The Breeding African Grey Parrots essay that follows is a personal viewpoint on what can be a highly contentious matter, with many diverse and varying perspectives on each of the components involved. We, of course, utilise and advocate our own items.
I’m assuming that breeding your African Greys is a pastime that will ideally pay for itself via the sale of young birds, and in order to acquire young birds, you’ll need excellent adults. Before we begin, let me emphasise 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; 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 their most recent clutch. Two points: the odds of being presented proved pairs are like having a necklace made of hen’s teeth; it simply doesn’t happen very frequently, and when I say “Adult,” it’s practically hard to determine with any confidence how old a bird is since its eyes have gone from infant black to adult yellow. Most infant African Grey Parrots are grown for hand upbringing as pets, therefore pure British bred aviary birds are rare. A trustworthy vendor will most likely sell you a surgically sexed pair of African Greys.
At this time, all you can ensure 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 low-cost and precise option.
So you have two birds, one male and one female, and that’s about all you can say about them. Because parrots are clever, they have a social structure that involves connections. “Bonded” refers to a couple of birds that have fallen in love with one other. Look for birds that perch adjacent to one other and do mutual preening and even feeding. When your Greys reach this stage, you’ll be halfway there. Now a word of caution “Bonded” is a term that is much too often used by persons selling pairs of birds to stimulate a transaction. Always depend on your own observations rather than what others tell you! African Greys may take years to connect, and if they don’t like the partner you’ve picked for them, they won’t procreate.
So, you’ve hopefully chosen a wonderful set of future parents, but where should they live? Obviously, you should address this before acquiring your stock, but folks may be amusing.
A few things to think about while planning your flight. Number One African Greys chew, then chew some more, and finally end with a big chew. They are, indeed, destructive little buggers. If you utilise wooden framed panels, they must be internally wired; metal frames are preferable. In addition, the wire must be sturdy enough to withstand continuous worrying from the birds. They may not be able to bite straight through a length of wire, but bend it back and forth over a long enough period of time and it will shatter.
It is up to you how much room you provide each pair. Many commercial farms employ three foot square hanging wire cages with the nest box connected to the exterior, while others may build the largest feasible flight. Our greys are kept in cages that are six feet long, four feet wide, and four feet high. These are raised off the ground by 24 inch tall legs. This allows for perches, ropes, and enough length for some exercise (remember, this is just our perspective). Many would disagree, but it is a personal decision, and they are a wonderful between ground between two extremes. Each flight has a three-pot swing feeder, which reduces disruption and the possibility of escape. The nest box is built of inch thick ply and is affixed to the end in its own tiny safety porch. Metal plates cover any wood joints to prevent the boxes from rotting in less than a season. The safety area’s roof and half of the flight have roofs.
Right, the birds have been picked and housed, so it’s time for some chicks, right? Not nearly so quickly. It may take up to five years for your birds to lay their first clutch, and another two or three years to get the hang of motherhood, so patience is certainly a virtue. However, there are a few things you may do to expedite matters, which we shall discuss momentarily.
When it comes to your birds, the quality of what you feed them directly correlates to the outcomes you obtain. There’s an old adage about computers: garbage in, garbage out. The same holds true for your birds. A poor diet low 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 often produce bigger clutches of robust, healthy chicks. In the dead of winter, one of our pairings has recently produced four chicks from four eggs. Mother and children are doing well. Most literature on African Greys will give you a clutch size of one to three eggs. It’s time for some basic math. One additional African Grey chick that has been hand raised will cost about £500. You’ll need to purchase a lot of additional food for a pair of African Greys to eat up £500, and don’t worry, if she wasn’t fit enough to lay that extra egg, it wouldn’t be there. Another caution is in order! If you remove the chicks 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, causing stress and calcium deficits. It will eventually kill her. As a result, we never allow a couple to have more than two clutches every year, and every third clutch, at least one chick, frequently two, is left with the parents. This breaks 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-caught birds.
THE BIRTHING SEASON
There is no definite breeding season for African Greys; 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. when it is warm and dry in late spring and early summer.
So, how do we go about doing this? The breeding season of most birds is intimately related to food availability for the young birds. Due to the environment in their native habitat, African Greys have access to food all year, hence there is no breeding season. If there is little food, they will not spend their time laying eggs only to watch the young perish and overwork the mother bird. We must thus manipulate the manner you feed to elicit a seasonal reaction from the birds.
But what should I eat?
We obviously utilise our own items, and our original line comprised of things that we have tried and evaluated. We feed a variety of various foods.
The seed of choice is a Premium Parrot “Ideal” or “Banquet” combination. Either is appropriate, but our breeding pair receives a combination of the two.
Every day, Psittamix Vitamin and Mineral Powder is sprinkled over fruit and vegetables (see fruit and vegetables page).
Eggfood with berries and freshwater shrimp, as well as our exclusive magic ingredient Extract of Parrot Palm Fruit
Let us make that season, will we?
The months of November, December, January, and February are often chilly and damp, making growing chicks difficult. We feed seed and fruit on a regular basis throughout these months. Twice a week, eat eggfood with Parrot Palm Fruit Extract mixed in. This blend gives the birds an excellent all-around intake, allowing them to recuperate after breeding and endure our harsh winter.
Increase the quantity of Eggfood to daily once March arrives, and double the amount of Parrot Palm Fruit Extract. The essential ingredient here is Parrot Palm Fruit Extract. 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 would urge them to lay eggs.
Everything should be replenished everyday; 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 result in eggs by the end of April.
It is now late spring, and you should have three huge white eggs in the nest box. African Greys hatch in approximately a month, so let them alone. If you keep peering in the box, you will only succeed in pushing the hen out, the eggs will become cold, and the unborn chicks will perish. Feed them and then go. Only experienced keepers with the necessary equipment should try to hand rear from the egg, and it is generally preferred to leave them with mom for at least three weeks before hand raising.
However, 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 on the young, they should be eighteen to twenty days old and robust enough to be taken in for hand upbringing. By leaving the chicks with their parents for this long, they accomplish two things: they pass on all of the necessary gut bacteria and they sort out any weak chicks in the clutch. It may seem harsh, but raising every possible runt from every clutch reduces a species’ survivability.
The brooder is an additional piece of equipment that is now required. Brinsea makes some outstanding examples, and you can locate used ones for sale, but make sure they are calibrated and maintained before you use them. They are meant to maintain a constant temperature for lengthy periods of time, and the quality of the incubator has a significant impact on the health of your chicks. The temperature is determined by various 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 without becoming sluggish, yet 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 just a starting point, careful observation is essential to fine-tune your settings.
Our infant African Greys are fed with a bent spoon; this may be messy at first, but we feel that imitating the chick’s mother fosters a stronger link between person and bird.
The formula used is Nutribird A21 prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions. We then add a tiny amount of Parrot Palm Fruit Extract and have discovered that this combination produces quite satisfying growth rates.
The chicks are initially fed Premium Parrot “Ultima,” a delicate blend of peas, beans, mountain ash berries, and fresh water shrimp, as they grow. It has shown to be an excellent transitional diet prior to seed introduction. All of our chicks leave us with at least a month’s supply of “Ultima,” a container of Parrot Palm Fruit Extract, a bag of “Ideal” seed, and the advice to continue using them all.
It is hard to predict how the new owner will care for their bird, but by providing them the finest start in life possible, you are doing all a breeder can.
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