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Pet Bird
Magazine, Ezine
September 2001 Magazine

The Responsible Breeding of Cockatiels

Part I
by Iris Brzezinski

Teaching responsible breeding


techniques is the primary goal of
this series of articles. Ignorance
harms birds. We must endeavor to
learn all that we can to ensure that
our cockatiels can breed
successfully. In this article, we will
take a glance at the many topics that
must concern breeders. Future
articles in this series on responsible
breeding will attempt to cover
major topics in more detail.

An overview of those topics related to cockatiel breeding would include nutrition,


pair bonding, setting up nest boxes, identifying a true pair, incubation of eggs,
parental jobs, hatching of chicks, handfeeding or parent raised, problems of neonates
in the nest, healthy hens, egg binding, early chick mortality.

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Problems that affect chicks that are being handfed include sour crop, crop stasis,
psittacosis, polyoma virus, yeast infections, calcium deficiencies, splayed legs and
other neonatal problems.

Equally important is early socialization of the chicks, learning to play with toys,
helping the chick to acquire the skills needed to be an independent member of the
flock. Weaning, teaching the chicks how to eat and providing a variety of foods to
meet the nutritional needs of the chicks. Giving the chicks the emotional security and
independence that produces trusting loving pets who enjoy being a part of their
human flock.

There is much that we need to learn as responsible breeders, while endeavoring to


give our cockatiels everything needed to produce healthy, happy chicks. Breeding
birds is a challenge and a decision that should not be made impulsively. It is a
decision that must be well thought out and based on adequate knowledge of what is
involved in breeding cockatiels responsibly. An informed decision based on real
knowledge is the best way to prepare for breeding.

This vital preparation allows us to work through the problems that may be
encountered while breeding our cockatiels. Requirements for breeding successfully
are many and a knowledge of the birds' needs and habits are necessary to ensure the
safe and successful breeding of our cockatiels. Good husbandry skills are critical to
any breeding program.

Parents

Where do we begin? Be sure that you select birds which are old enough to breed. The
hen should be at least 18 months old and it is probably safer if she is 2 years old. A
male must be at least one year, however fifteen months makes him that much more
mature. They start having hormones at nine months, but really aren't ready to breed
then. Think of these early months as if the birds were like twelve year old humans
having sex. Cockatiels usually breed in early spring. Because they are photosensitive,
they find the longer daylight hours as a stimulus to breeding.

An important aspect of breeding is making sure that the pair is in excellent breeding
condition. A pair should be given a clean bill of health by an avian vet before
breeding begins. Any hen with a low blood calcium level should not be allowed to
breed. Its necessary to work with your avian vet so that the hen will have the needed
calcium so that she can lay eggs successfully without damaging her own body. Hens
with low calcium levels are prone to egg binding, soft shelled eggs, and this increases
the risks of egg yolk peritonitis which can result in the loss of the hen. Good health in
the parent birds is a must in order to have viable eggs, increased hatchability, and
healthy chicks.

Once that is established the next logical question when deciding to breed is do I have
a true pair? Cockatiels are not sexually dimorphic which means that they are not
visually distinguishable as male or female. DNA sexing is required by blood or
feather to ascertain whether there is a true pair. About the only cockatiels that can be
visually sexed are the normal grays and that can fool you because the male doesn't
start to show the bright yellow face until he is four months old. I've been fooled a

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number of times. Some of the mutations can be visually sexed if you know the
parents genetic background.

Do the birds demonstrate a pair bond? This can be seen by mutual preening, sitting
side by side on the perch, and eating from the same food dish. Most often you
introduce the birds by setting up cages side by side and allowing periods of play for
the birds to get to know each other. It is important when introducing a new bird to the
flock that strict quarantine measures be followed before any introductions.

Are the birds unrelated? Inbreeding inflicts suffering on the birds. The recessive
genes that come with inbreeding can cause physical deformities in the chicks as well
as congenital defects in vital organs. Breeding unrelated pairs is the most responsible
choice that can be made. It establishes good blood lines in the birds and prevents
needless suffering.

Once you've established that the pair is unrelated the next step is to determine
compatibility. Not all cockatiel pairs are compatible and it is important that this be
determined before allowing the birds to breed. All cockatiels make fantastic pets,
however not all cockatiels make good breeders. And there are some cockatiels who
should never be allowed to breed.

Diet

Absolutely essential to the success of any breeding program is feeding your birds a
nutritious diet. The diet must contain all the elements of a healthy diet which would
include vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, fats, carbohydrates, and amino acids.
Cockatiels need these to maintain excellent health and to put them in breeding
condition. Understanding the complexities of the diet is key to producing healthy and
happy chicks. Everyday new things are discovered about the needs of captive bred
parrots. Responsible breeders are always studying and learning new things. This is
vital to the successful breeding of their cockatiels.

Cockatiels thrive on a low fat diet and are a species of parrot more prone to fatty liver
disease. The fat content of most seed mixes is above 8%. Unless the nutrients choline,
biotin, amd the amino acid methionine are adequately supplied in the diet, fatty liver
disease may result. An amino acid deficiency causes a loss of skeletal muscle and
results in a negative nitrogen balance in the body of the birds that adversely affects
the cockatiel's health and well-being.

Besides having too much fat, seeds have an unbalanced calcium to phosphorus ratio
which makes much needed calcium unavailable to the bird's system. Much of the
phosphorus in seeds is a component of phytate which is not efficiently digested by
avian species. Vitamin D also plays an important role in regulating calcium and
phosphorous. With this knowledge we understand that a varied diet containing
nutritious foods is needed to keep our cockatiels healthy and in good breeding
condition.

It is equally important that the breeding pair be given the foods that they need for
their chicks before any chicks are hatched. If the parents are not given the right foods
the chicks will die or will suffer from various vitamin deficiencies. Toes that are

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curled inward are associated with a riboflavin deficiency in cockatiel chicks. Choline
and riboflavin deficiency causes feather achromatosis in cockatiels. A calcium
deficiency may result in chicks that have splayed legs or rickets. Some foods
adversely affect the absorption of calcium and make it unavailable to the birds.
Sunflower seeds have a calcium to phosporus ratio that is unbalanced and inhibits the
normal absorption of calcium which is critical for the production of normal egg shells
and healthy bones. Foods like spinach contain oxalates which also affect the normal
absorption of calcium.

As we can see there is an abundance of information that we need to have so that our
cockatiels can breed successfully. Time spent in making sure that your cockatiels are
in excellent breeding condition, having the most nutritious diet possible, and meeting
the physical and emotional needs of your cockatiels is a good investment. This
investment reaps the reward of producing happy healthy cockatiel chicks who are a
joy to those who share their lives with them.

Some links to read for further research and study:

Importance of Adequate Calcium & Phosphorus in the Diet


Importance Of Adequate Calcium Part II Growing Birds and Laying Hens
Calcium, Phosphorus & Vitamin D3 in Your Bird's Diet
Feeding Our Birds Part I - Nutritional Needs
Feeding Our Birds Part II - A Healthy Diet
Kitchen Physician II - Foods As Natural Medicines
Kitchen Physician XIII - Greening Of The Parrot Diet
Plant Enzymes
The Truth about Vitamins

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.

Copyright © 2001 Iris Brzezinski and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
Email: ilbrzez@msn.com

Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine

A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds.
Articles on the care & breeding of pet birds, pet parrots & exotic birds

Birds n Ways Home Winged Wisdom Home Articles Listed by Topic

Cockatoo Parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises

Copyright © 2001 Birds n Ways All rights reserved.


Page design: Carol Highfill ---- Last update: September 1, 2001

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Visitors

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Pet Bird
Magazine, Ezine
October 2001 Magazine

The Responsible Breeding of Cockatiels

Part II Incubation
by Iris Brzezinski

You have made the decision to breed your


cockatiels. You understand that breeding pairs
that are too young can cause problems because
the parent bird is still using her body's calcium
supply for growing bones and other metabolic
processes. The inbreeding of related pairs cause
heartache, needless suffering and gross
deformities in offspring. Breeding birds that are
in poor health is risky because of the problems
with egg binding, peritonitis, and cloacal
prolapse. Sick hens can transmit bacterial or
viral agents while the egg is still in the uterus.

Now that your tiels have been examined by an avian vet and are in excellent health,
they should reproduce healthy chicks. Incubation of cockatiel eggs is a wonderous,
awesome event that takes place and yields tiny little fuzz balls which grow into
beautiful healthy cockatiels. The very best incubator available is that of the hen's
body.

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BREEDING TRIGGERS
The cockatiel is an opportunistic breeder. One of the triggers that will cause a pair to
go to nest is an increase in the amount of daylight hours. Since we live in synthetic
environments in our homes, we have daylight even when it is pitch black outside.
These increased daylight hours provide the right trigger for getting your tiels to breed
in January. Another important trigger is the nestbox. Research has shown that the
parent birds have an increase in the sexual hormones that stimulate them to go to nest.
So often just the presence of the nestbox will stimulate the pair and they will begin
nesting activities. An abundance of soft fresh foods and daily showers stimulate
breeding in a bonded pair of cockatiels. The cockatiel is an opportunistic and prolific
breeder. When in captivity, if the tiel has the right stimulus, it will have no problems
going to nest.

THE COCKATIEL HEN


A cockatiel hen will usually lay a clutch of four to six eggs. She lays an egg every
other day until the entire clutch is laid. Most tiel hens do not start incubating once the
first egg is laid. Some may start sitting after the second egg, but many will wait till
the entire clutch of eggs have been laid before starting the incubation process.

The hen should be monitored while she is laying eggs. The key sign that a tiel hen is
going to lay is that she will have an enormous dropping which is usually a shock to
the first time breeder. This signifies that the hen will be laying an egg in about
twenty-four hours. Eggs laid should be candled to make sure that there is a yolk in the
shell. Sometimes the yolk doesn't make it into the hen's reproductive tract and falls
into her abdomen. This can result in egg yolk peritonitis which is a serious infection
that must be treated by an avian vet immediately.

Eggs are incubated by the pair for 18-21 days. As the time approaches for the eggs to
hatch, my pairs will divide the eggs between them and sit together as they anticipate
their chicks hatching. During this time the male will feed his hen and guard their nest
from predators. When the eggs are ready to hatch the pair will bury an egg to allow a
time for the egg to cool down. This is very important and causes a change in the gas
exchange in the egg, increasing the amount of carbon dioxide within the egg and
signaling the chick that it is time for the internal pip into the air cell.

