Cockatiel Advice and First Aid 101

Breeding Cockatiels

Hints and tips about buying your cockatiel

Cockatiels

BUYING UNWEANED CHICKS

Reputable breeders DO NOT sell un-weaned chicks, so this should be a very big red flag when buying off a breeder that is trying to sell you an un-weaned chick. The chicks immune system at this very young age will not be fully developed leaving them open to many illnesses. So in effect when buying an un-weaned chick you are taking a huge risk and can be left with thousands in vet bills if that bird gets sick because it is not ready yet to leave the nest. 

COCKATIEL CLUTCH SIZE

Cockatiels lay on average 4 to 5 eggs per clutch but they can lay up to 8 eggs.

When choosing dummy eggs, provide cockatiel eggs that are 1”x ¾ “(25.5mm X 19mm).

 

COCKATIEL EGG LAYING

Female cockatiels don’t need to mate in order to lay eggs many owners make the mistake of removing the eggs. Removing the eggs will only cause the hen to lay more which can lead to chronic egg laying. A cockatiel usually sits on her eggs for 21-30 days. Please NEVER remove the eggs unless they are cracked or broken which can lead to the spread of bacteria.

If the hen lays an egg on the cage floor, the best thing one can do is place a small box or plastic container in the cage with a clean towel on the bottom of it. Doing this will stop the eggs rolling around and breaking.It will provide the bird with a nice comfortable place to nest. Often owners make the mistake of removing the first egg because they don’t see the female immediately sitting on it. They may think she is not interested in it , this is not the case, hens usually only start nesting after the second or third egg has been laid.

Females, once nesting often will not move from their nesting site.Especially if she is the only bird and has no help from a mate. As the male and females usually take it in turns to sit on the eggs, always make sure that food and water are in easy reach of your bird , or she may stop eating and drinking enough to sustain herself. This should be done regardless if there is male present, as the male may not sit on the eggs to give her a rest.

If the eggs are broken or if the eggs are fertile and chicks are not wanted, the eggs can be removed and replaced with dummy eggs. Ensure that the dummy eggs are actually made for cockatiels, if the eggs are too large or too small intended for another species the hen may not sit on them.

COCKATIEL MATING TIPS

Before you start breeding your parrots ensure that the male’s nails are clipped to the correct length beforehand. The female parrot will not be able to tolerate the male on her back for very long if his nails are long and digging into her.

You can ever so slightly trim the soft feathers around the vent (butt) to increase the chances of  fertilisation being more successful.

COCKATIELS FEEDING CHICKS

Some inexperienced breeders pull the chick straight away if they notice that the parents aren’t feeding the chicks right after they hatch. The parents will ONLY start feeding the chicks once their yoke sac has been absorbed. So they will usually only start feeding the chick 8-12 hours after hatching.

If the parents are not feeding the chick after the 8 hours has passed you can give the chick one to two drops of Pedialyte. Then place the chick back in the nest, keeping a close eye on the chick. The parents will usually start feeding the chick after 8 hours, but if they haven’t after the 12 hours have passed, you need to pull the chick and hand feed.

CROP BURN IN PARROT CHICKS

Crop burn is a true medical emergency, if you suspect that you have burnt your chick’s crop seek medical help immediately! Your bird will be in severe pain and can go into shock. The chick would need to be treated for possible shock, infection and if there is an open hole it will require surgery.

So what is crop burn? Crop burn is when formula has been hand-fed to the chick and is too hot. If the formula is over (108 °F / 42.2°C) it will burn the bird’s crop, often leaving blisters or an actual hole.

It is extremely important to give the formula at the CORRECT temperature, if too hot it will burn them, if too cold their crop won’t drain. The formula temperature has to be 100 % accurate and should be between (104°F /40.0 °C and 106°F/ 41.1°C) Food thermometers can be bought in any grocery store or baking shop and they are not expensive , so there is no excuse not to use them! Crop burn is completely preventable!

Please remember handfeeding should be left to a professional or better still the parents themselves.101 things can go wrong when hand raising a chick , so this should never be done by an inexperienced bird owner.

DISCOURAGING EGG LAYING

(This additional article was written by Katie Madison)

Although there are times when medical intervention may be needed to prevent egg laying, most birds respond well to changes in their environment and routine.

