Breeding & Genetics
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Written by: K.J. Hanson, Aviculturist,
Ornithologist, Diplomate American Board of Quality Assurance & Utilization
Breeding birds is a labor of love. There is not much income that can be made from breeding birds. In fact, it is a costly occupation that requires a dedicated commitment to the health and welfare of these innocent captive creatures. Birds deserve to be brought into the world within a quality loving environment. Birds are sensitive and sweet creatures who do not demand very many physical things for them to survive and breed. They require a species-specific diet, fresh clean water, a safe environment with an appropriate temperature and humidity (usually around 75 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity of 40 %), good husbandry practices by their owner, and enough space to exercise and socially interact with one another.
All birds are members of a
flock. Most birds are communal breeders who won’t breed unless there are
other birds of their species nearby. Birds feel secure with other birds
around them. Usually they do not do well isolated from their flock. Unlike
other animals who can survive without requiring close communion with other
members of their species; birds require their flock for their individual
sense of well-being. Breeding birds is a responsible occupation. Unless one
has the best interests of each of his birds in mind, then bird breeding
should not be considered. Breeding birds is not an occupation that should be
undertaken on a whim. Without a dedicated and sincere commitment to the
birds which one is breeding, then it can be a foolish endeavor that costs
many birds their innocent lives and will only bring a careless breeder a lot
of suffering. On the other hand, for the majority of us who are passionate
about birds and who sincerely love and care about our birds breeding them is
a joyous and a happily fulfilling experience. Although breeding birds is not
financially rewarding it is a rewarding experience emotionally. Bird
breeders provide companionship and many years of happiness for the owners
who buy their birds. Birds are used as emotional support animals by
thousands of individuals around the world.
When you decide to become a bird breeder, you can look forward to an exciting time ahead of you with a lot of new experiences, learning, and hard work. Yes. Hard work! 24/7! It is not a 9 to 5 job that can be turned off at the end of the day. It is a full time responsibility that might require that you feed a new chick every hour for 24 hours a day for the first few days of its life. It requires that you listen for the begging sounds of young baby birds during the night. You must be awake and listen to hear if your babies are being fed by their parents and that they are content. It requires that you observe each baby to be sure its crop is full and that it is satisfied and growing normally. If not, then you will be required to pull (remove) the baby bird immediately from its parents and either foster it (i.e. place the baby with another Hen who will feed it) or you will have to become the baby's surrogate mother by feeding it appropriately. Yes. You will be required to become a Hen. Sound like something you might want to do? This is not easy. Hens have a big responsibility. They not only incubate the eggs by regulating their own internal metabolism to meet the needs of each of their growing embryos inside each egg beneath them, but a hen must sense the growing embryos and use the muscles of her abdomen to squirm and turn the eggs so that they do not receive too much warmth or become cold in one place which would either speed or slow down a growing embryo's development. The Hen then might have to help a baby to "pip" (crack its shell open from the inside using its special egg-tooth). A hen must be fed by her devoted mate while she diligently incubates her eggs or they could chill and cause them to be “dis” (dead in their shells). When she has produced sufficient crop contents with appropriate enzymes, mucus, and natural immune antibodies she will regurgitate it to each of her begging and pumping sweet babies. Oh my! Baby birds are the most insistent little beggars! The tiny newly hatched baby birds look like little pink baby mice without their warm feathers and they will need to be kept very warm (approximately 98 degrees Fahrenheit) by the hen’s brood patch (a sensitive warm bald area on the Hen’s stomach). The babies chirp and peep and cry loudly frequently (sometimes every fifteen minutes at first) for food around the clock for the first few days of their lives depending upon the size and species of bird.
I suggest that you have a partner. It is not fair to bring babies into the world and then realize that it is too over-whelming of a job and then have to give them up because you are now physically or financially unable to care for them by yourself. You will need a source of income. My husband and I are employed full time. I have the luxury of being able to conduct the majority of my business affairs from my office which is attached to our home. Our Aviaries are within our home. You should arrange your schedule to have yourself or your partner available for your breeding birds full-time 24 hours a day. Birds are individuals and they can be unpredictable at times. They might require emergency veterinary care or your time and attention to get them successfully through a difficult situation in their lives. Problems are rare; however, it is wise to always be prepared for any possibilities.
Once your birds begin breeding they will continue to breed throughout the year which will cause stress and pathology for them and their off-spring. It is your duty to control the population of your birds so that they all live in a stress-free, healthy, sanitary, and spacious environment thus preventing outbreaks of infection or stress-related pathology due to an overly-dense bird population.
You will have to check the laws of your City and State as far as breeding birds on your property. Selling an amount of birds over a specified limit stated in your City and State Ordinances requires that you acquire a legal permit. There are State laws which regulate the selling of baby birds less than 1 year old and also selling un-weaned birds. All of these laws are good and they are meant to protect the lives of innocent birds from unscrupulous bird breeders. I am thankful there are concerned legislators who care about the welfare of our birds.
Whatever occurs from breeding your birds will be the result of your diligent work and thoughtfulness or, on the other hand, lack of diligence and thoughtlessness. Before buying your first birds and setting up your breeding environment, I suggest that you go to the library and study everything there is about breeding the specific bird or birds that you intend to breed. Breeding birds requires that you seek reputable information and hands-on help to begin with. A veterinarian with experience in avian care can serve as a mentor, or a reputable and experienced breeder. A reputable breeder is an excellent choice as a mentor because not all veterinarians have experience breeding birds. There are local bird organizations that I recommend you join and attend their regular meetings and network with similar breeders so that you can share real information and hands-on helpful experiences. Many bird clubs offer discounts on supplies from local businesses. Others have vendors at the meetings. Group club trips to bird shows can save in transportation where items are often offered at discount prices. Some clubs even combine orders from its members to qualify for discounts from large distributors or manufacturers. I belong to our local American Canary Fancier's Association, the American Budgerigar Society, the National Cockatiel Society, Organization of Professional Aviculturists, Inc., Avicultural Society of America, International Aviculturists Society, The Audubon Society (local Chapter), and the American Federation of Aviculture, Inc. I have met many avid bird breeders by attending bird club meetings. I count these club members among my friends. We help each other. I have personally had the good fortune of having some of the top breeders in the world of aviculture as my mentors. I am thankful all of the time for their patience in showing me their expertise.
Well, now that you and your partner have gone to your local library and checked out and read all of the books related to the species you want to breed; you are knowledgeable about the species; you have the necessary appropriate city licenses, permits, waivers, and State and Federal tax forms; and you have sufficient capital to purchase all of the equipment and birds required to get started---then let's breed birds!
You must have everything set up and organized before buying your breeding pairs of birds. Let's be sure that you have everything you will need for a successful breeding experience. You will need at least the following items:
1. Proper housing for your breeding birds and their chicks. They need a cage/aviary with plenty of room for two birds to move around and exercise including flying around comfortably, along with lots of toys and appropriately secure yet soft perches for them to have a safe and secure sexual experience. If their perches are not secure then your female bird may lose her balance and have an embarrassing loss of her mate's grasp of the situation while performing the sex act not to mention her frustration. A wobbly and un-secured perch will cause the male's ejaculate to miss its target, so to speak and you will wind up with infertile eggs. Your breeding birds may need privacy, or, on the other hand, some birds will not breed unless they have another pair or pairs of birds nearby as a breeding influence. You might even try a CD of bird sounds or some other mood music (perhaps a little Barry White---just kidding) in the breeding bird room to put them in the mood. It's a fact that Hens lay more eggs when there is music piped-into a Hen house. Seriously, sometimes birds require the sounds of other birds or maybe the radio or TV to make them feel secure enough to breed. Remember, birds are all members of a communal flock of birds. They rely on their flock for their sense of well-being which includes their sense of feeling secure enough to mate and breed. Listening to music or the TV gives them the feeling they aren't alone.