With inexperienced breeders you may have some spats between the parent birds as
they sort out who does what job in the incubation process. Rarely is there violent
aggression between the two birds. However when this does happen, it is important to
remove the male bird, as he may seriously hurt or kill the hen. Not all cockatiel pairs
make good breeders and there are some cockatiels who should never be allowed to
breed. It is better to allow them to remain pets.

DIET ALWAYS A CRITICAL FACTOR


The diet of the cockatiel hen is vital to successful breeding since everything the
embryo will need to sustain life and develop must be contained in that egg before it is
laid. Feeding a varied, nutritious diet plays a significant role in the health of the
embryo as it is developing in the egg. Calcium, Vitamin D3, and phosphorus are
important to the diet of the breeding hen. Without these essential elements in the diet,
the hen's bones are depleted of the stores of calcium in her as her body tries to
maintain its normal blood calcium level.

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FERTILIZATION
Fertilization takes place when the sperm cells enter the yolk after traveling the length
of the hen's female reproductive tract. There is approximately a fifteen to twenty
minute window when fertilization of the yolk is possible. This must take place before
the first layer of albumin is laid down on the yolk. The nutrients in the egg are what
sustains the embryo while it is developing. The importance of calcium is mentioned
frequently so that the hen's body isn't drained of the necessary resources. It needs to
be mentioned that the embryo receives calcium from the egg. An inadequate supply
of calcium to the embryo can result in rickets, splayed legs, or even the death of the
chick. The formation of the egg shell is dependent upon enough calcium being drawn
from the hen's body to form the shell layers of calcium carbonate.

PARENTAL ROLES
In the process of incubation, cockatiels share the duties of sitting on the eggs. Most
often the male tiel will sit on the eggs during the day while the hen sits during the
night. Males will guard the entrance to the nestbox to protect the hen and his eggs
from any predators. It is normal during this time for the male cockatiel to be
aggressive if anyone comes near the nest. My own males will give me what I call "the
beak of death" which is a warning that I should not come too close. I find that the
male parent is gentle and tender towards his hen and his chicks and quite protective of
his family. The parent birds will turn their eggs many times a day. This is extremely
important to the vascular development of the embryo. The turning also prvents the
yolk from laying in the same spot for a long length of time, ensuring that the chick
will be in the right position for hatch.

HEAT
Heat causes the embryo to start developing. When the heat is too high or too low, the
chick dies before it has an opportunity to hatch. The higher the heat, the quicker the
development of the embryo. The best possible scenario is for the embryo to develop
in the same time frame of that of the parent birds. Cold temperatures or a chilled egg
almost always results in the death of the embryo in the critical first two weeks of
incubation. One of the problems encountered with inexperienced or immature hens is
that they will come off the eggs at a critical time in the incubation of the eggs,
allowing them to become cold or chilled. When this happens in the first two weeks,
the embryos stop developing and this results in dead in the shell chicks. The hen will
come off the eggs to eat and take care of her needs. The eggs that are left in the nest,
being in close proximity to each other, will remain warm for short periods of time. It
is when the hen abandons the eggs for hours at a time that there is cause for concern.
After the first two weeks variations in temperatures seem to have less negative effects
on developing embryos.

HUMIDITY
The humidity regulates the amount of moisture that is able to escape through the
pores of the egg. During the incubation process, the egg loses weight due to the loss
of water during the time of incubation. When the humidity is too high the chick takes
on extra fluids in his body resulting in a water logged chick. As a consequence the
chick may drown in the excess fluid because it has no air cell from which to breathe
oxygen. With a higher humidity you will also notice a smaller air sac and the chick
will do an external pip below the air sac. This means that his critical need for
breathing oxygen at this time is not taking place.

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Humidity that is too low causes the chick to adhere to the inner shell membrane and
makes it virtually impossible for the chick to hatch without assistance. It is possible to
have a chick hatch that is dehydrated because of inadequate humidity. It is then very
important that the chick be given fluids and placed back in the nest box with an
increase in the humidity. The cockatiel hen will daily bathe her breast feathers in
order to provide her eggs with the necessary humidity. A flat shallow dish of water
needs to be provided in the cage for her to bathe in everyday. I've found that in the
Northeast that homes are heated and are too dry for birds that are breeding inside. To
alleviate that circumstance, I add a small amount of salt into the nesting substrate.
The salt draws moisture into the box and increases the humidity. Since starting this
practice I haven't had any problems with chicks hatching normally.

Once incubation is complete and the chick is starting to hatch there is now a greater
need for a higher humidity level. The higher humidity will make it less likely for the
chick to stick to the membrane of the egg. Since the incubation of the eggs is
complete, there is no need to worry about the transpiration of water from the egg
because at this time the chick has pipped in the air cell and is breathing oxygen on its
own. Overly dry membranes will cause a chick to have problems with hatching.
Malpositioned embryos will have problems with their heads not in the right position
to externally pip the egg. When the humidity has been too high the air cell is very
small and the chick's internal pip will often be below the air cell. The chick's need for
oxygen is critical at this point and because the internal pip is not into the air cell the
chick becomes disoriented in the egg and turns so it is malpositioned and its head is
in the narrow part of the egg away from the all important air cell. This results in a
chick who dies while trying to complete the hatch.

HATCHING
One of the signs that the egg is getting ready
to hatch is that the air cell at the wide end of
the egg will begin to slide off to one side of
the egg. This is know as draw down and
happens just before the chick begins to
hatch. The amount of time between draw
down and the chick hatching is anywhere
from 48-72 hours. The chick's internal pip is
into the air cell where it will take its first
breath of air. It is at this time, when the
chick is starting to breathe oxygen for the
first time, that you may hear the chick
peeping inside the egg as it is getting ready
to hatch. Before the internal pip into the air cell, the chick received oxygen and
exhaled carbon dioxide through the pores of the egg shell. In draw down you see the
air cell enlarging at the wide end of the egg. An external pip looks like a small dent
on the outside of the egg. And this is a sign that the hatch is progressing. It can take
up to 72 hours for the chick to complete the hatch. One of the things that is extremely
important is that there is adequate humidity so that the chick doesn't stick to the
membranes of the egg while it is trying to hatch.

DEAD IN THE SHELL CHICKS


There are several major reasons why this can occur. Malnutrition of the parents is a
contributing factor. Deficiencies of vitamin E and Selenium cause reproductive

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problems in breeding birds. Excessive humidity during the incubation process causes
problems with transpiration through the pores of the egg shell. The gas exchanges
take place through the pores of the egg before the internal pip of the chick into the air
cell. A high humidity can cause the chick to attempt to hatch from the wrong end of
the egg. The right relative humidity is therefore extremely important to having chicks
hatch successfully.

Incubation of cockatiel eggs is as you can see a very complicated subject. Successful
breeding and hatching of chicks is dependent on many different factors. Healthy
parent birds, a nutritious diet, the right amount of heat. One important thing to
remember is that your cockatiel hen can't overheat her eggs. The turning of the eggs
is so important for the vascular development of the embryo and for correct
positioning in the egg for hatch. Humidity is a critical factor and must be checked
regularly. The age and experience of the cockatiel must be considered, as problems
are likely to be encountered if she is too young or inexperienced. I hope this article
has given you a better understanding of the incubation process. Until next month,
when I will continue this series on the responsible breeding of cockatiels.

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.

Copyright © 2001 Iris Brzezinski and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
Email: ilbrzez@msn.com

Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine

A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds.
Articles on the care & breeding of pet birds, pet parrots & exotic birds

Birds n Ways Home Winged Wisdom Home Articles Listed by Topic

Cockatoo Parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises

Copyright © 2001 Birds n Ways All rights reserved.


Page design: Carol Highfill ---- Last update: October 1, 2001

Contact Us

Visitors

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Pet Bird
Magazine, Ezine
November 2001 Magazine

The Responsible Breeding of Cockatiels Part III

All About Handfeeding Cockatiel Chicks


by Iris Brzezinski

It is important to know why you are handfeeding and what you hope to accomplish
through the handfeeding process. In this article we will look at the many factors that
are needed to consider when choosing to hand feed. We will take a look at parent fed
versus hand fed cockatiels. Is a rigid feeding schedule necessary or appropriate? Who
should hand feed? Should I handfeed? Where do I find someone to teach me to
handfeed? What do I need to learn to hand feed successfully? And when should you
intervene if the parent birds are having problems?

Parent Fed Tiels

Cockatiels make great parents, not all of


them, but most do. They keep their chick's
crops stuffed with food. A parent fed chick is
more bonded to the parents and are fearful of
the humans in their life. Chicks that have
been raised solely by their parents are
imprinted on them and are more stand-offish
than handfeds. These chicks should make

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excellent breeders in two years when they


will be of a good age to begin raising their own families.

Parent fed cockatiel chicks gain weight quickly and are heavier than their handfed
counterparts. The parents are able to feed fresh food every time they go to feed their
chicks. Parent fed tiel chicks have huge crops that are stuffed to capacity with large
amounts of fresh food. This is not something the handfeeder can imitate. Any time
you add water to the formula you increase the amount of bacteria present in the
formula. The parents are able to supply their chicks with the bacteria needed for
digestion, enzymes, and the immunities that they carry.

If you wish to allow the parents to feed, but also wish to have them tame and
imprinted on humans, you will need to have a socialization program. Socializing
means getting the chicks out of the nestbox for short periods of time to be cuddled,
played with, talked too, and to spend quality time with their human companions. This
can be started as early as ten days old.

Hand-fed Tiels

Handfed Cockatiels make better pets. The reason is that they have become imprinted
on humans at a very young age. I pull chicks at ten days of age. Their eyes have just
opened and after two or three feedings they already recognize me as the mommy bird
who gives them food. Once pulled, the chicks are housed in a brooder.

Pulling chicks this young intensifies the feeding schedule because they need to eat
often. Normally I feed every three hours from 6am till midnight. Not feeding the
chick often enough is a mistake made by many who are new to handfeeding.
Inadequate feeding leads to malnourished chicks that are stunted. The chicks may
survive this compromised feeding schedule, however they won't thrive under such
conditions. The goal in handfeeding must be to raise fat, healthy, happy chicks that
are well socialized and a joy to their human companions. To do it well, takes time.

