The Lonely Life of an Expectant Avian Dad

Spring may still be weeks away, but in southern California, the birds don’t care. They are building nests, laying eggs, and raising babies. I couldn’t be happier about it all. But in a few species where the hen goes into the nest box and isn’t seen until the chicks need feeding. In fact, she needs time in the dark nest box to get in the mood to lay the eggs. The male bird hangs around the cage looking lonely and wishing this whole thing was over so he could have his mate’s companionship again. (I know, that’s a totally anthropomorphic view of the situation, indulge me.) Continue reading “The Lonely Life of an Expectant Avian Dad”

March Potpourri

The Moving Parrot Writes, and Having Writ – The Parents and Parronts often make mistakes in the name of keeping their loved one occupied. When my son was a toddler, he loved keys. Not wanting to give them back after he’d played with a very important set, he threw them out in the yard in the bushes. They were never seen again. I only remembered that after I gave Maynard a pen to play with. He ripped the rubber grip off of it, and waved it around maniacally.  Good thing the pen is mightier than the beak. I may have to let him start writing this blog.

Canary Update – Those little sex fiends are at it again. Bubbles laid one egg, sat on it a little bit, then didn’t, then got down to business. I hated to tell her it was too late by then. After 10 days plus, I candled the egg. Nothing going on there. I pulled the nest and separated the couple. That was Tuesday. Rico went insane when Bubbles perched on the edge of the food cup on her side and wagged her tail in the air. I let them back together today, and he has had his wicked way with her to the point that she is now saying the canary equivalent of “Enough, already! Give it a rest!” I need to find canary couple counseling. They are so confused.

Eggs in general – This year has been rather up and down for my breeders. As almost always, there is a jealous bird in the aviary that killed some of the chicks. Next season, I am going to move my best pair into their own breeding cage, like the ones the lovebirds have. That should guarantee success for them. I pulled all the nest boxes and dumped the eggs. So much promise for so little return. At least removing the boxes prevents the mice from having something to hide behind.

Lovebird Chicks – My purple (okay, okay, violet) lovebirds are champion parents. They gave me three clutches of 3 to 4 chicks since October. I enjoy handfeeding lovebirds more than cockatiels, but that might just be me. So I hand fed the first clutch. A friend took the next two clutches. I don’t like to push my breeders beyond three clutches per season. But the weather has been so unpredictable I thought leaving the nest boxes would be advisable. My dilute peachface pair are not producing any chicks. Piro is a proven dad, but Aura was had fed and raised as a pet at first. Not sure where the breakdown is, or if they are not compatible on some chemical level. I tried giving them some of the purple pair’s eggs, but for whatever reason, they never hatched. Maybe Aura doesn’t know she has to actually sit on the eggs?

To try to prevent any more chicks in the purps’ nest, I went out every other day and gave the eggs a good shake. That is usually enough to prevent hatching. The hen stopped laying eggs about then, smart lady. And imagine my surprise a few weeks later to see one of the eggs has just hatched! This was on or about February 9th. I had two weeks to decide what to do with the baby.

Meanwhile, I found out that the local bird store could not get handfed lovebird chicks anywhere. When my handfeeder brought back the last group she took, I had sold one to a friend north of me, which required complicated transportation arrangements. But I had two more so I brought them to the bird store. They were impressed with how sweet and gentle the babies were. Yay, me! And that made up my mind right there. I would pull the last chick in a while and handfeed him.

I call the baby Fin, because I am finished! I’ll be going to a writers’ convention at the end of March, and I hope to wean Fin by then. Because “he” (no, I don’t know if he’s a he. Just a convenience to say he) was an only chick, he has splayed legs that I have to address soon. The condition has improved just from moving him into the brooder with the rubber mat in the bottom. Already he is so active, climbing all over the little box and looking out at the other birds. So, the last baby of the season, and a special one at that. I’ve never seen a chick fall asleep while being fed. Like a human baby sometimes does. He will make some person a loving, enjoyable pet.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

Displaced Aggression

Of all our domestic companions, parrots are among the last to come live with us. People have kept chickens, pigeons, canaries, and other song birds for centuries, but parrots are new to non-native countries, relatively speaking. They were kept as pets by tribes in various forest and jungle environments, and only recently (century-wise) brought into more urban settings.