2. An abundance of
species-specific food is one of the triggers for reproduction. Most birds
instinctively breed in the spring when grass is abundant and seeds fall from
the flowers and trees to produce more abundant vegetation. Birds avoid
bringing babies into a world where food supplies are un-reliable. A constant
dependable source of fresh food is necessary for your birds to breed. For
most species of birds you will need to provide ample amounts of fresh
quality seeds, grains, green vegetables (including Kale, Romaine, carrot
tops, spinach, mustard greens, dandelion greens, etc.) and other fresh
vegetables e.g. fresh corn kernels, grated carrot, broccoli, fresh fruit
e.g. sliced apple (without the seeds which contain cyanide), orange slices
(vitamin C is important for breeding birds contrary to the belief that birds
produce their own Vitamin C---breeding birds require additional sources of
Vitamin C), grapes, melon (most birds love watermelon), peeled banana,
pineapple, etc., and, of course, a good quality charcoal and oyster shell
grit to aid them in digesting their food properly and de-toxifying and
neutralizing excess acid in their gastro-intestinal tracts.
Normal healthy breeding birds will use grit more than when they are not breeding. The charcoal and oyster shell grit is used by the breeding bird so that it can pulverize and grind-up seeds and fibrous vegetables and fruit which is then mixed with mucus in the bird’s proventriculus and, finally, stored in the bird’s crop to be regurgitated to its babies. A constant accessible source of good quality charcoal and oyster shell grit should be available for breeding and non-breeding birds. Birds are creatures of instinct which means they do not act or make choices based upon intentional thought processes the same way that humans are capable of doing. A bird’s instinct for survival leads it to behave and to make choices according to their genetically-programmed brains. Birds behave instinctively not pre-meditatively. They behave like birds have always been created to behave (e.g. they fly, they lay eggs; they sing and chirp at the light of dawn; they build nests; they eat fallen seeds, grasses, and minerals, etc.). All of their instincts are programmed into their brains from 100’s of thousands (possibly millions) of years of reproduction and survival of their species. Although a captive bird will attempt to adapt itself in order for it to survive in whatever situation it finds itself in; birds cannot change their instincts. Attempting to change an instinct might modify the behavior of a bird; however, its brain is genetically programmed and the bird will revert to its instinctive behavior whenever possible. Because birds behave from instinct they are capable of choosing appropriate and necessary items for their survival as long as they are provided with them by a wise and loving owner. Since a pet bird is a captive and cannot leave its captivity to choose what is best for it then a wise owner will provide his birds with everything he possibly can to allow his breeding birds to make their own instinctively appropriate choices. If you are worried about your bird eating grit, you can be assured that your bird will instinctively either eat it appropriately as an aid for his digestion or he won't touch it at all. Your birds will also need to always have plenty of mineral blocks, cuttlebone (back-bone of the cuttlefish which is a great source of Calcium and Iodine), and Iodine blocks (necessary for a bird's Thyroid gland which stimulates breeding hormones--- estrogen, prolactin, progesterone, estrogen, and androgen in a hen--- and testosterone in a cock). Our females eat the mineral blocks, cuttlebones, grit, and Iodine like it is going out of style! We've had hens in their nest boxes whose faithful mates have even been seen carrying huge chunks of cuttlebones into their mates' nest boxes for them to nibble on while they're incubating their eggs! Now how cute is that!
You should spend time observing your breeding birds several times a day. They are captives and cannot leave their cages to get their food items. If they should run out of a food item they will rapidly become malnourished. The hen is producing calcium-coated eggs and protein-filled yolks that become embryos and eventually baby birds. Cocks can rapidly become malnourished if they don't have ample and constant supplies of species-specific food to replace the energy (calories) that they expend foraging for food and feeding their mates and babies. Male birds are faithful mates. Normally they are loving and devoted Daddies who feed their mates and their babies. Many male birds will incubate their eggs and keep their babies warm by helping the hen brood their babies. A cock can die from a lack of essential nutrients if he doesn’t have a constantly accessible species-specific source of food and water. As part of your daily routine it is vital that from the first day of pairing you inspect every nest box. Failure to do so from the start will result in not spotting the cock that has been faithfully feeding his hen but not himself and is beginning to starve. This is a frequent occurrence, many such cocks having an empty crop for perhaps only a few hours. Their condition is enough for them to be chilled, become ill with enteritis, and, of course in this state, they will stay inside the nest box for warmth. If there is no daily inspection, then the cock will die. You will have to remove the cock and put him in a hospital cage with a heating pad at the bottom and cover the cage on all sides leaving a bit of the front open. Give him his favorite millet spray, seeds, greens, and fresh water. Place the hospital cage in a quiet location so that he can rest and regain his health without seeing his babies or hearing them peeping and begging for him to feed them. You might have to remove some of the babies and foster them or hand-feed them to assist the single Hen to care for her brood of babies while the exhausted Dad is recuperating.
We sprinkle our birds’ seeds on a clean sheet on the bottom of their aviaries along with fresh green veggies and fruit so that our Cocks can forage for their food. This is an instinctive behavior that most male birds will perform while their mate is incubating their eggs in a nest box. The male will hunt and peck instinctively as he forages on the bottom of his breeding cage. This is a behavior that he performs also after the baby birds fledge so that they will observe their dad and they will learn how to find food for themselves. We give our birds hard-cooked eggs with the shells ground-up and then sprinkled and mixed with the eggs. This is an important source of protein for the breeding birds. The protein from the hard-cooked egg helps a Hen form strong yolks that will form strong healthy embryos and ultimately strong healthy baby birds. Feeding birds other protein sources e.g. meat, fish, and milk products is not necessary and can be harmful. The avian liver cannot metabolize these protein sources. Birds may be processing too much protein on pellet type diets as a by-product of having to consume more of these diets to meet their energy needs.
3. Types of appropriate nests and nest-boxes will depend on the species of bird that you are breeding. Smaller birds such as Finches will require a wicker basket-type nest that can be purchased at a local Pet store. It’s a lot of fun to create ingenious nests for breeding birds. Our birds’ favorite is a coconut. I puncture the 3 small holes at the top (resembles a hairy bowling ball). Then drain the milk (it’s yummee and very nutritious, by the way.). Then I remove the coconut meat through a hole that I drill with a 1 inch drill bit. The hole is the size of a Finch's body so the Finches can enter and exit their coconut-nest easily. I hang the coconut using a heavy gauge wire slipped through 2 of the 3 holes at the top of the coconut and then hang it from the top of our birds' Aviary. We also have wire-mesh-type hanging nests, basket nests, Tetra Fish container nests, and Mother’s oatmeal container nests which become chewed-up pretty fast because they're cardboard. The most popular nests are the plywood nest-boxes.
It's important that there are always sufficient nests for each pair of birds. Hens and rarely cocks will fight over nests if there aren't enough.
We also provide corn husks and Charmin toilet tissue strips (ripped very thin) for our birds to use to line their nests. Never use anything too stringy that could possibly wrap around a bird's tiny legs or they will have gangrenous toes and foot problems. This is another reason you must observe your breeding birds several times throughout the day. It just takes a minute or so for a little bird to become perilously entwined in a piece of string. Our Canaries prefer the Charmin toilet tissue strips to line their nests. Our Finches prefer the strips of corn husks. We husk the fresh corn every morning and give all of our birds fresh corn kernels. Then we throw the corn cobs and husks on the floors of our birds’ aviaries, flights, and cages. The Budgies refuse all nesting material. They will even expend much of their energy busily removing anything that is placed inside their nest box until their babies start to stand up (at about 3 weeks old). Then we scrape out the baby bird poops and place clean dry unscented pine shavings (the kind used for hamster’s bedding) to give the baby Budgies and baby ‘Tiels something to grasp onto when they begin to stand up inside their nest boxes.
