BUYING UN-WEANED CHICKS
I would like to start this article with a simple explanation of why some breeders sell un-weaned birds. Ostensibly the reason is to allow the purchaser to build a bond with the bird by completing the task of handfeeding. In reality, the breeder does not want the task of weaning. They also want to make as much money as possible, and as quickly as possible. In comparison to a puppy mill, as soon as the chicks are all gone, they can put the hen back to laying another clutch. Therefore, in effect, buying un-weaned chicks is supporting cruel practices towards these birds. Sadly, many die due to over-breeding. Cockatiels, for example, should only have two clutches a year, any more than this, and it is considered chronic egg laying, this places the hen at risk of developing numerous ailments such as, malnutrition, calcium deficiencies, reproductive disease, infections and disorders, egg binding, and sudden death, to name few.
A parrot will not bond to the owner while they are hand-feeding them, the chick is merely taking in food. The bonding only starts after the weaning stage when the bird begins to form its individual personality. A fully weaned bird will bond with their new owner.
In the wild, chicks learn everything from their parents and rely on them completely for their survival, however, once they are fully weaned and leave the nest they go in search for other juveniles and to find a mate. They have no need to remain bonded to their parents. This instinct is ingrained in all birds, therefore, if you have hand raised them, they will see you as their parent, so it is only natural for them to break this bond with you. More often than not, it will choose another person in the household to bond with because it's instincts say that’s what it should do. So, clearly if you want a lifelong bond with your bird, you should not hand-feed it. Let the breeder be the person the chick abandons when its ready to move on.
There are several more reasons why the sale of un-weaned birds should be discouraged, and thankfully why it is has now been made illegal in many countries to buy or sell un-weaned chicks.
Firstly, chicks do not have a fully formed immune system, making them susceptible to numerous illnesses and infections. They are at their most vulnerable to changes in their environment when they approach and experience the weaning period. Therefore, unfamiliar surroundings and faces is a traumatic experience for them and could result in shock and death. Please, just for a moment think about how traumatic it must be for that chick to be removed from everything familiar, from the security of its parents and siblings. Often being passed straight into the care of a complete novice while they “practice” their feeding techniques. In inexperienced hands a chick is likely to be literally starved to death or killed by over-feeding. Not to mention the unimaginable suffering many of these chicks are subjected to by a novice hand-feeder, such as aspiration, crop burn, sour crop, beak deformities due to improper pressure from a syringe being pushed into a chick’s beak, starvation, over-feeding, force weaning, infections, mishandling, to name a few.
Do not make the mistake of being suckered into buying an un-weaned bird, you are essentially buying the bird at your own risk, because as soon as that chick leaves the breeder it is now your sole responsibility, and this includes all medical bills if something goes wrong. A reputable breeder will never ever sell and un-weaned bird.
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.
CROP BURN IN 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; there is no excuse not to use them! Crop burn is completely preventable!
NOTE: Hand-feeding should be left to a professional, or better still the parrot parents themselves. 101 things can go wrong when hand raising a chick; therefore, this should never be done by an inexperienced bird owner.
DISCOURAGING EGG LAYING
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.
HUMIDITY IS NEEDED IN THE NEST
When breeding season begins, 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 MY COCKATIEL MALE OR FEMALE?
Some cockatiel mutations you can’t visually sex, so you can get a DNA test, or simply watch behaviour.
Below is the behavioural differences 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 old. They will often tap on things, such as cage bars or food bowls, they do this instinctively to get the attention of a female .
The males do heart wings and strut up and down. 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. 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.
NOTE: If you wait and watch for behavioural signs, you’ll have a very good indication whether you have a male or female cockatiel.
NUTRITION FOR BREEDING PARROTS
It is imperative that breeding birds are fed a well-balanced and highly nutritious diet; if this is not done, you can end up with malnourished parents and chicks which will be susceptible to all kinds of avian illness and deficiencies. In my book “How the flock do I care for a parrot”? I have listed 24 foods which are highly nutritious and should be fed to breeding parrots in and out of breeding season. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B089N6JWDW/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_Wzk2EbYXZQ3RV
PARROT HEN IS NOT FEEDING HER CHICKS?
Many inexperienced breeders will pull the chick immediately once they notice the parents are not feeding the chicks. The parents will only start feeding the chick once they have absorbed the yolk sac.
For more information on when the right time is to pull the chicks in this situation, and what you immediately have to do once you have pulled chick.. find out all this and more in my book "How the flock do I care for a parrot"?
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.
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.
WHAT IS CHRONIC EGG LAYING IN PET BIRDS
What is chronic egg laying? (Referred to by avian veterinarians as Chronic Reproductive syndrome). Chronic egg laying is whereby a hen will lay more than the normal number of eggs, or she will lay repeated clutches of eggs. A lack of hormonal balance that tells most birds to stop laying eggs likely exists in chronic egg laying birds. Additionally, by removing eggs that are already laid also induces birds to lay even more eggs. It is considered safe for a healthy, well-nourished cockatiel hen from the age of 18 months of age to lay two clutches of eggs a year. A female cockatiel that lays more than two clutches of eggs a year is considered as a chronic egg layer.
Egg laying is highly stressful on the bird’s body; therefore, repeated clutches will take a toll on the immune system, making it easier for the hen to become sick. It will compromise her general health and may cause reproductive disorders. Chronic egg laying can cause the following health problems: malnutrition, weight loss, calcium deficiencies, seizures due to low calcium, brittle bones due to low calcium, egg binding, egg impaction in the oviduct, poor muscle tone of the oviduct and uterus, reproductive disease, abnormally formed eggs, peritonitis, infections, poor general health and feather condition, sudden death, etc. Therefore, it is imperative that a hen is discouraged from laying more than two clutches a year. For ways in which you can discourage egg laying click on the link and read the relevant article https://www.cockatiel-advice-101.com/breeding-cockatiels
If you have tried all these measures and despite your efforts your female is still laying eggs you will need to speak to your avian vet about hormonal therapy; this may include your avian vet taking a more natural route of prescribing red raspberry extract supplement, or administering a course of Lupron injections. If hormonal therapy does not work, then as a last resort, your avian vet may perform a hysterectomy.