How to raise an orphaned kitten baby

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Jul 4, 2009

The Dirty Robin

Here is a good example of how people that mean well and "rescue" a bird end up doing more harm than good.

This Robin was brought to me a few days ago by a lady who had picked up the baby at a park. She went online and found some fancy bird food recipes and mixed up some kind of soup of eggs and I don't know what.

She didn't get much into the bird but rather over it. She tried to clean it, but did not realize that feathers are very sensitive and complex structures that require careful handling. Damaged or missing feathers will prevent the bird from regulating it's body temperature and in this heat, that is very much necessary for survival.

So this is what the Robin looked like when I got it:

All feathers were glued and caked together and greasy. The picture doesn't bring it across very well. It was much worse than it looked like. Poor thing was totally stressed out, trembling, and in pain because those hardened feathers keep tucking on the already exposed skin.

I hated to stress out the bird even more, but I didn't have much of a choice. I ran some warm water and Dawn dish wash detergent and off we went. It took us quite a while, but we worked through all feathers as much as we could. Some came out right away. It was painful and painstaking for both of us!

The robin also pooped clear water, which was another big clue that whatever she got to eat was worth just that, clear water. I was fearing MBD (metabolic bone disease) because the bird was also kept inside for 3 days. That long without direct sunlight or a substitute light can be enough to do the damage.

But now, 3 days later, the Robin is outside and doing great. She still looks rather pathetic with her naked 'vulture' neck, but she can hold her own temp, the feathers don't hurt her anymore and hopefully the missing ones can come back.

There's no sign MBD and she's eating fine. Pheeeeeeeeeew! That was a close call!

Sad part is: I shouldn't have gotten the bird in the first place!

Why? Because a nest is not a safe homey place for a bird to grow up. It's an open invitation to predators such as hawks and cats. So the bird, as soon as it can get around, it'll get out of the nest. It'll try to fly but it doesn't always work yet.

So it can happen that a fledgling spends a few days on the ground where there is more room to hide. The parents will continue to feed their babies, but of course will fly away if people approach.

They see the apparently abandoned baby and literally steal it from their parents believing they are rescuing it.


Unless there is immediate danger of course. Then put the baby in a basked and hang it in the nearest tree out of direct sunlight.

It is a MYTH that mother bird won't take their babies back once humans have "messed" with it. Most birds are not capable of smelling and really don't care who touched the baby. Just give it back to it's parents!

Seeing that lady all proud of having 'rescued' the bird, I felt bad for bursting her bubbles and telling her that she did just about everything wrong that there was to do wrong. Just like I did way back, which led to the decision to become a wildlife rehabber. Took a mockingbird losing it's life to MBD, but it was not in vain.



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