·As the hours of actual daylight lengthen, this can trigger breeding behaviour/hormones. Keep the same routine of when they are put to bed and when you get them up, a good 12 hours is recommended, undisturbed dark and quiet.

· Some sites recommend removing the female from the bird to which she is bonded. Please do not do this. The stress caused by such a separation can be highly damaging to the bird and does not prevent her laying eggs. A single female with no companion may still lay eggs.

· Avoid petting your bird in areas which stimulate her hormones: back, under her tail, under wings. If she demonstrates mating behaviour towards you, discourage it. She may also display mating behaviour towards a favourite toy. She needs to be gradually weaned away from the toy to discourage this behaviour, but not cause her stress (hence a weaning off process).

·Make sure there are no dark, closed in spaces in the cage or in areas where she is allowed out and about. Supervise her closely, or she could be setting up nest in the corner of a cupboard/under the TV.

·Rearrange the cage on a regular basis (at least weekly, more often if possible). This will discourage nesting behaviour and territorial behaviour. Sometimes, a temporary relocation of the cage can help, even a move of half a metre one way, or a rotation of a 1/4 turn.

· If she lays an egg, replace with a clutch of false eggs to fool her into thinking she has finished laying and she will lose interest when there are no signs of hatching. Do not be tempted to remove the eggs immediately, or she will continue to lay to replace them. Watch her carefully during this time, as she would normally have her mate feeding her whilst she sits, you may need to bring food to her. She also needs additional calcium within her diet to replenish her depleted resources.

· If in any doubt whatsoever, contact your avian vet to discuss further options. It is possible to have hormone injections/implants, but these cannot be predicted as completely successful and involve a medical procedure which could be dangerous. However, this would need to be balanced with the risks to the hen of chronic egg laying and/or becoming egg bound.

 

FEEDING BREEDING PARROTS

While parrots need to be fed a well-balanced diet all year round, it’s extremely important to provide breeding birds with good nutrition not only for their own health but also for the health of their chicks. Please remember that laying hens need additional calcium at this time. If your bird does not eat fresh foods then a calcium supplement should be supplied (ask your avian vet for the best supplement for your bird). Many breeding birds will willingly accept warm foods to feed their chicks, so it may be the perfect opportunity to convert them onto a healthier diet. 

Here is a list of foods that are excellent to feed when birds are in or out of breeding season.

  • Moist whole wheat bread
  • Boiled eggs (shells can be given, mash into a powder first before you serve. Make sure you boil the egg for at least half an hour if feeding the shell to kill any bacteria on the egg from the chicken)
  • Organic baby food
  • Baby food cereal make with water
  • Cooked oatmeal made with water
  • Cooked pasta (brown preferably)
  • Cooked brown rice
  • Well cooked beans (NEVER FEED RAW BEANS)
  • Organic corn on the cob
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cooked sweet potatoes
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Parsley
  • Chard
  • Mustard greens
  • Organic pellets
  • Apricots
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Oranges
  • Walnuts

HAND FEEDING PARROT CHICKS TO BOND

Unfortunately there is a myth that in order to bond with a chick the owner has to pull the chick before it is weaned and handfeed themselves. Some owners actually ask breeders for unweaned chicks, or breeders sell unweaned birds to new owners giving them this false information. It is utter nonsense a parrot is capable of bonding and rebonding throughout their lives. A parrot will form a close bond with anyone that treats them in a correct nurturing manner.

Please never buy an un-weaned bird, inexperienced hand-feeders may starve the baby, wean too early , burn their crop, cause severe damage to their throat and crops, leave the baby open to infections, aspirate the chick and cause death.

If ever a breeder wants to sell an un-weaned bird, this is a huge red flag that this is not a reputable breeder. They are after one thing which is money and not concerned about the health and welfare of their flock. Furthermore it is now illegal in a few countries to sell unweaned birds, hopefully soon this law will stand in all countries throughout the world.

 

HENS NEED EXTRA WATER WHEN BREEDING

When breeding starts extra water should be provided for the hen. She will want to bathe often to provide humidity within the nest and for the eggs she is carrying inside her. The correct amount of humidity inside the nest is very important. As well as the normal water bowl, provide a shallow dish of water for her to sit in and bathe in.

