Ask Lafeber

Question:

November 4, 2020

Laid eggs, fighting with others, help?


I have a huge flight cage with six parakeets. Today we noticed a clutch of three eggs after finding one egg broken on the cage floor three days ago. The clutch of three eggs has been laid in a meet log. The bonded pair appear to be working together however they have the eggs in the log that the oldest parakeet I have cleared out and claimed as her own. The mother parakeet was savagely attacking her and I pulled her from the cage and put her in her own. However, there are three other parakeets in The cage which appear to respect the area and not bother the mom or dad. Do I need to remove everyone else from the cage or should I move mom and dad and a keet log/nest into the smaller cage? The smaller cage is actually pretty large. I am desperate for help as this was not in the plans. The mother is named George and was adopted with Larry from a couple who couldn’t keep them anymore. Apparently I had a male parakeet who bred with George. I guess the name is now Georgette! Thank you!!


Answer:

Hi Kimberly,

My first bird ever was a lovebird I named George, who turned out to be a female. LOL Parakeets can live in a colony in peace, as long as you never introduce anything they can nest in. Which you have now learned. 🙂 You have a few options here. The easiest is to remove the log and eggs, discard the eggs and do not put the log back. Adult birds do not need a nest or anything to sleep in or hide in. In the wild, a nest is only used during the breeding season. When you have a colony, you have to watch them about trying to establish a nest. You should never give them anything they can sit in, get inside of or perceive as a nest. If they try to claim a food bowl, replace it with smaller cups they can’t fit in. If you see any bird claiming a corner in the bottom of the cage, or anywhere else, put some toys or food cups there to block the area. Anytime birds seem to want to nest, mix things up a bit by rearranging perches and toys in the cage. Move the cage to another place if possible. Parakeets need longer days, abundant food and a safe nesting place. So you can reverse this by limiting daylight to 8-10 hours by covering the cage early in the evening, reduce the amount of fresh foods you offer, and change the cage contents and move the cage regularly.

If you don’t want to throw the eggs away, you need to remove all but the pair from the cage. When breeding, you can only have one pair per cage. Breeding birds are very territorial, and will attack intruders viciously as you discovered.  The parakeet that was attacked was very lucky, because a female parakeet can attack and kill another parakeet in a matter of minutes. It’s hard to say if the log will work for the pair trying to incubate the eggs, or if it can contain the chicks if any hatch. Parakeets really need an enclosed nesting box, attached to the outside of the cage as high as possible. It is very large, because the chicks are nearly as large as the parents before they fledge from the nest box. So assuming 3 eggs hatch, the log has to accommodate 5 full grown birds. Moving the pair and eggs is not likely to work. Once you disrupt a nesting pair, they will decide the nest is not safe enough and will abandon their eggs or even any chicks they may have been feeding. Breeding birds also need to be on a nutritionally balanced diet like pellets or our foraging diets. A loose seed mix will not provide the nutrition they need. The female especially needs extra nutrients like protein and calcium. And if they are only eating seeds, the chicks may not survive because they won’t be getting much nutrition from the parents. You also should offer dark leafy greens, chopped veggies, multi grain bread, and cooked eggs with the shell washed, crushed and cooked with the eggs. You need to start offering these foods now. If the eggs hatch, the parents will consume a lot of food, and you will need to replenish the foods throughout the day. If the eggs hatch and the chicks are successfully fed and weaned by the parents, you have to remove the chicks once they are weaned and also remove the nest. Otherwise the parents will try to nest again right away. This wouldn’t happen in the wild because environmental changes signals the end of breeding season, but in captivity, you have to force your breeders to rest for several months between clutches. A female will literally keep producing clutch after clutch until it kills her unless you take steps to make her rest. They should only be allowed to have 2 clutches per year, which is one more than a wild pair would have. The weaned chicks have to be removed because either the adults will attack them to drive them away so they can nest again, or when they are a few months old, the adults will try to breed with them. You should never allow related birds to breed. So you need to find homes for each chick, or keep them separated by gender because clutchmates will breed if left together. Again this would not happen in the wild because they would fly away and find unrelated mates.

I know it’s a lot of information, and breeding birds is a lot of work. In most cases the first clutch will fail, and since you didn’t want them to breed anyway, this hopefully won’t be a big disappointment. Once this is resolved one way other the other, and the nest is removed, you should be able to return the other birds to the cage. But watch carefully that the pair doesn’t try to claim real estate or bully the other birds.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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