How Not to Breed Parakeets/Budgerigars

I’m very excited that in another week or so, I may have baby budgies hatch in the bird room. I have done absolutely nothing to make this happen except provide a nest box. As Dr. Ian Malcolm says in the first Jurassic Park movie, “life, uh… finds a way.”

When I decided to try to breed parakeets, which I call budgies, because not all parakeets are budgies, but all budgies are parakeets, uh. . . where was I? Oh, I did loads of research. Budgies don’t like to breed unless there are lots of other budgies around them. Be sure to have one more nest box than breeding pairs. Make wet leaves available daily so the hens can roll in them and then bring the moisture to the nest and the eggs.

My first budgie flight cage had six sides, was very tall and very narrow. We could not always get the birds out of it easily if the need arose. And the door wasn’t the best sort. I lost two birds on different occasions that way, but one had just come to me and had clipped wings. That lucky budgie came back to the flock. The other one, a beautiful gray bird, probably joined a hawk for dinner. Ah, well.

So I got a better cage, square, with a solid top and two doors. Mike cut openings at the back for four nest boxes, and we put in three pair. From friends, I had learned that budgies don’t like nesting material of any sort. But there’s a greater chance of splayed legs if there’s no strata for the chicks to sit on. Dry playground-type sand is the ideal thing. The hen can’t carry it all out of the nest, and the chicks have support as their legs develop. I also learned that budgies need eucalyptus leaves for the enzymes which stimulate breeding. I was Ready.

One of the birds I had that I thought was a male turned out to be female. That’s a nice story that I will share another time. But my blue male had no trouble providing service to the two girls, and soon I had eggs, and soon chicks. These were the happy days. As the years passed, I lost a hen, and was given a beautiful girl from a friend. Her name was Miss Tick, and she settled in to the aviary well, I thought. I was so excited to find her in a nest box, laying eggs and sitting on them. Sadly, I had an aggressive hen in the flock that I was not aware of. Miss Tick and her hatched chicks were killed, and the unhatched eggs thrown out of the box. I still feel sick when I think of that desecrated nest.

I was able to identify my aggressive hen and give her away. But I had then an imbalance that never quite righted itself, more males than females. So we got rid of the big cage, switched the budgies into a tall flight cage, and did not provide nest boxes. I have one female to five males out there. Not sure if she’s a happy girl, or if the boys are frustrated, or what.

Last June we received a pair of budgies from a neighbor. The pair were kept in a classroom and much loved by the students. We were just expecting to keep them for the summer, but no one came to claim them in the fall. Because they were not staying, we kept them inside in a cage instead of introducing them to our flock. They are cute blue and white birds, cheerful and playful. Last week, Mike discovered an egg on the floor of the cage. He says the hen looked embarrassed. She wanted nothing to do with it.

When I found two more eggs in the cage, I decided to set up a nest box and see what happens. We just learned too that the teacher who had the birds in the classroom went to another school, so the birds should be ours. And that makes me very excited. Baby budgies are some of the sweetest birds you’d ever want to have.

So until I can share progress, here are some videos to keep you entertained. Here is an adorable pair courting: another pair mating,

Hatching and growing:

And fledging:

It’s been one week since I put the box up, and they need two weeks to hatch. That is one of the fastest incubations in the avian world. Stay tuned, and maybe next week we will share good news!(By the way, I haven’t yet found the photos of the aviary, but I will keep looking.)

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