COCKATIELS - ADVICE FROM A BREEDER

by Linda Greeson

So many books and articles have been written about Cockatiels I really hesitated for a long time before presuming to add yet another. I have read just about everything that has been written about these delightful little birds and feel that through my experience with them I can add some information that has not already been covered, as well as briefly some of the well known basic facts so widely presented.

There is good reason for the wealth of information currently available. Except for the Budgerigar, the Cockatiel is rated as the most popular and widely kept of the approximately 340 species of the order of psittacine birds. They are a hardier bird than their rival, the Budgie, and have a life span of 15 to 20 years versus the Budgie's 7 to 8. They are gentle and sociable by nature and have pert, bright personalities. They quickly pick up words and phrases and especially love to whistle. Their speech may not be as clear as that of the larger birds, but they are by comparison much less expensive. There is no more ideal pet for the novice than a young, hand fed Cockatiel.

For the breeder, especially those just starting this experience, the choice of Cockatiels is an excellent one. Even though we have bred many varieties of larger exotic birds for many years with considerable success, our prolific Cockatiels can always be depended on to pay their feed bills. In addition to the financial return I have found that the study involved each year in making the right decisions in setting up my breeding pairs to be all absorbing. When the these decisions result in larger and more beautiful birds, this hobby almost becomes an addiction! Having one of your own baby birds grow up to make the top bench at a show is thrilling beyond words and inspires one to greater concentration on producing even better specimens each following year.

GENERAL INFORMATION

The Cockatiel has been well established in European Aviaries for well over 100 years and can now be found in every country where birds are bred. It is not known exactly when they were first imported but it is recorded as first being bred in captivity as long ago as 1845 and it is said that they became popular as pets about forty years later. The name Cockatiel is thought to be an English adaptation of a Dutch sailors' pronunciation of the Portugese word "cacatitho", meaning a little cockatoo. The scientific name Nymphicus hollandicus has been in general use since the 1950's. In Australia they are called Quarrion. Although the original breeding was done in Europe, at present there are a larger number of Cockatiel fanciers here in the United States. Birds from American aviaries are far superior to the European, in both size and health. The first mutations were developed in our country, so we can really take credit for the superior Cockatiel of today.

Some Orthinologists believe that the Cockatiel is really a Cockatoo which in the process of evolution remained behind in size and came to look more like a parakeet than a "true parrot." It also shows some characteristics of the Rosella species although in its living habits it more strongly resembles the Cockatoo. In Australia where these birds are very numerous they are found in almost the entire continent excepting those areas nearest the coast.

In the wild the Cockatiels usually live in pairs or in small groups of four to twelve birds. Rarely large groups of up to several hundred have been noted. They often migrate from one feeding ground to another. It is only when the ripening grasses offer them sufficient food to signal the start of their breeding season that they remain in one area for any length of time. In the arid outback of Australia the availability of water often determines their wandering pattern.

Their nest is usually found in a hole or hollow in a thick, moldy branch or trunk of a dead tree. They are clever about strategically placing their nests to provide a position with a good lookout for possible predators. They are often found nesting in the same tree as Budgies and Cockatoos. They lay their eggs on a bed of decayed wood or wood chips placed in the bottom of their saucer shaped nesting hole. In the wild they eat seeds, leaves, bark, fruits and berries.

After a rainy season the grasses in Australia grow quite tall. The movement of the grasses as the birds feed on the ground is a signal of their presence to their enemies. Because of this, as a defense, they routinely fly upward in a quick flight. They are easily the fastest flyers of the Australian parrots. Their torpedo shaped body and the long, slim. well muscled wings makes rapid flight possible. When the wild bird decides to return to the ground his descent is rapid and in a perpendicular line. He seems to fall to the ground like a stone; only a few yards from the ground does he spread his tail and wings, using them like the flaps on an airplane. We notice that in the large walk in flights where our resting birds are housed, even after many generations of domesticity, these flight habits still persist.

COCKATIELS AS PETS

The Cockatiel is an ideal selection for the first time pet owner. In comparison to other exotic birds the initial investment is small and the return in satisfaction is large. They are characteristically happy and cheerful birds, never moody or demanding. Their whistle is soft and their gentle, sensitive natures make them a good choice for youngsters.

