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Rearing a milky eagle owlet

We have an adorable new addition in the Bird Department. As you might have seen on our social media networks, our milky eagle owl egg recently hatched! Because our adults are the only breeding pair in the United States, their chicks go out to organizations across the country to serve as ambassadors for their species.

Since we know this owlet will likely be a program animal ambassador, we are hand-raising it so it can grow accustomed to being around humans. What’s involved in hand-raising an owl chick, you ask? Let me tell you! From day one, the owl chick is weighed daily and weight gain is calculated, food is weighed, and the temperature of the brooder it lives in is monitored. Since we want to keep weight gain around 10 percent a day, it is important to accurately track how much food the chick is consuming and use the chick’s weight to calculate how much it should be getting a day. We start out feeding eight times daily (always using sterilized equipment set aside just for owl chick feeding) to make sure the chick is never too hungry and is gaining the weight it needs to, and as it grows we slowly cut down the number of feeds to three a day. At every feed we document how much food was offered and actually consumed; the temperature; and any observations of feed response, other behavior and any special notes keepers might need to know. We also keep a chart of developmental milestones so we can track how quickly it’s progressing. Right now the chick has its eyes open all the way, is able to sit on sticks, can eat part of a piece of mouse, and is producing casts! It is now nearly 30 days old and just about ready to head to its new home. As you can see, hand-raising these chicks is pretty involved, but with a lot of effort and a little bit of luck we’ll have raised a happy, healthy chick!
Alexa Jansen
Keeper I, Birds

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