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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This came up in another thread - and I thought this deserved it's own thread - as personally, we use fostering quite a bit in our loft.... :)

Fostering eggs/chicks can be used for a couple of reasons. Our main reason for fostering is that we raise two separate 'teams' of pigeons - our 'release' birds (all white), and our racers (mix of whites/coloured). We'll raise a round of all whites - then a round of all racers - using foster parents for both rounds.....

We also have foster parents - birds that we wish to keep for one reason or another, but that are inferior breeders (don't produce good babies).

Also, in emergencies, pairs can be 'fosters' to babies that lose a parent.

I'll break this up into a few different posts - as it's going to be lengthy... LOL
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Fostering eggs..... This is our method to raise an all white round, then a race team, using fosters and 'natural parents'....


Put the pairs together, and let everyone lay a round of eggs. Most pairs will lay within 7-10 days of each other.

Throw away all the eggs from all the pairs on the same day.

Approximately 7-10 days later, everyone will lay a second set of eggs, usually within 3-4 days of each other.

Now the hard part -- keeping track of who you are fostering whose eggs under.... LOL Good record keeping is ESSENTIAL here.

Remove the eggs from Pair A - and carefully put the eggs from Pair B under them. (Pair A is the pair you are NOT raising babies from at this time). Record on the nest card that Pair A has Pair B's eggs.....

Pair A will incubate and raise Pair B's babies. In the meantime, about a week later, Pair B will lay again - and then are allowed to keep/hatch these eggs. This way, you have now got 4 babies from Pair B, within 7-10 days of each other in age.

In our loft, this of course would be repeated with Pair C and D, E and F, etc.


Once the first set of babies has been weaned, the process is repeated. Although by then, we usually do not have to throw out a round of eggs - there are enough pairs laying within the same time frame, to swap eggs - so Pair B will not necessarily raise Pair A's - etc. (confused yet? LOL)
Again, good record keeping is essential - otherwise, you end up not knowing whose babies are whose :(

We also have a few birds who just don't produce good babies on their own - so whenever possible, they are used to foster "good" producing pairs babies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Emergency Fostering

Sometimes one of a pair is lost - or the parents aren't good parents (common with Young Birds), and you find yourself in a dilema. Do you hand raise a baby (difficult), or is there another pair in the loft that could help out?

Sometimes, one baby is much smaller than the other - and the larger one keeps pushing the weaker one away at feeding time - and the weaker one is in danger of dying of hunger....


In the first case -- you have some choices.

1/ If the babies aren't fully feathered yet - and you have a pair or two who have a single baby of similar size/age - you can put the babies in with the 'singles' to be raised. Hopefully, you've already banded and recorded the parentage of the orphan babies - so you don't mix up whose baby is whose.

In a pinch - a pair COULD raise three babies - but watch carefully that all babies are getting properly fed. You might have to suppliment one or two of them from time to time.

2/ If you have two orphan babies - and only one other pair that could foster for you - and they have two of their own -- you can try putting one baby in with the pair - and keep one in the house to hand feed. Again, watch that all three in the nest are adequately fed. You could also swap the babies every other day - hand feeding one, while the other spends a day getting "bird fed". LOL

3/ If the orphans are from a pair of birds that are really important to you - and you have another pair of breeders who are on 12-14 day eggs, that you are willing to sacrifice -- you can put babies up to 5 days of age into that nest, removing the eggs of course. The "foster" parents will have a very strange suprised look on their faces, when their eggs suddenly turn into rather largish babies.... but they will take to them like they are their own. :)

Case Two.....

Sometimes, one chick just doesn't grow as quickly as the other. Could be there is something wrong with it - or could be, it's just not as strong. The larger of the two might take all the food - and the little one just will never do well, and could starve to death, even under it's own parents....

In this case - if you have more than one nest with a similar mix - one baby smaller than the other - you can put the two larger babies in the same nest under one pair - and the two smaller babies together under the other pair.

