Ask Lafeber

Question:

December 1, 2022

Dead Hatched Bird


Hello,

I have two cockatiels who laid eggs around 22 days ago. Yesterday one hatched, and the mother bird didn’t do anything (feed it, acknowledge it, etc. but assumed it was because the bird had the yolk) and went to sit on it and the other unhatched eggs. This morning, it was dead and smashed flat, with blood everywhere, including her stomach. The other eggs are fine, but why did she squish the hatched chick? And should I expect her to do the same to the other two and hand feed them if/when they hatch?


Answer:

Hi Mariam,

I’m sorry about the little chick. If this is the first clutch, then this is very common. Most first clutches fail – few even make it to the point of hatching. However, the blood is concerning. It sounds like the hen or male deliberately killed the chick. How old are the parents? Are they at least 2 years old? Cockatiels younger than 2 are much more likely to kill the chicks, because they are more interested in mating again – especially the male. If this pair is older than 2, and this is a first clutch, then they are still learning, and this does happen. The blood might have been an accident. There’s no way to know how the other chicks will do if they hatch. The problem with trying to hand feed them from day 1 is they will most likely die. Even the most experienced hand feeders have problems keeping a chick alive at that age. I know it is hard to stand by and do nothing, but it is better to let nature take its course, and hope the parents do better with the next chicks. Even if they fail with these, they have learned something. If you plan to breed this pair again in the future, then it is better to leave the chicks. Otherwise the parents won’t learn, and you will have the same problem next time. Once this clutch is done, remove the nest box and rest the pair for 6 months before you let them try again. In the wild, they would naturally stop until the next breeding season, but in captivity, you have to make them rest between clutches or they will breed too often and the hen can end up dying from the stress to her body.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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