Food quality is equally as important. Great care must be given so that the diet meets
the nutritional needs of the chicks. Using a high quality handfeeding formula is
important to the success of raising healthy cockatiel chicks. Equally important is
feeding enough formula for the chicks' needs on a daily basis. Handfeeding needs to
be based on the chicks' needs. When the chick is hungry, feed it. Make decisions and
choices based on the needs of the chicks, not the dictates of a rigid schedule.

As you can see, handfeeding baby cockatiels is a huge undertaking which takes your
time, your energy, and your committment to see it through until the chicks are
weaned and ready for a loving home with their new human companions.

When pulling the chicks be aware that the parent birds are going to be distressed by
the taking of their chicks. Normally this lasts about twenty-four hours. If it is the
pair's first clutch, they may immediately go to nest again and double clutch.

Who Should Hand Feed?

Hand Feeding is a difficult task which should only be attempted by those who are

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experienced in handfeeding. There is a huge learning curve to be able to do it


properly. Someone who wishes to hand feed should contact an experienced breeder
who can teach them how to go about hand feeding. A good mentor is a real asset
which can help you deal with problems before they become critical. There are very
subtle indications that things are not going well. Often the novice handfeeder will
miss these due to a lack of experience.

Sometimes you are forced into handfeeding because of problems with the parent
birds. These include aggression by the male in which he may try to kill the chicks,
parents who consistently refuse to feed the chicks, or parents who are biting wings
and feet. Sometimes a parent bird will nip at a wing because it is not receiving the
feeding response that the parent needs to be able to feed the chick. Aggression is not
unusual in males who are jealous of their chicks and see them as a threat. In any
event, a chick that is bleeding is in need of immediate removal from the nestbox and
appropriate medical care. There is always the danger that any wound may become
infected and must be dealt with quickly.

Preparing to Handfeed

Cockatiel Incubation takes 18-21 days. This is a good time to get the necessary
supplies in for handfeeding so that you are ready when the chicks begin to hatch.

You will want to buy a good quality handfeeding formula to feed your chicks.
Homemade recipes often fail to meet the minimum nutritional requirements for
feeding cockatiel chicks. Commercial foods are carefully formulated to avoid
nutritional deficiencies, preventing other serious complications such as weak bones,
splayed legs, rickets, and stunted or retarded growth. These formulas help to produce
healthy chicks that are not stunted or suffering from failure to thrive syndrome.

Next you must decide whether you are going to feed with a spoon that is bent, or a
handfeeding syringe, or crop needle or tube feed the chicks. I prefer handfeeding with
a syringe and keep a supply of syringes that are 1cc, 3cc, 5cc, and 10cc to use with
the chicks.

Tube feeding is unnecessary unless the chick is sick. Using a tube bypasses the
chick's ability to taste and appreciate the food. The chick doesn't learn how to eat and
the pleasure of eating is lost to the chick.

However, you will want to have a crop needle and a feeding tube available in case of
an emergency. Sometimes the only way to get food to a very sick chick is by feeding
tube. It is important that the tube is the right size for the tiel chick. This you can get
from your avian veterinarian. Make sure that your avian vet teaches you how to use
the feeding tube correctly and that you understand all of the instructions given you by
the vet. If you have not been taught how to use one, please do not use a feeding tube.
There is danger of aspirating the chick or of puncturing the esophagus or the crop if
you do not know how. It is not worth the risk. Consult your avian veterinarian.

A good disinfectant is necessary when undertaking handfeeding. Dirty bowls,


syringes, and surfaces will cause sick chicks because of the bacteria that is present.
An anti-bacterial for your hands is highly recommended. I prefer the ones that dry on

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my hands, so that I can scoop the chick up as soon as my hands are dry.

When handfeeding, an absolute must that you can't be without is a thermometer. The
food temperature should be checked every time you go to feed the chick. Cockatiel
chicks seem to do quite well when the temperature is 105-107 degrees Fahrenheit. I
do not recommend feeding formula at under 104 degrees Fahrenheit, as cooler
temperatures cause problems with digestion. If the food is fed too hot, there is the
possibility of severely burning the crop. Food that is fed cold usually results in a
chick with sour crop.

A gram scale is an absolute must for anyone serious about handfeeding their chicks.
This piece of equipment is vital to any handfeeder who wants to have plump healthy
chicks. Weight loss of even one gram is so important that it may be the only sign that
you ever get that the chick is in trouble.

Chicks should be weighed every morning and records kept which include the weight
and the amount of food fed to the chick at each feeding. Summarizing the report at
the end of the day needs to include the total number of grams fed and how much
weight the chick has gained.

I rely on two pieces of equipment - my thermometer and my gram scale - without


these you can't handfeed.

A brooder is needed to house the chicks once they have been pulled from the parents.
Another article will explain in detail how to set up a baby brooder and what
temperatures are best for the different age group of chicks. Chicks that have no
feathers will need more heat than a fully feathered out chick.

Also you will want to have on hand a supply of small bowls, spoons, and cloths for
cleaning the chicks after eating. Blackstrap Molasses, Baking Soda, Pedialyte, and a
good Probiotic such as Prozyme or Bene-bac would be good to have readily available
in case the chick should suffer from any digestive upsets.

The Crop

The crop has one function - food storage. Without it birds would have to eat
constantly because of their high metabolism. The crop is involved in moving food
into the digestive tract. One of the signs that the crop is actively working is that the
muscles can be seen as they contract. The muscles contract as they push the food
stored in the crop into the stomach. It is very important to understand and monitor the
chick's crop and to be sure that it is emptying properly. It is a sign of health or
problems with the chick.

Handfeeding

There is much to know about the actual


handfeeding process. How to hold the chick, the
begging response, how often to feed and how much
as the chick grows, how to judge a full or empty
crop, using a brooder, monitoring the chick and

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much more. The next article will go into the details.


However, an overview is presented here.

You want to pull your chicks for handfeeding, however you aren't sure when would
be the best time. Normally I pull my own chicks at ten days old. When pulling chicks,
I already have the baby brooder set up, warm, and waiting to receive the chicks from
the nest.

The very best time to pull chicks is between two and three weeks of age, especially if
you are very new to handfeeding. In order to thrive, chicks need to be fed when their
crops are empty. Delaying feeding for too long a period may cause problems with the
chick's liver. The crop must empty completely once in every twenty-four hour period.
The hours between midnight and 6am are a good time to allow this too happen. A
chick with food still in its crop after the six hour fast needs to be treated for slow or
sour crop. Taking a look at the husbandry practices may help to find the cause of the
problem. Formula or environmental temperatures that are too cold will cause the crop
to slow down. A chilled or cold chick will experience problems with slow crop.

As chicks grow, they can take more food at each feeding. Cockatiel parents feed the
chicks an abundant amount of food and keep the crops stuffed. They will have
stretched the crop sufficiently at three weeks of age, making it easier for you to feed
the chicks. An older chick will do better with a thicker formula. At the start the
formula is the consistency of a creamed soup as you get to the fifth week the formula
is the consistency of a soft yogurt. Beyond the sixth week the formula is the
consistency of cake batter.

Over time, the number of feedings per day will decrease, while the thickness of the
formula increases. This assures that the chick is receiving adequate nutrition as it
grows and needs more volume and a greater percentage of solids in the diet.

Hand fed tiel chicks grow quickly. You will find that they have grown from one
feeding to the next. It is an awesome experience to watch the tiny blind and naked
chick grow into a beautiful handsome tiel who is still a baby at ten weeks old. Growth
rates will vary amongst the chicks and is dependent on the genetics of the parents.
Some tiels have tiny bone structures and are not as heavy as other tiels of their same
age.

I have taken the averages of my cockatiel chicks' weights starting at 7 days. This is a
general guideline not a strict chart from which you can't deviate. Please remember
that these weights are based on my own chicks and taken from my personal records.
They are not etched in stone. My tiels are on the large size. For those with smaller
parents, the weights of the chicks vary with the genetic history of the parents,
depending on the breeder, whether the cockatiel is pet quality or show quality, or the
overall health of the parents and chicks.

Tiel Weights

7 days - 37 grams
14 days - 50-65 grams
21 days - 70-84 grams

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28 days - 85-99 grams


35 days - 92-110 grams
42 days - 90-105 grams
49 days - 88-100 grams
56 days - 95-120 grams (weaning weights)

Keeping good records will help you to identify any problems you may be having with
the chicks. Most of my chicks fledge at three weeks of age. This means that they are
already doing solo flights at 21 days of age. It is not unusual for chicks to lose some
weight before their first flight. They will cut back on the amount of food they are
eating in order to slim down for flying. This is instinctive with chicks who want to
lose some of the baby fat so that they will be more aero-dynamic.

Many inexperienced handfeeders are fooled at this time thinking that the chick is
weaning. I've found that the chicks' appetites return around the sixth week when they
begin to eat again. As a handfeeder it is important that you maintain the nutrition that
is needed by the chick. This may mean with the fledging diet that you must feed less
volume more often. I like my chicks to receive 20-30cc/ml of food each day. At this
time I feed 5cc at each feeding and try to feed 4-5 times in a day depending upon the
needs of the chick.

Handfeeding from Day One

Handfeeding day one chicks is more complicated due to the small size of the chick.
There is more danger of aspirating a chick that is so small. Aspiration means that the
food goes into the chick's lungs rather than into the crop. When this happens the chick
dies.

Another problem encountered with day one chicks is that we are unable to provide the
same bacteria, immunities, and enzymes that the parent birds give their chicks.
Chicks are born with sterile guts and need good bacteria to colonize the digestive
tract. Bacteria is important for digestion. Without it, the chick is unable to properly
digest the formula given to him. Even more important is that the handfeeder provide
good gram positive bacteria to colonize the chick's gut. Cockatiel chicks at hatch have
a non functional immune system. The immune system remains immature until the tiel
chick is three months old. The gram positive bacteria helps to fight off gram negative
bacteria which would make the chick sick.

When handfeeding day one chicks you need to feed every one and a half to two hours
around a twenty-four hour clock. It is important to feed as soon as the crop is empty.
Since chicks may have crops that empty quickly, this is a very exhausting to the
handfeeder. When undertaking feeding day one chicks its a good idea to have help.
This allows for both to have a couple hours of sleep each day.

It's recommended to handfeed day ones around the clock until they are five to seven
days old or have gained enough weight to go longer without being handfed. This
depends on the capacity of the crop to hold more food and if the handfeeder has
slowly stretched the crop to increase the amount of food the crop will hold. It is not
recommended that novices attempt to handfeed day one chicks because of the many
problems that can be encountered. Overstretching the crop is a major problem and if

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the crop is filled beyond its normal capacity can result in a loss of muscle tone.
Obviously handfeeding day ones is best left to the professional breeder who has the
handfeeding experience necessary to do the job with a successful outcome.