Or - if you have a large/small set of babies - and a pair of parents who have a single baby that is similar in size to EITHER of the 'mix' sized babies - put the two similar sizes ones in the same nest. (it's preferable, if possible, to leave the smaller baby with it's parents - where it is now an "only" - and will get fed more, without any sibling rivalry.... lol)

Of course, if necessary, if there are no foster parents available - you can try supplimenting the smaller baby by hand feeding it once or twice a day -then putting it back in the nest with it's parents/sibling. This way, it should catch up in size to the larger baby - and you won't have to suppliment any more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
"HOLDING" Eggs.....

This is worth a small note - we've tried this, and raised babies from the same cock bird with 3 different hens - all within the same breeding period....

Pair A lays eggs. As soon as the first egg is laid - gently remove it from the nest, and put it in an egg carton in a safe place, at room temperature. Turn the egg GENTLY once a day. Do the same as soon as the 2nd eggs is laid. Make sure the eggs are at room temp (68-70 deg), and they are turned once a day. It is imperative that you remove the eggs BEFORE the hen starts incubating. Once incubation/growth has started, removing the eggs will kill the baby growing inside...

Now, this hinges on you having another pair ready to foster - you know they are going to lay eggs within 3-4 days of Pair A. Anything more than 3-4 days, and you might not have any success....

After Pair B (the foster pair) has laid their second egg - remove the eggs, and put the Pair A eggs you've been 'holding' under them.

With luck, 18 days or so ... you'll have 2 lovely hatches! :)

btw -- we did this using what is called the "bull" system. One cock bird in a 'room' with 3 hens (we actually had four - but the cock bird didn't like the fourth one for some reason... lol). He paired with the 3 hens - they built three separate nests - and we fostered the first two hens' eggs by 'holding' them - and let the cock bird raise a round with the 3rd hen (moved the other hens out into a different area, once they'd laid their eggs). We got six babies from the same cock bird - all hatched within 7 days of each other.

Using 'natural' breeding, it would have taken 4-5 months to have achieved the same result (6 babies from one cock bird).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
One more note on fostering.....

You can 'switch' eggs up to about 4-5 days, max. After that, you run into trouble...

For Example -- Pair A has laid eggs. Pair B lays 4-5 days later. You can still put Pair B's eggs under Pair A with success.

If Pair A's eggs are older than 4-5 days - and you try to foster Pair B's eggs under them - they might abandon the eggs before they hatch. Some pairs will sit the nest only as long as the regular incubation period is - and if the eggs don't hatch within a day or so of the 'due date' they expect - they give up and leave the next.

Of course, we've had pairs that will sit on eggs for almost a month before giving up..... :)
 

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Fostering eggs and babies is quite an ART.

I have learned some very valuable information.

Thanks for your time spent on this thread, WhiteWings.

I think it is "sticky" time..:)
 

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Wow glad i was surfing posts great info, job well done! I know this is old posting but i hope someone sees this and can answer this, is it possible to place extra eggs laid around the same time under one pair so four youngsters could be raised by one pair? yea i know the problem will be the competition for food but is it possible? Also what about a pair raising only one youngster instead of two, this would give the bird a better start by not having to compete for food with nest mates?:)
 

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Wow glad i was surfing posts great info, job well done! I know this is old posting but i hope someone sees this and can answer this, is it possible to place extra eggs laid around the same time under one pair so four youngsters could be raised by one pair? yea i know the problem will be the competition for food but is it possible? Also what about a pair raising only one youngster instead of two, this would give the bird a better start by not having to compete for food with nest mates?:)
I would not let a pair raise 4 babies. One, probably, two of the 4 would suffer from not getting enough to eat. I did pull the first egg laid one year from my widowhood team and let each pair raise only the second egg/baby. Worked for me. One baby definately gets more attention than two, but I always feel sorry for a single baby not having a sibling to snuggle with. :(
 

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Just a few words from the depth of my mind. Four babies are just to much for any pair to raise & Raising only one baby would give you stronger and fater young, but would also cut your production of young birds in half. Foster perents are without a doubt the way to go if you want to produce more young from your key pairs. And as far holding eggs. You can hold your eggs at a lower temp. with no damage to the eggs. 60 to 65 degrees will not damage them. The eggs can also be kept for up to seven days before your hatch rate will start to drop rapidly. Good luck to you all, Mark
 

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there are some great threads on this forum.and this one is another.thanks.i would say never raise more than 2 to a nest.some believe when setting up for widowhood,you should only let them raise one.but,raising 1 or 2 have both been proven to work for that as well.dont put the strain on the birds though trying to feed 3 or 4.there is just no reason for it.if both parents were lost?feed em yourself if they are important to you.
 

