Tuesday, October 6, 2009

To Breed or Not to Breed:The decision to rear baby cockatiels

Breeding can be a very complicated and time consuming process. I personally have no desire to have Loki mate with another bird.

If you do not want your cockatiel to breed, stick to having only one bird or get two of the same sex.
However, if you want to rear baby cockatiels there are some important things you will need to know.

Firstly, cockatiels mate for life and they do not just settle for any other bird; they have to genuinely like the other bird in order to mate. The males are often less picky than the females.

If you have a male and female who like each other and are already mating, then you are set. However, if you choose to introduce a new cockatiel for mating, the hen may not like your choice of cockatiel.
  • If a hen looks at a male with a slanted head and then looks away, she is NOT interested in him.
  • If a hen is interested, she will watch the male closely, making nodding movements and fanning out her tail, while also grinding her beak (this means she is happy).
Cockatiels will normally breed at the beginning of April, once they reach their sexual maturity. Tiels are usually sexually mature between 6 to 9 months of age. However, you should not encourage breeding until they are at least 12 months old.

If you decide to breed cockatiels it is extremely important to get a nest box. Cockatiels in the wild do not build their own nests, but rather use a hollow in a tree trunk. The nest box will function similarly to a tree trunk.

Some important things to consider about nest boxes from Matthew Vriends, Ph.D., and author of "The Cockatiel Handbook" are:
  • Leave enough room between the nest box and the top of the cage.
  • The entrance hole should have a diameter of 3.5 inches.
  • The box's floor should be covered with damp peat and a few wood shavings (covering about 2 inches).
  • Press a hole in the peat with your fist to give the hen a place to lay her eggs (the hole will prevent the eggs from rolling around).
Eggs will be laid within 10 to 14 days after the first mating. Cockatiels usually have between four to seven eggs, which are about 1 inch by 3/4 inch.

Cockatiels will brood or lay on there eggs for 19 to 21 days and both the male and female cockatiel share in the brooding responsibilities.

Once the nestlings hatch, the female cockatiel will not leave the nest because she is keeping them warm. Therefore, it is essential to always provide sufficient food and minerals to your female tiel, especially during the breeding season.

You will not have to worry too much about the baby cockatiels because their parents will feed them regurgitated food. If a parent cockatiel does not feed one of the nestlings, you can handfeed the baby. However, cockatiels recognize a weak baby with possible genetic defects (thus the reason they are not feeding it), and these nestlings often die even with handfeeding.

Cynthia Kiesewetter describes the steps to properly handfeed nestlings:

  1. Purchase a high-quality handfeeding formula.
  2. Determine which of several handfeeding utensils you will use (syringes work the best, but you can also use spoons).
  3. Choose a brooder that is appropriate and able to be warmed to the proper temperature (a brooder is a heated tank where the babies will live since you are pulling them from being brooded by the mother and father).

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