Ask Lafeber

Question:

September 30, 2022

Parakeet incubation


Hi, I have two dusky headed parakeets. They have successfully bred their first 2 chicks. My questions is to help me understand and manage better going forward. My girl has just laid another 2 eggs.
1) Can we take the male out of the cage for a period of hours, say 3-4 hours? We usually bring the birds outdoor but since the female needs to incubate the eggs, we are not sure we can take the male out. He is very energetic and tend to scream for attention and out of boredom.
2) Will the parakeet know if the eggs are not longer going to hatch or will she keeps sitting on them past the average hatching days, even if they do not hatch? When should I consider removing the eggs?
3) If I decided to keep the two babies, can all of them be in the same cage?

Thank you.


Answer:

Hi,

When you breed birds, you have to force them to rest in between each clutch. In captivity, they do not get the environmental signals they get in the wild that makes them stop breeding. They only breed once a year in the wild, during breeding season. I’m not sure how much time there was between when she weaned the first chicks and started laying again. But this time, as soon as the chicks leave the box, take the box down and rest the pair for 6 months before returning the box to them. If you choose to not breed them again, then there are changes you can make to discourage more breeding.

Unfortunately the chicks can’t remain with the parents. The parents may instinctively try to drive the chicks away, which is nature’s way of preventing inbreeding. If they accept the chicks, the next concern is that the parents may try to mate with the chicks, and if this happens and eggs result, you should not let them hatch the eggs. Related birds should not be allowed to mate. It results in weak genes and can also cause deformities and other health issues. If you keep the chicks in their own cage, you need to first get them DNA sexed, because if they are male and female, they need to be kept in separate cages to prevent inbreeding.

Most hens will abandon eggs once they are well past the due date. Keep in mind that the incubation period counts from when each egg is laid, so of course the last egg laid hatches later. Always allow at least 5 days from when the last egg was laid before deciding the eggs are not viable. If you do pull the eggs, of course also take down the nest box and start their rest.

As long as they have eggs, the male needs to stay with the hen. Removing him is too disruptive, and it can make him not want to help the hen anymore. It can also cause fighting between them.

Here are the changes you can make to discourage breeding or egg laying.

You need to do all of these things to discourage egg laying. Keep in mind that to lay eggs, she needs longer daylight, warmer weather, abundant food, and a quiet, private environment. Your goal is to reverse these conditions.

Limit her light to 8-10 hours by covering the cage early each evening

Do not give her anything to use as a nest – no bird huts or tents, no box, bowl, etc. If she decides to sit in a food bowl, remove it and replace with smaller cups.

Do not give her anything to shred such as paper or cardboard.

Rearrange the toys in the cage frequently.

Move the cage to a different place in the room. Move the cage about once a week, or whenever she shows signs of nesting – settling on the cage floor for example. This disrupts her idea of having a stable place to lay eggs and raise chicks.

If you feed a lot of fresh foods, stop offering any for a couple of weeks, and then only offer them in small amounts about 2 or 3 times a week. You can resume normal feeding later when the birds aren’t being hormonal.

If she is let out of the cage, do not let her get in any dark cozy places and don’t give her free roam.

When you handle her, limit any petting to her head and neck – do not pet her on the body. Only a bonded mate is allowed to groom the body. We can’t be a mate, so touching the body is off limits.

If there is no metal floor grate, then do not use any bedding or paper in the cage tray – leave it bare and clean it daily.

All of the above can apply to the pair, not just the hen.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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