Problems which may ocurr during handfeeding

One sign of trouble when handfeeding is that the chicks appear not to gain any
weight. This can be due to a malabsorption problem, stunting, or failure to thrive.
Many times a factor which is part of the trouble is that the chick is mildly to severely
dehydrated. Fluids given by your avian veterinarian may make the difference in life
or death for the chick. Sometimes the problems are so serious there is nothing that can
be done to help a chick that is hatched with liver and kidney syndrome. Often the
only indication that this is a problem is that the crop stops emptying.

Another sign of trouble is splayed legs in the chicks. This is when the leg juts out
from the hip. There is thought to be multiple causes for this problem, one being a hen
that is sitting too tight on her chicks. Another that the bedding in the nestbox is too
slippery and doesn't give the chick the firm footing needed to keep his legs under
him. A calcium deficiency is thought to play a role in the development of splayed
legs. It is important to remember that the embryo receives calcium from the egg shell
while it is developing inside. Feeding the hen a calcium rich diet not only helps keep
her healthy but also assures that the chick will have the calcium he needs as a
developing embryo.

Other problems associated with handfeeding will be included in the next article.

When do tiel chicks wean?

One thing that any parent wants for their young is to see them independent and
thriving in their lives. Tiel chicks are born dependent on their parents for every need.
As handfeeders we worry about when the chick will wean. And are afraid that we will
have the only tiel chick who remains wanting to be handfed at five years of age.
Please believe when I say this - cockatiel chicks are the most stubbornly independent
of any species of parrot. When they are completely weaned it is not likely that you
will never be able to get a syringe back into their beaks.

So what are the signs that the chick is weaning. One sign is that they are begging less
to be fed and eating more of the diet that is being put in front of them on a daily basis.
Another is although they beg, whine, and cry to be handfed, when the syringe is
placed in their mouth they take 1-2cc and go off to play. It is quite normal for a chick
to lose some weight at weaning. A weight loss of more than ten percent is not normal
and the chick should be evaluated by an avian veterinarian.

Weaning is a process. Each chick is a unique individual and no one can say that this
chick will wean at this time. It is more important that weaning not be forced, but the
chick be allowed to tell you when it is ready to be independent. Independent eating
can be recognized by the chick's ability to eat enough food to maintain his body
weight from day to day. I recommend enjoying the time spent handfeeding and
weaning the chick. You will find that they grow up quickly and become independent
intelligent winged creatures sooner than you expected or wanted. Hopefully you will

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have raised healthy happy cockatiels and you have received much satisfaction in the
experience of raising your chicks.

In the next articles we will cover the handfeeding process in more detail, such
problems as slow crop, sour crop, crop stasis, crop burn, aspiration, bacterial and
fungal infections, and dietary inadequacies and deficiences caused by an improper
diet, setting up and using brooders and other handfeeding issues. I hope that this
article will help you in making the decision whether to allow your chicks to be parent
raised or hand fed. An informed and educated decision is one that needs to be made in
the best interests of your birds.

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.

Copyright © 2001 Iris Brzezinski and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
Email: ilbrzez@msn.com

Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine

A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds.
Articles on the care & breeding of pet birds, pet parrots & exotic birds

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Pet Bird
Magazine, Ezine
January 2002 Magazine

The Responsible Breeding of Cockatiels Part IV

Handfeeding Cockatiel Chicks


by Iris Brzezinski

In this article you will find detailed information on how to handfeed your cockatiel
chicks, the dangers of aspiration while handfeeding and the danger of overstretching
the crop. Other issues that are dealt with are how the crop functions, sour crop, crop
burns, and crop stasis, dealing with chicks that refuse to eat or that beg excessively
and disease processes which may keep the crop from emptying. The use of probiotics
which are needed for the colonization of the digestive tract, why they are necessary
and which ones are best to use with parrot chicks are also discussed.

Handfeeding How Its Done And Other Important Considerations

Since the cockatiel is altricial, meaning it is born


blind and naked, it is totally dependent on the
parent birds or the handfeeder for food, for warmth,
for companionship, for love, and for comfort. You
are the one responsible for seeing that the chicks
are well fed and have what they need nutritionally
to support life and growth.

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Handfeeding chicks for 3-10 weeks is a demanding,


time consuming job, which often keeps you house bound because the chicks need to
be fed when they are hungry. This dependence continues through the first eight to ten
weeks of the chick's life. If you choose to be the chick's primary care giver, some
thought needs to given to the problems that you may encounter during the process of
handfeeding.

Pulling The Chicks From The Nestbox

It's time to pull the chicks. The brooder is warm and ready to receive the chicks from
mom and dad. In my opinion it is better to do this after the parent birds have fed them
the last meal for the day. This allows the crop to empty completely overnight. Hungry
chicks are much easier to feed when trying to introduce a new food such as formula
and a strange feeding implement like the syringe.

If the chicks are pulled before being completely feathered out, the temperature in the
brooder will need to be higher in order to provide adequate heat for the chicks. Chicks
without feathers are unable to thermo-regulate their body temperatures, so extra heat
must be provided.

It must be remembered that when keeping chicks at constant high temperatures there
is an increased risk of dehydration. You will also need to exercise caution when
adding light. Any light that gives off heat may prove fatal to the chicks, as this can
cause the temperature within the brooder to rise to dangerous levels.

You will want to frequently monitor the temperature of the baby brooder. If you
should notice that the chicks are panting and holding their wings away from their
bodies, they are too hot. You will need to lower the temperature by one degree and
wait to see if the chicks are more comfortable. As the chicks get older and become
feathered out you can decrease the temperature within the brooder.

Handfeeding

As the one now responsible for the chick's nutrition you want to make sure that you
slowly stretch the crop to allow for more food to be fed. This is critical to the well
being of the chick. At the same time you do not want to overstretch the crop so that
the muscles no longer contract to empty the food into the stomach.

The maximum capacity of a cockatiel's crop is 15cc/ml and at no time should the
chick ever be fed more than that. To stretch the crop you want to feed a half of a cc
more than you did at the last feeding. If the crop is not emptying as it normally does,
you need to make adjustments in the amount of food, the temperature of the food, and
make sure that the food has adequate liquid.

You have everything ready for the chicks. The formula is the right temperature 105-
107 degrees fahrenheit which you have carefully checked with a thermometer. You
have warm water to keep the syringes at the right temperature so that the formula
doesn't become cold before you feed the last chick.

The food should be smooth and without lumps. Food that is too dry will cause

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problems with slow crop.

Have a different syringe for each chick. It is easy to color code them and keep a log
that says which color is used for each chick.

Everything has been sterilized and disinfected. Dirty areas and supplies are breeding
grounds for bacteria which may result in disease or infections.

It is a good idea to use a heavy towel, which has been folded several times, to allow
support for the chick's legs so that they don't slide out from the hips.

With the chick facing you, take the syringe


and go into the chick's beak on your right
side. Direct the syringe across the tongue of
the chick and towards the back of the throat
pointing to your left hand. This is a mirror
image, so you are aiming the syringe at the
chick's right side which is where the
espohagus and the entrance to the crop is
located.

Gently hold the chick's head between the


thumb and index finger of your left hand to give the chick some support. Pull up
some on the chick's neck and at a 90 degree angle slowly depress the plunger into the
beak. The chick will pump rapidly to take the food.

While feeding do not place any pressure on the sides of the beak. At this young age
the beak is very soft and maleable. Pressure can cause beak deformities or may result
in scissors beak in the chick.

Do not feed too quickly. You want to give the chick time to swallow. If you see food
beginning to back up into the mouth, stop feeding until the chick has had time to
swallow all the food that is there. Aspiration is a very real danger when the food
backs up into the chick's throat. Food in the lungs most of the time is fatal to the
chick. Aspiration, when not fatal, usually results in aspiration pneumonia, which
requires treatment by an avian veterinarian so that the chick can receive the right
antibiotic.

Food consistency is very important when handfeeding. When the chicks are just
pulled, the food should be the consistency of a creamed soup. As the chick gets older,
the food gets thicker while the number of feedings a day decreases. Between six to
ten weeks I feed formula that is much like cake batter. The chicks are eating three
feedings a day of 10cc/ml and are exploring their weaning foods.

When trying to cut out one of the feedings, I reduce the amount of food in the syringe
until they will no longer eat any formula at that feeding. At the same time I check the
chicks' weights to be sure that they are not losing too much weight. The nutrition the
chick receives is up to the handfeeder, so you must be viligant to ensure the health of
the chicks.

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One of the problems starts between three and four weeks when the tiel chick will go
on the pre-flight diet, becoming more areo-dynamic for that first solo flight. This
tends to confuse the novice handfeeder, thinking that the chicks are weaning early,
when really what is happening is that the chicks are getting ready to fly. The chicks
will refuse to eat.

At this time, I've found that it is best to feed less volume in the syringe more often.
My goal is that the chicks receive twenty to thirty cc/mls of food each day. Five
cc/mls at a feeding means four to five feedings in one day. This usually lasts until the
chicks are six weeks old, at which time their appetites return and they require more
food in each feeding.

Never allow any chick to go to bed with an empty crop. The crop should be checked
and if not full, then food should be given to the chick before he/she goes to sleep for
the night. During the hours before breakfast, the crop should be allowed to empty
completely. A crop that is not empty in the morning is a warning flag that something
may be wrong with the chick.

If this happens you may want to try some digestive enyzmes such as papaya or you
can give a little baby applesauce. At the same time you want to consult with your
avian veterinarian and ask for his/her recommendations as to how to deal with the
problem. Some avian vets will recommend the use of probiotics. You want to
establish a good relationship with your vet so if you encounter problems when
handfeeding you will have a medical professional who can help.

Feeding How Much And When

Feeding your chicks is in direct relation to the age when you take the chicks away
from their parents. When I pull chicks at ten days of age, I feed every three hours
from 6am till midnight. The chicks are given 5-6cc/mls at a feeding. At the same time
I am slowly stretching the crop at each feeding so that the crop will hold 10cc/ml by
the time the chick is a week older. The food fed to chicks this young is the
consistency of creamed soup.The food should have enough liquid that it is neither too
dry or lumpy. Food that is too rich for the chicks may cause the crop to slow down.

