August 2002 Magazine
Keeping records of your breeding pairs and tiel chicks is critical to any successful breeding program. The information gained from keeping accurate records is vital to the health of the parents and the chicks they produce.
Recordkeeping on Adult Pairs
When you decide that you are going to breed a specific pair, even before the first egg is laid, you will want to start keeping accurate information about this pair. You will want to identify any splits, the heritage of the birds, the age of the birds, their weight and the type of diet that you are feeding them. Then when the pair begin to work the nestbox and begin mating you will want to note the frequency and whether or not the male is making good contact with his hen. If there is a problem in as much as the male is attempting to mate with the hen's wing or her back, you can make a notation that the hen will be laying non-fertile eggs because the mating was not successful. This is normal for first time breeders to have this type of problem.
Whether the eggs are fertile or not you still want to document each egg in the clutch. Recording the date when the egg was laid whether it is the first, second, or third egg in the clutch.
You will want to note any problems with the hen. If she becomes egg bound during the clutch and what emergencies measures you had to take to help her pass the egg. Measures that do not work require an avian veterinarian and it should be recorded what the vet had to do.
Other observations might be if the hen is laying misshapen eggs, soft shelled eggs, or eggs that have unusually thin shells. Soft shelled eggs or thin shells may require a change in the hen's diet so that she receives the right amount of calcium. Any change in the diet should be recorded and whether or not the change in diet worked.
Since individual pairs are unique in their breeding habits, what works for one pair may not work for the others. This developmental difference as the parent birds learn reproduction is why accurate records are so important to your success as a breeder.
All avian vet care should be carefully recorded for each pair of birds. This record can be referred to whenever there is a new clutch.
The dates of any clutches need to be recorded so that the pair is not over-bred. Two clutches a season seem to work best for captive bred cockatiels. Over-breeding may cause significant health problems for the hen. Egg binding, cloaca prolapse and egg yolk peritonitis are all serious emergencies which must be taken care of by your avian veterinarian. There is some speculation that over- bred birds may have more problems with Polyoma virus. So limiting the number of clutches to two is a very responsible approach to breeding cockatiels.
You want to allow your birds a year's rest from one breeding season to the next. While the birds are resting, you can record any change in their diet and the results of changes that you have implemented for your breeding pairs.
It is important to monitor the weights of your breeding birds. Since the male does most of the feeding, he can easily become exhausted and lose weight. This may mean that you are pulling chicks for handfeeding earlier than you expected.
You may also want to note how many eggs are in each clutch and whether the chicks were healthy, small or large. This may help you decide whether to keep or change pairings in the future.
Records about the Hatch
Once your eggs begin to hatch, its time to record the hatch date and any problems that you saw during the hatch. You will want to note the overall appearance of the chick.
If the chick's skin is red, the chick is probably dehydrated (A dehydrated chick will need an electrolyte replacement fluid). Dehydration in the chick means that the humidity in the nest was inadequate. You will want to make a note that for the next clutch you will need to raise the humidity. On the opposite end of the spectrum a chick may hatch that is weak and water logged, indicating the humidity was too high during the incubation process.
You will want to record any dead in the shell chicks and what caused the death of the embryo. Sometimes this may mean that the hen has vertically transmitted infection to the egg while it was still in the shell gland.
Recordkeeping for Chicks
An important aspect of handfeeding your tiel chicks is the daily recording of their weights and their weight gains from the previous day. This information is useful in assessing the overall health of your chicks. Equally important is your observation of the overall health and appearance of the chicks. When looking at your recorded data you need to consider the differences in the development of the chicks. Each chick is unique and will vary in the developmental process. Some will be ready to wean sooner than others, some will gain more weight, and some will be interested in remaining a baby for a longer period of time. This is why as a breeder your personal observation and experience in handfeeding is so necessary.
Essential to being able to maintain good records is having a good quality gram scale. One of the very first subtle indications that something is wrong with the chick is weight loss. It is possible that it is the only indicator that you will see. This requires a good relationship with your avian veterinarian so that the chick or chicks can be seen immediately. Any vet care should also be recorded.
My personal experience with this happened with a lutino male cockatiel who was having seizures. I called my avian veterinarian and made an emergency appointment for Candy. My records were quite valuable, as they showed Candy's weight gains and how much formula he was receiving at each feeding. I took the formula that I was feeding him to the vets with me because it was not one sold retail. Once the vet looked at the ingredient label of the formula he diagnosed the problem as being hypoglycemia, due to an inadequate formula. I changed the formula to the one the vet recommended. Since then Candy has never had another seizure. The records and the formula helped in making the right diagnosis for Candy.
Record keeping is as labor intensive as handfeeding and weaning tiel chicks. Work is not done for the breeder until all the critical information is recorded. Problems do arise if the record keeping is skipped for a couple of feedings. It makes the records virtually useless. A successful breeder will be consistent and record the information that is so vital to the growth and maturity of the chicks.
Keeping comprehensive handfeeding records on your tiels is vital to successfully raising healthy chicks. The time when each chick is pulled for handfeeding, the weight of the chick, the time of day, the general appearance of the chick, and the age of the chick should be recorded.
Its important to record the type of formula you are feeding the chicks, if there was a need to change the formula and the type of problems you were experiencing with the formula. Detail the circumstances surrounding the change in the formula. This is your personal record. You want to keep as much information on the handfeeding of your cockatiel chicks as you can. This will allow you to review your records and when the pair breeds again will give you valuable information to use with the next clutch of chicks.
