First I want to make sure that each pair is in their own cage? If you have both pairs in the same cage, this will not work for breeding. You would need to remove the other pair right away. If both pairs are in one cage, this is your main problem. Birds become very territorial when they are breeding and will not tolerate having other birds around. She may be afraid to leave the eggs alone for fear of the other pair raiding her nest. She will not be able to raise her chicks in peace and the mate will not be able to help her because he is guarding against the rival pair.
If you do have each pair in their own cage, then you may need a visual barrier between the cages. If this truly is her first clutch, she is probably extra nervous. First clutches almost always fail, so don’t get your hopes up just yet. This is a time for learning for the pair. She would normally lay 4-6 eggs, with one day between each egg. It can vary with individual birds, but a low egg count can be caused by being too young, not having enough nutrition, being too old or being over bred. If you bought these birds as “proven” pairs, this is often not totally true. Breeders keep their most productive pairs and will sell off pairs that fail to raise chicks for whatever reason or have low egg counts. And sadly, some breeders sell their older breeders who really just need to be retired from breeding.
Both parents take turns sitting on the eggs. One sits during the day and the other sits at night. One parent is almost always in the nest, and the eggs can’t be left alone for very long or they will cool off. If she is doing all of the sitting, and the male isn’t helping at all, this isn’t good for her. She needs to come out for food and to get a bit of exercise. If he isn’t helping yet, hopefully his instinct will kick in very soon. As far as checking the eggs, each bird is an individual and reacts differently. Some hens attack, some just sit and let you push them aside. However, you should not be checking on the eggs a lot. In fact the parents need as much privacy as possible. Your main presence should be when you feed them, and you can make a few quick checks during the day. Each time you check the eggs, it is disruptive for her whether she shows it or not. If you are around them too much, this can be another reason she stays in the box all of the time as she feels like she needs to protect her eggs. Leave them alone other than quick checks – a web cam is great for monitoring them without having to go into the room.
For successful breeding, your birds need balanced nutrition – a seed mix will not provide the nutrition she needs. In addition, you can offer them some dark leafy greens, chopped veggies, multi grain bread and cooked eggs with the shell cleaned, crushed and cooked with them. The eggs and shell provide the extra protein and calcium that she needs while laying eggs and caring for chicks. The pair also needs a safe, private place to nest. If you have provided all of this, then all you can do is be patient and hope she hatches the eggs. Not all birds will be good breeders, but give the pair some time. If they do hatch chicks you need to remove the nest box for a few months to force the parents to rest before they breed again. If no eggs hatch, still rest them for at least a few weeks. In the wild, they only have one clutch per year. You can allow up to 2 per year in captivity. If you don’t stop them, cockatiels will keep breeding until the hen dies from laying too many eggs.
Thank you for asking Lafeber,