As the chicks get older the number of feedings decrease while the handfeeding
formula gets thicker to meet the chick's nutritional needs. I prefer to slowly decrease
the amount of food that is in the syringe when trying to remove one of the feedings,
rather than cut the feeding out cold turkey. Once the chicks stop taking any formula
for that particular feeding, I stop it. With chicks that are four weeks old I feed every
four hours, at five weeks usually five times a day. Instead of starting feedings at 6am
as I would with chicks just pulled from the nest, I move the morning feeding to 7am
and the bedtime feeding to 11pm.

As the number of feedings decrease, the thickness of the formula that is fed increases.
At eight weeks I feed food that is the consistency of cake batter - usually three
feedings a day spaced eight hours apart. I continue this until weaning. Most of my
chicks wean around ten weeks of age, so I am able to provide them with good
nutrition as well as giving them an abundance of weaning foods.

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Chicks should never be put to bed with an empty crop. Babies this age need food
during the night, unlike adult birds. Your chicks can not go long hours without food.
This may result in a weakened chick or can cause serious health problems.

Weighing Chicks and Record Keeping

During handfeeding you will want to closely monitor the weight of your chick.
Closely monitoring the chick's weight will help you to identify problems with the
chick. Weight loss is one of the first warning signs that the chick is in trouble. You
want to weigh the chick at the same time, and under the same conditions everyday.

Keeping a detailed log is important in assessing your chick's progress. In the log you
will want to note the age of the chick, the chick's weight, the amount of food that has
been given to the chick at each feeding. This is especially helpful when you are trying
to stretch the capacity of the crop. It gives you an accurate guage by to determine
progress in stretching the crop without over feeding the chick. You will want to
include how much food the chick has eaten for the day and the chick's weight gain.

Chicks should gain one to two grams a day. What is important here is that the chick is
gaining weight. A weight gain of 10-12 grams per day is normal for very young
chicks. There are two times during the handfeeding process when some weight loss is
normal - pre-flight and weaning.

Cockatiel chicks are known for their pre-flight diet as they approach three to four
weeks of age. Suddenly the chicks stop eating as much, which is confusing and
frustrating to those who are new to handfeeding. At this time the chick will lose
weight in preparation for flight. Novice handfeeders may mistake this for weaning.
However after some solo flights the chick's appetite returns - usually around the sixth
week. At this time you will find the chick is more interested in eating and will
increase the amount taken at each feeding. As the handfeeder you are ultimately
responsible for seeing that the chicks get adequate nutrition while on the pre-flight
diet. Many breeders will tell you that this is easier said than done. Tiel chicks can be
especially stubborn when getting ready for flight. My own personal strategy for this is
to feed less volume in the syringe more often. At three to four weeks I want my
chicks to get 20-30cc/mls of food a day. The chick's need for good nutrition doesn't
go away just because it is getting ready for flight. The diet must support growth and
sustain life. To accomplish this I give 5cc/mls of food at each feeding which results in
five to six feedings for the day.

This is why keeping a detailed log is so essential to the successful handfeeding of


your cockatiel chicks. It will accurately reflect the progress of your chicks and will
help you to quickly identify any chick that may be in trouble. Some of the warning
signs are so subtle that they can be missed without keeping good records. If you have
a chick that is losing weight and the chick is not fledging nor weaning you will need
to consult your avian veterinarian as soon as possible.

Natural Intestinal Tract Flora

The use of probiotics in providing good bacteria to the gastrointestinal tract of baby
birds is often used by a breeder. Cockatiels have about forty natural organisms in

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their digestive tract. These organisms are essential to the life and normal health of the
bird. The sole purpose for giving gram positive bacteria is the colonization of the
digestive tract. This it is hoped will prevent any disease causing bacteria, yeast, and
other viral pathogens from becoming established in the bird's system.

The digestive tract doesn't function normally when the natural bacteria which the
chick gets from mom and dad isn't there or that bacteria is present in very limited
quantities. The overuse of antibiotics and digestive upsets in the chicks will also
effect the normal activity of the gastrointestinal tract. Providing a good probiotic is
often beneficial to chicks who have been pulled early as a result of problems with the
parent birds.

The Crop and Crop Problems

As mentioned in a previous article, the crop has one function - food storage. Without
it birds would have to eat constantly because of their high metabolism. The crop is
involved in moving food into the digestive tract. One of the signs that the crop is
actively working is that the muscles can be seen contracting as they push the food
stored in the crop into the stomach.

When the crop becomes atonic (loses muscle tone) because of being overstretched
with too much food, the muscles won't contract efficiently. This causes food to be left
in the bottom of the crop and it becomes sour. Food that has been in the crop for very
long periods of time becomes acidic, creating an unhealthy environment in the crop.
This condition is known as sour crop.

Sour crop may also develop if the food that is fed is too cool or if the brooding
temperatures allow the chick to become cold. Food and environmental temperatures
play a significant role in the development of sour crop.

Adding baking soda may be one way to neutralize acid in the crop. Before doing this,
it is recommended that you consult with your avian veterinarian.

The problem can be made worse by adding new food on top of old sour food, which
may cause the crop to shut down completely. When the crop shuts down, the chick is
in danger of starving to death. This is known as crop stasis. Crop stasis involves more
than just the crop. The intestines are affected and the liver may also be compromised.
This is why decreasing the amount of protein and fat in the chick's diet when the crop
slows down is so important. A significant factor is that the chick is usually suffering
from dehydration. If you are able to get fluids to the chick and rehydrate the digestive
tract this will help to prevent the chick's body from drawing so hard on the fluid
content within the gut.

The chick's metabolism is adversely affected when cold food is fed, which results in a
chilled chick. Food that is fed too cold will draw out the heat reserves in the body.
The chick is then unable to properly digest his food because his metabolism has
slowed down.

Another much more serious reason for the crop to stop emptying is disease. Fungal
infections such as yeast may be far too advanced to cure. The kidneys may have

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stopped working because of fatty liver disease and kidney syndrome. If a bacterial or
yeast infection is suspected, consulting an avian veterinarian is critical to saving the
life of the chick. Without the immediate care of an avian veterinarian, the chick will
die.

Early Warning Sign Of A Problem

It is very important to monitor chicks so that you are aware of the amount of time that
it takes for the chick's crop to empty. The crop should almost empty between
feedings. A slower gut transit time is a definite indicator that all is not well with the
chick.

If you notice that the food is moving more slowly through the gut, you will need to
take appropriate steps to resolve the problem. After the crop has emptied reduce the
protein and fat content of the diet. Too much protein may adversely affect the vital
organs while the chick is ill. A diet rich in carbohydrates places less stress on the
digestive tract of the chick. It is therefore best to feed a diet high in carbohydrates.
The carbohydrates will add energy to the diet and will reduce the amount of time that
it takes the food to move through the digestive tract. This makes it easier for the chick
to receive the nutrients it needs and adds energy to the diet to support a bird that isn't
well.

Dangers When Feeding The Chick

There are several dangers that may be encountered with feeding the chick. Very
young chicks swallow slowly, so time must be given for the chicks to swallow the
food. The very young chick tires easily and loses body heat when it is away from the
brooder. There is a grave danger that the chick will chill and that the chill will slow
down the crop. You will want to have your hands warm before picking up the chick.
As stated previously cold food causes sour crop.

Equally dangerous is food that is fed too hot. This can severely burn the crop.
Recommended temperatures for feeding tiel chicks is 105-107 degrees Fahrenheit.
Always check the temperature of the food being fed with a thermometer. Don't trust
your wrist as over time you desensitize to the temperature and could feed food that is
much too hot for the chick.

Overfeeding the chick by putting too much food in the crop causes the muscles of the
crop to overstretch and stop working. If this happens, the chick may starve to death.

The most serious of all is the aspiration of a chick - getting food into the chick's
lungs. In most young chicks, when this happens the chick dies in a matter of seconds.
If the aspiration doesn't result in the death of the chick, pneumonia develops. The
chick must be taken to an avian veterinarian who will be able to prescribe antibiotics
to stop the pneumonia.

Serious problems may be encountered with the choice of a handfeeding instrument. A


gavage needle in the hands of someone who doesn't know how to use it properly is
deadly. It is easy to perforate the espoghaus or the crop with the needle. Tube feeding
can be equally as deadly. If you have the tube in the lungs rather than in the crop you

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aspirate the chick. Another problem is if the tube is too short. You may lose the tube
in the crop, which means an avian veterinarian is needed to remove the foreign body
(the feeding tube) from the crop.

Making the formula fresh is also very important to successfully handfeed your chicks.
Left over formula is a ripe breeding ground for bacteria and yeast which may harm
the chick.

Chicks Won't Eat

Allow the chicks to become hungry after pulling them from the nestbox. The best
time to pull the chicks is after their last feeding by the parent birds. I've found that
pulling the chicks late in the evening works best.

A well fed chick that is not hungry is going to be less cooperative when its time to eat
from the new "strange" feeding syringe. Hungry chicks eat better from a syringe and
are much more receptive to eating, since their tummies are empty.

The food temperature is critical. Chicks will refuse to eat food that is too cold or hot.
If the chick is refusing the food, check the temperature with your thermometer. It is
most likely too cold for the chick.

Some chicks are reluctant to eat simply because they do not like the taste of the
handfeeding formula. One suggestion for dealing with this is to add a very small
amount of baby sweet potato to the formula. I've found that this improves the taste for
some of my chicks. Another thing which can be done is while the parent birds are
feeding the chicks, add some dry handfeeding formula to the other foods that the
parents are feeding. It is important to add dry handfeeding formula to dry foods. You
do not want to get the handfeeding formula wet. Bacterial growth can result if the
formula becomes wet.

Chicks Are Begging Excessively

Hungry chicks beg to be fed. The cockatiel utters a static whine accompanied by head
bobbing which indicates the chick is begging for food. If the chick is begging
excessively, you need to determine the cause. Inadequate feeding may be the
problem. Insufficient volume will compromise the nutrition that the chick is
receiving. The frequency that the chick is fed is equally important. A sufficient
number of feedings each day are essential to meet the chick's needs. If the formula is
too watery, it won't meet the chick's daily requirements for vitamins and minerals. As
a result the chick may become stunted or suffer from failure to thrive because of
malnutrition.

Whether handfed or parent-fed, the nutrient needs of young altricial birds are
presumably the same. Thus, breeding adult psittacines that are raising their young
requires diets that are adequate to support growth. If the parents are fed an inadequate
diet, they are not able to give to their chicks the immunities, good bacteria, and vital
health factors which are needed by the chicks.