A baby bird who starts to
learn to stand up and walk inside a nest box with wet bird feces might
dislocate a hip and develop splayed legs (also called spraddle legs). This
condition can be prevented by always scraping out the feces from the nest
boxes when the babies have their pin feathers at about 3 weeks old. I keep
the babies warm when I take them from their nest box by placing them inside
my sweatshirt. Their hot little bodies feel good and it gives them an
opportunity to socialize with a human which is very important for your baby
birds. Then I kiss their sweet little heads and I gently replace them inside
their nest box. Oooh!! Baby birds are deliciously sweet creatures that
deserve a happy life with a loving owner. Touching your babies when they are
about 3 weeks old and handling them for short periods throughout the day is
good for the babies. I wait until their Mom takes her potty break, then I
reach for the babies and hug and kiss on them and talk to them. They are a
captive audience so I even sing to them (poor babies! But they don’t seem to
mind, in fact, they appear to like it---they haven’t complained about my
4. Finding appropriately bonded pairs of birds that will mate with each other and produce fertile eggs is the part of breeding that is almost like playing the Lotto until you become knowledgeable and experienced at choosing your pairs of breeding birds. You will need to find bonded (mated) pairs of birds of the same species. Buying single birds because of a specific genetic trait and then mating them with another single bird with a desirable trait can be disappointing unless you have studied your specific birds and you are capable of buying suitable mates for them who are not rejected because they are either too young, too old, too related, or whatever other criteria your birds might have for choosing their ideal mates. This can be tricky. Remember that ultimately it is up to your birds to accept or reject your choice of their mate. This is where buying proven pairs of breeding birds can be cost-effective. We had originally bought 4 Budgies two years after our sweet bonded 'Tiels hadn't given us babies. So we decided that since we didn't have 'Tiel babies we would try our hand at breeding Budgies. We purchased 4 Budgies from a breeder. Then our 4 Budgies flew around in their huge aviary with the happy 'Tiels but they didn't mate for 2 more years. Our 4 Budgies must have been related because when it came to breeding they were a loving and sweet family who hadn't a thought about having sex with one another. Then, we bought two more Budgies that we were told were both females because their ceres were pink (most of my knowledge of breeding and raising birds comes from many years of experience which, had I studied more, would not have taken me so many years). Oh well. It's been a lot of fun, I must say. I learned about Recessive Pieds right away after purchasing a male Budgie that I was told by the breeder was a female, to mate with my original male Budgies. My sweet female Budgie (???) mated with my original female Budgie and gave us beautiful sky blue pied and cobalt blue Budgie babies. He is a real stud (a retired stud now) named Steve and his wife (my original female Budgie's name is Eve). They're retired and are the sweetest birds.
Some birds will require a
certain specific bird of the opposite sex of their species in order for them
to mate. Other birds will mate with almost any bird within its species;
however, this doesn't mean that they will be good parent birds. It will
require that you observe the personalities of each bird and then you will
have to evaluate their requirements in a mate. Usually, we have found that
we have success by observing all of the birds in a breeder's Aviary for a
few hours and then returning another day to be sure that a pair of birds is
bonded to one another before we spend our money on them. Birds are sensitive
and as I said before they are members of a community flock. They have a
pecking-order of class and status among their flock which is not obvious
when we observe their behavior for a few minutes. However, if you were to
observe birds intensely for a few hours per day then you will realize that
some birds are the male elder top alpha birds who demand respect from the
younger generation of male birds. The younger males will bow and bob in
front of an elder seeking his approval. This is why it is important to
understand your bird's behaviors and his intense need for his flock's
approval for his feelings of acceptance and well-being. Oftentimes, birds do
not do well alone away from their flock. Some younger birds still require
the assurance of other flock members by begging occasionally to be fed.
These birds are obviously not ready to breed. By intensely observing the
birds before purchasing them, then you will notice that certain birds form
permanent bonds. You will observe a female following after her mate who is
usually an independent fellow. Then, the female will bend her head and
request that her male preen her head. Occasionally, you might even see a
male feed his mate, although this usually happens when the birds are ready
to lay their clutch of eggs. We observed our first two Cockatiels (Sam &
Gloria) for an entire day at the breeder's before we were sure they were a
bonded pair of birds. Sammy stood elegantly at the top of the Aviary and
then would fly to a feeder to eat followed by his mate, Gloria, who looked
at Sammy with eyes of adoration. We knew they were a bonded pair and they
have since proven to us that we were right. A bonded pair means that the
birds have mated for life. They feed each other, groom each other, and have
sexual intercourse with each other which may or may not have produced
fertile eggs. A similarly bonded pair of birds becomes what is called a
proven (or producing) pair of birds when they have a clutch of fertile eggs
together. Our Sam and Gloria are a proven pair of Cockatiels. You will
notice that breeders will sell their pairs of birds as either bonded (priced
less) or proven (more expensive). Buying a proven pair of birds does not
always guarantee that the pair of birds will produce in the future. The new
owner may be disappointed that the proven pair hasn’t produced a clutch of
fertile eggs while in their new environment. However, it has been my
experience that a proven pair will continue to produce throughout their
Bonded pairs of birds, in general, are capable of being pets; however, most likely they will entertain their owner rather than focusing on the needs of each other and producing babies. It is necessary to decide if you want breeder birds or you want pet birds. Birds are living longer and healthier lives due to improved quality husbandry, therefore, it is possible to raise young birds as pets until they are sexually mature, and then pair them for breeding, and, after their breeding is past, then you can easily return these pet/breeder birds again as pets and part of your human family.
Before breeding pairs are introduced into their breeding cages, everything should be ready for them. In “controlled” breeding or breeding in cages, one pair to a cage. This is the best system by which a pedigree can be kept, a strain of line-bred birds built up and a high proportion of show specimens produced. The finer points of color breeding, such as crossing normal, well-known colors with rare shades can only be pursued if the exact parentage of each bird is known. Many cocks from such matings look normal but carry the blood of a rare color. Unless such a cock is mated in the proper way, the rare shade is kept from showing.
“Colony” breeding is the system of breeding a number of pairs in one large enclosure. When Budgies were first bred in captivity this was the most widely used system, but gradually the disadvantages of colony breeding became apparent and “controlled” breeding---breeding single pairs in one enclosure or cage---has become more and more popular. The disadvantage of large enclosure uncontrolled breeding consist of a low yield of young per pair due to fighting, interference during the mating act, parent birds worn out by raising too many young, over-crowded nests, too great a proportion of young with feather troubles, the appearance of too many green birds because all colors have been allowed to interbreed freely, etc. Each breeding cage contains one nest box and houses one pair. Or, in an open breeding aviary there are several pairs. The period of preliminary courting varies widely. Sometimes the cock will begin courting immediately or within a few hours, sometimes not until several days have passed.
Birds will breed when they are ready. It is impossible to force birds to breed if they are not ready. Some will breed when they are 4 months old (Finches) and others when they are 3 or 5 years old Cockatoos and Macaws. When there is a complete lack of mutual interest over a period of weeks, the breeder should look for causes of this behavior. The birds may have been raised under unfavorable conditions or suffer from dietary deficiencies. If there are no signs of ill health, it is possible that the problem is one of adjustment to new conditions. If cocks and hens have been kept in the same flight/aviary, then they have selected their own mates during the pre-breeding period and will refuse to accept mates selected by the breeder. Hens are particularly finicky in this respect. Even when transferred from one aviary to another in the same locality, birds often feel strange. They are not used to their new owner and his manner of caring for them and are, therefore, disturbed and likely to go out of breeding condition. The period of light may be different from what the birds were used to. The hens may lose the brown of their cere and require some time before returning to breeding condition. The new owner may be too anxious about his birds, constantly watching them, peeking into their nest boxes, showing them to friends, etc. The breeder should make sure that mites, mice, snakes (if your birds are caged out-doors), opossums, skunks, foxes, raccoons, dogs, cats, or children do not disturb or harass your breeding birds.
After a period of investigation, the hen disappears into the nest or nest box for longer and longer periods. She might spend most of her time in it for about a week before laying an egg. At night, she will sleep outside.