IS IT MALE OR FEMALE COCKATIEL?

Some cockatiel mutations you can’t visually sex so you can get a DNA test or simply watch behaviour.

HERE IS THE BEHAVIOUR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE COCKATIELS:

Males are very vocal and most actually master the wolf whistle before 6 months of age , they can learn to Mimic whistling and words at 6 months , they often tap a lot on things like cage bars or food bowls , they do this instinctively to get the attention of a female .

Then of course they do heart wings and strut up and down. And when they have reached sexual maturity they will often masturbate by rubbing their vent on objects

Females are less vocal, and only a small percentage will learn to talk or whistle as well as males. They will lay eggs with or without a male and when they reach sexual maturity and wanting to mate they will tilt forwards with butt in the air while making a soft chirping noise.

Females don’t hiss as much as males when angry and they tend to bite less.

If you wait and watch for behaviour signs you’ll have a very good indication whether you have a male or female cockatiel!

 

PARROT BREEDERS

WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO ASK A BREEDER FOR A WELLNESS CONTRACT
When buying from a breeder, a good breeder will give you a vet report on your baby cockatiel which states the baby has been given a full vet examination before purchase!

If this hasn't been done , you are in your full right to ask for a contract that states that when you take your chick for its first vet examination, if the chick is sick the breeder will take back the chick if you so wish to return the sick bird!

A good breeder will be only too happy to sign this contract because the welfare of this chick should come first to your breeder!

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A BIRD FROM A BREEDER

  • Are the birds active and happy?
  • Are the birds in over- crowded cages?
  • Look at the condition of the Avery or cages, are they clean and hygienic?
  • Are the birds being feed good healthy food or are they just being fed on cheap seed?
  • Look at the floor, are droppings healthy?
  • Are the bird's feathers in good condition, healthy birds HAVE A HEALTHY PLUMAGE!
  • Are there any signs of rat droppings?
  • Are they being active at the right time of day? For example during the mornings the birds should be active.
  • Have the baby bird's wings been clipped? Bad breeders clip wings too young which does not allow the young birds pectoral muscles to grow as they should.
  • Check that there is no nasal discharge
  • Check for beak deformities
  • Look for evidence of feather plucking
  • Look at the eyes, they should be bright and alert, there should be no cloudiness, inflammation or discharge.
  • Has the birds been vet checked? If not , a good breeder would have no trouble signing a contract that states if the bird is vet examined and sick they will pay for the medical bill or you can return the sick bird and get your money back.

HOW TO RECOGNISE A REPUTABLE BREEDER

There are probably 101 tips on what to look for when choosing a good breeder, but I'll list a few that may guide you in the right direction!

  • A reputable breeder will NEVER sell an un-weaned chick, PERIOD! A good breeder will know that a chick's immune system is just developing and too many things could go wrong.
  • A reputable breeder will NEVER offer to send a bird via a delivery service, unless it was with a reputable fully insured pet courier service. You would know if this courier service was a reputable company, because these services do not come cheap.
  • A reputable breeder will ensure you have everything set up FIRST for your new bird before you take it home. They may ask to see pictures of your setup or they may guide you according to parrot species.
  • A reputable breeder will ALWAYS allow you access to their home to meet their flock. They will allow you to check for yourself the condition in which they keep their birds.
  • A reputable breeder will have a HEALTHY flock that are vetted often. The breeder will usually have the chick already vet examined for you before you take it home.
  • A reputable breeder will be open to ANY questions you would like to ask and have good knowledge on bird health and their care.
  • A reputable breeder will NEVER give you a chick that has been wing- clipped. They would know how vitally important it is for a young parrot to exercise its wings, build its pectoral muscles and learn how to fly, before any wing clipping decisions are made.
  • A reputable breeder will give you FREE food that will last at least a week, so the new bird can make the transition from its usual diet to your own brand of food!
  • A reputable breeder will allow you to contact them at ANY TIME for at least the first month for any questions you may have regarding your bird.
  • A very reputable breeder will provide you with a booklet on the species of parrot you have bought or at least provide you with a website address on where you can acquire more information.
  • A reputable breeder will be feeding their flock on and FRUIT and VEGTABLES, a GOOD quality seed and pellet mix.
  • A reputable breeder's birds WON'T come cheap either because of the care and attention they would have put into having a healthy chick.

