Ask Lafeber

Question:

June 25, 2021

Cockatiel parents eating their chicks


“how do you deal with cannibalism in cockatiels?

I’m a student 😊”


Answer:

Hi Esraa,

Cockatiels and other birds will sometimes kill their chicks and in some cases eat them. If you have a pair that does this, it is a habit that typically can’t be broken and the pair should not be bred again.

Some start this because they were set up for breeding at too young of an age. Cockatiels should be a minimum of 2 years old before you set up a pair to breed.

A poor diet is suspected to be another cause. The hen loses a lot of protein and calcium when forming an egg. If the parents are not being fed a good diet, the hen can develop deficiencies, especially protein and calcium. A seed diet, for example, will not provide the nutrition they need for breeding. When the deficiency becomes severe, the hen will eat her eggs, and sometimes her chicks.

Cockatiels are territorial when they are breeding. If you have another pair in a cage that is too close, the parents might eat their own chicks, possibly because they feel threatened.

Cockatiels should only be bred with one pair per cage. If you try to colony breed, often the pairs will raid each other’s nests, destroying eggs or killing and sometimes eating chicks.

Sometimes chicks die in the nest, and the parents will eat the dead chick to prevent the carcass from attracting a predator. So you might think the parents killed it, but the chick died from some other cause and eating the body was just instinctive.

Parents will kill and sometimes eat a weak or sick chick, again an instinct to prevent the sick or dying chick from attracting a predator.

A pair that has been overbred will sometimes start eating their eggs or chicks. This is likely due to being in poor condition from being allowed to breed too often and exhaustion. Cockatiels should be limited to two clutches per year, which is one more than they would have in the wild. They should be rested for 6 months in between each clutch, whether the eggs hatch or not. Otherwise they will breed over and over and this results in tragedies like eating chicks or sudden death of the hen.

If adult birds are killing and eating others in a flock, the cage is possibly too small, the birds are malnourished, the bird that was killed was weak or sick, or the birds were territorial because they were given nests. Again, they should not be bred in flocks and nest boxes should never be provided to birds in a flock/colony cage.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

Subscribe to our newsletter