In order to be readily tamed the cockatiel should be taken into the home situation when very young. A hand fed baby, just weaned, will rapidly adjust to its new surroundings and be completely relaxed with his new owner in a matter of days. Hopefully, in the handfeeding and weaning process he has been taught to sample a variety of foods and has been sufficiently handled by humans to develop trust and confidence.

The minimum size cage for a Cockatiel who has the opportunity for frequent exercise outside his cage is 18 inches x 18 inches x 18 inches. This allows room for flapping of the wings and moving about.If the bird is to be generally confined to his cage a minimum of 36 inches in length, 18 inches in width, and 24 inches in height allows him additional room to fly back and forth. The bars should be no more than three quarters of an inch apart for his safety and should run horizontally across the front and back for ease in climbing. Add a swing and a few brightly colored toys and your bird will have a happy home.

DIET

Good nutrition is an all important factor in maintaining your bird's health. We feed our cockatiels mainly on pelleted foods. We know that with each morsel the bird consumes there is a perfect balance of all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that he requires. Many pet owners and breeders prefer to feed various seed mixtures formulated for cockatiels but these have the disadvantage of allowing the bird to select his favorites, resulting in the daily discarding of a good portion of the food that is required for a balanced diet. Our birds enjoy frequent treats -greens in all acceptable forms, corn muffins or soft breads, etc. Canned kernel type corn is a special favorite and a spray of millet is always pounced on with joy.

Cockatiels can easily be taught to say simple phrases and are especially talented at learning to whistle little tunes. Their voices have a reedy quality much like the voice of a small child. Males in general are usually more vocal but there are many individual variations. They all love to be cuddled and petted and rapidly become completely devoted to an attentive owner.

BREEDING

For the novice breeder there is no better way to start than with a few pairs of cockatiels. With an occasional exception, given sufficient time together they will accept new mates readily. Given satisfactory breeding conditions they are quite prolific. Although there is considerable variation an average for one pair yearly is ten young. We limit our birds to three clutches followed by a long rest period.

CAGING AND NESTBOXES

We set our breeding cages up in L shaped, "bump out cages", 18 inches wide, 24 inches high, and 48 inches long which we build ourselves. Complete details for the construction of these cages are included in my booklet Cages - HowTo Build Them, How To Buy Them. Resting and maturing birds are housed in large walk in flights.

We use standard cockatiel boxes,12 x 12 x 12 inches, the bottom covered by a two to three inch layer of pine shavings mixed with a small amount of 5% Sevin powder,to discourage mites and insects.

We use shallow, flat, water dishes in the breeding cages as moisture is important in incubating the eggs. You will observe your sitting birds squatting in the water dishes, soaking their breast feathers as well as drinking.

We post an index card on the front of each nest box and record on it the date each egg is laid as well as the time sitting starts. We also mark the date on each egg with a soft tip permanent marker. Regular ink will soon wash off. Twice daily checks of the nest boxes are recommended to keep up with the recording of progress. Productivity can be greatly increased by close observation making remedial action possible in problem situations.

SANITATION

In planning your breeding set up give careful thought to what your daily activities will be. Sanitation is only secondary to nutrition in importance to maintaining your birds' good health. Our wire cages are left open at the bottom allowing most of the debris to fall through to the ground where frequent raking is necessary. My Mother's aviary is constructed on a cement pad which requires frequent hosing. In this case drainage must be provided for. The cages are all washed frequently as some droppings tend to accumulate on the wire. Water dishes are rinsed and refilled daily. Both food and water dishes are washed in hot, soapy water and soaked in a bleach solution at least weekly and more frequently if they appear soiled.

Nest boxes are thoroughly scrubbed, sprayed with a strong bleach solution, and allowed to dry in the sun between each clutch. The shavings usually need replacing at least once while the chicks are being fed by the parents.

All these chores are vital to successful breeding and there are no holidays. They go on - Christmas, New Years and Fourth of July! At times it seems like stringing beads without a knot on the end! Careful planning for maximum convenience, even in seemingly minor chores, is well worth while when you consider the frequency which with they are repeated.

MATING

Prior to mating the cock is very vocal. He will fly back and forth in the cage, persistently repeating a high pitched, loud call. He will perch before the female with wings pulled away from the body, his crest lowered, and his head twisted from side to side. Every now and then he will give a little jump as he calls, following his prospective mate closely.