AUTHORS NOTE:
This list is nowhere near exhausted! Buying your bird from a reputable breeder is very important for your parrots health and wellbeing. Buying sick birds will not only cost you thousands on vet bills, but can put your existing flock at risk and of course you will be left with the heart ache if your new bird passes away.

PARROTS BREEDERS CONTRACT

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO ASK A BREEDER FOR A WELLNESS CONTRACT.

When buying from a breeder, a good breeder will give you a vet report on your baby cockatiel which states the baby has been given a full vet examination before purchase!

If this hasn’t been done , you are in your full right to ask for a contract that states that when you take your chick for its first vet examination, if the chick is sick the breeder will take back the chick if you so wish to return the sick bird!

A good breeder will be only too happy to sign this contract because the welfare of this chick should come first to your breeder!

PARROT EGG CANDLING

In order to check if an egg is fertile you can do so using a special light this is called egg candling. If an egg is fertile you’ll be able to see blood vessels growing in the egg, if it is not fertile you will only see a yellow glow.

Many new parrot owners make the mistake of holding the egg up to a light bulb or using a flash light to check the fertility, doing it this way is a very bad idea.

Firstly this means that you will have to handle the egg for long periods of time to get a good look and with all the moving of the egg you can kill the embryo. Secondly holding it up to a light source means you are exposing the egg to a lot of heat which can kill the embryo.

The most effect way to candle an egg is to buy specialised candling lights, this way there is not too much handling if at all. You can buy special candling lights that can twist in all directions so you don’t have to take the egg out the nest and disturb them.  

PARROT REPUTABLE BREEDER

HOW TO RECOGNISE A REPUTABLE BREEDER

There are probably 101 tips on what to look for when choosing a good breeder, but I’ll list a few that may guide you in the right direction!

A reputable breeder will NEVER sell an un-weaned chick, PERIOD! A good breeder will know that a chick’s immune system is just developing and too many things could go wrong.

A reputable breeder will NEVER offer to send a bird via a delivery service, unless it was with a reputable fully insured pet courier service. You would know if this courier service was a reputable company, because these services do not come cheap.

A reputable breeder will ensure you have everything set up FIRST for your new bird before you take it home. They may ask to see pictures of your setup or they may guide you according to parrot species.

A reputable breeder will ALWAYS allow you access to their home to meet their flock. They will allow you to check for yourself the condition in which they keep their birds.

A reputable breeder will have a HEALTHY flock that are vetted often. The breeder will usually have the chick already vet examined for you before you take it home.

A reputable breeder will be open to ANY questions you would like to ask and have good knowledge on bird health and their care.

A reputable breeder will NEVER give you a chick that has been wing- clipped. They would know how vitally important it is for a young parrot to exercise its wings, build its pectoral muscles and learn how to fly, before any wing clipping decisions are made.

A reputable breeder will give you FREE food that will last at least a week, so the new bird can make the transition from its usual diet to your own brand of food!

A reputable breeder will allow you to contact them at ANY TIME for at least the first month for any questions you may have regarding your bird.

A very reputable breeder will provide you with a booklet on the species of parrot you have bought or at least provide you with a website address on where you can acquire more information.

A reputable breeder will be feeding their flock on and FRUIT and VEGTABLES, a GOOD quality seed and pellet mix.

 A reputable breeder’s birds WON’T come cheap either because of the care and attention they would have put into having a healthy chick.

AUTHORS NOTE: This list is nowhere near exhausted! Buying your bird from a reputable breeder is very important for your parrots health and wellbeing. Buying sick birds will not only cost you thousands on vet bills, but can put your existing flock at risk and of course you will be left with the heart ache if your new bird passes away.

 

REMOVING EGGS

Cockatiel hens can lay eggs without the presence of a male. Many inexperienced bird owners make the mistake of removing the first egg that their hen has laid. When they see that she is ignoring the first egg they automatically think she is not interested and throw it away. Please NEVER do this, the female will ONLY start sitting on her egg once she a laid the second or third egg. By removing the first egg will only encourage her to lay more eggs and this can cause egg binding.   

