Why do breeding birds kill their young?

It’s the time of year when I get phone calls from people where their breeding birds have killed their young chicks, and people commonly ask why it has happened.

It can be different in every single case but often one of the common mistakes that people make is changing things. When birds decide to breed, normally it means they are being fed properly, they’re happy and they want to breed. And what will make birds kill, leave or not feed their chicks is if they are disturbed in any way. In a nature situation this is exactly what happens – if they get disturbed or if they think something is going to attack them, they will leave the chick so they survive, and this is the same thing that can happen in the bird room. If you suddenly change something when they’ve got chicks that you think will help them, sometimes this can disturb them. So often the first time when they have got chicks, make sure they have got plenty of food, but don’t suddenly change your daily routine and don’t start looking at the chicks three or four times a day.  If birds feel disturbed in any way, or you have changed their normal routine, something as simple as this can make them leave their chicks.

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Obviously in an outside situation, if it is happening quite regularly, there could be something else which can mean they get disturbed at night by a fox or a cat running across the roof, something happening which you may not be aware of.

Occasionally it happens and there are no answers, but it is best to keep things the same as it has been before your birds started to breed, just with the extra food – but don’t change any routines or disturb them in any way, and that’s about the best that you can do in that situation.

If you have any problems or questions, please contact Rob Harvey using the details below:

+44 1252 342533

rob@robharvey.com

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Basic Supplements

All birds do need some sort of supplement, a multivitamin being the basic one.  This makes up the difference in what’s missing from their diet in captivity to the one in the wild.  I get phone calls all the time from customers and people asking for advice on what to feed, and basically you need to     keep it simple.

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Whether you have a budgerigar, an ostrich, or any sized bird in between, they do need a vitamin supplement.  A basic powder vitamin supplement, a good quality one, such as the Harvey’s Multivitamin 50g, is fine for all species of birds.  A pinch of this on their seed in their diet everyday is what is required.  A very small amount but they do need it every single day.

For most birds this is the main supplement that will be required.  We do do a vast range of supplements on our website from Quiko – all for slightly different purposes.

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The second most common supplement would be a calcium supplement such as the Harvey’s Liquid Calcium 60ml.  During the breeding season, one or two drops of this in the water twice a week is what’s required, unless you have a bird like an African Grey where they would need this all year round as they have a higher rate of absorption.

People often what else can I feed as a supplement to my bird?  With parrot species, any fruit or vegetables, especially things like palm nuts, which are a natural foods are excellent for them.  And with this type of food, you can’t really overdo it.  What you must be careful of with parrots species, is there are so many different diets on the market that you don’t give them a bit of everything and they end up so overfed that they just pick and choose what they want and then they don’t have a balanced diet anymore.

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For small species of a birds in a large aviary, sometimes it’s best to have a liquid vitamin supplement to put into the water – but do be aware that if you have water in more than one place or they eat a lot of fruit, they may not drink very much.  So although this can be done and work successfully, often it’s better to use a powder supplement which again you can put onto the seed (because with parrot species and small bird species you know they will go for the seed!).  Although some of the powder supplement is wasted, enough goes into the bird for what you require to keep them fit and healthy.

If you’re concerned your birds are lacking in anything whatsoever, please do give me (Rob Harvey) a ring on 01420 342533, I’ll be happy to advise on our vast range of other supplements and which ones may be suitable.  It is difficult on a blog to recommend them all!  I would however recommend going to the website as well.  There are various supplements, such as the Vitamin E supplement (a lot of people recommend this in the breeding season to get birds to breed), and the Spirulina, as well as many others.

It’s very confusing, but I’m happy to help!

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Getting Birds to Breed…

…and increasing protein levels.

When trying to get many species of birds to breed, what you need to do is to mimic what takes place in the wild.  For example, with all sorts of species of birds, during the non-breeding season, you would not give them such a good diet.  As you approach the breeding season, you give them a better diet.

The reason for this, if you think about the wild situation with birds, in the winter months or the non-breeding months, often there isn’t so much food or insects or fruit around for them.  Birds always coincide their breeding season with the season where there is more food to feed to chicks.  This is very logical and this is what we need to do when we’re trying to breed birds.  So when it comes to the breeding season, they have more food and in many cases longer daylight hours.

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One of the mistakes in captivity that people do, is to give them a very good diet, because there are so many products available for all species of birds from softbills to parrots, and they want to look after their birds properly so they buy them great food all year round.  But this doesn’t help breeding at all because there are no changes, and often, if birds are fed on a very good diet all year round, they can end up getting fat.

So for example, with softbills and birds like that, normally people will not give them many insects or hardly any insects or livefood during the winter months but as the daylight hours get longer, you increase the livefood, because basically you are recreating  what happens in the wild situation and by increasing the insects, you’re increasing the protein, and protein can be one of the key things to get your birds into breeding condition as this is what happens naturally in the wild.

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With parrot species, it is the same sort of situation.  Out of the breeding season it is not a good idea to give them the best diet on the market, and extra nuts and extra this, because they will become too fat and too well fed.  Often a slightly poorer diet is better during the non-breeding months, and as you come to the breeding season, give them a better diet and perhaps a larger variety of fruits, so that you’re imitating what happens in the wild.