The hen solicits mating by lowering herself on the perch with her tail elevated. She does this as the male courts her with song and as he then steps directly on to her back. The actual pairing takes some time, the male's tail tucked under the female's as they rub their vents together. The female utters a continuous "chittering" noise as long as copulation is taking place. Mating usually precedes egg production by about one week and often continues at intervals while the eggs are being laid. One mating, however, is sufficient to fertilize the hens eggs for about 30 days. Stable and steady perches must be provided for successful copulation to take place. The number of matings has no effect on the number of eggs laid.

The cock usually spends considerable time going in and out of the nest box prior to the hen's entering, presumably to assure her safety. When he is satisfied that all is well he invites his mate into the box. The hen then starts a process known as brooding - spending a great deal of time in the box for three to four days before laying her first egg.

EGG LAYING

The usual pattern is for an egg to be produced every other day for a total of 5 to 6 eggs. There can be great variation in the number of eggs. Some pairs consistently lay only two or three, others we have had keep on putting out eggs like little machines for a total of twelve or more. Egg production is heavily influenced by both diet and heredity. The experienced breeder learns to concentrate the building of his breeding stock by selection from the most prolific pairs.

TESTING EGGS FOR FERTILITY

On or about the fifth day after being laid it is good practice to check the eggs for fertility and remove clear eggs from the nest. When a strong light is held behind the egg there will be visible a small dark spot with red veins extending all around. Each succeeding day the embryo will grow larger until the entire egg will appear dark except for a small air space near one end. If the egg appears perfectly clear after a week of incubation on can safely assume that it is infertile. With experience one develops the ability to determine fertility by an opaque appearance of the shell.

THE INCUBATION PERIOD

When more than six eggs are laid in the same clutch it is good practice to transfer these, marked with the parent's pair number, to another nest with fewer eggs. In trying to cover more than six eggs usually none are adequately covered and the result is a low hatch rate. During the breeding season we keep several incubators in operation for use when foster parents are not immediately available. When the artificially incubated eggs hatch we can usually find parents able to feed just a few more mouths. The fostered chicks can be identified with a drop of food coloring to keep pedigrees straight.

As soon as the first chicks start hatching we are conscientious about keeping the parents supplied with soft foods in addition to their regular diet. They work very hard in keeping the babies' crops full and soft bread corn, millet, etc. give them welcome assistance.

Most cockatiels make devoted parents. Young birds having their first experience in parenting are sometimes dismayingly negligent in sitting or more frequently in feeding.

Patience, giving them a second, or even a third chance, usually pays off. With experience they usually settle down to perform well.

The usual routine is for the cock to sit on the eggs during the day and the hen at night. The reason for this is that the hen has a fatty pad on her breast which allows her to produce more heat required during the cooler temperatures at night. Often you will find both in the nest box together, sharing their duties. On these occasions they carefully divide the eggs into equal numbers for each to incubate. I am convinced that they can count!

The birds sit so faithfully for such long intervals you will notice single large droppings of a lighter shade of green instead of the usual smaller, darker droppings. The nest box remains immaculately clean during the incubation time.

At sunset, time for changing of the guard, the cock will emerge from the box and attack his food voraciously while the well fed hen replaces him in the box for the night. He then spends the night just outside the nest box, guarding his mate and their eggs.

As part of the incubation process the parents turn the eggs regularly, usually hourly during the first half of the incubation period. This movement of the egg changes the embryo to a different position in the egg for better use of

food sources. There is more even distribution of heat from the parents and the chance of the developing chick sticking to the egg membrane is reduced. During the last days of incubation the eggs due to hatch first are pushed to one side by the birds for a period of time each day as they no longer require turning.

Around the 18th to the 21st day of incubation the chick can be heard faintly chirping inside the egg. A very small hole appears in the side of the egg. With the aide of a temporary small protrusion on the upper side of his beak, called an egg tooth, the chick is actually cutting his way out of the shell. If you are fortunate enough to be present when this is happening ( an exciting experience!) resist your instinctive wish to help him out. Interference by humans, except by those most skilled, inevitably damages the chick.

As incubation rarely starts with the first egg - more often with the laying of the third or fourth - the first group of chicks hatch at close intervals.

THE NEW CHICK

The newly hatched chicks are frail looking creatures indeed. They are not even capable of holding up their large heads. Their eyes are sealed closed, giving them the general appearance of an embryo. A faint yellow down scarcely covers their bodies. At this stage only a mother bird could love them!