If the female has laid an egg place it in a small box and make a comfortable nest for your bird, this will allow her to be comfortable while laying and prevents the eggs from being broken.

Only remove eggs that are broken which can spread bacteria. Then replace the broken egg with a dummy egg. ALWAYS wait for your cockatiel to abandon the eggs completely and then remove them. Cockatiels will generally sit on their eggs for 21 to 30 days.

RODENTS IN AVIARIES

Rodents are a huge menace in many aviaries and of course they carry multiple diseases and often kill chicks. Before we begin looking into ways in which we can deter rodents humanely, I want to mention some of the barbaric ways which are often used. If one has a heart and is against animal cruelty, please never use these methods below.

Poisons – These DO NOT kill instantly, they leave these little creatures in agony often for many hours before they eventually die. Using poisons don’t ONLY kill the rodent, the mouse will often wander off to die and be eaten by other animals and other wild birds such as owls and they too will be poisoned!

Here is a list of poisons that unfortunately are used often and KILL VERY SLOWLY AND INHUMANELY. They are also responsible for the secondary poisoning of other creatures: 

  • Difenacoum
  • Bromadiolone
  • Flocumafen, brodifacoum, difethialone (Warning extremely toxic! Inhumane as death is very slow indeed)
  • Warfarin, coumatetralyl or chlorophacinone.

Traps – Often these do not work quickly, many times the trap is very poorly made and does not break the neck of the mouse.More often than not they die slowly of injury, dehydration and starvation. These traps are very loud, so they will startle the caged birds causing many injuries.

Glue trapsThese are without a doubt barbaric, the mouse runs on the sticky paper and can’t move, many chewing off their own feet to get free. These traps don’t only catch mice they catch wild birds and other creatures. These traps are also expensive and unless one has the stomach to pull a live creature off these things, they can only be used once. Please never buy these.

HOW TO DETER RODENTS:

KEEP IT CLEAN! Rodents, cockroaches, ants and flies are all attracted to a dirty environment. Sweep the aviary at the end of every day to pick up fallen food. Keep nest boxes and perches clean. A weekly hose down of the aviary floor with non-toxic/avian safe cleaner keeps it hygienic.   

Food such as veggies and fruit should be removed after a few hours, not only do they spoil quickly but their scent quickly attracts rodents.

Being lazy isn’t an option when it comes to running an aviary, food and water bowls should be washed daily. Food encrusted bowls give off scent that attracts unwanted visitors.

Food and water bowls should be removed at night and cleaned, they should then be refilled with fresh food and water and returned the following morning.

Food should NOT be stored in the aviary itself or near it. If there is no choice but to store there, then it should be stored in airtight containers and lifted off the ground.

Rodent proof mesh is available to buy and can be added as an extra layer of protection around the aviary.

Food bowls should never be placed on the floor of the aviary, not only can the birds poop in them but these can easily be forgotten to be picked up at night.

Many bird stores sell aviary feeding trays that are often attached to stainless steel poles. These keep the food from falling on the ground and rodents have a hard time getting to the food. (If you can’t afford one or find one of these, make your own, with a pole and a large 17inch flat green house plant tray, works brilliantly)

General maintenance of the aviary should be checked weekly for any cracks and holes that can form and these should be repaired straight away.

Unused bird boxes should be removed these make lovely homes for mice when left empty.

Ensure that everything is kept neat and has a place in the aviary. Nooks and crannies, empty bins, old sacks etc.… make lovely cosy homes for rodents.

There are many humane rodent traps out there that can be used and many are inexpensive or you can make yourself. PETA have some great tips too on humane rodent traps and other ways in which to deter rodents. For more information click https://www.peta.org/issues/wildlife/living-harmony-wildlife/house-mice/

 

STOP BIRD EGG LAYING

TRICKING YOUR COCKATIEL TO STOP LAYING EGGS

To help stop a cockatiel female from laying more eggs after she’s laid her FIRST egg put up to 4 more dummy eggs In with her which gives her the feel of a full clutch and then allow her to sit until she leaves them naturally.

A cockatiel

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