E (his legal name – must be handy with forms)
We have a large aviary cage with 8 parakeet rescues, 5 girls, and 3 boys. The census has been up to 10, but a few have passed over the years.
We recently moved the cage from a bright front room in the downstairs store, upstairs to our living space where it is not as lit up from several windows but the room does have over 20 lighting fixtures).
The cage does have the same supplemental full spectrum lighting (3 bulbs & fixture controlled by a single timer) and up until the move, it all was plenty to help keep the bird’s hormones in check and resulting in no mating and no eggs.
Well, apparently the lighting has dimmed enough to allow the parakeets to feel their oats and hormones.
The new Windy City Parrot bird rescue housing set up ~ Video
So a week or so ago we found our longest guest female having a hard time flying and seemed to be trying to hunt down a dark spot. Upon examining her, it felt like she was trying to pass an egg. We immediately pulled her and put her in a small cage in a warm area without the other birds in hopes she could pass the egg without issue.
Well, she didn’t lay an egg, nor did she pass from being egg-bound.
Bacon, our oldest rescue hen who over the past 6 years with us has on occassion appeared puffy and on the verge of passing, only to recover and outlive several cage mates. So her health is ambiguous and we hope she makes it, but if not, it won’t be a surprise.
In the interim, we hung a nest box on the cage, thought Bacon might use it, but nope. Instead, it has become of interest to another pair, Chicken, and Waffles. The two of them inspected the box and rearranged the bedding, tossed out the crinkled bedding until I gave up on that, and put in some pine shavings. That has been left in place.
They had not gone in to use the box yet but clearly have claimed it. Another keet, Jam (female) has shown interest and has tried to check it out, but Waffles has chosen to sit by the box opening and keep her away.
I just peeked and now see two eggs in the box.
Now, this is completely new for us. We have never colony bred. I have not bred birds in close to 30 years.
I recall that you have housing set up similar and you have had some breeding. I think I also recall you mentioning that only one pair will be able to breed in a small colony set up like yours and the other birds, pairs won’t be able to establish their own nests even if given a box due to one pair dominating the colony. Is my memory correct?
Would you be willing to write something regarding this situation? We are trying to chronicle this series of events for a blog post. If you could write about your setup and the resulting pairing, dominance, etc. I would really appreciate it.
Please let me know if you can.
It is true that the females will fight in the smaller environment. I have literally had to reach in and grab two females trying to kill each other and couldn’t get them apart at first. I have found blood all over the cage and one female with a gouge in her head.
And she was the one breeding. It is a pecking order thing and the Queen will be the only one to breed.
The males will constantly try to pester the male during their sexual encounters but they peck a little and back off to the King of the flock.
They are mainly harmless and just want to get lucky. Jealous.
They will also help feed babies after they leave the breeding box.
I had one female with five eggs (I’ll never allow that big of a batch again) that I think starved herself trying to feed them all. I found her dead one morning and in a panic with five of your birds.
I put them all in the bottom of the cage and blocked off their area with a little wall. The males started going down and the birds were all fed and survived. Wonderful. But the queen of the flock, the dominant hen, is a territorial or dominant or protection thing. In the wild, they go off here and there.
But in a small area, and a cage is small even when it is big, that other female is always there. Jealous I think. Not sure how it starts. Maybe the other female sneaks in while the mother is eating Not sure what. But the potential for fighting remains and the females are vicious, the males just peck a bit and back off.
For small birds that don’t require steel cages
Here is my best attempt. Hope this isn’t too long, but 40+ years of observations. Many times, things went perfectly well with no issues, So it was hard to get a grasp on exactly what was happening. These were the bad parts and what to watch for. There were many good outcomes. If you need to cut it shorter or rewrite it, feel free.
I have a rather large cage, built as a cabinet. So only one face of the cage has bars.
I have kept my parakeets as a colony rather than one or two well-trained, tame birds.
Love their singing and letting them live as a flock or colony.
