HAMILTON & DISTRICT BUDGERIGAR SOCIETY INC.
GENERAL REARING & BREEDING PROBLEMS and some DO's & DONT's below.
See hear for more info on Egg Problems.
This info summarises only the factors which may be responsible for breeding difficulties. This information is of course most relevant to most common domestic birds.
Breeding problems may be manifested at different stages:
The causes of these problems are discussed below.
- Birds fail to mate.
- Birds mate but no eggs are laid.
- Only clear infertile eggs are laid.
- Fertile eggs are laid, but they fail to hatch.
- Eggs are laid, but are broken and/or eaten by the parents .
- There is a high proportion of addled eggs.
- There is a high proportion of dead-in-shell chicks.
- Chicks have difficulty in hatching.
- Weak nestlings are produced or deaths occur in the nest.
1. FAILURE TO MATE
- Immaturity of one or both birds.
- Senility affecting one or both birds.
- The birds are not a true pair, having been incorrectly sexed. This can easily happen with species in which the male and female plumage is similar.
- Fright and continuous or periodic disturbance.
- Dietary deficiencies, straightforward malnutrition or obesity.
- Hormonal imbalance.
- Infectious disease.
- Neoplasia of the gonads of either sex. This is mainly applicable to budgerigars.
- Congenital or hereditary disease.
- Various disorders of the reproductive system.
- Various disorders of the nervous system such as paralysis of the limbs.
- Unsuitable environment for breeding--not enough space, lack of proper nesting facilities, insufficient light, irregular use of artificial lighting, temperature too low, too high or too fluctuating.
- Excessive breeding.
- Incompatibility: sometimes a pair of budgerigars, for example, will refuse to mate with each other, but will mate satisfactorily with other birds.
- Incorrect season; especially applicable if the pair are housed in an outside aviary.
- Sometimes it is just a problem with the perches, where the pair cannot have stable enough grip to mate. Too small or too big a perch can cause this problem.
2. NO EGGS LAID
- Some of the factors listed above are applicable.
- Egg binding or other disorders of the female reproductive tract.
- Hens 7 years or older may be too old to breed successfully.
- Temperature and/or lighting conditions could affect breeding behaviour.
- They both may not be in breeding condition at the same time.
- Homosexuality among birds is rare but possible.
3. INFERTILE & CLEAR EGGS
- The following factors listed in paragraph 1, are particularly applicable, and less frequently some of the other factors listed may also occasionally apply.
- Absence of a male: inexperienced bird keepers sometimes do not realise that a hen kept in isolation or inadvertently "paired" to another hen, may lay eggs.
- It is conceivable that prolonged or over-dosage of certain drugs may interfere with metabolic and especially hormonal processes and cause infertility of either sex.
- Sometimes a young inexperienced male can cause clear eggs.
- Hen does not come out of nest box for male to mate properly. Male not aggressive enough to chase her out.
- Embryo dies in the early stages of growth.
4. FAILURE OF EGGS TO HATCH
- Disturbance to the incubating bird by the owner, cats, mice or vermin, excessive noise, other birds or previous offspring, or even by its mate.
- Chilling of the eggs, due to disturbance (see above) or failure of the incubating bird to cover the clutch adequately, especially if fostering additional eggs.
- Accidental damage to an egg shell; for example, by handling or due to perforation of the shell by a very sharp or overgrown claw. Only a hairline crack in the shell may be sufficient to introduce faecal contamination and kill the embryo. Eggs may also be damaged when birds are disturbed.
- Certain infectious diseases may be transmitted from the hen to the embryo and eventually kill it before hatching occurs. The organisms involved appear to include Escherichia coli and Salmonella spp. as well as perhaps certain viruses.
- Dietary deficiencies. Too dry of conditions, not enough humidity.
- Hereditary disease affecting the development of the embryo.
5. EGGS BROKEN AND/OR EATEN BY THE PARENTS
- Disturbance. (See above).
- Poisoning by chlorinated hydrocarbons. This is unlikely to be encountered, unless the hen bird has recently been acquired from a heavily contaminated area of the wild.
6. ADDLED EGGS
Addled eggs are those which after incubation are found to have decomposing contents. They may be infertile eggs which
have decomposed due to the warmth of incubation or infection or from neglect and prolonged exposure by the sitting bird. Alternatively, they may be fertile eggs which have died due to infection, neglect, hereditary deformity or injury. The causes will be found listed in sections 3 and 4 above.
7. DEAD IN SHELL CHICKS
There are a multitude of different possible reasons, and some are listed in sections 3, 4 and 6 above. An additional cause is dehydration of the embryo; this may occur especially under conditions of artificial incubation when the humidity of the incubators is too low. Very little is known unfortunately about the humidity requirements of developing embryos of most birds except poultry. It is quite possible that some species such as aquatic birds may require a high humidity for satisfactory hatching.
8. HATCHING DIFFICULTIES
The principles in section 7 above also apply to this section. In addition, a very low temperature will hinder hatching, as it will result in chilling and lowering of the metabolic rate of the chick. A weakened embryo is unable to break through the egg
shell with its egg tooth at the right time, indeed if the shell is specially hard or thick, even a healthy normal chick may be unable to break it. Disturbance by the owner will not help the chick, but if after several hours the egg remains "pipped", that is, the shell is broken in one place with the egg tooth visible, and the chick is obviously getting weaker, then the egg should be carefully opened and the chick released.