A healthy bird will start crying for food within the hour and the parents will usually start feeding within two hours. The parent bird feeds the baby by taking the bill firmly into its own with a slight pinching motion. This stimulates the chick to bob its head vigorously. The feeding parent then pushes regurgitated food into the sides of the chick's beak with its tongue. The chick's crop rapidly enlarges and is kept round and full by the faithful parents. At times the crop appears larger than the frail little body.

During the first few days this regurgitated food is said to contain a milky substance called crop milk. This is a protein substance that is necessary for the rapid growth of the chick.

The newly hatched chick cannot maintain its own body temperature. The "built in time clock" possessed by the parent birds brooding the chicks until the pin feathers start to appear, about the tenth day. The parents unfortunately do not have a "built in thermostat." They will fail to change their pattern even with a drop in temperature with consequent loss of the chilled little ones unless they are rescued by the breeder. Their brooding schedule is based on time, not temperature.

The chick grows so rapidly it is often half its ultimate weight at one week of age. If the parents start incubation with the first or second egg, the youngest baby can be literally be buried under a pile of its brothers and sisters.Some parents skillfully seek this tiny chick out for feeding, but more often it does not survive.

After all the eggs in the nest have hatched and are no longer available for the little ones to use as head rests they form a circle, each one's head resting on the neck of another. By about eight days they become stronger, their eyes start to open, and feather tracts become visible.

They always shuffle themselves backward, out of the huddle, to deposit their droppings in a ring about an inch or two away. As they grow and move around the nest box they are not as neat and scattered droppings are found. A change of shavings is necessary to keep the nest clean, and well tolerated by the parents.

As they grow the cheeping sound of the chicks changes to a more strident demand for food. They rock back and forth, making a hissing sound, raising their tiny starting crests, and setting up quite a din.

At times the parents will feed all but one of their babes, leaving that chick empty and forlorn. I cannot enumerate how many times over the years we have taken pity on the deserted chick and taken it in for hand feeding and TLC, only to have it die at an early age. The parents seem to instinctively know that this chick has some genetic defect, not visible to the most experienced human eye, and wisely let nature take its course. By sad experience we have learned to bow to their superior judgement.

BANDING

At seven to ten days we band all our chicks with American Cockatiel Society closed bands. An application for membership in this organization necessary for purchase of the bands is found at the back of this booklet.

There are many advantages to closed banding of birds. It provides positive identification for accurate breeding records and medical histories. It is almost impossible to maintain accurate breeding records without band number identification. Mistakes in making breeding choices and sufficient pedigree background are necessary. The band also provides positive identification for birds sold. A closed band is a requirement for championship points in showing.

The technique for applying the bands is not difficult after a little practice. The three longest toes of the foot are pulled forward through the band. It is then slid upward over the backward bent fourth toe, pulling this toe forward through the band as it is slid back down in place, This is much easier to do than to describe! As the foot grows the band becomes a well fitting bracelet and if not applied too early it will not fall off. It can only be removed by cutting.

HAND FEEDING

We "pull" our baby cockatiels ( bird breeders' jargon for removing a chick from the nest) at twelve to fourteen days. The younger the baby bird is made accustomed to human handling the easier it is to tame. We also find that pulling the chicks at this early age makes them easier to introduce to hand feeding. If the parents are doing a good job it is a temptation to leave the chicks in an extra week but the extra effort involve in pulling earlier pays off. When not removed for hand feeding the parents will continue feeding until the chicks are about eight weeks of age. It is best to remove either all or most of the chicks at one time. If one lone chick remains, he often will not be cared for.

Before taking in your chicks prepare a quiet corner, away from drafts and safely out of reach of small children and family pets. As a brooder ( more jargon for containers for the babies) we use Rubber Maid type storage boxes. The clear plastic 16 x 11 x 9 size is adequate for four to five babies until they are feathered out sufficiently to promote to a cage. We line the bottom with paper towels and use a thick covering of pine shavings. The box is covered with a section of cage wire - chicken wire would do - bent at each end to fit the top opening. Over this we place a warm covering such as a folded Turkish towel. For only one or two chicks smaller boxes are available. Each day the boxes are washed with hot soapy water and soaked in a strong bleach solution. Having a duplicate set is a great convenience.

Small cardboard boxes, small glass fish aquariums, or any suitably sized container can be used. Avoid wood as complete disinfecting is too difficult.