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Wow glad i was surfing posts great info, job well done! I know this is old posting but i hope someone sees this and can answer this, is it possible to place extra eggs laid around the same time under one pair so four youngsters could be raised by one pair? yea i know the problem will be the competition for food but is it possible? Also what about a pair raising only one youngster instead of two, this would give the bird a better start by not having to compete for food with nest mates?:)
You can, in a pinch, place 3 eggs under a pair and they will hatch and raise 3 youngsters adequately, but I wouldn't push it to 4. Two per nest is ideal, as the young do act as a source of heat and leg support for each other. 1 per nest is fine and is often the scenario when 1 egg is clear or becomes chilled through early breeding but personally I find that 2 per nest is best.
 

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Very interesting information. Would this work with feral rock doves, mourning doves etc?
We rehab orphaned wild doves and I would like to try fostering like this. I have some unreleasable rock doves and would like to know if they could be parents to baby rocks. Do they have to be "in the mood" to be parents? Any advice on how to do this?
Thanks!
 

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Very interesting information. Would this work with feral rock doves, mourning doves etc?
We rehab orphaned wild doves and I would like to try fostering like this. I have some unreleasable rock doves and would like to know if they could be parents to baby rocks. Do they have to be "in the mood" to be parents? Any advice on how to do this?
Thanks!
It's not a matter of being in the mood or not. It's a matter of whether the foster parents have been on dummy eggs that should be about ready to "hatch" and how old or not the incoming baby bird is. There is a very short time frame where the fosters would be producing crop milk of the proper type for a real youngster .. if you miss that, the fostering probably won't work. You MIGHT have good luck in placing older youngsters with fosters for purposes of the fosters "teaching" them to self feed, but it's tricky and you have to keep a very close eye on things to make sure the youngsters aren't going to be brutalized by the foster parents or just totally ignored by them.

Terry
 

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Fostering Multiples

The only experience I have had with fosters was when I used to keep multiple breeds. I had a Gaint Runt hen that we called "Mama Runt". She was mated to a Modena named "Brown Bar" who was a feeding fool. Talk about a mix-matched pair. Anyhow whenever she laid we would slip a pair of Homer eggs under her. When she hatched those and they were old enough to band, we would go around to all of the other homer nests and check for any that were banded but were behind their nestmate by quite a bit. We would take these small homer babies and add them to "Mama Runt's" cluch of babies. She and "Brown Bar" could successfully foster up to 6 babies at a time all the way through weaning! This took the pressure off of 4 pairs of homers that were having trouble feeding 2 babies. They were usually first time parents/yearlings. We would take the "new" baby and rub its body all over "Mama Runts" belly and put the newest one in the middle of the batch of babies already there. It didn't seem to matter to her, they would feed those babies so much that after feeding the babies couldn't hold their heads up they were so full. The only problem was when "Brown Bar" would try to sit on all those babies, it was hilarious!! I've often though of getting about 3 or 4 Giant Runt hens and doing the same thing again. Then I could raise 24 babies with 4 pairs of fosters! I haven't found anybody locally with Giant Runts, but it was alot of fun while it lasted!!

Ralph
 

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First of all thanks a lot to WhiteWingsCa for this informative thread. When I first started using foster parents this post was very helpful for me. With time I have learned some stuff myself, and would like to share it with the other members hoping it might help them out as well.


Trick 1:

If you have a pair where the hen has stopped laying eggs due to any kind of reason, know that you can use this pair as foster parents. A pair which has been trying to get some babies of their own, and never managed to, would be extremely happy to find some eggs in their bowl. To be on the safe side, give the pair two plastic eggs, and soon enough both parents will be incubating, then after a day or two, replace the plastic eggs with real eggs. The parents will produce pigeon milk, and raise the youngs successfully. I have done this quite some times with two hens who stopped laying eggs.

