New Breeder Basics


Many of the inquiries I hear from new breeders or those contemplating getting into bird breeding appear to follow a pattern. Many of the issues that develop and errors that are made are eerily identical from Florida to California.

I often hear from the owner of a pet bird who is still reeling from the financial shock of the avian addition to the household. He concludes that it would be a sensible decision to purchase another of the same species and sex and breed a couple of his own. With this strategy, he would not only have two pets, but he would quickly recoup the expense of each and even earn a profit.

However, as Robert Burns famously stated, “the best laid schemes of mice and men go awry.” This bright future may have many unexpected twists and turns. When put in a breeding scenario, the affectionate, cuddly creature who has connected so strongly with his devoted owner frequently undergoes a total personality shift. When there are eggs or young to defend, the once lovely bird may turn aggressive and even lethal. Breeding birds are no longer suitable as pets.

The presence of a hen and a cock together does not guarantee the production of newborn chicks. Many of the bigger birds, as well as a fair proportion of the smaller ones, may take years to connect. It’s possible that the pet will never be compatible with the partner picked by its owner. Some birds will never share the same perch for no apparent reason. When all goes well, the owner cannot bear to leave with the infants after hand feeding them. The outcome is a home full of birds and no improvement in the checkbook balance.

Many aspiring breeders begin their careers by looking for proven pairs of the species they want to produce. It is uncommon to come across many proven pairs for sale without some “strings attached.” The buyer must take the seller’s word for it. When I bought a “proven pair” of Yellow Napes, my veterinarian discovered that the hen had no follicles on her ovaries and the cock had clogged seminal ducts. They were both utterly unable of having children. I had purchased them in good faith from a nice elderly woman who had told me everything about the kids they had previously produced.

If your couple has a history of producing one egg at three to five year intervals, the term “proven” is not bestowed dishonestly. The birds may be excellent producers, but they will always devour their eggs or chicks. The owner may not explain that with this proven pair, you must be on the lookout for eggs, incubate them, and hand feed them from day one.

The quest for low-cost items is often unproductive. Unless there are extraordinary personal issues compelling the sale, the owner is unlikely to offer healthy, prolific birds that are excellent parents for sale, particularly at low costs. He is generally selling the birds he wants to get rid of and may not feel the need to explain why to you.

Often, the newbie fails to thoroughly plan before beginning. It is necessary to make plans for the correct housing of the newly bought pairs. I once met a lady whose Yellow Napes had been breeding and raising chicks in a cage in her busy front foyer for years. This is really rare. My napes all need total solitude or they will not lay an egg.

All too often, little research and analysis about the behaviors of the species precedes their acquisition. Before purchasing a lovely pair of huge Macaws, you should be aware of the amount of noise you may anticipate each morning and evening. If profit is the goal, the marketability of the type bird chosen for breeding is a vital factor to consider. For example, if the intention is to produce African Greys, it should be noted that demand for Congo Greys has been continuously high throughout the years. Timneh Greys have always been in little supply, making them difficult to market. As a result, the breeding pair of Timnehs obtained at such a low price may not be such a steal.

The amount of time necessary to care for birds and hand feed their chicks must be considered in practice. In addition to understanding how to do the feeding procedure, someone must be present at home at regular intervals to do so. Buckets of baby birds stored in the restroom do not sit well with many employers!

Many new breeders begin collecting birds from various sources without the capacity to distinguish between excellent and bad specimens, or even to detect typical indicators of disease. In their enthusiasm to get started, they are too anxious to wait through a proper isolation time for each new chick, which may lead to disaster. This is why having a solid relationship with an Avian Veterinarian comes in handy. It’s always a good idea to have a “Bird 911” number to call.

Limiting the flock to a few distinct species simplifies maintenance, reduces the effort of changing mates, and provides the long-term advantages of developing a healthy blood line and gene pool. I admit that this requires a lot more self-control than I’ve been able to summon. I’m continually “falling in love” with another species, no matter how inconvenient their accession to our flock may be.

I’ve regularly advised potential breeders to test their wings on a few cheap pairs of birds. I advise them to begin with small flocks of productive birds such as cockatiels or little conures and learn as the flock grows in size and diversity. My recommendation to new breeders is to go to bird exhibitions, join bird groups, subscribe to bird periodicals, and learn from more experienced breeders. There is a plethora of knowledge available for those who are willing to put in the effort. You may be certain that the day will never arrive when you will have nothing else to learn.

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