Most hens pull small body feathers from their breast to line their nest and to thin their coat of feathers on their brood patch. Their own body heat will then contact the eggs better during incubation. Small feathers in the nest, therefore, should not be confused with a molt. And a female bird with a bald area on her abdomen is not suffering from any abnormal condition. She is preparing her brood patch.
When the cock has
fertilized the hen, eggs will eventually arrive. At this time it is
important not to disturb the breeding pair of birds. A hen getting ready to
lay is very sensitive to disturbances. Thorough cleaning of the cage should
be postponed until after the babies fledge (usually at 5 weeks old).
Cleaning a cage while a young hen is laying will upset her so much that eggs
might be dropped on the floor, or the hen might stop laying after only one
or two eggs. In this case more eggs were probably on the way but were
reabsorbed. Much time will be lost until the hen again produces eggs. With
young hens it may happen that eggs are dropped on the cage floor without any
apparent reason. If they aren’t broken or cracked then they may be put back
into the nest box. The hen may or may not accept them. Most hens will get
straightened out and lay their eggs in the nest box.
We use an open breeding method where our birds choose a mate and then breed with this mate throughout their lifetime. Occasionally, we'll have a cobalt blue baby in a nest of recessive pied babies, oh well, that's life. There are other methods of breeding pairs of birds. For example: the closed breeding system where a breeder will choose a bird and then mate it with another bird to try to produce a specific genetic type of bird offspring. This is more difficult and, personally, it is restrictive and can be disappointing if the 2 birds reject each other for some reason, perhaps their genetic characteristics on their DNA chain of alleles when mated would produce a freak of nature or a genetically-handicapped bird for some reason. We prefer our birds choose their mates. Then we are pleasantly surprised by our consistently high-quality chicks. Matching genetic alleles can be somewhat similar to playing the slots in Vegas where inside the machine there are millions of possible combinations and hitting the jackpot (where all three wheels align with each other) is unlikely.
Most birds mate through a process called the cloacal kiss (how romantic!). The female pushes her cloaca partially through her vent, and the male rubs his vent against it to deposit sperm, which the female can store for a few days to fertilize her eggs when she ovulates. Just because birds are actively mating doesn’t mean babies are on the way, though. Birds just like to mate! They enjoy it! We have one of our aviaries in our front living room/ dining room of our home. It never fails that we’ll be entertaining business guests and somebody will say to his wife “Heh! Kathy, come and look at this.” Then, the wife will shyly say “Oh my!!” There is one smiling husband and a very embarrassed wife observing two of our horny birds “doing it” right out in front of God and the whole world. My goodness! Such behavior! They behave like animals! (ha ha) In some birds, such as the domestic turkey, artificial insemination is used over natural breeding---those Tom Turkeys are just too big to do the job on their own.
Some birds, such as chickens, are continuous breeders, reproducing throughout the year. Other birds such as parrots are opportunistic breeders, breeding during certain cycles or when favorable conditions exist.
Spring heralds the onset of reproduction in many avian species. Reproduction occurs most successfully when the environmental conditions are favorable for the survival of offspring and food is plentiful.
Day length or photoperiod plays an important role in birds that are seasonal reproducers. Environmental light stimulates neural receptors which, in conjunction with an internal circadian cycle, enable the bird to respond to the most favorable time for reproduction. As day length increases in the winter and spring, the ovaries and testes of most temperate species increase in size and undergo development.
In addition to day length, temperature and humidity influence reproduction in many free ranging species. In areas where the climate is stable and dry and day length is constant, rainfall may trigger reproductive behavior.
The Budgie male’s vocalization triggers reproduction by stimulating ovarian development and ovulation in his Hen.
In certain species, such as Cockatiels, the presence of a mate is necessary to ensure nesting behavior.
In colony breeding species, such as Budgies, the presence of other breeding birds is a reproductive stimulus. Auditory as well as visual contact stimulates reproduction.
The availability of a suitable nest and nesting material plays an important stimulus for breeding in some species such as finches and cockatiels.
Biologic clocks, known as “circannua cycles”, control the release of hormones that regulate reproduction, metabolism, and behavior.
As previously mentioned, photoperiod plays an important role in many psittacine species. Light stimulates a part of the brain - the hypothalamus - to produce "releasing factors". These releasing factors stimulate the anterior pituitary to secrete hormones known as genadotrophins. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and Leutenizing Hormone (LH) are two genadotrophins produced by the anterior pituitary which affect the ovaries and testes. FSH, and to a lesser degree LH, are responsible for normal ovarian follicular growth. As the follicles increase in size, they produce increasing amounts of estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone acts on LH - which then triggers ovulation. Once ovulation occurs, progesterone secretion decreases rapidly. Estrogen is responsible for numerous female secondary sexual characteristics.
In the male, FSH initiates seasonal growth and development of the seminiferous tubules in the testes and spermatogenesis. LH promotes the production of testosterone, the male hormone responsible for the production of secondary sexual characteristics and behavior.
Females may be determinate or indeterminate egg layers. Budgies are an example of determinate layers - laying a set number of eggs in their clutch, not replacing eggs that are removed or destroyed. Many of the large psittacines for example Cockatiels, chickens, and ducks are indeterminate layers, replacing eggs that are lost or removed from their clutch. Aviculturists often remove eggs from nest boxes and artificially incubate them - thus stimulating "double clutching".
Birds differ from mammals in that the female is heterozygous (ZW) rather than the male. The sex of the embryo is determined by the female prior to ovulation and not at fertilization.
The age at which sexual maturity is reached varies among species. Macaws, cockatoos and amazons reach sexual maturity at three to six years of age, while tiny finches can reproduce as young as two months of age.
Most birds are monogamous
but polygamy (polyandry = many males/one female, e.g. phalaropes and
polygyny = many females/one male e.g. RW Blackbirds) are not uncommon.
Promiscuous birds will mate with anybody of the opposite sex of the same
species (e.g. Brown-headed Cowbirds).
The birds may court and
pair up during the winter (e.g. waterfowl) or find each other at the
breeding grounds (most birds). The duration of the pair bond varies from one
season to the next. Even as little as one copulation may be the extent of
the pair bond; or the pair bond may last the life of an individual. If the
same pair does nest year after year, it may be due more to the
attractiveness of the territory or nest site rather than each other.
Reliable evidence for true lifetime mating is scarce - it is hard to collect
that kind of data. But there is some evidence for lifetime mating among
eagles, wrentits, European nuthatches, the brown creeper, and lyrebirds.
1. Long term or life is only one type.
2. The sexes may remain together only for the breeding season, usually until the young have been raised; most birds.
3. The sexes may remain together for weeks or months during courtship but separate when incubation begins: most ducks.
4. The sexes may remain together for only a few days or until incubation begins: RT Hummingbird, Philippine Weaverbird, and Northern Phalarope.
5. Or the sexes may meet only for copulation: grouse, Prairie Chicken, Ruff.
Although all birds have internal fertilization, most do not have a penis; a penis is only present in waterfowl and the large flightless birds. Copulation may continue regularly and only stop when egg laying is over or may continue through incubation. In some species, copulation is necessary to stimulate nest-building and/or incubation.
The entire process of courtship and reproduction is complex, with external stimuli and hormones interacting to produce a sequence of events from copulation to incubation. Most often the external stimulus is the lengthening period of daylight. A less passive influence is exemplified by the Red-billed Dioch of Africa which starts to breed when green grass emerges after a heavy rainfall.
Are incredibly varied - from very simple to very complex. They involve sounds (calls, drumming, bill clapping, feather vibrating); visual signals (crests, plumes, tails, bright colors, air sacs); behavior (dances, hanging upside down, flight displays); nests and territories.
