To Breed or Not to Breed Your Bird
As you look at your Gouldian finch or brightly colored cockatoo, you may feel the world needs another bird as beautiful and amiable as yours. In other words, you may be thinking about breeding your pet bird.
Make this decision carefully and only after a lot of research and talking with experienced breeders. Breeding birds is not as simple as it sounds. To safeguard the health of your bird and his or her offspring, you need to be able to handle any situation you encounter.
Be knowledgeable about the following topics:
- Species you intend to breed
- Genetic problems that occur with in-breeding and line-breeding
- Behavior presented during breeding
- Feeding during breeding
- Breeding problems of the hen
- Conditions that affect the babies (chicks)
After learning everything that could go wrong, there are still several things to consider:
- Do you have the time to dedicate to breeding? The time you will need to spend with your new birds will increase dramatically.
- Will you be able to afford the costs involved if an avian veterinarian is necessary?
- Is an avian veterinarian available?
- If you can't find new homes for the new babies, are you willing to keep them? This means more cages, more feeding, and more cleaning. Remember you started with one bird, then you acquired a second one and now you may have a total of four – or even more.
Find a Mate
The next step is to find a mate for your bird. It's a common mistake to believe you own one female and one male, but you will need to confirm the sex of the birds you intend to breed. This sounds obvious, but it is not as simple as it sounds. For instance, if you decide to breed species of the psittacine (parrot) family, your veterinarian may need to determine the sex of the bird in question.
In addition, just because you have a female and a male, they may not like each other – and yes, that does matter. If they don't get along, they may have to be kept in separate cages, which is definitely not conducive to breeding.
To breed birds, make sure that they are mature and healthy at the time of breeding. Most birds in captivity will breed in the spring and fall. Breeding birds need to bond and get use to their surroundings, and during this time their needs must be satisfied. The birds must be in good health, well fed and their new spacious cage must be clean.
Some birds may become aggressive during the breeding season. The tame and cute bird you previously owned may suddenly scream and bite. You may not be able to handle him or her as in the past. Don't worry, most will go back to their sweet temperament after the breeding is over.
Selecting a nesting box is easy. Just ask your local bird shop and they will direct you to the correct one. Types vary depending on the bird species: small for canaries and finches, medium size for lovebirds, and larger size for cockatiels, conures and parrots (refer to our breed profiles for specification on nest sizes). Some boxes are placed inside the cage, while others are secured on the outside (this type facilitates access to the chicks if needed).
After mating, the female (hen) will start laying eggs and spending longer periods in the nest. Some species will lay every day, others every other day.
Some problems you may encounter during the egg laying are:
- Egg binding and chronic egg laying
- Infertile eggs
- Dead in shell
If everything goes well and the eggs are fertile, the chicks will start to hatch. At any time during breeding, you may need the assistance of your avian veterinarian to care for the hen or chicks.
Care of Chicks
You will need to check the nesting box every day to assure yourself that the chicks are being fed properly. Offer fresh food and plenty of water daily. If the parents care for their young, you will not have to worry too much. However, first time or inexperienced parents may not care for their young, and you have to care for them.
Hand-rearing chicks takes time and the right equipment. You may need to place them in an incubator and hand-feed them every 2 hours (commercial diets are available, to which you just add water). The feeding technique is not difficult to learn, but you should have your avian veterinarian show you how to do it properly. This is a critical period in the life of the new birds and it is the time you may encounter a high rate of complications and mortality.
Soon the new chicks will slowly start to pick at smaller (cracked) seeds you offer. Once you are sure they can eat by themselves, it is time to separate the chicks, some sooner than others, from the parents and start the taming the process.
If you decided in favor of breeding your pet, be a responsible breeder and give them the best care. They are counting on you!