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With many people buying a pair of budgies, the thought will soon cross your mind about letting them breed. Just having a male and female will not make this happen, you will need to provide the right environment and be prepared to look after chicks as they grow.
Most importantly, can you look after and find homes for the chicks? If yes, then you need to inspect your breeding pair. They will need to be healthy, over a year old, and bonded. Bonded means that they are a mating pair, so display mating behaviour such as holding beaks. If they are related, you will need to split them up and introducing another make or female to breed from. Breeding to a close relative can cause genetic mutations and result in chicks being born deformed or dead.
If you have a specific colour in mind, research budgie colour genetics before buying your new blood. A lot of research has been done in identifying the different colour mutations and how they are created, although it isn’t fool proof.
You will need to separate the pair you want to breed from any other birds you have. This will ensure it is the pair you want mating, and also given them the privacy to bond and mate. You will need a large cage, which is at least 24 inches by 16 inches, and 18 inches tall. If you only have two who already live in a cage this size, you will just need to customise the cage to add a few extras.
The most important addition is to add a wooden nest box to the side of the cage. This may require you cutting into the wire to attach it, or removing a door so the entrance can be reached. There are many types of nesting boxes so it is a matter of personal tast; always make sure they have a hinge top so you can check the eggs and chicks when hatched. Budgie breeders have developed a wooden insert that helps stop chicks in nests getting splayed legs – it is a simple wooden conclave that forms the base of the nest. Place pine shavings on the bottom of the box and the conclave nest, the female will then arrange them as she gets broody.
As with your normal daily care, you will need to provide a cuttlefish, mineral block and at least two perches. Food and water must be provided, and you will need to increase the volume as the female gets broody and when the chicks are born. Improve their diet with a lot of fresh vegetables and the addition of EggFood (a special pellet).
The female will also need soft wood to gnaw on, as this activity encourages her to breed. Budgies naturally breed in the rainy season, so remember to spray or mist them frequently to “get them in the mood”.
The birds will need good light, and up to 12 hours of darkness overnight.
If you don’t see them mating, you will need to watch for the signs. The female’s cere (the nose at the top of the beak) will change when she is ready to breed – normally it is light brown, but it will become less crusted and thicker when she is broody. If the mating has been a success, you will start to notice the female is nesting. She will rearrange and remove wood chips from the nesting box, making the area perfect. After fertilisation, the first egg will appear roughly 10 days later. The birds then lay an egg every other day until all are produced. During this time the hen will be sitting on the nest, so you will not see her often. Be careful not to check the nesting box too often and disturb them. It is also not advised to touch the eggs, as any bacteria on your hands can be absorbed through the shell. If you want to check their development, you can shine a light through the shell to see their growth, movement, even their heart beat.
Between 18 and 23 days after the first egg is laid, the first chick should hatch.
You must monitor the female’s condition and demeanour. Check her cere as she sits on her eggs – if it turns light blue she is losing condition. This can make it difficult for her to feed the chicks, but can also make her violent. Some females have been known to pull out a chick’s feathers or kill them. During this time the male will feed the hen, who will feed the chicks – her health is therefore very important.
When the chicks start to hatch, check them regularly to make sure they are being fed and not being smothered by their siblings. Hatching at different times means that they will always be different sizes. If there are a large number of chicks, you may need to consider fostering them to other pairs you may be breeding.
Once a chick starts to get feathered, you can change the bedding and start to check their limb development. Close off the entrance so the hen can’t enter, and place the chicks carefully in a bowl lined with a towel. You can then check each chick closely, and get them used to being handled. Don’t keep them away from the mother for too long, as they will all get distressed.
As chicks start to move out of the nest, you will need to provide more food to encourage them to wean. Add a separate shallow bowl at the bottom of the cage, so they can start to forage. It is worth adding two water bottles at this stage, so all can drink when they want. You can now start to handle the chicks regularly, and teach them to perch on your finger.
At six weeks you will need to remove the chicks into a larger cage, so they can learn to fly safely. Provide a number of perches at different heights and distances, and place food at different heights whilst making sure there is a bowl still on the bottom of the cage. You can then rehome them, or move them into a larger house with the older birds.
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