Air In The Crop

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When feeding very young chicks, novice handfeeders will occasionally have air in the
crop. This is because the chick is attempting to eat the formula faster than the food is
being fed. As a result, the chick is swallowing air as he tries to gulp the food. A major
concern is that the air is taking up space instead of food. This, if not corrected, will
compromise the nutrition that the chick is receiving. In order to get rid of the air in
the crop, it is best to burp the chick. In order to burp the chick you will want to want
until the crop is almost empty and it's time for the chick's next feeding. You will want
to very gently extend the neck and massage the crop pushing the air out, thus burping
the chick. Once the chick is burped, you want to feed a sufficient quantity of food as
fast as the chick wants to eat it so that you eliminate the chick gulping air during the
feeding. As the chick gets older, this problem usually corrects itself. However if there
continues to be a problem with air in the crop, an avian vet should be consulted in
order to diagnose the problem.

Vomiting

During the process of handfeeding you may encounter a problem with the chick
vomiting. Some causes for this happening are overfeeding, gastrointestinal infections
such as yeast or bacteria, blockage in the digestive tract, weaning, or crop stasis. It is
very important to determine the reason for the vomiting, whether it is related to the
husbandry techniques of the breeder or actual disease in the chick. Some psittacines
normally vomit during the weaning process. This is normal in the African Grey
parrot. You will want to evaluate your husbandry practices to see if perhaps the chick
is being overfed or is in the process of weaning. After making that determination if
the problem persists, then you should immediately contact your avian veterinarian so
that you don't lose the chick. Vomiting results in a badly dehydrated chick which is
critically ill and needs emergency medical care. It is very important that you make the
assessment quickly to save the chick's life.

Impaction of the Proventriculus, Ventriculus

Impaction in the chick is normally associated with the ingestion of bedding substrate,
the feeding of grit, or by feeding formula that is too dry for the chick. This is quite
serious as it completely shuts down the chick's digestive tract. Since the chick is
badly dehydrated, there is an urgent need to get fluids to the chick as soon as
possible. This is easily remedied when the cause is feeding formula that is too dry.
You can give the chick non-flavored pedialyte at the same temperature you would for
feeding formula and very gently massage the crop without pushing up. Pushing up on
the crop may cause food to be forced into the chick's lungs and thereby aspirating the
chick. When the reason for the impaction is the ingestion of a foreign object, bedding
substrate, or grit you need to get the chick to an avian veterinarian as soon as
possible.

As you can see handfeeding is a time consuming job that you as the handfeeder must
assume full responsibility for. Being the source of life for another creature must be
taken seriously. Providing for the needs of parrot chicks that are born naked and blind
unable to care for themselves is a challenging and rewarding job. However it is a job
that requires commitment. The goal is to produce happy, fat, healthy chicks who are
well socialized and enjoy life with their companions. When considering taking on the
job of raising another, creature it is important to make the decision that you will do it
the right way, no matter what the cost. Breeding is not for fun. It is serious business

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that involves the nuturing care of the lives of parrots. My hope is if you decide to
breed your cockatiels, you will do it for love and with respect for the lives of your
birds.

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.

Copyright © 2002 Iris Brzezinski and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
Email: ilbrzez@msn.com

Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine

A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds.
Articles on the care & breeding of pet birds, pet parrots & exotic birds

Birds n Ways Home Winged Wisdom Home Articles Listed by Topic

Cockatoo Parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises

Copyright © 2002 Birds n Ways All rights reserved.


Page design: Carol Highfill ---- Last update: January 1, 2002

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Pet Bird
Magazine, Ezine
August 2002 Magazine

Winged Wisdom Index Articles by Topic Birds n Ways Home The WWW Library

THE RESPONSIBLE BREEDING OF COCKATIELS

Part IX - Record Keeping


by Iris Brzezinski

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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:


_________________________________

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Neonate problems - sour crop: ___________ yeast infection:___________


bacterial infection:___________ systemic diseases:___________ other: __________
Vet visits - date/reason/results:
______________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

Comments on chick's personality:


____________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

Daily Information:
Today's Chicks Weight Total amt Notes on chick's
Date Age gain/loss fed today overall appearance
_______ _____ _______ _______ _____________________________________
_______ _____ _______ _______ _____________________________________
_______ _____ _______ _______ _____________________________________
_______ _____ _______ _______ _____________________________________
_______ _____ _______ _______ _____________________________________

For Each Day - Record Individual Feedings


Feeding Date _______ 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
Time of day: ______ ______ ______ ______ ______ ______
Formula how much? ______ ______ ______ ______ ______ ______
Crop empty? Y or N: ______ ______ ______ ______ ______ ______
Formula Temperature: ______ ______ ______ ______ ______ ______
BrooderTemperature: ______ ______ ______ ______ ______ ______

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.

Copyright © 2002 Iris Brzezinski and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
Email: ilbrzez@msn.com

Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine

A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds.
Articles on the care & breeding of pet birds, pet parrots & exotic birds

Cockatoo Parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises

Copyright © 2002 Birds n Ways All rights reserved.


Page design: Carol Highfill ---- Last update: August 1, 2002

Contact Us>

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Visitors

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Pet Bird
Magazine, Ezine
March 2002 Magazine

THE RESPONSIBLE BREEDING OF COCKATIELS

Part V - Brooders and Brooding Cockatiel Chicks


by Iris Brzezinski

In brooding chicks there are many things to


consider. This article will cover different types of
brooders, the best temperatures to brood chicks, the
effects on the chicks as a result of poor
environmental conditions, how to set up the
brooder, how best to brood the chicks for the best
weight gain and how to ensure the proper digestion
of food that is being fed to the chicks. It will also
cover the effects that improper brooding may have
on the chicks, how to correct the problems, and how to eliminate the source of
problems that may be encountered in brooding parrot chicks.

Why Brood Chicks?

Occasionally parent birds will refuse to brood their chicks. When the parents abandon
the nest and refuse to feed the chicks, brooding is the only way for the chicks to
survive. Many breeders also wish to handfeed and handtame their babies and will pull
them from the nest.

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Cockatiel chicks are altricial at birth meaning that they are hatched blind, naked, and
helpless. At hatch they are unable to feed themselves or to control their body
temperatures. It is therefore important that the temperature and relative humidity be
monitored in order to provide the right atmosphere for the chicks to grow and thrive.
Young chicks that are not fully feathered need supplemental heat as they are unable to
thermo-regulate their body temperatures. Chilled chicks fail to do well and may have
difficulties with slow crop. The problems that the chicks experience as the result of
being chilled may be life threatening even after the chicks have been warmed
sufficiently.

Anytime you pull the chicks from the nest for the purpose of handfeeding you put
them in a brooder. Most chicks are pulled from 10 days to three weeks of age. Ten
day old chicks are going to need more heat and humidity than a chick that is pulled at
three weeks. The cockatiel chick at three weeks of age is normally fully feathered.
While the chick doesn't have as good control with regulating his body temperature he
doesn't need as much heat as the chick who is just getting pinfeathers.

Setting Up A Homemade Brooder

While I use and prefer a commercial brooder, there are homemade setups that work
quite well. One of the most popular ways to set up a homemade brooder for tiel
chicks is to provide them with a five to ten gallon aquarium. A heating pad is placed
half way under the aquarium or taped to the side of the brooder. In that way, if the
chicks become too warm they can move away from the heat source to a cooler spot in
the brooder. You want the heating pad set on a medium setting. Pine shavings are
placed in the brooder to a two inch depth and plain white paper towels are placed on
top of the shavings. By doing this you are providing a surface that will give the chicks
good footing within the brooder. Too slippery a surface may play a signicficant role
in the development of splayed legs.

You will need to use a temperature and humidity gauge to check that the environment
in the brooder is the best it can be for the chicks. Most pet stores that sell reptiles,
have temperature and humidity gauges that will work in a brooder.

Some of the problems encountered with this type of homemade brooder is that
maintaining a temperature that is right for the chicks is difficult. Chicks have more
problems with heat related injuries such as dehydration. Chicks that are being
brooded at higher temperatures need to have enough fluids to prevent the chicks from
dehydrating.

Using a top on an aquarium is a good idea and there


are places that sell tops which allow you to control
the temperature and the humidity within the
aquarium. This is a good design as it provides heat
coming from the top which is the way heat is
transmitted to the chicks by the brooding hen.

The chicks need enough space to flap their wings


without touching any of the other chicks in the brooder. This is especially important
so that none of the chicks are injured. With a medium sized brooder you should be

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able to house 4-6 chicks adequately.

Various Types of Brooders

Cardboard boxes would be impossible to use as a brooder. The high urine output of
chicks would make it necessary to replace the box every feeding. The organic matter
would increase the possibility of bacterial growth and fungal spores. This type of
brooder would be next to impossible to keep clean and chicks kept in wet damp
conditions are going to be sick. It wouldn't be easy to maintain a constant temperature
and it could become seriously overheated while trying to keep the chicks warm
enough.

Some of the ones that I like best on the market today are water brooders that use a
heater like you would use in an aquarium or for reptiles. The brooder is made of
plastic and has two vents on top for regulating temperatures. The unit for the chicks
fits inside the unit for the heated water. The tank needs to be refilled as the water
evaporates so that the heater remains covered with water. This brooder produces an
adequate amount of humidity for the chicks because of the heated water. One problem
that can arise is bacterial proliferation in the water, especially pseudomonas. The use
of a water cleanser is advisable to prevent bacterial pathogens from causing illness in
the nursery.

There is the potential for dangerously high humidity from the heated water that is
used in the brooder. The vents should be used to adjust the brooder to provide for the
needs of the chicks. One of the biggest problems is that changing the water in the tank
can be quite difficult because the water makes the brooder very heavy and even
harder to clean when filled with water.

Lets review some of the problems with homemade brooders such as cardboard boxes,
plastic brooders, and aquarium setups. First you can't control temperatures. Lights
that give off heat may raise the temperature within the brooder to more than 120
degrees Fahrenheit. This literally cooks the chick. Excessive heat will cause the chick
to dehydrate and dehydration is life threatening as it slows down the crop and most of
the time results in crop stasis. The chick dies because the dehydration causes the
digestive system of the chick to shut down. If the temperature is too cold for the
chicks, the metabolism of the chicks slows down and results in sour crop. This makes
digestion of the formula impossible. For the successful brooding of chicks you want a
brooder that maintains a precise constant temperature which enables the chicks to
digest their food normally.

