Ask the Swan Specialist
Date: 8 April 2015
We would not suggest ever taking a cygnet younger than 6 months of age from its parents. Because you now have two very young swans, you must be the parent for the next 6 months. You will not be able to teach them about predators or how to find food on their own, how to bathe, preen and other necessary swan behaviors including recognizing and escaping predators.
Therefore, these young birds must be kept indoors in a very sheltered setting. The older swans may kill them accidently by slinging them from their necks or trying to chase them from the area. This is not aggressive behavior, just normal behavior in that the older swans do not recognize these birds as their own and do not want them in their territory. Predators such as turtles, owls, hawks, egrets, herons, etc., will attack and eat the young swans.
You will need to give the cygnets time in a pool so that their feet do not touch and they learn to dunk their heads under water to feed. These water times should be 3-4 times a day, 10-15 minutes increasing as the cygnets get older and larger. Watch the birds closely as they do not have the proper feathers and can easily drown if they are left too long in the water. You will need to maintain a zero entrance to enter and exit the pool, no slippery surfaces as the young swans can sustain leg and foot injuries that can be fatal.
The other problem is the surface that they will nest on at night. If you use straw, this is good up to a point, but they can get lethal fungal infections from moldy straw. Sheets or towels are good, but the swans must be monitored carefully as they can smother themselves in the material. The best material is lots and lots of shredded newspaper, not whole. A whole sheet of newspaper can become very slippery when wet, thus causing feet and leg injuries. Shredded newspaper can act as nesting material and the birds cannot smother themselves. Changed daily, you do not have to worry about mold or fungus.
Finally, ensure that the swans are being fed a mix of poultry layer pellets and cracked corn as this will provide them with the necessary nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. Finely chopped lettuce can be provided for supplementing their vegetative needs.
Once the cygnets are ready for the pond, they must be introduced properly. You will need to keep them in a pen (enclosed top to bottom so predators cannot access the birds with a feeder inside). The pen should be 1/2 on land and 1/2 in water with a zero entrance--steep banks can cause lethal foot and leg injuries. Finally, the birds will need to stay in the pen for approximately 2 weeks. Watch for any aggression on the part of the older birds. If there is no aggression, you can release them after 2 weeks, but keep a canoe/kayak readily available for rescue in the event that the older swans become aggressive and chase the young swans. If the swans are chased to the point that they begin to walk or stay out of the water, this can make them susceptible to predators or stress leading to illness. At that point in time, you may need to find them another safe/secure pond or new home. In any event, these swans will never be able to live on a pond on their own at night. You will need to bring them indoors as they do not have the skills to escape or recognize predators. We hope this information is of benefit. The Regal Swan