Most birds build a nest each time before breeding; a very few use the same nest for years. The nest site may be selected by the female (grouse, pheasants, wagtails); by the male (starling, House Sparrow); or by both sexes (doves, Corvidae, titmice). The first time a bird builds a nest it takes longer than subsequent ones - they learn by practice. The first nest of the season takes longer to build than later nests - if they build a later nest. If a bird nests twice in a season (some do regularly and some do only if the first nest is destroyed) - the second nest takes less time to construct and is usually not as well done.
King and Emperor Penguins hold their egg on top of their feet to incubate it; other penguins lay their eggs in burrows or caves or build simple nests out of rocks. Potoos lay a single egg on the top of a broken tree stub. The Oilbird builds a cone-shaped nest of seeds and droppings. Megapodes (brush turkeys) lay eggs in decomposing leaf pile and cover and uncover the eggs as needed to regulate the heat. Cave Swifts of China make their nests entirely out of saliva ( from which bird's nest soup is made).Tailor birds sew together the edges of one or more leaves and lay eggs in the folds. Woodpeckers nest in cavities that they make themselves; others such as the Crested FC and Ash-throated FC, Starlings, and nuthatches use these cavities. Oropendola and Weaverbirds build long hanging nests. The hornbill male walls the female into a tree cavity with a wall of mud, leaving only a small hole through which to feed her and the young.
The number of eggs laid by different species of birds for a single nesting ranges from 1-25. Budgies and Cockatiels lay from 3 to 6 eggs in a clutch.
Clutch size varies within a species due to a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors.
1. Age of parent. For Kittiwakes, the average clutch size of females breeding for the first time is 1.8; for the second and third times is 1.9; for later times, 2.4.
2. Time of breeding - later clutches are generally smaller than those laid earlier in the season.
3. Food Supply. A positive correlation of food supply and clutch size has been documented for many birds.
4. Population Density - higher population densities are correlated with lower clutch size, probably due to reduced food supply.
5. Latitude - clutch size in most species is positively correlated with latitude- the farther from the equator one gets, the larger the clutch size. The House Wren, for example, doubles its clutch size between Panama and North America. The Common Moorhen lays 3-4 eggs in the tropics and 5-10 in North America.
6. Habitat - tropical
species have larger clutches in seasonal (temperate) habitats than in the
tropics. They have more clutches (from 2 to 4) in the tropics.
7. Nest Site - protected
nests (holes, domed nests) have larger clutches than open ones. In
mid-European passerines, the average clutch size for open nesters is 5.1 and
for protected nests 6.9.
8. Body Size - larger
birds, with lower metabolism, live longer and thus have more opportunities
to breed and these produce fewer young each time they breed.
The most common clutch size is the one that is most often successful - evolution limits maximum and minimum clutch sizes.
The largest known egg is that of the extinct Elephant Bird of Madagascar whose eggs held 7.5 liters and measured 34x24 cm. The smallest egg is that of the Vervain Hummingbird of Jamaica which is 10mm long; one Elephant Bird egg could hold 33,000 of these. Eggs of precocial species are larger than those of altricial species. In precocial birds, the yolk makes up 25-50 % of the egg weight, in altricial, 15%.
Many external factors may
stimulate the pituitary to signal the other glands involved in reproduction,
thus beginning the breeding cycle. They include the amount of light each
day, the intensity of light, the temperature, the amount of rainfall, the
availability of food, and the actions of other birds, including the behavior
of the mate. In this list, the most universally dependable factor is day
length and its increase or decrease as the seasons change (at least in the
higher latitudes). The effect of the changing day length on the pituitary
gland in birds is an example of photoperiodism (any type of response to day
Natural observations also indicate that increasing ay length is not the single cue for initiating reproduction. The European Robin, for example, begins producing sperm about the first week of January in the foggy midwinter of the English Midlands, when the day length has increased by only a few minutes. In New Zealand, the large mountain parrot called a Kea and in Australia, the Emu and the Superb Lyrebird, all begin producing sperm as the days begin to shorten. All three of these species nest in winter.
Every bird species is physiologically adapted to a specific temperature range; any drastic change may affect the beginning of the breeding season. In many birds an unusually cold spell in the early stages of the breeding cycle may delay nesting. Temperature changes affect different species in different ways. The Emperor Penguin lays its one egg in the middle of the Antarctic winter when the air temperature is about minus 30 degrees (minus 34.4 degrees C.). Thus by hatching time the temperature has become higher (5 degrees F; minus 15 degrees C) for the chick. Possibly, in such species a decreasing day length provides the stimulus for gonadal development.
In arid regions, where rain occurs sporadically between periods of drought that last for months or years, either the rain itself, or the green vegetation resulting from the rain, triggers the breeding cycle. Albert’s Towhees in Arizona may begin to nest 10 to 14 days after heavy rains in March or April. Sometimes they nest again following a second period of rain that occurs in July. The beginning of egg-laying by California Quail varies from year to year by about three weeks, depending on the temperature and amount of rainfall.
Getting wet from rain or perhaps even hearing rain, may be a sufficient stimulus to initiate the breeding cycle of some Australian birds. They begin to breed right when the rains begin, before the rain has had a chance to increase the supply of food and nesting material, or to change the general appearance of the environment. The Zebra Finch, Black-faced Woodswallow, Budgerigar, and Australian Tree Swallow are some of the birds that begin nesting at the first drop of rain.
New breeding pigeons can come from a few different sources. You may buy or be given young homers to train. However, for the most part, you will be breeding from stock every spring. For me, watching the courting process, observing the hen and cock take turns on the nest, and seeing a new chick hatch from an egg is one of the more rewarding aspects of the hobby. Typically, the cock will choose a nest. He will pick a hen and convince her to take up residence in his nest. You may supply nesting materials such as pine needles or plant stems by putting some inside the loft, which the cock will gather and bring to the hen. The hen will take the materials and build a loose, often sloppy structure that will serve as their nest. Supply a nest bowl in which the pair will eagerly assemble their nest.
Ten days after mating, the first egg of a two-egg clutch will appear. Usually the second egg will follow a day after the first. After both eggs are laid, the hen and the cock will take turns on the nest. The hen will usually sit in the morning and overnight, and the cock will sit during the afternoon. After about 17 days, the eggs will begin to pip. It can sometimes take up to a full 24 hour for the new chick to work his way out of the egg. Usually both eggs will hatch around the same time.
During the first few days of the young squab's life, he will be fed a diet of "pigeon milk" by both parents. Pigeon milk is a cheesy substance secreted on the inside of the parent's throats. Pigeons are unique in this method of feeding young. After a few days of pigeon milk, the young are fed regurgitated grains, again by both parents. Pigeons grow at a remarkable rate, seeming to double in size every day or two during the first couple of weeks. Around the fourth or fifth day after hatching, the young bird gets a permanent identification band slipped over the toes and on his leg. The band, also called a "ring," is usually a seamless clear plastic coated metal band bearing the name or code of a national level pigeon organization and a name or code of an affiliated racing club. In addition to these codes, the band also tells the year the bird was hatched, as well as serial number unique to the local club. After the sixth or seventh day, the young bird's leg and foot will have grown to the point that getting a band on or taking one off would become impossible. Once a bird has been banded, he is identifiable for life. All racing pigeon organizations require that a qualified racing bird be properly banded before it can be eligible for competition, whether it is for racing, rolling, tumbling, or showing.
At around 25 to 30 days, the young bird is fully-feathered and nearly as large as his parents. By this time he should be capable of eating and drinking on his own, but left to his own devices, will still persuade his parents to feed him. It's usually at this age that the young birds are moved from their parent's pen to a pen of exclusively young birds of the same age.
Care for pigeons is similar to the care given toward any other domestic animal. Pigeons require good, nutritious food, clean water, grit for minerals and digestion, and sometimes medication and vaccinations.