Until they are fully feathered out care must be taken to avoid having the babies chilled. A heating pad, set on low, and covered with a folded towel can be placed under the brooder, or an electric light bulb directed down from above will provide sufficient warmth in most situations.

We use plastic pipettes for hand feeding the cockatiels. They are small enough to be handled easily. The amount of flow can be regulated by snipping off the end of the pipette as the baby develops. The beak at this stage is quite soft and easily damaged. The pipettes are inexpensive enough to be used as disposable or thoroughly rinsed after each use and stored in an antiseptic solution such as Nolvasan between feedings. The cup or dish used to prepare the feedings can also be kept in the same container of antiseptic solution.

We place the baby on a clean paper towel for his feeding -our hands thoroughly washed before handling. Strict cleanliness at every step is absolutely essential.

It is possible to feed with a bent spoon but we have found this a time consuming and messy procedure. A syringe, carefully handled, can also be used. An eye dropper works well but those equipped with rubber bulbs are difficult to keep clean.

Many excellent commercial hand feeding formulas are available and are a great convenience. The very young chicks are fed a mixture about like heavy cream, gradually decreasing the amount of water as the chick grows until the mixture is about like cake batter. The container holding the formula is placed in a larger bowel of hot water to maintain its temperature about 105 to 106 degrees. Clean the chick up well after each feeding as dried food adheres like Super Glue if not removed promptly. If commercial formulas are not immediately available Hi Protein baby cereal with the addition of small amounts of pureed vegetables. Usually the less complicated the formula, the fewer are the problems.

Feed until the crop is plump and full. Do not make the mistake of gauging the amount of food to give by the chicks behavior. He will continue to cry piteously and seek food long after he is quite full.

Four times daily feedings are required at twelve to fourteen days - 8AM, 1PM, 6PM, and 11Pm, or similarly spaced hours that are more convenient to your schedule. Gradually increase the amounts given and decrease the number of feedings. By six weeks of age the babies should be on two feedings a day and starting to wean. As they are observed to be eating more on their own,reduce to one evening feeding until it is finally refused by the weaned chick.

If you have undertaken the feeding of a chick from day one -just out of the incubator - be prepared to feed every one and one half hours for twenty four hours a day - this for the first seven days. Having once done this you will develop great respect for the parent birds and leave this chore to them whenever possible.

WEANING

The weaning of baby birds who are being hand fed can be a frustrating experience. Common sense, patience and considerable work are required.

We have found that a very early start is helpful. As soon as the chicks start moving around in their brooder box we suspend a spray of millet from the cover for them to pick on. Little is really ingested but the idea is presented to them that those little beaks are intended for something other than to be held open to beg.

As soon as the chicks are promoted to life in a cage, even though handfeeding is continued at regular intervals, efforts to wean are started. Spray millet, soft whole wheat bread, oats, cooked corn, sunflower seed, crumbled corn muffins, oats, pelleted food - all are offered in low shallow dishes at various times. A variety of food is kept before them as our objective is that as adults they will accept and enjoy a many different foods. Often foods ignored at first will be accepted on subsequent trys. Constant attention must be given to the removal of uneaten foods before they have a chance to spoil.

At an early age the birds experience a "slimming down" period. At this stage in their development instinct tells them that in order to fly it is necessary to shrink their crops and lose some weight. The faster they become convinced that they are able to use their wings, the faster they get down to the business of eating. For this reason, whenever safety permits, we delay the clipping of wings until this slimming down stage is completed.

During this time, observing the drastic reduction in the amount of feedings the birds will accept, even the experienced breeder becomes anxious. It is best not to force feedings on them. If the bird seems to be becoming too thin we offer small feedings more frequently. They will usually accept a few cc's before the determination to stick to their diet reasserts itself.

We fond it helpful to put an older bird in the cage with the youngsters to act as a teacher. Select a hen for this purpose - the male may decide to teach them more than how to eat! The teacher bird has a tendency to become too fat, feasting on all the goodies offered the babies,so may need to be replaced at frequent intervals.