They will need a vitamin supplement all year round.  Many people give them extra vitamins, or a vitamin E supplement, or more eggfood to increase protein levels… there are various products on the market that I’m quite happy to talk to customers about.  So you can improve and change their diet, so that they’re getting used to things that are better when they’re getting ready to breed.

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The other thing with all species of birds, if you’re getting ready to breed, is that you want to increase the daylight hours.  If you have birds outside in an aviary, that’s fine as this process will take place quite naturally.  In an inside environment, whatever species of birds you are breeding, longer daylight can make a big difference.

For example, many years ago, I had 50 breeding pairs of African Greys, and I actually bred these birds all year round.  What I used to do, is there would be one group of birds outside in a big flight, and three groups of birds inside and I used to rotate them.  Once a bird had been outside for two or three months whatever time of year it was, they would come inside, and they would have a better diet, new nestboxes and daylight hours were extended to up to 17 hours a day.  This is one of the most important things to get birds to breed.  This is how I was able to breed birds all year round, by giving them a better diet, longer daylight hours when I put them down to breed.

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Not all species will breed all year round.  But with all species of birds, its changing their diet (giving them a better diet) and longer daylight hours – these are the factors that you can use to encourage your birds to breed.  I can remember on many occasions when I worked at Birdworld for 20 years, that it was always was a good idea to have more than one nestbox in an outside aviary when breeding birds, as the birds would then choose where they wanted to nest and often a choice of diets, and a choice of nestboxes in the breeding season, will increase the chances of breeding these birds.

But outside the breeding season, we need to keep things basic, without nestboxes, a basic diet, make sure they’re well looked after and that they’re warm, but we need to encourage the changes, from the winter months to the summer months to encourage birds to breed, whether this is parrots species or softbill species, this is something that needs to be done.

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Often, it’s a good idea to think about how birds breed in the wild, what they use to breed in the wild, what time of year they breed, and as much of this as you can imitate or recreate in your situation where you keep your birds, will help them to breed.

This is different for almost every single species, and Rob Harvey is available at the end of the phone to give an advice (01252 342533).

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How to Feed your Parrot

One of the most common questions I get asked, is how much food should I feed my parrot? The most common mistake with anybody feeding their parrot, is that they feed them too much food. For example, they buy a parrot cage that has some large bowls in it and the misconception is that the best thing to do is to keep the bowls full of food at all times.

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Parrots are very intelligent creatures. If you give them a good quality, mixed seed diet but you over feed them, then like children, if you give them the choice of all sorts of food including chocolates and sweets, they would eat those first and never get a balanced diet. The best thing to do is to feed your parrot(s) enough seed so that they run out of seed halfway through the afternoon. If they run out of seed at midday, then give them some more food. If the following day you are throwing away a lot of seed, then you are overfeeding your parrot.

If you overfeed your parrot, problems can appear. Typically they can get too fat, they don’t get balanced diet and won’t eat any fruit or vegetables. The best thing to do is to give them their food first thing in the morning, monitor how they eat and then the feed should run out halfway through the afternoon. But always have fruit and vegetables available so that they’ll never go hungry.

On top of this, any bird, from a sunbird to an ostrich and including parrots, will need a vitamin supplement. A vitamin supplement adds what is missing from what a parrot would eat in the wild and what is fed in captivity. The best way to feed a vitamin supplement for a parrot, is take a pinch of a mulitvitamins (such as the Harveys Multivitamins 50g) and put that pinch on top of the seed everyday. It is a very small amount of multivitamins but it is essential that they get it on a daily basis.

To give you an idea how little a parrot eats, when I had 50 pairs of African Greys at my house, half a mug of seed is all I fed per pair of birds per day, (plus fruit, veg and one palm nut per bird per day). They’ll eat most fruit and vegetables but birds like African Greys can be very fussy indeed. And if you overfeed them, they wont touch anything else.

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Many people will go on the internet and see that sunflower seeds are not good for your birds. Sunflower seeds aren’t bad for your birds, but what often is bad for your birds, is that they’re not fed correctly in the first place. If you overfeed them and leave lots of food in the pot, then, being intelligent and often lazy, your parrot will eat whatever is easiest to eat, which happens to be a sunflower seed. So you can buy the best diet in the world, but if you overfeed it, they will not be getting a balanced diet because they will just pick out the sunflower seeds. And if this happens over a long period of time, then they can become, as some people put it, sunflower junkies.

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There are many other things you can feed your birds as extras, for example cedar nuts. In our range we have have all sorts of products to make their life more interesting that they can try. But do remember that all these extras you give them are a part of their diet. Therefore be aware about how much you give them in a day, and if you give them too much food, you can imagine that what they end up doing is going through their seed, spilling most of it on the floor because they’re not really that hungry, and just finding the bits they like. Then, if you’re not careful, they don’t get a balanced diet.

Having an overweight bird is also a problem if you’re trying to breed them. They may look healthy, have wonderful feather condition, go through all the motions of breeding, but an overfed bird can often produce infertile eggs. It is best not to give a weight of feed per species of bird, because all birds, like humans, are different. Some of them burn up fat quicker than others and everyone tends to keep their birds differently. If your birds in a cage all the time, it may not use much energy, if its flying in an aviary or around your house, it is using much more energy. So rather than saying a certain bird has certain weight of seed, it is far better to monitor the seed so that it runs out half way through the afternoon.

If you have nay questions please do not hesitate to contact Rob Harvey’s Specialist Feeds at 01420 23986.

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happy parrots