July 1999 Magazine
I think everyone has a fleeting thought on breeding birds once they have had pet birds for a couple of years. Especially if they have the "dreaded" Multi-Bird Syndrome.
We did and we actually acted upon it. We got a pair of Hahns Macaws and a pair of Quakers. Once we had them, we realized that there are a lot of, what I call "stupid questions". Like how much nesting material should be put in the box. Exactly what size box and on and on. I will try to go over some of these questions and answers, because I know, if I thought of these, then other people will too.
When we first set the Quakers up, my husband Damian asked me, "How much pine shavings should I put in the nest box?" I, not wanting him to know that I didn't have a clue, told him to put about 3 inches in it. Then I went looking for info to make sure I was right. I got the first question right.
We had to be sure we had the right size nest box. After picking several experienced breeders brains we came to the conclusion that Quakers do best in Cockatiel size nest boxes. The kind that has a little front porch on it. Try to place it in an upper corner of the cage. Get the kind that hangs on the outside of the cage. This way you won't have to stick your hand inside the cage. It helps to have a piece of cardboard or wood that fits down inside the nest box and covers the entrance hole to the nestbox from the inside. This is for when you have chicks. Some Quaker parents can be vicious!
We didn't know when to remove the nest box or even if we ever had to. We cleaned it out with bleach and water when we first got it. We rinsed it very well, then stuck it up in the cage. We plan on leaving the nest box up all year. Quakers are pretty smart and regulate themselves on their laying cycles.
When we first set up our Quakers we had them in the right size cage. We put them in 2'x2'x2' cages. The smaller cages seem to make them happier than the big cages. However we didn't have the right size perches. We had regular old round perches. We found out that in order for the birds to feel comfortable enough they have to have perches that fit their feet and be stable enough to provide them a place for them to breed. We never even thought of this aspect of it. We have in the cages now, 3/4 inch dowels. We may have to do some experimenting with this. Time will tell. Make sure the perches are very stable.
My next question had to do with lighting. How close should my full spectrum lighting be to the cage for them to benefit from it? And how many hours a day should I provide them with? From what I have gathered they need to be placed about 3 to 4 feet away. We provide about 15 hours of light for them. We have the lights set up on a timer, just in case we forget to turn them on. Also you must cover any windows when using Full Spectrum so you don't confuse the birds. Some breeders say that you need gradual lighting to simulate the sun rising and setting.
Here is a website which has lots of info on lighting. If you read this you can draw your own conclusions and decide which is best for your situation - http://www.users.mis.net/~pthrush/lighting/index2.html.
Well that's the cage set up part. Now we move on to when you have chicks. The fun part!
What do you do if you don't have a brooder? Well here is the info I have gathered on making your own brooder. First, there are several ways to make one. (This is an idea from Cindy Buell.) Take 2 Kritter Keepers (Kritter Keepers are plastic containers you can find at pet stores. They are usually for keeping Hermit Crabs, small snakes or small frogs in). In one Kritter Keeper, place about 3 or 4 inches of water. Place an aquarium heater in the water. Place the other Kritter Keeper inside the one with water in it. Place your pine shavings inside the top one with paper towels over them, folded nice and neat. You must have a thermometer to monitor the temperature inside the brooder. You can regulate the temperature by covering the brooder by half or so with a towel. The Kritter Keepers do come with a lid, but I have found that the temperature gets a little warm with the lid on.
Another brooder idea is to use a Tupperware container with a heating pad underneath. Place pine shavings and paper towels on top of the pine shavings. Cover to retain heat. Always monitor the temperature and be very careful with this. Some heating pads have malfunctioned and burned chicks. A 2-week-old chick cannot maintain its body's heat, so the brooder needs to be maintained at about 85 degrees. You should use a thermometer to monitor the inside of your brooder also. When the chicks get a little older you can place the heating pad under half of the container. This gives the chick a place to waddle over to if it gets too warm.
To keep the handfeeding formula warm you can use a water bath. I bought a couple of Pyrex Custard Cups specifically for handfeeding formula. Get a bowl that your formula cup will fit into. Pour hot water, from the tap, into the bowl and place your formula cup inside this when your formula reaches the correct temperature. Place a thermometer in your formula to monitor the temperature. It should be between 100 and 105 degrees. Please pay attention to this. Too hot and crop burn could occur. Too cold and slow crop emptying can occur.
I use Exact Original Handfeeding Formula, so far so good. All my chicks are gaining weight and are very alert. Of course there are several brands on the market and you may find you like another brand better. At 2 weeks the chicks should eat about 10 ml of formula. This may vary depending in the chick but not by much. At 4 weeks they should be getting about 20 ml 3 times a day.
Another thing to keep in mind is when to pull chicks from their parents. Some breeders pull at 2 weeks, some pull at 3 weeks. When you do pull a chick from the nest, it will not have a feeding response - or at least some don't. When a chick is first pulled, you should wait until it gets hungry again before you attempt to feed it. Then you have to show this baby that you are its source of food.
The first time I did this I put some handfeeding formula in the syringe and put a little in their mouths. Most gave me no response but just looked at me like I was nuts! Remember that the pumping action is what helps these little guys swallow. So you just fuddle along, sitting on the edge of your seat until they finally get the hang of it. Stroking the side of the beak helps some also. Some babies get the idea very soon, in about a day or two. Others may take as long as three or four days.
During this time, I let the chicks lick the formula off the syringe. This takes quite a bit longer than other methods, but it does give you time to spoil the baby rotten and gets him a little bit more used to you. It is really funny because it looks as if they really don't like the taste of the formula at first. I had to try it and I must say, I didn't find it very palatable either.
When I finally got the feeding response from the babies I am feeding now, I switched to spoon-feeding. This gave me more time to socialize the baby, love it and basically spoil it rotten. It has been five days since I got the babies that I am feeding now and when they see me they start the head bobbin' and wing flappin'.
Also a very important instrument is a scale. When you pull the babies you will need to weigh them daily. Babies this young should gain weight every other day. When they start to wean and fledge is when they start to loose. If a baby is loosing weight before weaning then a trip to the vet is in order. Also keep in mind that as a baby gets close to weaning and fledging their crops do shrink some.
I hope these tips help some of you out there. Since we are just embarking on our adventure I am sure that other questions will arise. If you have any tips for beginners I would sure like to hear them.
Winged Wisdom Note: Angela Rolland and husband Damian have had pet birds for about 5 years and this year began breeding a few species of parrots. She is currently Secretary of the Quaker Parakeet Society, maintains The Quaker Parakeet Email List FAQ and moderates the Quaker Talk Chat Forum at Birds n Ways.
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