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.
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.
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.
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).
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…..