The best food for pigeons is a mixture of quality grains. Premixed sacks of feed are typically available at any feed and seed stores. A typical premixed bag of general-purpose pigeon food consists of Canadian field peas, popcorn, milo, hard wheat, maple peas, oat groats, red millet, white millet, canary grass seed, rice, and hemp seed. As of 2000, I pay about $15 for a 50-pound sack of premixed pigeon feed. I supplement the feed by mixing in popcorn kernels, also purchased at the local granary for about $9 for a 50-pound bag.
Water should be clean and available at all times. Though pigeons enjoy a bath, the water container should not be able to be utilized for that purpose.
Grit is needed for pigeons eating grains. Not only does grit provide for the necessary mechanical action needed in digesting grains, but also provides calcium and other minerals. Calcium is important for strong bones, and especially for healthy egg production. I buy oyster shell grit with some bits of charcoal mixed in for about $8 per fifty pound bag at my local granary. Since pigeons are perching birds, special containers for feed, water, and grit are necessary to prevent the birds from soiling and walking in their food, water, and grit. These types of containers are probably similar to what you might find in a chicken coop.
There is a full-blown science with respect to medicating racing pigeons. Some people have a veritable pigeon pharmacy in their home. Others prefer to let nature run its course with their birds.
One can buy antibiotics, probiotics, tonics, medicinal teas, oils and herbs, vitamins, and vaccines. At a minimum, vaccinate for PMV and pigeon pox: two common pigeon ailments, which left unchecked, can destroy years worth of breeding and conditioning.
Many of the medicines and tonics are obtained in a powder or liquid form for mixing in the food or drinking water, while the vaccines are injected using a hypodermic needle.
Wouldn't it be nice if all species of birds could be visually sexed? Unfortunately, nature was unconcerned about us humans when many of the bird species evolved. A bird's sex is often a well kept secret, known only to the bird and perhaps others of its own species.
Some species' genders are easily identified. Male and female Eclectus are different colors, the male is green, the female red. When they mature, male parakeets have a blue cere (nasal area) while a female's is brown. A female cockatoo's eyes turn brown as they mature, but not always. Other species show color differences as they mature, but many do not.
Some people want to know the sex of their pet so that they can give them a proper name or know what pronouns to use when referring to them. Others are interested in mating their birds and know not to expect too many babies from male-male and female-female pairs.
How then can gender be determined? There are many old wives tales and a few scientific methods which have been used with varying degrees of success. Below is an overview of four scientifically based approaches: DNA Sexing, Surgical Sexing, Blood Feather Testing and Fecal Analysis.
Each method has its positives and negatives. The choice depends upon the situation and the needs of the owner.
DNA sexing can be performed from as little as one drop of blood. The DNA in a blood sample is processed to produce a 'picture', which is then analyzed to determine the bird's sex. Results are available in about three to four weeks and are very accurate.
The sampling process is simple, using a few drops of blood taken from a vein or toenail. It is both a convenient and non-stressful technique. The sample is then placed in a prepared collection vial and shipped to a lab. Regular mail can be used.
Like a human, each bird's DNA is unique and doesn't change. Thus the test works on babies as well as adults. In addition, the test results can be used as a means of identification. Some labs, also offer a registry service. The DNA is banked, similar to a fingerprint, for future matching and identification.
This method is accurate, convenient, non-stressful and affordable if the waiting time for the results is not critical. Chromosome testing identifies the sex of a bird, not whether or not it can successfully produce offspring.
Surgical sexing is performed by a veterinarian at his office using endoscopic surgery. It is usually not recommended for very young birds. The bird is first anesthetized. The veterinarian inserts an endoscope (a metal tube with a light attached) into a small incision made in the bird and can literally see the sex organs. This enables the vet to not only identify the sex, but to determine if the bird is sexually mature and if there are any abnormalities or potential breeding problems as well.
Surgical sexing is extremely accurate and quick, though somewhat stressful for the bird. Results are immediate and it provides needed information for those interesting in breeding. If performed by a competent veterinarian, the procedure is considered quite safe, although there is some risk from the anesthesia or possible post-operative complications. Most concerns have been with anesthesia. One type, an injectible, keeps the bird asleep longer and tends to cause vomiting. Advances in the field have produced safer anesthetics (eg isofluorine - a gas), and the risks are now deemed negligible by experts. A bird should be up and about within a few minutes after the anesthesia mask is removed.
It has been the practice to tattoo birds, which have been surgically sexed, under their wing - left wing for a female, right for a male. More recently veterinarians have been using leg bands or microchips.
Blood Feather Analysis is a blood chromosome testing method. Tissue from a bird's blood feather is cultured and used to perform a blood chromosome analysis. If a bird currently has no blood feathers, then a few feathers must be pulled so new ones can grow. This takes approximately two to three weeks. When the feathers are pulled they are placed in a special tube, packed with cold packs and sent priority mail to a lab. The tissue is then grown and examined under a microscope. Results are available in about two weeks.
This method is safe and accurate, but results are not immediate. It also works on birds of all ages. Its disadvantages are in the inconvenience and cost of shipping and for breeders, not actually seeing the condition of the sexual organs.
Fecal Method involves collecting fresh fecal samples, according to directions, and then mailing them to a lab. The samples are examined to determine the male and female hormone levels (testosterone and estrogen), limiting the testing to sexually mature birds. Its accuracy depends upon proper collection of the samples and the health of the bird.
This method is safe and relatively inexpensive. Results should be available in about one week.
We have raised many baby birds. After early summer then our breeding season is over for the year. Whatever eggs are laid from now until next spring we will remove---although, I have 1 beautiful green Budgie male that I want to breed. I don't think he'll be ready until next Spring. He has several girlfriends lined-up because he's quite the stud Budgie! Seriously though, his Mom is a prize-winning Normal-colored Budgie---a magnificent green bird. We raise/breed Cockatiels, Budgies, Canaries, and Finches. Our specialty is breeding Albino Budgies. Our program is A TOTAL PROGRAM which is YEAR-ROUND. We always provide the same abundant food, fresh water, mineral blocks, iodine blocks, cuttlebones, and millet sprays (fresh) throughout the year for all of our birds. We don't start giving our Breeding birds any new foods during their breeding season because this is a stressor for breeding birds to have new foods introduced at a time in their lives when they have already been stressed by producing eggs, laying eggs, and now regurgitating their food for new begging Budgie babies. We have had our program stable and predictable for all of our birds for the past 7 years. This is why we are very successful and we never have problems. Stability and security are required to breed healthy birds. All of our birds know that they will always have abundant food to feed their babies. You should always provide your birds with fresh food always in the same location and abundantly. We also pray a lot. We are thankful to the Lord for HIS knowledge and the energy to carry out HIS will for our birds.
Budgies are like little piggies, as you will find out when you hear their loud squeals when they are hungry every 1 or 2 hours around-the-clock (even during the night!). They are the most demanding of all of the Parrot babies. They are more demanding than the larger species of Parrots (Macaws, Greys, and Amazons). Most of the time Budgie babies do not do well when humans remove them from their parents to hand-feed them because they are strong little pumpers and it wouldn't take but a one-time accidental poke with a syringe-tip to cause a baby Budgie a fatal problem. The larger parrots beg more slowly and more rhythmically to be fed. Larger parrots are easier to hand-feed. But an energetic and strong Budgie baby will beg very forcefully. Budgie babies are strong little pumpers is how I call them. Even Budgie parents have a hard time keeping-up with their demanding and vigorous begging little Budgie babies. Cockatiels and Budgies should always be left for their Mommies and Daddies to feed and nurture (unless, of course, you see the babies are obviously being neglected by their mommy). Sometimes a mommy will neglect or abuse her baby when the mommy is stimulated to start a new clutch of babies. Then, it's imperative to remove the baby, of course. We foster any suspected neglected baby with a stable pair of our Albino Budgies who are always ready and willing to feed and nurture anybody's baby Budgie. Occasionally, we will supplement a baby Budgie with a product called "Exact Hand-feeding Formula". We mix it exactly according to the direction on the canister. Buy the canister-type because you may not use very much and the rest will stay fresh just in case you need it again. You will need Tuberculin needle-less syringes. Also a very important instrument is a scale. When you pull the babies you will need to weigh them daily. Babies should gain weight every other day. When they start to wean and fledge is when they start to lose weight so that they can be light enough to fly. If a baby is loosing weight before weaning then a trip to the vet is in order. Also keep in mind that as a baby gets close to weaning and fledging their crops do shrink some.
