MacMilk©: Crop Milk Replacer Recipe
1 jar (71 grams) strained chicken baby food
1 raw egg yolk (16.6 grams)
1 tablespoon low-fat yogurt (15.3 grams)
1/4 teaspoon corn oil (1.13 grams)
0.62 g calcium carbonate
2 drops cod-liver oil (from gel cap)
1 drop vitamin E (diluted 1:10 in corn oil; see notes)
2 drops fish body (omega-3; not cod liver) oil
1 small pinch vitamin B complex (see notes)
25 mg. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
Method: Mix all ingredients in a blender. Keep the diet in the fridge, taking out and warming only as much as you need for one feeding.
For birds 1-3 days post-hatch:
It may be necessary to dilute the mix a little more, particularly if they are not being kept at high humidity. It’s essential to add a small amount of feces from a healthy adult conspecific; the younger the bird, the more urgent this is. Add it to two feedings per day. As soon as it’s added, consider the food contaminated; discard any leftovers and clean all implements thoroughly. No digestive enzymes need be added to this mix.
In nature, young columbids are fed small amounts often, by their parents. The ‘nursing’ bouts are long in duration. They should NOT be tube-fed, but instead need to ‘work’ for their food by sucking. The process is very reminiscent of mammals suckling, and their chances of survival are much higher if they are fed in this natural manner.
At the end of the first week post-hatch, gradually add a highly digestible grain (be sure that it contains the proper amount of calcium and vitamins) to the food. It must be fully hydrated! E.g., if you’re adding baby cereal or Exact, make a ‘cereal soup’ with water (at least 2 parts water to 1 part cereal/Exact by weight) before adding it to the MMM. Add only a very small amount for the first couple of days, and then at a rate (e.g., 10% per day) that will make the food mostly grain by the end of 15-20 days. Fledglings must be supplemented with hand feedings for as long as they beg (this can be up to 6 weeks or so), even if they are also eating on their own. Weigh them regularly until they’re completely weaned. A high-quality (companion/exotic) finch seed mix is a good choice for self-feeding. Be sure that they have ‘pigeon grit’ (a multimineral grit) and oystershell grit available ad lib.
Vitamins: Vitamin E, as purchased, is too potent for what is required in this diet. Mix one drop of vitamin E (from a 400 IU/ capsule) with 10 drops of corn oil. Shake or stir well. Then, use 1 drop of the diluted vitamin E in the recipe. The remainder can be kept in an airtight container and stored in a cool, dark place. It can be used over the next few days.* Because vitamin E degrades, it will have to be mixed fresh after a few days, so don't make too much at once. The amount of B complex required is too small to weigh on a gram scale. The amount required for this recipe is a pinch the size of one or two sesame seeds.
Astrid MacLeod and Janine Perlman, 2004©.