Pulling chicks after the last night time feeding by the parents allows time to warm up the brooder for the chicks and the chicks can be put to bed with a full crop. This allows the crop to empty overnight. The chicks will be hungry in the morning and you may experience less problems getting them used to you as the one who feeds them. So in the morning when you are getting ready to feed the chicks, you will want to weigh each one of them and record it. Record the time, the amount of food being fed in the syringe, how much the chick ate, and if the crop was empty. You will want to do this every time you feed the chicks. If you are feeding on a three hour feeding schedule from 6am to midnight there is a lot of information to keep track of, even if there are only four chicks in the clutch.
The next day you will want to add up the total amount of food that was fed the day before. If you are feeding 10% of the chick's body weight you would see totals such as food fed 42cc/ml, or 49cc/ml. Please remember that these totals are for the entire day's feedings.
You will want to record the amount of weight gained. Weighing in the morning before the first feeding will give you the most accurate information in regards to weight gain. Chicks may gain as much as 12 grams in one day. For each feeding you will need to record whether or not the crop is empty and approximately how much is left in the crop. If the crop is slowing down, then why you feel this might be happening.
You will also want to note the environmental temperature of the brooder and the temperature of the food you are feeding the chick. As well as the amount of food the chick took in the syringe and indicate how much the crop has been stretched. The crop capacity of the cockatiel is 15cc and is usually reached by the 21st day. The stretching of the crop must be done slowly so that the crop does not lose its muscle tone. Loss of muscle tone will cause the crop to stop functioning and may result in a chick that is malnourished or starving to death.
You will also want to include when the chick's eyes opened, when pinfeathers start to appear, and when the chick took his first flight. Include the time when the chick started the pre-flight diet and how much weight was lost in order for the chick to fly.
Changes in diet should also be included, for example when the chick first started pecking at the brooder floor for millet, thawed frozen veggies, and juice soaked pellets. The record should contain information about the health of the chick, recording problems such as sour crop, crop stasis, impaction of the crop, yeast or bacterial infections in the crop and what was done to correct the health problem.
Next you will want to record when they start to refuse a feeding and at what age. Normally the last feeding given up by the chicks is the one before going to bed. Record the weights of the chicks when they give up the last feeding. Then keep the chicks, once weaned, for another two weeks. During this time record weights daily to make certain that the chicks are eating enough to maintain their weaning weights. At any time if you see a significant weight loss return to handfeeding the chick.
What do you look for when assessing the overall appearance of your chicks? First there should be plumpness as you would see in any baby. Plumpness of the wings, toes, and rump are indications that the chick is doing well. The skin color should be a nice flesh toned pink it should not be red an indicator of dehydration nor should it be pale in color. Chicks that are malnourished will have very thin feet, toes, and wings as well as a head that is much too big for the body of the chick. This can happen as a result of dehydration, stunting, or failure to thrive syndrome.
With good detailed information in your records you will be able to anticipate problems and take steps to correct them. The purpose of breeding is to raise beautiful healthy tiel chicks that are a delight to those who are their companions. When responsible breeding is implemented and the parent birds and the chicks needs are supplied, successes in breeding are realized.
While these types of records are labor intensive, they are in the best interest of your birds. Having documented information on the parent birds will help you supply the best breeding diet to meet the pairs vitamin and mineral requirements.
Breeding is more than just putting two birds together and allowing them to raise chicks. The decision to breed should be carefully weighed, as the raising of cockatiel chicks is labor intensive, taking all of your time and dedication to do the job right. The number one priority is that no chick be harmed. Our goal is quality and our priority, the health and well-being of these beautiful winged creatures whose lives we are responsible for.
Here is a form that I designed for keeping information on my tiel chicks. You may want to add additional information. You will need one form for each chick. This record/history for the chicks will give you key information as to the type of problems you may encounter with future clutches from this pair of birds. There are also software programs designed for recordkeeping. Or you may use computer spreadsheet or database software. Choose what you feel most comfortable with.
I wish for all of you many breeding successes. May all your eggs be fertile and all of your chicks healthy.
Cockatiel Chick Record
Parents: __________________________________________ No of egg in clutch ______
Hatch date: _________ Hatch time: ________ Hatch weight: ________
First observations on health: ________________________________________________
Date eyes opened: _________ Date first solo flight:_________
Date of weaning: _________ Date when chick was pulled: _________
Date when chick is moved to cage: _________
Date sold: _________ Sold to: _____________________________________________
Formula Fed: __________________ Changes: _________________________________
Neonate problems - sour crop: ___________ yeast infection:___________
bacterial infection:___________ systemic diseases:___________ other: __________
Vet visits - date/reason/results: ______________________________________________
Comments on chick's personality: ____________________________________________
Notes on chick's
_______ _____ _______ _______ _____________________________________ _______ _____ _______ _______ _____________________________________ _______ _____ _______ _______ _____________________________________ _______ _____ _______ _______ _____________________________________ _______ _____ _______ _______ _____________________________________
For Each Day - Record Individual Feedings Feeding Date _______
Time of day:
Formula how much?
Crop empty? Y or N:
Winged Wisdom Note: Iris, Bob, and their three children live in Maryland. They are owned by 19 birds. The flock consists of a bare eyed cockatoo, a Congo African grey, a quaker, a senegal, a green rump parrotlet, a lori and 12 cockatiels.
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