While I was feeding the young birds, one of our neighbors walked into the kitchen. He was definitely thrilled when he saw the plastic boxes full of wailing infants lined up on the counter.
“Wow! Take a look at it!” He stated. “How many children do you have?” “Roughly thirty.” I responded.
“That’s what I call easy money,” he said. I guess I should invest in a couple pairs and get started. It’s preferable than working.
I tried to calmly mention that there was a lot of effort involved. After all, he was a neighbor who never complained about our aviaries’ loudness. He was one of those rare persons that woke up early every morning to the sounds of our birds.
“How much are you going to get for that one?” he said, pointing to a newborn Green Winged Macaw.
“About $1800,” I said nonchalantly as he went in search of my husband, still scratching his head at this simple manner we had discovered to earn a fortune.
I mentally replayed his background while I fed the green wing, a lovely large baby of five weeks. We had finally identified the exquisite couple who had produced him after almost five years of looking for exactly the perfect birds. That happened six years ago. We had gone through various adjustments in their caging throughout those six years, in addition to the daily routine care provided to each bird. We ultimately gave them a walk-in sized flight. We had to go through four nest boxes before we found one that pleased them, and they were enormous, heavy, and costly nest boxes.
They had never taken more than a week to dismantle even the thickest perch. We saw them evolve from sitting at different ends of the plane to moderate camaraderie and, eventually, romance. They repaid our patience with two eggs last year and were doing well this year.
Unfortunately, a possum visit around midnight resulted in scrambled eggs. They did not return to nest until the next year, when, despite being sheltered in an indoor aviary, they were afraid and scrambled their first two eggs once again. Fortunately, they returned to their nest, and this time we promptly picked away their single egg for artificial incubation.
A gorgeous huge chick hatched from the egg twenty-eight days later. He needed hand feeding every two hours, night and day, for the first seven days. He was doing well on four feedings a day, but it would be at least five months before he was weaned and eating well enough on his own to be ready for a new home. All too frequently, a similar background justifies what my neighbor thought was an exorbitant price.
This season, we lost a couple Cockatiels. They were stunning large exhibition birds, the result of years of meticulous breeding and genetic research. When tests revealed that pseudomonas was the causal culprit, I had to provide antibiotic injections twice daily for seven days to the flock of more than 100 cockatiels.
These infants I was feeding had likewise needed the same therapy and had lived to be fat and healthy, but they didn’t quite meet the requirements for easy money. Leaving aside the time spent treating the flock, the expense of veterinarian bills, cultures, and antibiotics would more than exceed any profit. I had no intention of selling these birds in order to be certain in my choices for next year’s breeding.
I was lucky to locate three unrelated pairs of Blue Quakers three years ago. They all did well the next year and were great parents. This year, two partners chose to have their own eggs for breakfast! Breakfasts are exorbitantly priced. The two newborns I was nursing were just a fraction of all the wonderful eggs I had been depending on to increase my breeding pool of this uncommon mutation.
For many years, we have fed and cared for four pairs of Yellow Naped Amazons. One couple never even learned to accept one other, and we sold them as pets for pennies on the dollar. The other three pairings were preening and feeding each other, and we had great expectations for success this year.
The first couple never went to nest. The second produced one chick, which they immediately ate. The hen of the third pair spent most of her time in the nest box but persisted on laying her eggs off the perch for reasons unknown to her. So much for newborns with yellow napes this year.
One of our African Grays spat up all the shavings in her nest box. She then sat so closely that one of her infants was spraddle legged so severely that it had to be terminated. After eight years together, a couple of Moluccan Cockatoos produced three eggs. They were terrified and fractured all three beyond repair.
Moluccan infants will most likely have to wait until their ninth year.
All of these birds represent a significant financial and time commitment. I’ve never done the math, but I’m certain that if the money we paid for the birds, the expenses of keeping them, and the minimum salary for the hours we spent caring for them had all been placed in even a savings account, the return in dollars would have been considerably greater.
We adore our birds and spend a lot of time with them. Even at two a.m., feeding a vulnerable tiny chick and seeing it grow and develop is a delight!
Having birds you’ve bred yourself put on the top bench at shows is as exciting as watching your adolescent go up to the stage to collect his diploma.
I’ve exclusively focused on the bad parts of our experience. There have been enough achievements throughout the years to allow us to face the calamities front on. There is always the possibility of another breeding season.
Breeding birds is a fascinating pastime that is always intriguing and fulfilling, but it is not easy money.
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