I’m going to presume that breeding your African Greys is a pastime that presumably pays for itself via the sale of young birds, and in order to produce young birds, you need excellent adults. Before we begin, let me repeat that this is my own perspective, and many other people will have their own. Talk to as many people as you can, then make your own decision based on the evidence available. What follows is what we do; it works; if it isn’t broken, why fix it?
Ideally, and if you’re really fortunate, someone will provide you a confirmed adult couple with chicks from the previous clutch they reared. Two points: the odds of being presented proved pairings are like getting a necklace made of hens teeth; it simply doesn’t happen very frequently, and when I say “Adult,” it is practically hard to determine with any confidence how old a bird is since its eyes have gone from baby black to adult yellow. When you think about it, most infant African Grey Parrots are raised for hand upbringing as pets, therefore pure British bred aviary birds are uncommon. Most likely, you will purchase a surgically sexed pair of African Greys from a trustworthy source. All you can ensure at this time is that you have one cock bird and one hen bird. If you are confused about the sexes of your birds, DNA sexing is now a cheap and accurate option.
So you have two birds, one male and one female, and that’s about all you can say about them. Parrots have a social system that incorporates connections because they are cognitive. “Bonded” refers to a couple of birds that have fallen in love. Look for birds that perch adjacent to one other, preening and perhaps feeding each other. You’ll be halfway there once your Greys reach this phase. Now for a word of caution. “Bonded” is a term that is much too often used by persons selling pairs of birds in order to induce a transaction. Always depend on your own observations rather than what you are taught! African Greys may take years to connect, and if they do not like the partner you have picked for them, they will not procreate.
Now that you’ve found a decent pair of prospective parents, the question is where to put them. Obviously, you should sort this out before acquiring your stock, but people do the strangest things.
A few things to think about while designing your flight. Number One African Greys chew, then chew some more, and finally chew some more. Yes, they are destructive little buggers. If you are going to utilise wooden framed panels, they must be internally wired; metal frames are preferable. Furthermore, the wire must be sturdy enough to withstand frequent worrying from the birds. They may not be able to bite straight through a length of wire, but they can bend it back and forth for a long time until it breaks.
It’s up to you how much room you give each couple. Many commercial farms employ three foot square hanging wire cages with the nest box connected to the exterior, while others will construct a flight as large as feasible. Our greys live in cages that are six feet long, four feet wide, and four feet high. These are raised off the ground by 24 inch high legs. This allows for perches, ropes, and enough length for some exercise (remember, this is merely our perspective). Many would disagree, but it is a personal decision, and they are a wonderful balance between two extremes. Each flight is outfitted with a three-pot swing feeder, which reduces disturbance and the possibility of escape. The nest box is affixed to the end in its own tiny safety porch and is constructed of inch thick ply. Metal plates cover any wood joints to prevent boxes from rotting in less than a season. The ceiling of the safety area and half of the flight are covered.
Right, the birds have been picked and housed, so now it’s time for some chicks, right? Not so fast. It may still take up to five years for your birds to lay their first brood, and another two or three years after that to get the hang of motherhood, so patience is certainly a virtue. However, there are a few things you may do to expedite the process, which we shall discuss momentarily.
When it comes to your birds, the quality of what goes in closely correlates to the outcomes you receive out. When it comes to computers, there’s an old adage that goes: garbage in, garbage out. The same is true for your birds. A poor diet insufficient in vital vitamins and minerals will result in tiny clutches of sickly chicks, if any eggs are produced at all. Birds given a high-quality food will usually reward you with bigger clutches of robust, healthy chicks. In the midst of winter, one of our pairings has recently produced four chicks from four eggs. Mother and baby are doing well. Check the literature on African Greys; most will give you a clutch size of one to three eggs. It’s time for some easy math. One additional hand-reared African Grey chick will cost about £500. To use up £500, you’ll need to purchase a lot of additional food for a pair of African Greys, and don’t worry, if she wasn’t fit enough to lay that extra egg, it wouldn’t be there. It’s time for another warning! If you take the babies away too soon or even incubate the eggs, the birds will naturally lay again. This kind of forced breeding not only reduces the amount of years a bird will lay but also puts a significant load on the hen, who will begin to suffer from stress and calcium shortages. It will even kill her over time. As a result, we never allow a couple to lay more than two clutches in a year, and every third clutch, at least one chick, frequently two, is left with the parents. This interrupts the breeding cycle and resets the adults’ parental clock. As an extra advantage, it produces English Bred breeding stock, which is critical if we are to ever cease importing wild captured birds.
