I think this spring season has been the hardest one I have dealt with in a very long time. My two formerly egg-less female birds have both produced their first eggs this year – in the case of my goffins cockatoo, the only one in 28 years. It is an ongoing battle that calls for constant changes to the environment to keep her and Libby, my quaker, from any further laying.
The male cockatiels spend every second of their out of cage time in the search for someplace dark and nesty and I find myself fishing them out of the half full boxes that remain present from my recent move.
My umbrella cockatoo is a hormonal wreck. His droppings alternate between water-y and normal. His posture is sometimes sagging and he makes very strange sounds – even while he is napping. His mood is questionable at all times. These behaviors have all sent me to the vet in the past – I know now this is normal for him during a rough season, but I have still been looking for a pair of “kid gloves” with which to handle him.
From what I am hearing and reading, this has not been an easy breeding season for many people. From all over the world this year, I have been made aware of similar problems…it makes me wonder if something more than love is in the air this spring.
For those of us with multiple birds, especially those with both genders of a single species, this is a time to be particularly cautious. We all know what might happen if your male and female birds are in close quarters, but when hormones are raging, just the presence of the opposite sex can send your male bird into a hormonal abyss and could start your female over-producing eggs.
Mating does NOT need to occur for a female bird to lay eggs. Breeding hormones are manufactured when an environment is perceived as appropriate for breeding, and will cause a female to lay clutches of unfertilized eggs. Egg production takes a big toll on the female bird’s body and robs it of calcium. Chronic egg-laying presents numerous health hazards.
Perhaps a bigger problem is the clutch of fertile eggs.
We are human beings – we are entirely unlike birds both physically and emotionally. It is arrogant and presumptuous to have the idea that we can successfully stumble through the raising of a hatchling without some sort of training. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you know how to hand feed to prevent aspiration?
- Do you know how often and how much to a feed a chick during the different stages of their development?
- Do you know at what temperature to feed the formula?
- Do you understand how quickly the crop should drain?
- Do you know what the proper environment temperature and humidity level should be for a newly hatched chick? For a two week old chick? Three weeks?
- Do you know how to wean a bird?
- Do you understand that lifelong emotional problems can erupt from improper weaning?
- Do you know that health issues arise when a bird is kept on hand feeding formula for too long?
- Do you know how easy it is to fail in any or all of the above and kill a clutch of baby birds?
If it is your intention to let your birds do all the parenting, know that it doesn’t always turn out that way and your involvement might be required. Not all birds make good parents and I believe this to be especially true of captive birds.
It is hard work to raise baby birds. It requires appropriate equipment, time, patience, and know-how. Do not presume that your intuition will guide you through this experience. Birds are completely different in their physical design and their babies need care that humans would not instinctively provide.
I understand the urge to let your birds breed. I understand the warm feelings that come with the idea of watching your male and female birds start a family under your roof. No one loves a naked baby bird more than me. But all of those tender thoughts will turn cold when the babies start getting sick and dying and you have no idea what to do.
We get mail CONSTANTLY from people looking for help because something has gone wrong. This is particularly troubling for us because we are unable to help them. If a person were experienced enough to recognize the things that caused an illness or injury, the things someone would need to describe in order to get the appropriate help, they wouldn’t need help. It is dangerous to try to diagnose a health problem over the internet –it results in educated guesses which may well cause more damage if wrong.
We are not breeders and we don’t ever promote the breeding of companion birds by owners who lack experience. Taking that one step further, I would like to see all the rescues empty before breeding any more birds in captivity. Consider that if you want to expand your flock.
I encourage you to learn how to control your birds’ environment to curb the production of egg whether they are fertile or not: click here.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.