Ask Lafeber

Question:

October 5, 2022

You’re very incorrect


How can you be this wrong?

Hi Kaberi,

No, it doesn’t work this way with birds. Budgies, like most bird species, mate for life. (No they absolutely do not) Both male and female help incubate the eggs and care for the chicks. (Males can not help incubate eggs because they have no brooding patch) In some cases they take turns sitting on the eggs, and sometimes the male helps the female by feeding her, like her mate is doing. If you took him out, his only concern would be to return to his mate and eggs or chicks. ( not even close to truth. They don’t care at all if they are removed from the breeding cage) He will not have any interest in a new mate unless his current mate dies (what?) . If you tried to put him in with another female, he very likely would attack and kill her. (Nope, females are more likely to fight to the death than males) If not, he would ignore her and call to his mate (budgies don’t call for each other) . As to his mate, she would most likely abandon the eggs, or even abandon her chicks without her mate to help care for them and protect them. (Nope she would abandon them because she is too stressed doing all the work and at 4 weeks mom stops feeding them as much and dad takes over. Males jobs are to fledge their offspring) You will need a new male to put with the other female, and hopefully they will bond. (Budgies don’t bond) They must be in a separate cage! You can only have one pair of birds in a cage for breeding. (The first thing you’ve said correct so far) If these eggs hatch and the chicks survive, you need to take the nest box down as soon as the chicks leave it. The pair should be rested for 6 months before you let them breed again. You can’t put them with different mates then, either. Each pair should be limited to 2 clutches per year, with a rest in between. In the wild they would only have one clutch per year. (In the wild they would reproduce themselves to death because reproduction is survival of the species and that is the goal in the wild.) please don’t give people advice on budgies until you learn about them yourself.


Answer:

Hi Jessica,

You have unfortunately been very misinformed by someone, or come across some bad information online. There can of course be exceptions, but the information I provide is based on what is more likely going to be the case. Your comments were made on a reply I wrote, for an owner who wanted to use a male budgie as a stud, to service more than one hen, thus producing more chicks. I explained why that was not something he should try and what would most likely occur.

I wrote: Budgies, like most bird species, mate for life.

You wrote: No they absolutely do not

Correction – Yes, budgies do mate for life, but most people take the term “for life” too literally. Once a mate is chosen, they remain with that mate as long as both birds are healthy. If one of the pair dies, the other will eventually choose another mate. If one of the pair gets sick or injured, the healthy mate may eventually abandon it in order to find another healthy mate that can breed.

I wrote: Both male and female help incubate the eggs and care for the chicks.

You wrote: Males can not help incubate eggs because they have no brooding patch

Correction – While most male budgies help by guarding the female and feeding her, some males will take a turn at incubating the eggs, or go into the box with the female. A brood patch is not necessary for a bird to incubate eggs. Here is more information on parrots and brood patches, from Dr. Stephanie Lamb, Board Certified Avian Vet and President of the Association of Avian Veterinarians: “they don’t have a true brood patch the way that certain species, like raptors and some waterfowl do but some behaviorally pluck a few feathers from the ventrum. However, the increase in blood supply and thickening to the skin that we see in other species does not appear to occur in parrots.”

I wrote: If you took him out, his only concern would be to return to his mate and eggs or chicks.

You wrote: not even close to truth. They don’t care at all if they are removed from the breeding cage

Correction: His instinct is to protect his nest and hen at all costs. In captivity, human interference can cause a lot of confusion for a breeding bird. In order to make more money, a less reputable bird breeder might separate pairs and claim the birds do not care. This is just a way they justify a cruel act like separating a breeding pair.

I wrote: He will not have any interest in a new mate unless his current mate dies.

If you tried to put him in with another female, he very likely would attack and kill her.

If not, he would ignore her and call to his mate

You wrote: what?

Nope, females are more likely to fight to the death than males

budgies don’t call for each other

Corrections: Again, they do mate for life and he would certainly not want to be separated from his mate while she is incubating eggs.

Female budgies can be much more aggressive than males, and are quicker to kill. But a male who has been forcibly separated from his mate is not likely to be interested in a new hen, when his mate and chicks are in the next cage. If the hen were to pursue him as a potential mate, he may get frustrated with her and attack her in order to drive her away. Some males have been known to kill an unwelcome budgie.

Budgies do call for each other. Each has a distinct call and they recognize the call of their mate. Scientific studies have proven that budgie pairs use their calls to recognize each other, and can remember their mate’s call even after being separated for weeks or months at a time.

I wrote: As to his mate, she would most likely abandon the eggs, or even abandon her chicks without her mate to help care for them and protect them.

You wrote: Nope she would abandon them because she is too stressed doing all the work and at 4 weeks mom stops feeding them as much and dad takes over. Males jobs are to fledge their offspring

Correction: Not really a correction because you are only reinforcing what I said, in different words. The male DOES help and without his help, the hen may not continue with the clutch.

I wrote: You will need a new male to put with the other female, and hopefully they will bond.

You wrote: Budgies don’t bond

Correction: Possibly you do not understand the term, but budgies absolutely bond. They can form a companion bond – such as with a human or a flock member, or they can form a mate bond. A mate bond is necessary for successful mating, egg laying and raising the chicks. While casual or practice mating may happen in a flock among young birds, without a mate bond, the birds go their separate ways and no egg laying occurs. Mating does not have to result in egg laying.

I wrote: If these eggs hatch and the chicks survive, you need to take the nest box down as soon as the chicks leave it. The pair should be rested for 6 months before you let them breed again. You can’t put them with different mates then, either. Each pair should be limited to 2 clutches per year, with a rest in between. In the wild they would only have one clutch per year.

You wrote: In the wild they would reproduce themselves to death because reproduction is survival of the species and that is the goal in the wild.

Correction: In the wild, breeding season is once a year, when the conditions are ideal for raising young. There are environmental triggers that signal the end of nesting season, at which time the nesting sites are left and the flock moves on. In captivity, birds do not receive these signals, and they will continue to start new clutches over and over until the hen dies from the effects on her body of laying too many eggs. This is also why chronic egg laying is a problem with many pet birds. Again, per Dr. Lamb “I agree with you that a break from breeding is important as they will over produce in captivity due to “ideal” environments and lack of normal environmental cues that would tell them to stop. And thus why we see various hormonal related problems in captivity.”

I hope this has cleared up all of the misinformation you have shared with me. In order to be a responsible and humane breeder, one must understand what is natural for a species. It’s unethical to take advantage of the ability to manipulate a species into over production for the sake of profit, but sadly, just like puppy & kitten mills, there are also bird mills, and the most commonly exploited are the easier to breed species like budgies & cockatiels.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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