I was wondering, which birds qualify for the mitzva of shiluach hakan?

Is it OK if there's a time gap between scaring off the bird and taking the egg (ten, twenty, thirty minutes)?

What should we do with that egg afterward?

What is the purpose of this mitzva (when the bird comes back and doesn't find its egg in the nest it'll be very sad)?

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya. You ask a number of different questions in this post. We usually try to limit posts to one question so that a good answer can be constructed. The question was in fact placed on hold as "too broad". If you edit your post to be one clear question it will likely get reopened. You can always ask your other questions as separate posts (and if they are sufficiently related you can link them to one another). – Alex Aug 7 '18 at 12:25
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    I second Alex’s comment. These are all excellent questions, but the problem is that there are too many in this post. If you edit this to be just one of these questions and post the other three separately, you have my reopen vote here and my upvote on them all. – DonielF Aug 7 '18 at 18:52

Answers to your question are taken from Star-K's article.

Q Which birds qualify

Only kosher birds are eligible for this mitzvah. When determining which birds are kosher to eat, we require a clear mesorah, tradition, that our ancestors ate these birds.11 However, when determining which birds are fit for the mitzvah of Shiluach Hakan, we may rely on the physical signs of kosher birds as delineated by Chazal.12 Therefore, we can distinguish among three categories of birds:

1) Kosher birds which we eat and may use to fulfill the mitzvah, for example certain species of pigeons, doves, geese, and ducks;

2) Birds which exhibit kosher signs,13 yet do not have a clear mesorah, for example sparrows, robins, cardinals, and orioles. These birds may be used to fulfill the mitzvah, but they are not considered kosher to eat;

and 3) Birds which are definitely non-kosher with which we should not perform Shiluach Hakan. This includes eagles, ravens and other birds of prey. Eligibility is also determined by gender and age as follows:

A. Gender

The mitzvah can be fulfilled only when the mother bird is roosting. Since the male also roosts at times, one should determine the gender of the bird before sending it away. However, there is generally no way the layperson can distinguish between genders of birds. Of note, the male dove, pigeon and sparrow will usually sit during the day while the female sits at night. Therefore, the mitzvah should be fulfilled at night. The female American Robin, Canada Goose and Mallard Duck sit both day and night. If the roosting habits are unknown, one should fulfill the mitzvah at night, as we assume it is the mother on the nest.14

B. Age

One may fulfill the mitzvah any time the mother is incubating her eggs or brood.15 However, once the chicks develop the ability to fly on their own, the mitzvah may no longer be fulfilled.16 Chicks usually develop this ability approximately two weeks after hatching, depending upon the species.

Q What should we do with that egg afterward?

Taking Eggs or Chicks

Once the mother bird has flown away, one must take the eggs or chicks.27 Even if the mother bird is watching, one still fulfills the mitzvah. To perform a halachic acquisition, they should be lifted to a height of three tefachim (about 12 inches).28 Upon completion of the mitzvah, one may put back the eggs or chicks and need not keep them.29

After one takes the eggs or chicks, they may be declared hefker by the one who acquired them and then returned to the nest.30 After the mother bird returns, another person may fulfill the mitzvah. In this way, the same nest may be used over and over again.31

Q What is the purpose of this mitzva

Possible Reasons for the Mitzvah

The Rabbis ruled that a person may not state that the reason for the mitzvah is compassion for the mother bird. One commentator interprets the Talmud’s prohibition as applying strictly to reciting this in one’s prayers, as if to establish compassion as the definitive, sole reason. In reality, there are many reasons for the mitzvah, and compassion is but one facet.3

The Ramban states that compassion for the mother bird herself is not a motive for this mitzvah, since human needs override those of animals. Rather, the Torah wishes us to act compassionately so that we instill this trait in ourselves. He also references a profound kabbalistic reason (sod) for this mitzvah. Rabbeinu Bachya states that taking the mother and her offspring at the same time is analogous to destroying the entire species.

Q Is it OK if there's a time gap between scaring off the bird and taking the egg (ten, twenty, thirty minutes)? - no answer found

| improve this answer | |
  • Just FTR not everyone agrees with all these points – Double AA Aug 7 '18 at 12:44
  • Can you be more specific please? – Avrohom Yitzchok Aug 7 '18 at 15:18

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