Second it is difficult to maintain the humidity level that the chicks need. Air that is
too dry and warm may increase the chance of the chicks dehydrating.

Third some of the homemade brooder setups are difficult to clean and disinfect. This
puts the chicks at risk for viruses and disease. It is important to remember that the
cockatiel chick has a very immature immune system which gets stronger as the chick
gets older and is fully functional around three months of age. When choosing a
brooder you want one that will provide a safe healthy environment for the chicks in
which to grow. Thriving fat healthy chicks are a constant delight to any breeder and a
good brooder makes the job a little easier.

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If you wish to buy a


commercial brooder or learn
more about them, the links
below are a few sources for
brooders and accessories.
These are included as
examples.

Avitec AviBrooder
Avitec AviQuarium Brooder Top
Avitec Avitemp Infrared Heat Panels
Petiatic Mobile Home Portable Brooder
Dominion Incubators Brooders
Hornbeck's Digital humidity and temperature monitor

These articles discuss breeding facilities and include pictures.

Judy Leach's Nursery


Specialty Breeding Article by Jean Pattison

Brooder Environment

Chicks
Chicks from the same clutch should be brooded together. You don't want to mix
babies from another clutch in the same brooder. There is too much danger of disease
and viruses being passed from one set of babies to another. The same clutch can be
housed in the same brooder without any problems as long as the brooder is large
enough to house all the chicks in the clutch.

The chicks need enough space to flap their wings without touching any of the other
chicks in the brooder. Don't crowd too many in the brooder. When the chicks are very
young, it's a good idea to put them in individual containers about the size of a
margarine tub. You can line the container with a soft wash rag and add some white
paper towels on top. As the towels become soiled you remove them and replace them
with fresh clean ones. This supports the chick and makes him feel secure. As the
chicks get older and are more mobile you can remove the containers and allow the
chicks to sleep on their tummies in the brooder.

Heat and Humidity


The brooder should provide adequate heat and humidity for the chicks. The chicks are
totally dependent for food and warmth. When brooding a day one chick the brooder
should be 97 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 50% humidity. Chicks
that are fully feathered can be brooded at 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit. But since the
chicks are very young they still require some heat. These chicks are still not able to
thermo-regulate their body temperatures as efficiently as an adult cockatiel. Chicks
fully feathered will still need some heat, but can manage to do quite well at house
temperatures of 75-84 degrees Fahrenheit.

You will want to create the same environment as the chicks have in the nest box for
the first four weeks of life. This is the period before fledging. The chicks are kept at
40%-50% humidity until they are fully feathered. After this the humidity may be
lowered to the humidity that is in room where the brooder is kept. The reason for not

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having a really high humidity when brooding chicks is that it increases the chance of
developing fungal infections due to fungal spores as a result of the very humid
conditions. The main problem with too little humidity is that the chick may dehydrate
and have crop problems. The humidity can be decreased as the chicks feather out.
Once the chicks have fledged, doing their solo flights, the humidity in the home is
sufficient.

When using extra heat to bring up the temperature of the brooder, make sure that the
chicks are not overheated. Lights that give off heat can raise the temperature within
the brooder so much that it is fatal to the chicks. If you are using light to bring the
temperature in the brooder up to normal for the chicks, you will want to place the
light over the top of the brooder. Vigilance on your part will be required, so that it
doesn't become too hot for the chicks in the brooder.

When using light bulbs as a heat source, there is real danger of overheating the chicks
if the light is positioned too close to the brooder. It is very important to closely
monitor the chicks and check the temperature within the brooder. One danger with
using light bulbs is that they do burn out. If the burned out light bulb is not
discovered very soon afterward, it is possible for the chicks to become quite chilled.
Young chicks may not do well with extremes in temperatures. The chicks may do
poorly as a result of the fluctuations in temperatures.

Chicks that are panting, holding their wings away from their bodies are too hot. The
temperature should be lowered by one degree and the chicks carefully monitored. If
the chicks are still panting, the temperature should again be lowered by another
degree until the chicks are comfortable. Chicks that are too hot may become
dehydrated which causes problems with the crop emptying and causes an imbalance
in the electrolytes. If this happens, it needs to be corrected as soon as possible, as it
has serious implications for the chicks. Dehydration is one of the causes of sour crop
and crop stasis which is fatal if not caught in time.

Equally as dangerous are chicks who are huddling together and shivering, which
indicates the chicks are chilled and cold. Chicks must be watched for any signs of
environmental discomfort, as the environment in which the chicks are housed is
important to their survival. The temperature in the brooder plays a significant role in
the chick's ability to digest his food properly.

Light
One of the most important aspects of brooding baby cockatiels is that they must
receive ample rest periods where they aren't being hold, fed, or cleaned up. Chicks
need darkness in order to eat and sleep so that they gain weight. It is important to
remember that when the chicks are being brooded by mom, they are in a dark nest
box and mom is covering them. So her chicks are in almost total darkness. This is the
way that nature intended that chicks be brooded until they are ready to fledge.

Newly hatched chick's eyes are very sensitive to light. The eyes open between the
seventh to the tenth day. Chicks are not exposed to high levels of light in the wild
until between three and four weeks of age, the time that they fledge. Too much light
at very young ages causes the chicks to be very active at a time when they need the
calories they consume for weight gain. With too much light, the chicks are using their
energy for play and socialization at a time when the calories are needed to support

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growth of vital organs, muscles, bones, and tissues. Chicks should be allowed to have
the best possible weight gain. Brooding the chicks in darkness is most assuredly
going to retard the socialization of the chicks. However the weight gain is much more
important to the chick's survival.

Therefore what is needed is that the chicks eat and sleep, gaining the weight needed
to support growth and sustain life. After the chicks' have fledged, the daylight hours
can be increased slowly to eight to ten hours of daylight, being sure to allow the
chicks time to rest. Just like any human infant needs multiple naps during the day, so
cockatiel chicks should be allowed to have large periods of time when they are resting
and sleeping.

Chicks are not ready to perch before they are six weeks of age. Chicks this young are
very clumsy and are still learning how to navigate. Chicks that are using calories for
perching are at a disadvantage because the food they need to grow and support life is
being used in perching. Growth and weight gain are an essential part of brooding
cockatiel chicks and it is the responsibility of the handfeeder to provide all that the
chicks need.

Nesting Materials
Using a good substrate is critical to the health and well-being of your chicks. It is just
as important to have the appropriate nesting material in the brooder as it is in the nest
box. Young tiel chicks need nesting material that provides traction and support for
their feet and legs. Slippery surfaces such as tissue paper should be avoided, as these
may contribute to the development of splayed legs.

Respiratory problems may result from using sawdust or cedar shavings. Every effort
must be made to use a nesting material that will not cause problems for the chicks.
Impaction of the crop is often the result of using wood chips as a substrate. When this
happens it is serious and requires the immediate attention of an avian veterinarian in
order to save the chick's life. Malnutrition may occur in chicks who are filling their
crop with nesting material. If the chicks are doing this, it would be a good time to
review whether the chicks are receiving a diet that is deficient in nutrients or if there
are other complications which may be causing the chicks to eat the substrate. Crop
impaction or malnutrition can be prevented by keeping the chicks away from eating
the nesting substrate.

Cleaning the Brooder

When cleaning the brooder, the chicks can be put into a large bowl which keeps them
from getting injured outside of the brooder. You can use a bowl, a paper bag, a cage
without a grate in the bottom, or a cardboard box. You want something that will keep
the chicks safe while you are disinfecting the cage and adding fresh substrate to the
brooder. When disinfecting the brooder you will want to work as quickly as possible
so that none of the chicks become chilled. It is wise to have all the necessary supplies
together so that there isn't any time wasted in getting the job done.

Advantages and Disadvantages Of Brooding Chicks

One of the biggest advantages is the opportunity to raise very tame healthy pets.

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When brooding chicks there is the added advantage of preventing disease being
spread from the parents to the chicks. It is possible for the parents to transmit crop or
bacterial infections when feeding their hatchlings. Since young chicks have very
immature immune systems this may have a profound effect on the survival rate of the
chicks. Cockatiels that are subclinical for disease may, under stress, become clinical
and actively shed viruses or diseases. During reproduction, the parents are highly
stressed.

Polyoma virus may be stress related and often is associated with cockatiels that are
overbred. This is an excellent reason to prevent your tiels from producing more than
two to three clutches in a year.

One of the major disadvantages to brooding and handfeeding chicks is the amount of
time required to do the job successfully. This is a labor intensive operation which
requires multiple feedings, usually from 6am til midnight. And the handfeeding to
weaning process can take up to ten weeks.

Cleaning and disinfecting of handfeeding utensils with every feeding and the cleaning
of the brooder with every feeding are more work. The crop empties faster when more
water is added to the formula. More water increases the urine output. Soiled wet
towels should be removed and fresh clean bedding added to the brooder. Chicks that
are laying in or on wet organic matter may have problems with bacterial or fungal
infections. The brooder should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected once a day.

Brooding chicks takes time, energy, and resources. To be able to do it responsibly,


you will need to have an adequate brooder setup with the necessary supplies. While
the equipment helps, you will need to be ever vigilant to monitor the health and well-
being of your chicks. There is much to learn when trying to breed cockatiels
responsibly. Every step along the way must be planned so that when you encounter a
problem you will have the solution right in front of you. Producing healthy, happy,
fat, pet cockatiels who love and are loved by those who care for them is our ultimate
goal. Wishing you much success in breeding your cockatiels and may all of your eggs
be fertile ones.

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.

Copyright © 2002 Iris Brzezinski and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
Email: ilbrzez@msn.com

Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine

A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds.
Articles on the care & breeding of pet birds, pet parrots & exotic birds

Birds n Ways Home Winged Wisdom Home Articles Listed by Topic

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Cockatoo Parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises

Copyright © 2002 Birds n Ways All rights reserved.


Page design: Carol Highfill ---- Last update: March 1, 2002

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Pet Bird
Magazine, Ezine
April 2002 Magazine

THE RESPONSIBLE BREEDING OF COCKATIELS

Part VI - Fledgling Cockatiels


by Iris Brzezinski

Fledglings can confuse a breeder as


they prepare for their first solo
flight. Inexperienced breeders may
take the preparation for flying as a
sign that the chick is weaning. This
article is all about cockatiel chicks
who are getting ready for flight.
There are many aspects involved in
fledging, so we are going to cover
a number of questions in this
article to help cockatiel breeders
understand the process of chicks learning to fly. Some of the questions we will
attempt to cover are: When do baby cockatiels fledge? Is it important that cockatiel
chicks have an opportunity for flight? Is wing clipping a fool proof method for
keeping your cockatiels from escaping out a door or open window? What constitutes
a successful flight? What is a baby clip? and how to do it progressively. What are
some of the hazards that your chicks encounter when flying free in the house? What
happens with a wing clip that is too short for the chicks?

