Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Acclimatizing Newly Caught Birds by Jeffrey Low

First published in October 2006

Here are some of the things I had learned through past mistakes and I hope they could be useful in some ways. Most of these are related to newly caught wild birds or birds that change hands before they are fully acclimatized to captivity. I have often found that the death of a newly acquired wild caught shama is due to a combination of a few factors, starvation and stress being the primary causes.

It helps to bear in mind that a wild caught shama is already very much weakened by stress when it reaches the hands of its new owner. The eagerness to teach the bird to eat its dry food coupled with the lack of close observation during this initial period may sometimes be of fatal consequence.

The most common method of starting a newly acquired wild bird on dry food mixed with cut up pieces of live food may work most of the time. However, there are times when a very much weakened bird may not find the strength or desire to go for this mixture. Among those that do go for the mix, there will always be some that will not be eating enough of this food. Over the course of a few days or weeks, they will be further weakened due to insufficient intake of food. This could be made worse if it is subjected to stress from its new environment. Occasionally, a shama that is very disorientated and weakened by extreme hunger is mistaken by its new owner to be tame. Sometimes, even bathing/spraying a much weakened bird under such circumstances may subject it to chill which could be another contributing factor leading to its death. Many new birds and even some that had been kept for a while will not drink from water that is mixed with vitamin supplements. Some new owners may overlook this and dehydration may also contribute to the death of a newly acquired shama.

To minimize the risk of losing a new bird, it may be better if it is given as much live food as it will take during the initial period prior to starting it on the dry food mixed with cut up insects. This will help to build up the strength of the bird prior to subjecting it to the stress of learning to eat dry food.

When starting the bird on a dry food mixed with cut up insects, it is better to use transparent plastic cups over porcelain ones. The transparent cups will enable the bird to see the wriggling insect parts from the side of the cup and this will help to encourage the bird to eat the mixture. The dry food should also be grounded into powdered form as this will adhere better to the cut up pieces of insects. There will be the occasional odd bird that will only peck at the side of the transparent cup and not know how to reach the food from the opening at the top of the cup. They will eventually learn to do so but if this is observed, it may be better to remove the top portion of the plastic cup. It will allow for a wider opening to the food and the sooner the bird will eat the better.

Vitamin supplements are very important especially during this initial period. They will help the bird to cope with the stress as well as make up for what is lacking in its diet. Vitamin B and the other vitamins can be smeared on live food or injected into them via a needle and syringe if the bird will not drink from water that has vitamins added to it.

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