If you hear the babies squealing and Mommy is inside with her babies, then, this is a good sign that all is going well. You should listen for the babies every hour or two at first until you are sure they are squealing and that they are satisfied and sleeping with full crops. You should listen for their squeals during the nighttime as well (every hour or two for the first week). They are fed every hour or two at first around the clock (day and night). Daddy Budgie will feed Mommy by poking his head in-and-out of the nest box hole. Usually a Budgie daddy acts nervous. He is being very conscientious about being sure that his wife is fed and that she is keeping their babies fed and warm. Budgie Daddies are very concerned about their wives and their babies. Budgie Daddies are good daddies. I am assuming that your Budgie babies' crops are appropriately filled by their parents. If this is your Budgie parents' first clutch of babies, then don't disturb your Hen and her babies by looking into the nest box until your babies are a week old. First-time parents can be distracted easily if you look in their nest box at them while they are trying to be good parents. They might become startled and then they might not return to take care of their new babies. It's just not a chance that we will take with our first-time Mommies and Daddies. We don't look into the nest boxes until the babies are at least 1 week old. Usually when they are 5 to 8 days' old they are starting to get their pin-feathers and then the Mommy Budgie leaves the nest box for longer periods because she knows her babies are pin-feathered and they are warm without her sitting on them. She will leave the nest box for maybe 3 to 5 minutes (maximum) to eliminate and get water. Then, Daddy will start to feed his little brood. He will help Mommy to feed his begging babies. When Mommy leaves the nest box then Daddy stands watch over his babies from a distance. If you are going to look at your babies, you must do it quickly. If this is your birds' first clutch, I wouldn't remove the babies until they are 3 weeks' old. As long as you can hear the babies squealing every hour or two, I think it's fair to assume they are all being fed. You should look (but not touch) inside when they are 1 week old to check the right side of each baby's neck (the crop) to be sure that it has a bulge of food (meaning their crop is full). When the babies are 3 weeks' old then we remove the babies for 3 to 5 minutes. I tuck them all inside my warm tucked-in sweat shirt to keep them warm. Their hot little squealing bodies feel so warm and wonderful--it's indescribable! God is so good to create these strong and warm little creatures. Oh sooo cute and dependent!! I rapidly scrape-out the poop and place clean fresh unscented pine shavings inside the nest box. You have to do this because the babies will start to stand-up when they are 3 weeks old and start to walk. If they have poop stuck to their feed they might slip-around on the slippery poop and injure their delicately forming hips. Baby Budgies are prone to getting displaced hips from dirty nest boxes at 3 weeks' old when they first try to learn to walk and the floor is too slippery. If you don't have fresh un-scented pine shavings, then, we substitute with shredded Charmin toilet tissue strips. The Budgies like the Charmin. We've tried the other brands but they are too thin and some are too stiff. Charmin is just soft enough and double-ply to make the nest box nice and cozy and non-slippery. (sounds like a commercial for Charmin LOL) You should use a tiny bit of warm water on a Q-tip to clean-off the babies' tootsies if they have poop on them and then be sure to dry their feet very well so they don't catch a chill. Chilling (a temperature that is different from inside their nest box) is stressful for a baby Budgie! This is what can cause crops to become "slow or sour" and for babies to do poorly. Do not allow your babies to become chilled!! A little poop will not hurt a baby Budgie; however, removing a baby Budgie and cleaning it with water can chill it and it could become sick and die. We combine a good quality fresh Cockatiel Plus (with added vitamins & minerals and de-hydrated goodies) and Canary Roller Cuisine that we buy from a wholesale granary near our home. The food your birds eat is the most important thing with breeding birds because their bodies are forming the new babies. They must have a quality seed and grain mixture to provide them with all of the essential vitamins and minerals for the growing babies and to replace the nutrients in the Mommy and Daddy as well.
I buy our Bird seeds from a wholesale granary 4 blocks from our home. They supply quality feed to Southern California, Arizona , Hawaii , Guam, and the Philippines . I buy in bulk every two weeks. The owner of the granary's son is a friend and goes to my church. He is a speaker at various bird organizations. The company is highly respected for their high quality bird seeds and grain. They manufacture the seed products 4 blocks from my home. I drive 4 blocks every 2 weeks to pick up our supplies. They sell to pet stores and breeders. Every 2 weeks I buy:
(1) 25 lb sack of Cockatiel Mix Plus (ingredients: Millet, Canary, Oat Groats, Safflower, Sunflower, Buckwheat & Vitamins) $11.20 a bag(1) 20 lb sack of Canary Roller Cuisine with Fruits and Vegetables (ingredients: Canary, Rape Seed, Oat Groats, Small Millet with Vitamins, Flax, Red Millet, Hemp, Coconut, Red Bell Pepper Granules, Carrot Granules, Fruity Kibble with Apple, Anise, Spinach, Saffron and many numerous other vitamins and added ingredients e.g. corn, ground wheat, etc . . . .) $19.67 a bag
(1) 10 lb sack of black oil sunflower seeds $9.99(2) 5 lb boxes of fresh millet sprays $13.09 per 5 lb box
and a bagful of large size Calcium mineral blocks (10) $0.41 each
We don't purchase more because then the seed could turn bad while it is stored in our Bird pantry. The seeds could hatch a variety of moths and then you will have moths flying around your Aviary/cage and wherever you store the seeds. The moths are not harmful. However, they are a nuisance. I can't stand them flying around in my house. We mix the two seed bags into jars immediately when we get them home and then we seal the lids on the jars tight to prevent mold and fungus from forming on any of the seeds. Do not store the seeds in the refrigerator because then they will become moist. If you were to leave the moist seeds out of the fridge for 24 hours then mold and fungal spores will grow on the seeds. This is what is deadly to all birds and especially new baby birds---aflatoxin is a mold that grows on moist seeds and produces aspergillus and various types of respiratory diseases. Aflatoxins are potent toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, immunosuppressive agents, produced as secondary metabolites by the fungus Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus on a variety of food products. You must avoid mold and fungus. (Never give your birds peanuts because these can be very high in aflatoxin!!) We re-fill all of our Aviaries, Flights, and Cages with fresh food and water every morning at 6 AM when the birds wake-up and they are the hungriest after fasting for a full 12 hours without food during the night. At 6 AM our Mommies will leave their babies for a few seconds to take a potty-break and to drink water. They will rapidly fly back into their nest boxes where they are fed by a Budgie Daddy who pokes his head in and out feeding his wife. We feed all of our precious birds a varied diet of Cockatiel Plus mixed with Canary Roller Cuisine which includes: Millet, Canary, Oat Groats, Safflower, Sunflower, Buckwheat, Rape Seed, Small Millet, Flax, Red Millet, and Hemp. Plus: Dried/de-hydrated: Whole Eggs, Alfalfa Greens, Dandelion greens, Oats, Yeast, Dolomite, Oyster Shell, Comfrey Leaves, Sea Kelp, Liver, Capsicum, Coconut, Red Bell Pepper granules, Carrot Granules, Fruity Kibble with Ground corn, soybean meal, corn gluten meal, ground wheat, dicalcium phosphate, soybean oil, Apple, Anise, Spinach, and Saffron. We always have fresh Millet sprays hanging everywhere in our Aviaries, Flights, and Cages because Millet is good for Budgies and Cockatiels and all birds to prevent fatty liver disease. We keep a millet spray hanging in each cage and aviary. Millet is a perfect grain and all birds benefit from eating millet. Lack of fatty acids can result in fatty liver infiltration because essential fatty acids are needed for lipid metabolism. Millet is a grain that is important for all Birds because it is the only food that all birds will eat that is high in essential fatty acids. We hang Millet sprays in all of our aviaries at all times. We give our birds fresh greens/vegetables/fruit including: fresh carrot tops, Napa cabbage leaves, romaine lettuce leaves, dandelion leaves, spinach leaves, and various fresh vegetables including: fresh grated carrots, fresh (not cooked) corn kernels that we remove from the cobs and then we give them the fresh de-kernelled cobs to play with. They love the juicy corn cob holes where we removed