Starting a Bird Family
Breeding and raising baby birds requires a significant time and financial commitment.
Thinking about breeding your bird? Visiting the vet, hand-feeding hatchlings, investing in special nesting supplies and having an emergency plan in place are just a few issues that may need your attention. Too hefty a commitment for some, but if you have the time, money and desire, then here are some bird breeding basics to consider:
- Do you have a male and a female? Before you can breed your bird, you need to know the sex of your bird. Most owners don’t know until she lays eggs or until he doesn’t. There are many breeds that have no outward visual characteristics or even personality differences between males and females.An experienced avian veterinarian should be able to sex your birds but DNA testing (using a blood sample) will give you a definitive answer.
- Mating behavior: Unfortunately, even if you know your bird’s sex, mating is usually not as simple as putting a potential suitor in the same cage. Turns out that – like humans – some birds are extremely picky!Also, don’t be surprised if two birds of the same sex appear to be bonding. It’s just as common as a pair of the opposite sex. If you do have two birds of the opposite sex who show interest in one another, they usually will remain bonded until one of them is taken out of the cage.
If you intend on starting a family, you will need to provide them a nesting box (make sure it’s the appropriate size for the species), plenty of room for them to move around in the cage, privacy and an abundance of food. Interestingly, birds will instinctively not bring offspring into this world if food is in short supply.
- Breeding nutrition: Calcium and phosphorus intake are critical to the diet of a breeding bird. Calcium is essential for bone formation, muscle contractions, proper functioning of the nervous system and eggshell formation. Phosphorus is the other key nutrient and works hand-in-hand with calcium to produce bone and egg formation, and metabolize fats and carbohydrates. Vitamin D3 also can help these nutrients work together more effectively.Without the proper nutrition, your bird may develop weak bones that could easily fracture. She also will lay thin-shelled eggs and it’s possible that she’ll produce babies with the same bone abnormalities.
Depending on your particular bird, she may have additional – even unique – nutritional needs, so be sure to seek out species-specific information. Ask your veterinarian and breeder for their input.
The items above are just a few of the many things a bird breeder must consider. Most owners choose to leave the breeding to professionals and simply enjoy their pet’s companionship. If you decide to become a breeder, however, be sure to speak with your veterinarian before you start the process. He or she will make sure that your pet is in breeding condition and can offer invaluable advice.