numbers and record keeping, so we don't move babies until after they are banded (5-7 days). If you aren't keeping track, you can move babies as soon as they are born. You only want to do this if the babies are similar in age and/or size though.
By moving one baby, you can get one pair laying eggs sooner, since they will lay again in about 10 days, rather than 3-4 weeks.
One other reason for "baby fostering" is if you have a pair of babies where one is much larger than the other. Often this just means that one is stronger, and pushes the second one out of the way at feeding time. This will continue happening, and the stronger one will always get fed more, and grow faster. If the bigger one is a LOT stronger, the smaller one can actually starve to death.
If you have two nests of babies of similar age, and one is larger in both nests, you can put the two smaller babies together in one nest, and the two larger ones in the other nest. That way, the smaller ones won't have as much competition for food, and will do better. Again, if you are keeping records, wait until the babies are banded before moving them.
Or, as I mentioned in another thread, we put a larger baby with a pair that only had one baby...so the smaller baby could get fed exclusively by it's own parents.
We've never had any trouble with birds accepting another baby, but you might want to watch them for a bit, to make sure the foster parents don't peck the "new" baby.
|cock bird, pigeon milk, white pigeon|