As less civilized creatures, parrots are moment to moment in touch with their fight or flight instincts. Therefore when someone or something seems threatening, they try to get away, or they attack. And if the threatening thing is not in range, they will attack whatever they can reach. Continue reading “Displaced Aggression”

The Tip of the Iceberg

Holland passed a law that bans the hand feeding and hand raising of parrot chicks. There are pros and cons in this situation, and I have yet to come up with enough information to decide for myself. So I’m going to throw some links up and see if there is anything that stands forth on either side.

The new rule prohibits the removal of birds from their parents before they can feed themselves. Even the removal of eggs is prohibited in this law. The reason given is that the parents stress when their chicks are taken away, and it can lead to behavior problems like plucking and self mutilation in the chicks.

When the US banned the import of wild-caught birds in 1992, breeding became the only way to get some of the more popular species. I’ve seen wide-scale operations with round the clock care for baby birds, and I can’t help but think it’s a little unfair to the birds. They would have gotten better care and attention in a clutch of four than in a batch of twenty. But even small scale breeders who hand feed can get it wrong, and cause the death of a baby one way or another, and even inadvertently spread a disease throughout a flock.

The biggest problem I have seen with hand-raised birds is that they bond with humans and not other birds. My Amazon is sure I am his mate. Also some chicks bond with the hand feeder, and then don’t adjust well to being placed in a new home with new humans. My Indian ring-neck suffered that problem.

Well, I find lots of negative opinions in this debate, even if they aren’t fanatics, but what is there that’s positive about hand rearing? I don’t mean the odd incident when a chick is abandoned or rejected, and this is the only way to save it. I mean as a business and a way to bond with a bird.

Co-parenting has always seemed to be a better option to me. And with my budgies, it worked very well. But it doesn’t work with lovebirds at all. And it doesn’t work, apparently, with Chris Biro. He’s adamantly against the law.

This video shows hand-raised parrots helping out with younger chicks. I don’t see a problem here.

Well, no closer to a position, but lots to think about. I will be back on Sunday.

What is the Sound of a Sun Conure Laying an Egg?

My sweet female sun conure, Sunny, is about 17 years old. She’s laid a couple eggs over the years that she has been with me. One time she seemed badly injured following the production of one egg, and I worried over her for several days.

I put her in a hospital cage with soft towels to lay on, a heat lamp, and administered antibiotics. And kept my fingers crossed. She went from laying listlessly on the bottomof the cage to her normal self in a week or so.

Putting her back in with her cage mate Zazu was a touching moment. He had missed her, and started to groom her right away.

That was some years ago, and I hoped it was the last time she would feel like producing eggs. Confidence stayed high until a few weeks ago. Sunny began making an odd noise. The closest I can get to describing it is the sound of playing cards set to hit the spokes on a bike wheel.

The current cage that Sunny and Zazu share is tall with shelves up near the top. Their water is at the top, the food at the bottom, so they have to move around the cage. Sunny began furiously throwing food out of the dishes, making horrible messes and wasting seed and pellets at a time when we could least afford it. Mike devised a plastic bin with a lid, cutting the middle of the lid off, so that the seed can’t easily be kicked or thrown out of the container.

Turns out, she was trying to make a nest. The food bowls had been too small, no matter how much she dug into it. The bin suited her much better, and the noise she was making heralded an egg. However, she went up to the top shelf to lay it. The egg rolled down to the bottom of the cage and cracked.

So now, about every two days, she is laying an egg. A strategy that sometimes works with hens is to give them a nest box, let them lay the eggs, sit on them, and when hatch day rolls around and the eggs don’t hatch, they will abandon the nest. So I gave Sunny and Zazu a nest box.

Sunny obligingly laid an egg inside of it, then crawled up to the shelf looking like a rung-out dish rag. But she perks up in time to lay the next egg. Zazu has spent more time in the nest box with the clutch, so far. I’m waiting to see how long this goes on, and if they actually will incubate the eggs.

Are the eggs fertile? Do I expect chicks in this nest? I’ve never seen them mating, but maybe they like the privacy for their activities. Unlike cockatiels who will go for it whenever and wherever they find themselves in the mood. Audiences are welcome. I’m not getting my hopes up, but in a few more days I will candle the eggs and see if there is a spark of life there. Stranger things have happened.

On Sunday, we’ll visit the world of humans and birds once more. Have a good week.