I’ve been getting a lot of letters from people who have never attempted to breed budgies before, so I thought it may be a good idea to lay out the very basic needs as well as some of the things that might go wrong when you first start.
Prepare a breeding area.
Your first necessity is a breeding area for your budgies. It might be a shed, garage, cellar, extra room, or even a custom-built birdroom. It is a good idea to provide yourself as vast an area as possible, or at least enough to grow, since unless you are really strong-willed, you will run out of room when your budgies begin to reproduce. Remember that you’ll need stock cages and flights to hold your birds while they’re not breeding, as well as to house fledgling birds while you pick which ones to retain.
It is a good idea to supply your birds with a nightlight. When they are left in the dark and there is a noise or a flashing light that they do not recognize, they tend to panic. When the main lights in my birdroom are turned off, a low-energy bulb is left on to provide adequate lighting without keeping the birds awake and chattering. It is worth purchasing these because low-wattage bulbs seem to blow very quickly and I spent a fortune replacing them until I decided to lash out and buy the more expensive ones. It also reduces the likelihood of a hen abandoning the nest in the middle of the night and being unable to find her way back, allowing eggs to chill or chicks to perish from cold.
Define your breeding propose.
You must next select if you want to breed for pleasure, color, or display. This will have a significant impact on the sort of bird you get and the amount you spend.
Most people start because they admire the vibrant colors of the budgerigar. I went to a pet store and purchased the brightest colors I could find. When I discovered exhibition budgies and became engaged in the show scene, I attempted to satisfy the two criteria by maintaining unusual kinds that were generally brilliantly colored. I performed fairly well with them, but as time passed, I realized that if I wanted to compete seriously, I needed to minimize my rares and focus more on normal types. Rares are becoming more scarce each year. If you like competition, acquire the finest budgerigars you can afford from reliable breeders. If you wish to breed for color, you may obtain your birds anywhere you can find them, as long as they are clean and healthy. To prevent importing illness, keep any birds you introduce into your birdroom apart from your present population for at least three weeks.
When purchasing exhibition grade birds, bring your finest bird in a showcage with you and ask the breeder if you may compare it to the one you wish to purchase. They may not want you to bring your bird inside their birdroom because of the danger of infection, but they definitely wouldn’t mind if you compared the two outside. It’s all too easy to get carried away in someone else’s birdroom and then come home to discover that you already have nicer birds than the one you just purchased. If you’re searching for a mate for a certain bird, bring it along with you so you can make sure your decision compliments that species.
In any scenario, three pairs would be a decent place to start. They will provide you with some breeding experience without requiring you to do a lot of effort. You will have plenty of time to get to know your birds, their habits, and their needs.
Make sure your birds are ready to breed.
Before you mate the birds, make sure they are in breeding shape. This implies that the hens should be chewing everything in sight and the cocks should be calling and feeding each other. Normally, the cock’s cere becomes vivid blue, while the hens’ cere becomes pale brown. This is not always the case; some chickens’ cere never changes from a very faint blue yet continue to breed healthily.
Arrange your breeding cage & nest box.
It’s a good idea to keep your hens and cocks apart for a few weeks before you want them to start reproducing. During this time, you should arrange the cages where your birds will breed. I use all-wire cages for ease of cleaning and to help keep parasites at bay by providing them nowhere to hide. Another benefit is that budgerigars are quite social animals, giving the birds the appearance of colony nesting, and I have discovered considerably improved fertility since switching to them. I do not suggest colony breeding since relatively few chicks survive. If you do decide to colony breed, however, be sure to offer two nestboxes for each hen in the flight. When they all decide they want the same nestbox, this will reduce the fighting.
If you wish, you may use wood or plastic-coated material with a wire front that is 24″ 12″ 10″ high, again for simple cleaning. You’ll also need a nest box, which may be placed on the bottom of the cage or hung on the outside. The nest box should be at least 8″ 5″ 6″ in size and have a concave base. The front should also include a 2″ diameter aperture for the birds to enter and exit. It should also have a detachable or hinged cover on top so you can observe when eggs have been deposited and chicks have hatched. I usually put a few wood shavings on the nestbox bottom to absorb moisture and keep the eggs from rolling about, replacing them when the hen spits them out.
To prevent mite infestation, I replace the nestboxes on a regular basis once the chicks hatch, spraying the clean one with pesticide before transferring the chicks. Check if it is suitable for usage with birds.
Trim the feather of your breeding birds.
To guarantee that the eggs are viable, remove the feathers from around the vent of both the cock and the hen before placing them in the breeding cage, and do so between rounds. You can trim them with scissors, but if you depend on any of them for early displaying, the feathers will take a long time to grow back. I keep them for up to 21 days after assembling them to see whether they produce eggs. If they don’t, I divide the duo and try alternative partners, or I put them back on the plane for a few weeks and try again later.
Be ready for the eggs.
In most situations, the chickens will begin laying after 10 to 12 days. They will lay every 2 days until she produces a full clutch, which may range from 3 to 9 eggs. The eggs will take 18 days to incubate, and the chicks will hatch every two days if the eggs are viable.
Understand the hen’s new needs & behaviors.
Your birds will need more nutrition when they are raising their young. In addition to their typical seed diet, a customized softfood, millet sprays, and tonic seed may be given in tiny amounts. All year, I also take Murphy’s Pro-System vitamins and minerals.
I had no idea that the chickens’ droppings would grow huge and loose when I initially began breeding. I assumed she had diarrhoea and took her out of the cage, placed her someplace quiet, and dosed her. Oh, no! I was shocked when she produced an egg and appeared unaffected by it. Fortunately, I was able to reunite her with the cock, and they went on to raise 9 babies – very little ones, to be sure.
One of my hens flung all of her eggs out of the nest. I believed she was a terrible mother and gave her away, only to learn later that she did so because she knew the eggs were infertile and wanted to start laying another batch.
Get an experienced breeder as your mentor.
Find an experienced breeder in your neighborhood who doesn’t mind your panicked phone calls if at all feasible. The Budgerigar Society in the UK offers a list of individuals who are willing to assist newcomers, and hearing a calm voice on the other end of the phone was a huge comfort to me.
My first panic episode occurred when I discovered a hen all fluffed up in the nesting box, unable to pass an egg. I had no clue what to do, but after a brief phone call, I found myself in a basin of warm water, dragging up the skin from around the vent to the top of the egg I could feel within her. I had to be very cautious not to shatter the egg, since doing so would have killed her. After 15 minutes, the egg fell out, and I was able to transfer her in a warm spot to recuperate, while the egg was placed behind another pair of shoes. I didn’t match her up again that season, but she had 12 chicks the next year.
Consider having more than one couple breeding at the same time.
It is advantageous to have more than one couple breeding at the same time. In the previous example, I was able to move the egg to another nest. This is occasionally required for chicks as well. I’ve been really upset to discover that a hen has harmed or feather plucked her babies for no apparent reason. If this occurs in the nest, it is best to relocate the surviving chicks to another nestbox or to remove the guilty parent and let the other to feed the chicks. I now put a little table on the floor of the cage labeled BBBS (Battered Baby Budgie Shelter) for the chicks to hide from a parent who assaults them just after they emerge out of the nestbox. I now keep a close check on kids leaving the nestbox, bringing them out and, if required, hand-feeding them with a crop tube. It is normally the hen, although it may also be the cock. If this occurs, the offending parent should be transferred a few days before they leave the nestbox in the next cycle.
I now have a pair where the hen lay an egg and it was gone the following day. After 4 days of no eggs, I removed the cock, and the hen laid the following day. While I was feeding and cleaning, I closed the nestbox and replaced the cock. He obediently fulfilled his duties, and I then removed him and opened the nestbox. I will continue to do this until the hen has a complete clutch of eggs. If they are viable, I may move the eggs to another nest and give her a new cock since he was clearly devouring the eggs.
Prepare the baby birds to leave their mothers.
When the tiny chicks emerge from the nestbox, I usually keep millet sprays on hand since they may consume them before they can split seed. When the chicks leave their mothers, I keep a careful watch on them and palpate the crops to ensure that they are self-feeding. If not, they receive a top-up of parrot raising food every evening until I know they’re eating themselves.
Keep detailed records.
It is critical to maintain detailed records of your pairings and children. It may seem to be a lot of work at first, but as your aviary expands, you will find yourself unable to recall where that particularly excellent chick came from. It is well worth the time spent, and very useful to be able to look back and find out how that particular pair came to produce that strangely-coloured chick. If you start line-breeding you will have a head start if you keep records from the very beginning.
I hope this helps some beginner breeders overcome some of the issues that might arise. If I come up with any more, I’ll add them to this page.
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