It is not possible to establish a rigid schedule to decide when weaning should be completed. Cockatiels of the same age, often from the same clutch,can vary widely. As a general rule they are weaned at eight or nine weeks, but exceptions either way are the norm. Close observation of the birds is necessary. Begging noisily at the sight of the accustomed feeder will continue even though crops are full and round. Some determination needs to be made as to whether the food missing from the dish has been eaten or merely scattered about the cage. We usually make a final check on the fullness of the crops of our weaning birds in the late evening. If necessary we continue one feeding at this time for some weeks until a plump, healthy bird is the result of our efforts.

SEXING

Determining the sex of the young cockatiel is not always easy; it often consists of an educated guess. The males and females of the normal greys and cinnamons are identical when young. They show little or no yellow on the face and both have large spots under the wings on the long flight feathers. As the males approach maturity and molt into adult plumage, usually at six months to a year, they lose their under wing spots and the facial area becomes mostly yellow. The orange cheek patch stands out clearly against the light colored head. The females continue to look like the young birds after molting. They retain their under wing spots and have very little yellow in the facial areas. They have the orange cheek patch but against the darkness of the surrounding plumage it is less obvious.

The pearl males lose their pearling with the first molt but the females retain their pearling for life. As immature birds they are identical. The pieds are the most difficult to sex. Both males and females retain the same under wing markings in maturity.

In all cockatiels the males are more vocal. When the mating song is heard, you can be sure that your bird is a cock.

Palpation of the space between the pelvic bones is another method of determining the sex of the bird. The bones of the male are pointed and close together while the females' are dull, rounded, and further apart. The females are usually wider across the chest and the males longer and slimmer. The male often has a larger and fuller crest. None of these are completely reliable indicators but serve as contributors to that educated guess.

For the past year I have been trying a simple method of determining sex which so far has proved surprisingly accurate. In the greys, cinnamons, and pearls the under wing spots or bars extend only half way up the extended wing on the males. In the hens, these extend up the full length of the wing to the body of the bird.

SOME PROBLEMS IN BREEDING

Inevitably, sooner or later, problems do arise. The breeder must be prepared to experience a few as part of the game.

Occasionally we encounter the bird - usually the cock - who enjoys an egg for breakfast, eating each egg as fast as the hen lays. Most experts seem to agree that this is a nutritional problem. If of twenty or more pairs with identical diet one lone cock turns out to be an egg eater it seems other factors must be involved.

We place a fresh cuttle bone in each nest box as it is set up and find this often effective. Replacing the eggs as laid with identical plastic eggs sometimes discourages the habit.

Several times I have encountered the young cock who eats eggs with the first clutch but presents no problems with subsequent clutches.

On occasion the birds crack or break their eggs, or injure the tiny babies, scrambling to get out of the nest box when it is inspected. Almost all of our breeding birds are our own mature hand fed babies. They are not upset by our gently nudging them off eggs or babies for inspection. Speaking softly, a gentle warning tap on the box, and avoiding top opening nest boxes all help to avoid panic and subsequent scrambling about. Some very tame birds do become quite protective in the nesting situation, rocking and hissing, ready to strike at the intruder. In this situation it is well to use a small stick to move the bird rather than the fingers; a cockatiel bite can be very painful.

There are parents who pluck feathers and pick at their babies. Usually this is noted on the top of the chick's head and over the back. It usually is done to the older chicks. At the first sign of this occurring the chicks must immediately be removed from the nest or they will not survive. The feathers will grow back by the time weaning takes place. I make it a practice not to retain any of these plucked babies for future breeding as they will probably repeat the same unfortunate habit with their own young. Again, this is usually explained as a nutritional problem but again occurs so seldom in a large number of breeding birds with identical diets, I am sure other factors are involved.

Crop stasis seems to be the most common problem involved in hand feeding chicks. When this occurs the crop fails to empty at the expected time and the retained food putrefies. Toxins are absorbed into the system and if action is not taken death of the chick will follow. Even though we have had only rare incidences of crop stasis we routinely check the crop before each feeding. It should be empty, or almost empty, before more food is added. Stasis can occur if the baby becomes chilled, if the food is given too cool or too thick at an early age, or if bacterial or fungal problems are present.

It seems that each individual breeder has his own favorite remedy for treating this problem. Basically the crop must be emptied of the purified food and washed out with warm water. The baby is then fed any of a large number of substances dissolved in warm water instead of the usual formula until the crop starts to empty again at the normal rate. Molasses, honey, Milk of Magnesia, Pepto Bismol, papaya juice, baking soda are all suggestions I have been given. My experience is that cooked rice water works well. A small amount of rice is cooked until "soupy," pureed in the blender, and thinned with warm water. This may have to be repeated several times, replacing a number of the normal feedings before the crop starts emptying.

