Precocial baby birds can walk and eat by themselves when hatched. Theyt have a complete covering of downy feathers which helps maintain their body temperature. Examples of precocial birds are: chickens, ducks, turkeys, quail, and pheasants. The chance of successfully raising a precocial baby bird is good, but precocial birds are not commonly encountered in urban areas.
Orphaned precocial birds can be housed in tall cardboard boxes with holes cut in the sides for ventillation. The box should be at least one(1) foot by one(1) foot and the bottom should be covered with clean sheets daily. To prevent drafts and provide heat, cover at least half of the box top with a towel and suspend a 60 watt bulb through the uncovered portion. A thermometer will help greatly in determining the proper placement of the light. Leave the light on day and night for about five weeks. Place the thermometer on the bottom of the box and position the light to maintain the desired temperature. Maintain 90-95 degrees F during the first week and decrease the temperature about 5 degrees each week until the maintenance temperature is about 75 degrees F.
Chick starter feed and scratch feeds can be purchased at various feed stores. Feed chick starter until about 3 weeks of age and then gradually add in the larger scratch food. A small amount of scratch and grit should be sprinkled on the box floor after about 3 weeks. Feed and water very young birds from inverted jar lids. Place small pebbles or marbles in the lid containing the water to prevent accidental drowning. Most precocial birds should be ready for release between 8 and 12 weeks of age.
Equipment list for care and feeding of precocial birds:
- Cardboard box
- Floor paper for box
- Partial cover for box
- 2 jar lids
- 60 watt bulb and drop light cord
- Chick starter feed and poultry scratch feed
- Grit (available in grocery and pet stores)