the kernels for them. We give them fresh fruits (without the seeds) e.g.peeled and chopped apples, cantaloupe, watermelon (they love this), peeled bananas daily, chopped navel oranges, mango, red grapes (with seeds and stems), pears, etc. To round out their diet: cuttlebone, a high quality charcoal and oyster shell grit (insoluble and soluble minerals), and Iodine block is always available. We do not add vitamin or mineral supplements to our Birds' food or water. Vitamin supplements in water can put birds off their water and create increased bacterial growth. Offering hanging cuttlebone and mineral blocks allows a laying hen to consume a large amount without forcing a cock to take in large amounts of calcium as many powdered preparations can. Moreover, many of our hens break off pieces and keep a stockpile in the nest box for easy munching while they sit. We've even caught the occasional doting cock shuttling cuttlebone chunks up to his sitting hen ..... too cute !Of course fresh clean water is provided at all times. We use hanging water dispensers (the kind that are used in hamster/rabbit cages). All of our Birds get the hang of using the water dispensers and it keeps the water from becoming contaminated with food or other debris during the day. We also provide hanging cups filled with water so they can bathe or if they prefer to drink from them rather than the dispensers. We provide fresh alfalfa sprouts for all of our birds daily. These are purchased already sprouted at the supermarket and they are high in protein for the breeding birds. Occasionally we offer breeding birds germinated seeds. The advantages of geminated seed are 2 fold. First, it is a very high protein food. When a seed germinates, it transforms carbohydrates to proteins in preparation of the new plant's growth. The protein available is in the form of amino acid building blocks and is VERY available nutritionally. Many seeds will double or triple their protein content at germination. When the plant actually sprouts, then this becomes cellulose and is not digestible. So the key is to offer it when the shoot is just breaking out of the seed. The other great advantage is that germinated seed says "time to breed" to birds as it is only available in quantity in the Spring when breeding in the wild begins. So it acts as a wonderful stimulus to breed. The germinated seed stays overnight as it is a live food and has all the natural defenses against bacteria and fungi that germinating seeds in the wild have. It must be discarded daily because it can grow mold which is deadly to birds who might inhale the mold spores. This is the reason that we prefer not to feed germinated seed to our birds unless we are sure that it is completely free of any possible mold. All of our birds are fed the alfalfa sprouts instead of germinated seeds. We do not want to take a chance with mold in our Aviaries and Flights with our babies. Some people will tell you to add all kinds of mold preventative concoctions to prevent the mold on germinating seeds. We never add chemicals or any synthetic substances to our Birds' food or their water. I have seen and heard about too many Breeders who have had numerous problems when they've added synthetic vitamins, minerals, and purifiers to their birds' food and water. It is NOT necessary to add these items if you are conscientious about removing all traces of their food every morning and replacing it always with the freshest foods every morning. The morning is when birds are the hungriest. This is when they will eat their fresh seeds, grains, veggies, and fruit. They will also eat throughout the day. However, the morning is when they re-plenish most of their nourishment after their 12 hours of fasting during the night. Breeding birds require more abundant fresh seeds, grains, vegetables, and fruit. They require mineral blocks, cuttlefish bone, and iodine blocks. Fresh clean water from a dispenser or cup. We also provide shallow pans for them to drink or to splash in to bathe. However, be careful with the water dishes because sometimes a baby is accidentally shoved out of a nest and could fall into a water dish. We avoid all problems.When your babies are 4 ½ weeks old they will try to come out of the nest box, then you will need to keep an eye on them. This means that Mommy has quit feeding them inside the nest box and they are hungry so Daddy will poke his head in and out of the hole in the nest box where the baby Budgie looks out of it. The daddy Budgie will feed his babies. Daddy Budgies are the best daddies.
The baby Budgies will fall out of the nest box the first couple of times that they attempt to leave it. The Mommy stops feeding the baby Budgie inside the nest box when he is about 4 ½ to 5 weeks old. The baby is hungry, of course, so he looks out of the nest box and this is when he attempts to fly---to get food. He's hungry. So we always sprinkle extra seeds and greens on the floors of all of our aviaries, flights, and cages for the newly-fledged baby birds to learn to forage. It's important to sprinkle the seeds and greens on the floor of your breeding cage.
If a newly-fledged baby attempts to fly out of the hole in its nest box and hits the floor he might fracture a bone. You should put a soft cushioned surface underneath the nest box. We have a mattress at the bottom of each of our aviaries and we put foam pads at the bottom of our flights and all of our cages. That way a newly-fledged baby bird has a soft landing. We cover the mattresses and pads with sheets that we soak in cold water over-night, wash in Tide the next morning, then dry in our dryer.
We just re-place a fallen baby into his nest-box after checking his crop. If you find that a baby has fallen out of the nest box during the night be sure to check his crop to be sure it is full. This is important because this baby may have been so hungry during the night that he tried to leave the nest box to find food and fell on the ground attempting to fly. The Mommy quit feeding him. You may have to supplementally feed this baby if his crop isn't full before you put him back into the nest box. If he should fall out again then you will have to supplement him and keep him warm.
A newly-fledged Budgie will watch his Daddy foraging and he will imitate his Daddy. If the Daddy doesn't feed him then you should observe to see if the baby is able to forage sufficiently on his own to fill his crop and that he can drink water on his own. If he cannot then you should give him supplemental hand-feedings.
You must observe your babies very closely now. The Mommy Budgie will try to have another clutch of babies. We remove the eggs of the Mommy's next clutch to prevent stressing our birds due to over-breeding. Two clutches per year is sufficient. It is not cost-effective or wise to over-breed birds. The babies of over-bred birds are stunted and have many problems (feather deformities, bone deformities, and other abnormalities) due to lack of minerals while their egg was being formed inside their over-bred and stressed-out Mommy.
The Hen might hurt one of her babies from her last clutch in order to get him out of her way to start her next clutch. You have to be sure that all of your babies' crops are kept full and that they are able to forage by themselves before you separate them from their Mommy and Daddy. The Daddy Budgie will teach his babies to forage and he will feed them during the daytime if they should need extra feedings besides the food that they are able to forage for themselves.
Watch your babies now very closely so that the Mommy doesn't push them out of the nest box or worse---that she doesn't hurt them!! They are in her way of starting a new family. The Mommy and Daddy Budgie will purposely push their babies down from perches so that the begging fledglings will fall down to the bottom of the cage where they can find food. This is why you must sprinkle the seeds on the floor of the cage and we always put veggies and fruit down there also.
Usually the babies will fledge from the nest box without any problems. However, keep an eye on your babies' crops to be sure they are getting enough food. A Budgie should always have food in his crop. Check your Budgie babies' crops especially before they are covered for the night to be sure their crops are full. If they aren't fed enough (crop isn't full enough) then we pull them out of their aviary and hand-feed them supplementary feedings in-between their foraging.
Babies removed at the earliest moment possible, though they feed themselves, often do not eat enough food at this period and do not grow as large as those receiving supplementary feedings from their parents while they are learning to forage and feed themselves.
At about the age of six to eight weeks, when the babies are eating sufficiently alone, then you can remove them from the breeding cage.
The most important thing for raising healthy birds is Love. If you sincerely love your birds they will sense it and they will in-turn love their babies as well and their babies will blossom! Well I think that should cover everything so that your baby birds will have the best life.