This is by no means a complete discussion of problems encountered in breeding birds. Some time during your experience, you will undoubtedly be able to add to the list!

Each year I look forward eagerly to showing my best birds and take delight in their successes. Our family room is fast filling with trophies, plaques, and ribbons that attest to our success.

If you are considering breeding cockatiels your enjoyment and satisfaction will be multiplied many times by not limiting your goal to just the production of numbers of birds. By learning the characteristics of a good specimen of the breed and making educated choices in setting up your mating pairs you need not necessarily eliminate the profit motive. The sale of the birds not meeting your increasingly high standards for selecting those to retain for next year's breeding will be easier and more profitable as you develop your reputation for supplying only beautiful, healthy, high quality birds.

I enthusiastically recommend membership in the American Cockatiel Society for both the pet owner and the breeder. Their bi-monthly magazine, devoted only to Cockatiels, provides a wealth of information. Attending their bird shows, listening to the comments of the judges, seeing the best of the species on display, and exchanging ideas with other enthusiasts, all make this a worthwhile experience.

SUGGESTED READING

Cockatiels, Their Care, Feeding, and Breeding

Robert Black, Audubon Publishing Co., New York

Encyclopedia of Cockatiels

George A. Smith, TFH Publications, Inc

Cockatiel Handbook

Dr Gerald F. Allen and Connie Allen, TFH Publications

Keeping and Feeding Cockatiels

Dulcie and Freddie Cook,Blanford Press,London

Handfeeding Baby Birds Made Easy

Linda Greeson

Cages, How to Buy Them, How To Build Them

Linda Greeson

COMMON COLOR MUTATIONS

The normal grey is the forefather of all the numerous mutations which have been developed. As in all color mutations there are three shades of the basic color. In the grey the range is from almost black, through medium grey, to a very pale grey. All mutations except the white face

have deep orange cheek patches, the males developing a yellow face at maturity. The crest in the male is entirely yellow, tipped with grey, or in the female is usually entirely grey. Both sexes have a broad band of white along the edge of each wing.

CINNAMON - Is similar to the normal with grey areas replaced by tan to cinnamon brown color.

LUTINO - Has yellow face and crest and orange cheek patches. The remainder of the plumage is white with some underlying of a pale or deep yellow.

FALLOW - The body color is a very pale cinnamon with a heavy yellow wash, the face yellow and the eyes red.

SILVER - The plumage is a light, silvery grey. The eyes are red.

WHITE-FACED - Resembles the normal very dark grey with lighter grey and white markings. There are no orange cheek patches and no yellow appears in plumage. All of the Pearl and Pied mutations are found in the white-faced.

ALBINO - Is pure white with no color what so ever. Eyes are red.

NORMAL PIED - This is a striking combination of yellow or white with light or dark grey. The amounts and placement of color vary widely. Even, symmetrical marking is desirable.

CINNAMON PIED - A combination of cinnamon brown and yellow, again varying in intensity of color and placement of markings.

PEARL - There are many variations of the pearl mutation. In the normal the pearled feathers are yellow or white, edged with grey, with a small area of grey in the center of the feather. This gives an attractive scalloped or lacey effect. The areas of plumage most effected are the neck, mantel, and wings, sometimes the upper breast and usually not on the tail.

CINNAMON PEARL - The pearled feathers are yellow edged with the various shades of cinnamon.

LUTINO PEARL - The plumage is white with yellow pearling.

PEARL PIED - The colors are the same as the pied with the pearling only on portions of the wings. The bird is clear yellow or white, with areas of grey over the rest of the body.

CINNAMON PEARL PIED - Similar to the pearl pieds with cinnamon brown over areas that would otherwise be grey.

The production of cockatiel mutations is really still in its infancy. Many new mutations are now in the process of being developed. The yellow faced cock with no cheek patches but retaining all the other yellow coloration of the normal grey is an interesting variation. There is also an orange crested cock with the deep orange gold of the cheek patch extending into the face and crest. The spangled cock has a pearling pattern reversed to a dark color with a light edging. The expectation of producing yet another and more beautiful mutation in our own aviary makes the breeding of cockatiels an even more exciting hobby.

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Last Updated:  April 26, 2013

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