One of the first indicators I notice is an increase in food consumption. This will become clear if you monitor and ration your feed. I feed more as they eat more. They consume about twice as much as they regularly do during mating season.
Second, I notice (or should I say smell) the hen’s lovely odor. I first see it in the nest boxes. When I’m feeding, I can generally smell chickens kept outside from about five feet away. This is similar to the powder down scent, but much harsher. It has nothing to do with their droppings smelling, as some birds do.
Third, there are little tufts of down all over the cage and the floor. This looks to be the downy feathers on either side where the tail and body connect. Instead of a continuous line, the tail has a pinched appearance where it meets the body. I believe the hen plucks them out for better access for the male. Finally, I observe (or hear) late-night vocalizations that last longer than usual.
COURTSHIP AND MATING
In general, the African Grey will often dangle from the apex of their flight and spar. If the breeder is unaware of this, it may look that they are fighting since it may get pretty violent. This is a positive indicator in a couple, in my opinion. During courting, the two will droop their wings and stroll back and forth on their perch, holding them slightly away from their body. They will whirl and swirl horizontally on the perch while doing so. While doing this, the hen seems to make a little grunting noise. With all of the movements and body language, it seems that the hen dominates the action (what’s new?). The female will approach the male and bite his foot, enticing him to elevate his leg. When he gets the idea, she pushes forward and into him to help with the mounting. Once mounted, the male places his wings on either side of her for support. During copulation, the male will feed the hen many times. This might also be a means for him to tighten his grip. Copulation may continue up to 20 minutes and looks to be an intentional, loving, and enjoyable act for both participants. When mating is over, they both shake out their feathers and proceed in search of food. A lot of breeding occurs in my aviaries between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Egg laying might take up to a month after breeding begins. When a hen begins producing eggs, they are usually laid every third day. I’ve seen some start setting right away, but a hen usually starts setting after the second egg is deposited. Regardless of when incubation began, I calculate my hatch time as 28 days after the first egg is deposited. Greys will be more secure and productive if you are not continually peering into their bedroom. I can’t tell how long incubation lasts since I don’t check my nest boxes as often as other people. It took me between 28 and 35 days after the first egg was laid.
African Greys are among of the most dependable parents I’ve ever met. Greys place their eggs so tightly that some first-timers, or nests with insufficient bedding, will have smushed chicks. In my inexperience of breeding and resolve never to artificially incubate again, I discovered that African birds seem to give their eggs a cooling down time immediately before hatching. Some chickens seem to discard their eggs a day or two before hatching. Eggs that are ice cold to the touch may be discovered and yet hatch a few days later. If the eggs are too dry, I believe in huge water basins for the hen to soak in. Even in Florida, I’ve seen chickens bathe and then return to the nest. Many aviculturists I know have watering tubes and bottles but claim they are not essential for their circumstances. I’m not sure, but it works for me, therefore I use large water basins.
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