Ask Lafeber

Question:

November 12, 2021

Attempting to breed my birds


Hey! So I was kinda just wondering if I could get some tips on breeding my cockatiels? The males are attempting to breed but with each other, not the females. I put them in pairs (male with female) and she always rejects his advances on her. Is she just new to this and needs more time? I of course don’t want to rush but I am about to introduce a nesting box since the males are attempting to breed. Hopefully that will trigger breeding for my females. Any tips?


Answer:

Hi Gabe.

Yes, we can help you with breeding your cockatiels! First, do not give them a nest box yet – you are nowhere near that step. If you give a pair a box before both birds have bonded and are interested in breeding, the bird that wants to breed may end up attacking the other bird and in some cases may kill it. Your males are ready to breed, but since the female isn’t receptive now, installing a nest box could put her in danger from the male, because he will get frustrated with her for not wanting to breed and he will end up attacking and hurting or killing her.

Cockatiels should be at least two years old before you pair them up for breeding. If your male and female aren’t at least two years old, then go ahead and separate them until both bird are old enough. Young birds make too many mistakes and often develop bad breeding habits that can’t be broken and ruin them for breeding. Young males just want to mate, and aren’t interested in settling down to care for eggs or chicks. They will tend to break or eat the eggs to make the female mate again. Young females are at a high rate of becoming egg bound and dying. Both sexes have a lot of development to go through during their first two years, both physically and emotionally.

If both of your birds are 2 or older, then you can pair them, but you should only have one pair per cage. You can’t have multiple pairs together and you can’t have any extra birds in the cage. If you have more than one pair set up, you may have to set up a barrier between the cages so the pairs can’t see each other. Your birds need to be on a nutritionally balanced diet like pellets or our foraging diets – a seed mix is not adequate for pet or breeding birds. You should also offer dark leafy greens, chopped veggies and some fruit. The cage should be in a quiet, private place where the birds have little human contact. You shouldn’t let them out of the cage or try to handle them anymore if they were pets. Breeding birds can’t be pets – it creates conflict with their mate and generally they no longer want to be handled anyway. Signs of bonding as a pair are sitting together, grooming each other, feeding each other and of course mating. Not all birds will bond with the mate you choose for them, and not all birds will be good breeders. If you observe them bonding as a pair, and especially mating, then you can give them a nest box. The box should be attached to the outside of the cage as high as possible. Cockatiels generally do not like any nesting material in it. You can put a thin layer of natural Aspen bedding, but they are likely to kick it all out. Do not give them grass, hay, string or anything else as nesting material. All natural Aspen is the safest thing to offer. Once you hang the nest box, start feeding an egg food daily. This can be a commercial egg food or you can simply cook an egg with the shell washed, crushed and cooked with the egg. The hen needs the extra calcium and protein to form eggs. She will also feed this to the chicks along with their other food. Whether the eggs hatch or not, the nest box should be removed after each clutch and the pair rested for 6 months. You should limit them to only 2 clutches per year – in the wild they only have one. If the eggs hatch, remove the nest box as soon as the chicks leave the nest, or the parents will try to nest again before the chicks are even weaned. Weaned chicks have to be separated from the parents. If you keep any chicks, you can’t keep males and females together. Never let related birds breed.

Keep in mind that it takes a lot of patience to breed birds. You can do everything right and still not end up with chicks. First clutches will almost always fail – the pair is learning. But if a pair fails more than 2 or 3 times, you should not breed them again as they just aren’t good breeders. All you can do is set them up right and feed them well, and hopefully they will produce chicks for you.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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