THE BREEDING SEASON
African Greys do not have a distinct mating season; they may and will lay at any time of year. It is feasible to coerce them to lay when the weather is more conducive to chick survival and less taxing on the parents, i.e. late spring and early summer.
So, how do we do it? Most birds have a breeding season that is closely related to food availability for the young birds. Because of the environment in their native habitat, African Greys have food accessible all year, hence there is no breeding season. If there isn’t enough food, they won’t spend their time laying eggs simply to see the chicks perish and overwork the mother bird. As a result, we must manipulate the method you feed to elicit a seasonal reaction from the birds.
But what to eat?
Obviously, we utilise our own items, and our original line comprised of things that we have tried and evaluated. We feed a variety of foods.
The seed of choice is Premium Parrot “Ideal” or “Banquet”. Either is appropriate, but our breeding pair gets a combination of the two.
Psittamix Vitamin and Mineral Powder is sprinkled over daily fruit and vegetables (see fruit and vegetables page).
Eggfood with berries and freshwater shrimp
And our exclusive ingredient, Parrot Palm Fruit Extract
Let us make that season, will we?
November, December, January, and February are often chilly, rainy months when rearing chicks may be difficult. During these months, we feed seed and fruit on a regular basis. Twice a week, I eat eggfood with Parrot Palm Fruit Extract mixed in. This blend offers the birds with an excellent all-around intake, allowing them to recuperate after breeding and endure our harsh winter.
Increase the quantity of Parrot Palm Fruit Extract to twice the suggested rate once March arrives. The Parrot Palm Fruit Extract is crucial in this case. Because it is manufactured from West African Palm Nuts, one of the African Grey’s major food sources, tricking them into believing a bountiful crop is on the way can encourage them into egg laying.
Everything should be replenished on a daily basis; you’ll quickly be able to tell how much your birds are eating by what’s left at the end of each day.
This regimen should (emphasis should) result in eggs towards the end of April.
It’s already late spring, and ideally you have three huge white eggs in the nest box. African Greys take approximately a month to hatch, so let them alone. If you keep peeking in the box, all you will do is drive the hen out, the eggs will become cold, and the unborn chicks will perish. Feed them and then leave them alone. Only experienced keepers with the proper equipment should try to hand raise from the egg, and it is preferable on many counts to leave them with mom for the better part of three weeks before hand raising anyhow.
Your best bet is to forget about the next box until around seven weeks after the first egg is deposited. When you go to check, there should be eighteen to twenty day old young in there that are robust enough to be brought in for hand raising. By keeping the chicks with the parents for this long, it does two things: it passes on all of the necessary gut bacteria and sorts out any weak chicks in the clutch. Although it may seem harsh, raising every possible runt from every clutch reduces a species’ viability.
The brooder is now an essential piece of equipment. Brinsea makes some outstanding examples, and you can locate used ones for sale, but have them calibrated and serviced before using them. They are meant to maintain a constant temperature for lengthy periods of time, and the quality of the incubator greatly influences the health of your chicks. The temperature is determined by a variety of factors, including the age of the chicks, the weather, the location of the nest box, the number of siblings, and so on. It must be warm enough for a chick to digest its meal and not seem sluggish, but cold enough to prevent them from thrashing about if it is too hot. A down-covered bird will need a temperature of roughly 29 degrees Fahrenheit or 85 degrees Celsius. However, since this is only a starting point, careful observation is necessary to fine-tune your settings.
Our infant African Greys are fed using a bent spoon, which may be messy at first but helps to develop a stronger link between person and bird.
Nutribird A21 was blended according to the manufacturer’s instructions. We then add a tiny amount of Parrot Palm Fruit Extract and have discovered that this combination produces very good growth rates.
As the chicks grow, they are given to Premium Parrot “Ultima,” a soft blend of peas, beans, mountain ash berries, and fresh water shrimp. It has shown to be an excellent transitional meal prior to the introduction of seed. All of our chicks leave us with at least a month’s supply of “Ultima,” a jar of Parrot Palm Fruit Extract, a bag of “Ideal” seed, and the advise to continue using all of them.
It is hard to predict how the new owner will care for their bird, but by providing them with the greatest possible start in life, you are doing all a breeder can.
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