Feeding Techniques :- Syringe and Balloon Method
by Cynthia Roberts

Hungry pigeon, empty crop

This method only works for squeakers.

Check that the crop has emptied.

The crop is like a bag that hangs under the skin. The pigeon stores food in it before digestion.

An empty crop will hang flat.

The crop must be allowed to empty completely at least once every 24 hours.

Cut the tip off a feeding syringe.

The syringe size varies with the age of the pigeon.

Start with a 5ml syringe.

Feed 1cc of very thin formula (eg Kaytee Exact) using 1 part formula to 5 parts water.

Feed 1cc every 2 hours at days 1 - 2

3cc every 3 hours for days 3-4

10-11cc every 5 hours days 5-7, thickening the formula every time.

By day 20 they should be taking 30-40 ml 3 times a day from a 60ml syringe.

Quantities are guidelines only. Crop sizes vary so feed carefully stopping to let the pigeon breathe and to check how [full the crop is.]

Fill syringe with formula.

Ensure that no air bubbles form. Small soaked seeds can be mixed in to the formula by day 14.


Cover tip of tube with fabric.

I use a self adhesive support bandage, some cut a piece out of a balloon and use that.

Cut a small hole in the fabric.
Final result


Serve at wrist temperature.

It is much safer to put the syringe into a mug of hot water or under a hot tap than to use the microwave to warm it.

Microwaving can leave pockets of very hot formula which will scald the baby's crop.

Persuade pigeon to insert beak in hole.  It will soon start slurping.

Depress the end of the syringe gently to keep [] food [at the end of the tube so the baby can eat at it's own pace. Be careful not to force food so fast it could be inhaled, which would likely be fatal.]

Cushiony crop

After feeding, the crop should feel soft and cushiony.

Do not overfeed or crop will stretch and sag forming a fold that traps food in it.

Wipe down

The baby will usually get a lot of formula on it. This should be wiped off with a damp towel.

The feeding equipment should be sterilised before re-use


Maddie empty crop

This is a much younger pigeon being fed with the same technique.

At the start of the feed her crop is empty.

Maddie full crop

This is the same pigeon after a good feed.

Her crop is plump and cushiony but not overfull.

Satisfied baby

The pigeons in the photo are being hand fed because they were thrown from the nest early, both show signs of being pecked.

Daily weighing will keep track of their progress.

Click on one of the following links to go to that index page: