This is the most difficult aspect. Of course, this is my passion: matching and breeding. This is where the difficulty resides. All of the birds have been mated and are on their breeding flights, and all partitions have been installed. The flock is quite vociferous, and there is a lot of soaring and activity. On the other end of the flights, away from the nest boxes, hens spend a lot of time interacting with their males. This is where you’ll see them hanging upside down from the flight deck, battling with the mate on the perch, or both. I distrust any chickens that stand back and do not join their companions. I take a closer look at the couple. I observe that the man maintains her at a distance and that she is afraid of him. She spends a lot of time in the box. I try to trick myself into believing she’s going to nest, but there haven’t been any eggs at the end of the season. Another couple behaves similarly, but this hen does not let the male to approach her and looks to be more dominating. There are eggs towards the end of the season, but they are all sterile. These two pairings must be re-paired. All of the other couples began nesting around the end of October.

By the conclusion of the breeding season, a few couples had only lain once and produced chicks, the majority had gone twice, and some had gone three times. If any pairings go on to produce a fourth clutch, I can typically anticipate some sterile eggs. I believe the males get bored while defending and feeding the hens and eventually die.

Memorial Day has here, and all barriers have been removed. The aviary is buzzing with activity and vocalizations. The delight of all the birds presumably rejoining the flock is palpable. At the further end, the men spar between cages. The hens begin to take their positions near the nest boxes, and they are seldom permitted to join the males in the ritual of defending their territory. The hens are only observed with the males in the early morning and late evening. During the day, their location is close to the nest box. This continues throughout the summer, and come breeding season, the males are pumped up once again. Each has done his part to safeguard his hen. When the partitions are reinstalled, the guys nearly seem to declare, “See, I drove them all away.”

Africans are not very showy birds, and you have to read a lot into what they do. For example, I had two chickens together for pharmaceutical therapy. Anyone who saw them would have assumed they were the most loving couple of birds imaginable. They were often napping, preening, and eating together. These activities are in no way indicative of a suitable couple. They’d never grow chickens. One of them took well over a year to accept a man. She was a powerful fowl. She is currently one of my finest breeders, but it took a lot of effort to get there. That was the last time I made that error. I never keep two birds of the same gender in the same cage.

You must be able to watch your birds without their suspecting anything. The more pairs you have, the more accurate your observations will be. Imported birds that aviculturists presently possess should be reproducing by now. If you buy unproven foreign birds, be aware that they will need to be re-paired. There is no longer such a thing as a bonded imported pair. They are not compatible if they are both healthy and not reproducing. If you have an imported bird pair that hasn’t bred yet, take them home and find them new partners. There is no need to delay. All those years of great health are being squandered. Do it! Don’t deceive yourself. We’ve all heard the tale of the Hyacinth macaw couple that bred at the pet shop. They couldn’t stop themselves since they loved one other so deeply.

Many people will offer imported and healthy birds as “bonded” pairs if they are not reproducing, but I like to think of them as “bondage” pairs. Having a dominant bird and a subordinate bird forced to live together may be a highly stressful condition in birds.

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