Monday, 09. December 2013
|Breeding parrots in captivity|
Aviculture or breeding parrots, today there are many different motives for breeding parrots.
Some are breeding, just a few as aviary parrots for their own pleasure, some are commercially breeding for the pet market, others are specialising in areas like rare parrots and some are breeding unusual and beautiful mutations.
Increasingly important is the issue of parrot welfare when keeping or breeding parrots. Therefore the question of what is a stimulating and healthy environment should be a consideration. It is all so easy to become obsessed with this hobby in that the desire to keep as many parrot species as possible is at the cost of the birds welfare. However I am also convinced that this does not mean that all species are best suited to the biggest aviary's which can be provided if they are not feeling secure and relaxed in it. So often for example wild caught African Greys appear to be quite terrified of an outside aviary situation and may take many years to feel comfortable in it. On the other hand a large parrakeet which is in it's element only when on the wing is obviously constrained when kept in a breeding cage.
Also many parrot species are naturally adapted to living and breeding in dark dense forest , so putting them in very open exposed flights which may be pleasing to the bird keeper may not from the parrots point of view, be a secure and safe living environment.
Somewhere within this hobby there is a compromise to be made. The parrots once kept in captive collections can rarely be kept in natural conditions, apart from perhaps a few lucky individuals who have sufficient money and space to make this ideal situation a reallity.It is also an important point that most parrot breeders what to find the best conditions for producing parrot babies, and this may not seem in the eyes of outsiders always the best situation from a human perspective.
In general I think that some species like Caiques, Senegals, small conures can be happily kept in breeding cages. On the otherhand I have found that larger species like Amazons, Eclectus and some Macaws seem more confident and secure in a larger open air flights. An exception is probably the the African Grey which if originated from the wild (as mostly they have) often is a very nervous parrot specie for an open flight and will often retreat into the nest box because of it's fear of the outside. However captive bred Greys are often quite at home in a large outside flight. and will produce many offspring, where perhaps their breeding success in more open flights may be less predictable.
There is also the opportunity with some parrots to breed in a colony, this is rarely done but probably very rewarding as the idea of a having perhaps one very spacious flight to accomodate a number of pairs of the same specie must be very pleasing both for the keeper and the parrots who by nature would socialize with their own kind. It is an idea which increasingly appeals to me, especially in that the Caiques & Eclectus parrots which account for most of my own collection are said to be especially well inclined to live and breed in colonies. But for now I prefer to keep mine in separate flights as I believe it is the best situation I can offer at this particular time.
I tend to breed my Caiques in 3' square cages with plenty of ropes and swings for them to clamber about on, small African parrots (Senegals,Red Bellied & Ruppells) in 6' long suspended cages as they tend to want to fly about more than climb. The Eclectus are kept in large outside flights 10' long and 4' wide with an ajoining birdhouse and inside cage with nesting box and feeding station. I am also now planning a new bird house with some smaller flights attached for parrots like Jardines, Capes or small Macaws.
Keeping a parrot collection
Like most breeders I have kept for many years a mixed collection of parrot species with little regard to the suitability of neighbouring birds. In the last few years I have began specialising by keeping certain specie types like Eclectus , or Caique sub-species. I have come to the conclusion that actually keeping fewer species but more pairs of each gives you more scope for making up unrelated pairs, for comparing behaviour between breeding pairs and controlling dietry requirements. Also it seems to me that parrots being flock orientated species appear more relaxed when kept next to a number of similar species, and certainly the noise level appears to be lower than when I kept a wider range of different species.
Feeding of parrots
I personally like to feed my parrots twice a day, giving them a mixture of fresh fruit, vegetables and pulses during the day. Then removing this in the evening and replacing with just enough seed mix to last until the following morning. I would not leave a soft food mixture overnight whenever possible. Water is refreshed ever evening and I always use an anti bacteria and fungal additive.
Types of nest boxes
Whilst in principal parrots nest inside trees, it has generally been found that parrots will nest quite happily in many different shaped boxes, and that their preferance if anything may depend more on the feeling of security than anything else.
My experience seems to suggest that more nervous parrots tend to prefer perhaps deeper or more secluded box sites, whereas more confident parrot pairs will often be seen to nest in any anything that allows them to lay their eggs in with little regard to the nest box depth or the siting of the box. Some breeders will provide several nest box shapes and different locations with a new pair of parrots to see where they prefer to nest.
It is also important to realise that the parrots need to control the temperature/humidity within the box, so an outside box should not be sited in an exposed area to the heat of the sun or for that matter if the parrots are winter breeders exposed to the cold or frost in open areas. The thickness of the wood is also important and if kept them inside a shed or building the parrots would not require the wall thickness of the box to be so thick as when you you keep them in outside aviary's, where the inside box temperature/humidity is more easily kept in control if the walls are considerably thicker.
Bedding is also a major consideration, parrot nest boxes located inside buildings more often only consist of pine wood shavings, whereas nest boxes sited in more open outside aviary's often need some peat mixed in with the wood shavings to give better moisture control where perhaps increases and decreases in temperature are likely to be more acute. Also some parrots prefer to prepare their own bedding, either by biting wood off the sides of the nest box or by adding their own feathers.
Winter breeding parrots may need special consideration with regard to cold temperatures, parrot hens have often been lost due to being "eggbound" which is often related to hens trying to lay eggs during unexpected very cold spells.I have seen some unusual methods to protecting nest boxes against this in the past with perhaps outside insulation around the box or even heat lamps placed underneath, but perhaps the best and most cost effective just comes down to the wall thickness of the box. So generally if you have parrots with outside aviary boxes and they go to nest in winter, then give then nest boxes with much thicker walls.
Although nest boxes can quite easily homemade out of plywood for example. I have found recently that for a few pounds more you can get a solid pine one made for you by an experienced carpenter.
You should be cautious when purchasing wire, especially from the back of a lorry at parrot shows.
I recently had the misfortune to buy a small roll of seemingly low cost 1" x 1" aviary wire, but when I got it home the wire was covered in galvinising powder which easily was removed by rubbing. Needless to say I had to throw it away and buy a good quality roll of Primeweld from a reputable distributor.
Nest box cameras
These are very useful additions to the nestbox which allow you to view the way the parents are rearing or not as the case may be. Certainly you can get an insight into the way the parrots are behaving which can often vary from pairs of the same specie.And in the worst case you can perhaps see which of the parents are causing problems like killing of the chicks or destroying the eggs.