They always seemed very happy. Eventually, two got a little two friendly so I built a little box for them and sometime later I heard some tweeting, I called him Tweeter.
Anyhow, over time I built two Condo boxes to let them choose and breed.
I had many clutches after that.
But over time, I noticed occasional, intermittent issues that I at first couldn’t figure out.
Come home and see tiny spots of blood about the back of the cage, a metal plate. But I never saw any birds that looked injured.
Occasional breeding occurred over time, but only when I put the boxes back in the cage. So far so good. Then one day I caught two females fighting. Very vicious.
I opened the cage and broke it up and the breeding hen retreated to her eggs. After that there was peace. Then another time I caught them or another pair of hens fighting. This time I literally had to pull them apart. Their claws were hanging on to each other and they were pecking viciously.
This is getting bad. What is causing this? After that, the cage went back to normal. After the babies emerged, I removed the boxes. The flock was happy again.
There were other related incidents. But over time and being over 20 or 30 years or more, here is my best guess as to what is going on and recommendations.
A small cage and two birds, let them breed if inclined, but only once a year. Let her recover. Even if she starts laying eggs the day after the babies emerge. And she might. Take the eggs away.
A large cage, even with a breeding box in a corner is setting yourself up for problems. While they hang out in colonies, they still slip off to relative privacy for their breeding. You might think your cage is big enough. It isn’t. They are confined in a small area. Small to them.
During actual mating acts, other males will try to interfere with the mating male. They peck a bit. He chases them off and back and forth until he finally gets it done.
Funny to watch, but very frustrating for the pair. This can even happen when she has eggs and young birds, Hey, they like it, and each other. Yes, she may break from sitting on eggs or tending her young birds to do it. But the males, just bicker a bit and back off to the mating male after a while. No real fights.
But only one female will be allowed to breed. The pecking order or first come first served. Not sure and only they know. The other hens get jealous or want to kill them, and be the dominant hen, and the only breeding hen. If they can, they might actually try to kill the other babies. The mother will defend them with her life. Basic instincts. Once you figure out what is happening it is a bit scary.
If they look like they want to breed, Put them in a breeding box. One hen and then the pair will take it over. My observation is that you are safe here. They will pick their mates and get started. But then, remove the breeding box. Put them in a smaller cage by themselves with the breeding box. Let nature take its course.
Another time, all looked good. The hens weren’t fighting and the babies were in the 3-week stage. I had to leave town for business for a week and a friend watched them. She checked one day and all the babies were dead. I didn’t see their bodies so I don’t know if they were killed or the mother abandoned them. The cage was getting very crowded. Another thing to watch for.
The Windy City Parrot Budgie Aviary ~ 10.22.2022 ~Video
Another time, things were peaceful, and no fighting. The hen had five eggs.
I think that as they hit the three to four-week stage, feeding them was more than she could handle. She was fine one night and dead in the morning.
No sign of trauma. What do you do with 5 young birds?
Well, it was a large cage and I eventually put the babies on the floor of the cage in a corner with a low wall. The males in the cage adopted them and they all helped feed them. Go figure. After that. I only allowed breeding one more time and I only let her have one egg.
In a small separate cage in a dark hallway. No breeding box. She let me clean the cage daily and around her egg and then went right back to sitting on it. After the egg hatched, she let me clean the cage and handle the baby from about 2 hours old until it was on its own.
About 35 times and 35 pics of that baby in my hand.
I want my birds to breed again. But they will start with a breeding box, in the big cage. When she starts laying eggs, I will let her have no more than three and the pair will be moved to a smaller cage. Better safe than sorry and the birds will all be happier. No fighting.
Advice. Do the same if you have a large cage and a pair that want to breed. Everyone will be happier. And maybe another pair might also start breeding, peacefully. But keep those hens apart even in large cages, when one is laying eggs or nursing babies.
Just my personal observations since about 1980. I am not a vet or trained bird specialist. Just like parakeets.
Written and aggregated by Catherine Tobsing
Approved by Mitch Rezman