It is fairly uncommon for a hen budgerigar to pluck the fluffy down off the backs of her chicks. Although plucking seldom progresses further, it is vital to be on the lookout for situations when the developing feathers are plucked – feather plucking. I don’t think feather plucking is inherited. I have bred from the daughters of feather-plucking chickens without the issue recurring, but I have never investigated beyond the second generation, nor have I attempted to determine if the vice was passed down to male kids. I’ve never discovered a home-made or patented solution that works to keep the hen away.
Boredom, I feel, is a contributing element. When you remove the cock from a plucking hen’s cage, she needs to spend more time feeding the chicks and has less opportunity to indulge in her undesirable behaviors. My nestboxes have detachable, solid tops, and replacing them with a piece of glass encourages the hen to spend more time in the cage rather than the nest-box. This may be beneficial in situations of feather plucking.
If another hen has a suitable nest, the chicks may be fostered. If all else fails, put the chicks in a tiny box with an open cover on the cage floor. The parents will normally continue to feed them but stop plucking them. Plucked heads normally heal with no negative consequences, but poorly plucked wing butts never return to normal and eliminate any hope of presenting the juvenile, no matter how excellent they are.
Even worse than plucking feathers are the rare instances when parents fight their offspring. Plucking is generally often the vice of the hen, although assaults might occur from either parent. When a cock is envious of a chick that has just left the nestbox, he may mistake it for a hen, make overtures, and assault the hapless youngster when it rejects his advances. A hen might regard a chick that returns to the nest-box as an intruder, resulting in another assault.
I safeguard vulnerable chicks by placing a little three-legged table in a breeding cage corner that is 15cm square and 10cm high. This gives the chicks protection and prevents the parents from attacking them. To kill a chick, the parent must climb on top of the youngster and attack the top of the head, which is clearly impossible with the sort of table indicated. Of course, the bigger the breeding cages, the more chance a chick has of staying out of the way of its parents.
Balance The Nest
We may assist our breeding couples by moving chicks around after their rings are on. It’s a good idea to relocate the chicks from your top couples that have performed well for you, either to have them laying another clutch fast or to rest them and bring them back later. I want to see four chicks on the nest because I find that if there are just one or two, the hen sits too tightly, resulting in splayed legs. Another thing I like to do is balance the ages by placing four birds of around the same age in each nest. It’s all too easy for a little one to be crushed in a nest when some of the others are considerably larger, so I attempt to give the smaller ones a better chance by transferring the bigger ones into nests where they’ll be with other birds of similar sizes.
Don’t get the sense that I’m continually tampering with the nestboxes; I don’t think so. If things is going well, I don’t check the box every day – maybe every other day. I believe it is best to let the hen alone.
I do very nothing with the first set of chicks after they are out in the fly (after approximately 21 days in a stock cage) except offer them seed, millet sprays, and water. I never perform any show training or put them in a display cage until they have finished their first moult. Before I begin show training, I want to assess their potential. I don’t want to spend my time teaching birds that will be useless to me on my display team.
The Big Clean Out
At the conclusion of the mating season, which for me was in early June, I began a thorough cleaning. My cages are built such that the fronts of three cages may be removed as a unit. I remove the fronts, which are now composed of fiber glass and merely need to be washed in warm water (no more painting). The frames are made of hardwood, so just wash in warm water, massage with wire wool, and then rub with teak oil. The cages themselves are scraped and cleansed, and they are repainted every other year. Everything is reassembled, new and clean, in preparation for the next year’s breeding and this year’s possible display squad.
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