Preparing for the Second Round

I think it is important that before the second round starts to hatch, you clean both the nestbox and the droppings from the cage floor, placing clean sawdust in the nestbox. Another thing you should clean are the seed dishes and water fountain, making sure there is sufficient clean grit and cuttlefish. Many people often forget the grit after the first round.

In my opinion, now is the time to give your birds any extra titbits they like, because they will have already fed one round, and you want to ensure the second round is well fed. If you feed soaked seed, make sure they have sufficient – another good thing is a little grated carrot as it acts as a good general pick-me-up. It’s as good as any green food and more reliable; I generally mix it with a little soft food. My routine is a little soft food and soaked seed in the morning, early afternoon I give them a little more soft food and grated carrot. Not a lot, but I find it stimulates them to come down and have a feed of seed and then go and feed the babies.

Low Fertility

I think the biggest problem we budgerigar breeders have been facing for the past 1O years is the decline in the percentage of fertility. We’re working on about 60% fertility and it ought to be at least 75% When you are only getting 60% fertility and then out of say 60 chicks per round you lose about 1O, you are then struggling to get the numbers. People have all sorts of theories about why young chicks die when they are first hatched. I believe it’s due to the hen not having produced enough crop milk. You get dogs, cows, in fact it’s the same with humans, where the mother just doesn’t produce enough milk, or even no milk and it’s the same with hens. If I’ve seen a chick still not fed after about five hours, I’ve put it under a hen that is feeding well, and it is soon being fed and thrives. The trouble is, you can’t live with the birds, watching all day long, so usually the first thing you know about new-born chick not being fed is when you find it dead and squashed. There’s nothing we can do to make crop milk in a hen that’s not producing it. Feeding with bread and milk or anything else, won’t produce it. Sitting on the eggs should activate the hormones into providing crop milk, but in some hens it doesn’t. It’s the same in all other animal life, you get the odd one that doesn’t produce milk for a day or two. One little tip that appears to work, is to put a two or three-day-old chick under the hen. The bigger chick will call for food and you find that is the stimulus required to start the hen feeding.

Because my breeding cages are 1.2m long, I experience few problems when chicks leave then nest and can afford to leave them with the parents for a minimum of 18 days before they are transferred to a stock cage. My nestboxes are also rather large, 3Ocm 25cm 15cm wide and so it is rare for a chick to leave the nest younger than a least 5 weeks of age

If at all possible I do not -transfer chicks from one nest to another until they have been ringed. Otherwise there can be difficulties in identification. After ringing I try to level up the number of chicks in each nest, ensuring that the total age span is no more than a few days.

I like to see three or four chicks in each nest. Two is acceptable, but I do everything I can to avoid a pair rearing a single chick. Too many very young chicks in the same nest can put strain on the hen’s milk, but on reaching the age of 14 days chicks are receiving virtually all seed. Chicks beaks should be checked every other day to see if they are clogged with food. If so they should be cleaned with a sharpened match. Occasionally, a chick is bred with an undershot beak, and I rarely attribute this to a dirty beak. A far more likely reason is our constant endeavour to breed budgerigars with small neat beaks. I have found that housing an undershot chick in an all-wire cage can often cure the problem, the need to climb the wires, by pulling on the beak and spending the night in the position of clinging onto the wires often solves the problem. It should not be thought that there is any cruelty in this arrangement as it mirrors the wild budgerigar’s habit of clinging beneath the leaves of eucalyptus trees.

Using 50mm of sawdust (wood shavings) in the bottom of my nestboxes in lieu of a concave, means that I never have a problem of chicks feet becoming clogged with excreta. Their rings can be read when they leave the nest. However, if the chick’s feet require cleaning, it should be done only after the caked dirt is soaked in warm water to soften it. Great care must be taken to avoid removing claws along with the dirt.

The size of my nestboxes means that there is still room for the chicks even after the hen has begun to lay her second round of eggs. Even so, it is best to remove the chicks and place them on the cage flour.

Stock Cage

When youngsters are eventually removed from their parents, it should be to a stock cage in which a docile old cock bird is housed, together with a few older chicks if possible. The older ones will encourage the newcomers to feed for themselves.

If the odd chick is backward in feeding itself, you must beware of it becoming dehydrated. Dipping its beak into water can be enough to start it feeding. In any case, make sure that there is a shallow dish of water, easily accessible, on the floor of the cage. After about 21 days in the stock cage, chicks can be moved on to an inside flight. Then, if the weather is suitable they are permitted to investigate the big wide world of the outside flight. It is usually April before the correct conditions arrive. Young budgerigars will put on muscle in the outside flight; muscle they will retain. It is fat that can be built up by leaving chicks for too long in a stock cage that will be lost in the outside flight. Lean, well-muscled chicks are the ones that do best when placed in show cages and, eventually breeding cages.

Original text: Copyright 1997 Jim Hutton

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