9. WEAK & DEAD NESTLINGS
This section cannot deal in depth with problems which often remain unsolved even by trained breeders with a lifetime of experience. It is the difficulties and the great challenge, with some species particularly, coupled with the moments of success, which makes bird breeding such an absorbing hobby.
- Disturbance: deaths may occur if the young are neglected by the parents as the result of disturbance, (see section 4 above), or owing to illness or death of a parent. All result eventually in chilling and starvation of the young.
- Dietary deficiencies.
- Infectious disease.
- Failure to provide the soft food to the parents before the eggs hatch to stimulate the formation of crop milk which the babies need to survive. This is not always necessary but in most cases it can prevent losses.
DO’S AND DONT’S
- Do maintain a high standard of hygiene in the aviary at all times. Bird in captivity need fresh air, food and water, plenty of exercise and a high standard of cleanliness in flights and breeding quarters if they are to enjoy life, maintain health and breed successfully.
- Do install a thermostatically controlled heating system so that the aviary temperatures can be maintained in the winter breeding months at between 45 and 60 degrees F.
- Do incorporate a timed system for the lights. Disturbances during dark hours by noise, weather or predators can be devastating to breeding pairs and roosting stock.
- Do maintain a regular routine regarding clean outs, feeding times, nest box inspection etc. Budgerigars thrive on regular aviary routines and care in this respect will greatly reduce the ‘stress factor’ in the birdroom.
- Do watch out for birds that are off color or lethargic. Immediate inspection is necessary followed by transfer to a quietly placed hospital cage. Apply heat to around 80 degrees F.
- Do feed the best quality seed and other nutrients to ensure stock is kept fit and in prime condition.
- Do mark the eggs with a soft felt tip pen with the date of expected hatching. This allows easy transfer of eggs to other nests and signals when chicks are due to hatch.
- Do inspect daily that the chicks are being fed crop milk by the hen. If air bubbles are present in the crop, these must be removed by applying gentle finger pressure. An empty crop signifies that the hen is not feeding properly. Either give her a 6 day old chick for a few days or transfer the chicks to another nest.
- Do handle chicks regularly from 2 weeks onward with warm, clean hands. By the time the chicks are ready to leave the nest box they will be calm and responsive to the handler. Once in a stock cage it is a good idea to give 10 minutes a day to hand training. This prepares them for handling in show cages or if they are to be sold as pets.
- Do give newly bred stock time to develop. It is advisable to keep stock for up to 9 months. Dark and Recessive factor take longer to develop and mature to their full potential.
- Do select birds for show 5 to 6 weeks beforehand. This time is required for removal and replacement of faulty flight and tail feathers. Regular spraying with water is essential during this time and birds should be de-spotted at least one week before the show.
- Do present show birds in thoroughly cleaned and well appointed show cages.
- Don't be impatient especially with first year hens. On average hens will begin to lay 10 days after pairing but for maiden hens up to 3 weeks may be required.
- Don't handle eggs unless it is absolutely necessary, use a 'B.W.' Torch. Evidence of fertility may be seen by way of blood vessels in the egg after 6 days.
- Don't overwork breeding pairs, 2 or 3 rounds of 3 or 4 chicks is ample if you don't want to ruin your breeding stock and have sickly youngsters.
- Don't expect parent birds to rear healthy chicks on seed and water alone. Soft food is essential for the rearing of the modern exhibition budgerigar. There are various options for soft food, but probably the most convenient and least time consuming is wholemeal bread soaked in milk, a little Dextrose powder may also be sprinkled on top.
- Don't leave soft food to go sour in the breeding cage. I would recommend feeding soft food in the evening and then removing the remains first thing in the morning.
- Don't change the birds diet during the breeding season. I don't believe that changing one's supplier has an effect as, long as the seed is of good quality with a high germination rate, is clean, and the contents of the mixture is consistent with the previous mixture.
- Don't expect good results from early breeding without creating an artificial environment. For breeding in the winter months heat and light are essential.
- Don't interfere with nest boxes too frequently, a daily inspection is all that should be required.
- Don't allow visitors into the birdroom if your birds are not used to strangers entering.
- Don't change the water in the hoppers without first washing them. Bacteria can build up on slime attached to the inside of the drinker and this instantly contaminates Clean water.
- Don't go away for weekends and expect the birds to fend for themselves during the breeding season.
- Don't chop and change your routine in the birdroom, try and keep timing and order of activities consistent.
- Don't go out and buy birds during the breeding season in an attempt to make up for poor performance earlier on. If the birds fail to breed its probably more your fault than theirs.
- Don't pair up birds that are out of condition in the hope that they may produce. It is likely that the stress which will be created could easily kill either of the pair.
- Don't forget to ring every chick. You can be sure that the one you miss is the best you have bred.
- Don't try and pull dirt from chicks toes without first softening it in a little warm water, you could easily pull a claw out making the bird useless for exhibiting.
- Don't move chicks or eggs to other nest boxes unless you are sure you will not lose their identity.
- Don't rely on your memory for keeping breeding records. Nest box record cards are essential.
- Don't despair when things are not going according to plan. Take one step backwards and try to analyse the situation. If things are really desperate good advice would be to split up the pairs, re-flight them and try again in a few weeks time.
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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.