Note: I have also successfully made these pairs foster babies. The way I did this was to give them plastic eggs for two days, then replace the eggs with 6 days old babies. These pairs accepted the babies and raised them successfully.
Pairs who are not able to have any babies of their own can be very useful in case of emergency. For example if a parent is lost, you can in most cases move the babies to the foster pair.

Trick 2:
If you would like to foster the babies of a super pair, but no foster parents have laid any eggs yet, you can try a different approach. Let the pair incubate their babies themselves, then move these babies to the foster parents when they are ready. The way its done is like this:

1. Pair A lays eggs, but pair B has still not laid.
2. Pair A has now 10 days old eggs, but pair B has still no eggs.
3. Pair A now has 12 days old eggs, and finally pair B lays too.
4. Now replace the eggs of pair B with plastic eggs.
5. Six days after pair B laid their eggs, Pair A has already hatched two babies.
6. Wait till the babies are 5-6 days old and the parents are no longer feeding them pigeon milk, but instead giving them normal grains.
7. Now replace the plastic eggs of pair B, with the babies, and watch carefully. (A good time to do this is about an hour before feeding time)
8. The pair will look confused for a while, but soon accept the babies as their own, they might even feed the babies right away.
9. Now feed your breeders, and the new parents (Pair B) will hopefully eat and go feed the babies just like all the other pairs are doing.

This way you can still save some time, as pair A will start on another round as soon as you move the babies. I have fostered babies to pairs who were sitting on only two days old eggs, as long as both foster parents have had at least one turn on the eggs, they will accept the babies.

Trick 3:
Experienced pairs, especially hens (Experienced - have fostered some rounds of babies in their life) can be given other eggs to foster even if they dont have any eggs of their own. Lets say we have an old pair, and we just paired them up again, two days later our super pair A lays two eggs, but pair B has still not laid. You can give your Pair A eggs to pair B, and the hen will accept them as her own. If she has still not started to produce her own eggs, she might not even lay eggs of her own, but to be on the safer side its better to mark the eggs from Pair A, so that even if the hen from pair B does lay, you can throw them away.


These tricks require you to be a bit careful, and know what you are doing. You have to be careful the first few days, to make sure the babies are being fed, and that the pairs are sitting on the eggs. Thats why its best to do this when you know that you are going to be around and will be watching the birds for a few hours. If a hen sits on the eggs for an hour or two without moving away, you can be pretty sure that she accepted them. You can also test by removing the hen from the nest, and let the cock sit for a while.
The same thing applies to babies, be sure you are there to see the parents feed the babies at least once before you consider things to be safe.

I have tested all these methods, and know that they work. Hope they are helpful to you.
 

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Very useful posts WhiteWings, TAWhatley and NetRider. I prefer single reared youngsters and therefore need foster parents.

But WhiteWings, why throw away ALL the eggs from the first round ?
It has also happened to me that one headstrong hen flew away after I removed her very first clutch of eggs from under her. She had refused to mate with the cocks I wanted her to and so I let her choose her mate herself. The day I 'stole' her eggs, the moment I opened the release window, she flew out like a dart and I never saw her again. 'Til today, I regret having lost her, she was a very tame hen from the very best breeders and a champion young bird flyer. Since that day, I let all my birds raise at least one young from the first clutch whether it's theirs or not.

An alternative to the bull system is to pair the hens with a cock each using nesting-boxes with the hen locked up and not allowing the cock in the same partition. Then when the hen of your bull is sitting on her eggs and locked up in her box, allow her cock (the bull) to mate in turn with the other hens once they are rank. Do this every day or twice a day when the bull is not on the nest. Once the hens have mated with the bull/stallion, put them back in their locked partition or the hens' aviary to be fed or whatever and only allow their cock to mate with them just before they lay their SECOND egg, i.e. around 11.00 or 12.00 HRS which is too late for him to fertilise his hen. Thereby fooling him into believing that the babies will be his, of course, he has never seen the bull but his hen has. Thereafter, leave the partition open and they will take turns sitting on the eggs normally. You can also float the eggs under foster parents.
 
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