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When do cockatiel chicks fledge?

Your cockatiels are three to four weeks of age and have stopped eating as much
formula as they had been. You are alarmed that the chicks have cut back so much and
worry that they aren't getting the nutrition that is needed. This is what is known as the
cockatiel pre-flight diet that every cockatiel goes on in preparation for its first solo
flight. This normal process may panic the conscientious breeder who is concerned
that the chick is starving to death. As the caretaker of the chicks, it is your
responsibility to see that the chicks are getting enough food to support growth and
sustain life. In order to accomodate the chicks, I find that it is easier to feed less
volume in the syringe more often. The goal is to have the chicks eating 20-30cc/ml
each day. This can be accomplished by feeding 5cc/ml four to six times a day. In this
way you are able to meet the chicks nutritional needs as they prepare for their first
flight.

Problems encountered in fledging

One of the problems which may be encountered is poor feather quality. Nutrition is
vital to growing chicks. Nutritional deficits in the diet may delay muscle development
in the wings, chest, and shoulders. A lack of protein for new feather development will
delay the chick's ability to fly. Chicks that are undernourished don't have the energy
and stamina required for flying. Everything the chick needs must be provided in the
diet. Flying takes energy, muscles, and coordination.

A fledging chick's main interest is flying, not eating. Giving the chick an opportunity
to practice his flying skills before feeding him, will most likely result in his eating
better.

Importance of flying

There are many things a cockatiel chick must learn as he is growing into an adult
bird. One that is critical to the chick's development is learning to fly. Birds have
wings. It is important to the emotional health of the chick to master being able to fly
and land safely. Flying increases the chicks self confidence and increases their sense
of well being. One of the reasons for allowing chicks to learn flight is that they learn
to control the flight and make safe landings.

Once the chick has had several successful solo flights where he has had a controlled
flight with a safe landing, this is the time for the first baby clip.

Successful flight

What actually constitutes a successful flight? First it is a controlled flight, where the
chick doesn't bang into walls, windows, or furniture in the home. Second is a feet first
landing at the spot where the chick has decided to land. The chick learns to make
good decisions when flying and rapidly learns coordination, so as to judge how fast
the chick is flying. It is not a drop like a rock, bouncing the chest off the floor or
busting tail feathers as the bird lands. Several things can happen with an out of
control landing. The chick may hurt his beak, bust his chest wide open requiring
immediate emergency veterinary care or may cause injury to the area of the vent

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which requires stitches to repair the injury.

Hazards when flying

Our homes are not safe places for flighted cockatiel chicks. Some of the hazards to
the chicks while learning flight are open windows, doors, toilet bowls, open pots on
the stove, and multiple other kitchen hazards. The kitchen is a place of danger for a
flighted chick. Chicks can fly out the door, drown in a glass of water or in a bathroom
toilet, or suffer severe trauma injuries as a result of flying into a wall. I have had
chicks land behind furniture in a very tight space and rescuing the chick is quite
difficult. Since the chick is very fearful, he doesn't cooperate to make rescuing him
easier. Other chicks have landed in open paper bags from which they don't have the
strength or coordination to fly up and out of.

As a breeder, I can tell you of the panic that is felt when the chicks have flown and
you can't find one. Often the chick doesn't make any noise, which increases the
problem of finding the chick. There have been many cockatiel rescue operations in
my home. You want to prepare your home for flighted chicks before they fledge.
While there are hazards for the chicks, they still must learn to fly. It is important to
their future self-confidence and emotional well-being.

Baby Wing Clips

Most cockatiel chicks will fledge between three to five weeks of age. They will do
their very first solo flight at this time. If you are handfeeding, preparation for this
event is critical. The chicks will be flapping their wings and cutting back on the
amount of formula that they eat as the get ready to fly.

Once you realize the chicks are close to flying, you probably only want to bring one
chick out at a time to handfeed him. Otherwise you will find all the chicks flying in
five different directions. Since if this happens, you are unable to keep track of where
each individual chick has landed, it is safer for the chicks who aren't being fed to be
housed in the brooder.

Baby clips are progressive

It is important to carefully look at the flight feathers to determine if any of the


feathers are blood feathers. Feathers with a blood supply should never be cut, as this
may cause the feather to bleed and may result in the emergency pulling of a blood
feather.

Once you've established that there aren't any blood feathers, you will want to cut the
first two primary flight feathers on both wings. Make the cuts as symmetrical as
possible. Too much variation will cause problems with the chick being able to control
the flight and makes the chick off balance.

After this cut you want to allow the chick to learn to fly with this cut. It takes very
little time for cockatiel chicks to adjust to the flight feather trim. Please always
remember that chicks with flight feather trims can still fly. The cockatiel is one of the
best fliers in the parrot world, so it's important to remember that even though the

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wings have been trimmed, the cockatiel can still fly.

Once the chick has learned to control the flight and land with this flight feather cut, it
is now time to cut two more primary flight feathers on each wing. This allows the
chick to learn to control the speed of the flight and land on its feet without crashing
the chest or vent on the floor. This progressive baby clip continues until eight to ten
primary flight feathers have been cut on each wing. By doing this, the wing and chest
muscles are developed and the chick's coordination improves with each progressive
clip.

Bad flight feather trims

A drastic flight feather trim, which goes into the coverts causes problems for the
cockatiel chick. Usually the chick has not had any time to learn to fly, which means
poor muscle mass in the chest, a lack of coordination and the inability to control
flight or land safely. Most often with this drastic a cut, the chick will fly backwards,
breaking off his tail feathers in landing and may injure the vent area to the point of
needing stitches. When you have one that is flying backwards, you will want to allow
the flight feathers to grow completely out and allow the bird to learn to fly the way he
needed to when he was beginning to fledge. Using a progessive wing clip works with
older birds who haven't learned to fly and by doing this you will allow the tiel to
develop his wing and chest muscles, thereby growing in confidence.

Other difficulties

Once the chicks have mastered the art of flying, it is all that they want to do. I've
found that once I open the brooder, the chicks quickly fly to the top edge and perch
there while awaiting their handfeeding formula. It is at this time, when they have had
some experience, that they are likely to fly off on you. If you aren't closely
monitoring the chick you are in the process of handfeeding, he may take off in flight.
Be sure your focus remains on him.

Cockatiel chicks who are fledging will diet to make themselves more areodynamic
and often eat very little. It is at this time that the handfeeder must make certain that
the chicks are receiving adequate nutrition. A cockatiel chick between three and six
weeks needs about 20-30cc/ml of formula a day. I find it best to divide this into five
or six small feedings of 5cc/ml. Although this may be considered a lot of feedings,
the chicks seem to do well with this schedule.

Once the chicks are six weeks old, their appetite returns and they want more to eat in
each feeding. It is only 2 to 4 weeks till the chicks are weaned and eating as
independent adult cockatiels. Timing the full flight trim with weaning gives time for
the chicks to mature physically, emotionally, and psychologically. One of the
mistakes made is trying to rush the flight feather trim or weaning. This produces a
chick that is insecure, fearful, and unwilling to bond with his human flock.

Conclusion

Flight is important to birds. Keeping them safe is our responsibility since we have
chosen to bring them into our homes, which is an unnatural environment for them. A

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full flight feather trim enables the bird to glide gently to the floor or to fly short
distances to the arm of their favorite person. This doesn't mean that the cockatiel can't
fly away with a good updraft of wind. With the cockatiel's awesome ability to fly, the
bird can be 50-60 feet in the air in a matter of seconds.

Vigilance is important in keeping flighted birds safe, so once you notice an increased
ability to get lift and fly for longer distances, it is time for a flight feather trim.
Always remember to check feathers for blood supply. When the cockatiel molts, new
feathers come in and you don't want to cut one that has a blood supply.

I hope that this article will help to keep your cockatiel chicks safe. And that you will
enjoy watching your chicks grow in confidence has they learn the art of flying. Flight
is an awesome thing to watch and experience as you watch the chicks that you have
nurtured growing into mature adult cockatiels.

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.

Copyright © 2002 Iris Brzezinski and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
Email: ilbrzez@msn.com

Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine

A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds.
Articles on the care & breeding of pet birds, pet parrots & exotic birds

Birds n Ways Home Winged Wisdom Home Articles Listed by Topic

Cockatoo Parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises

Copyright © 2002 Birds n Ways All rights reserved.


Page design: Carol Highfill ---- Last update: April 1, 2002

Contact Us>

Visitors

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Pet Bird
Magazine, Ezine
May 2002 Magazine

THE RESPONSIBLE BREEDING OF COCKATIELS

Part VI - Fledgling Cockatiels


by Iris Brzezinski

Socializing is one of the most important things that


you can do for your tiel chicks. It is a critical part
of your tiel chicks early development. By
socializing, you seek to develop a secure, friendly,
tame pet who is self-confident and a content
member of his human flock. As a responsible
breeder it is your job to teach the chicks how to
function as members of the flock. Socialization is
essentially teaching chicks the skills they will need
to fit in with the family. Since cockatiels are flock
animals you will be teaching them how to survive
in the human flock.

Early socialization when to start

You will want to start early socialization as soon as the chicks are able to be handled.
This is usually around 7-10 days of age. Taking the chicks out and gently petting and
talking to them is an important part of socializing the chicks. Encourage other family

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members to handle the chicks under your supervision and closely monitor their
interaction with the chicks. It's important for the chicks to be exposed to a number of
different people to prepare for interaction in their human flock. Have family members
cleanse their hands with a bacterial cleanser and make sure their hands are warm
when picking up one of the chicks. When the chicks are really young, this time
should be limited to five minutes twice a day. Cockatiel chicks will hiss as they get
older, mostly out of fear that there is some stranger entering their nest. Don't let the
hissing discourage you. Simply talk very gently to the chick as you pick him up.
Make him feel safe and protected in the same way you would with a human infant.

Why socialize chicks?

The purpose for socializing chicks is to make it easier for them to adjust living with
their human flock. The best way to do this is to raise them in an environment much
like the home and family that they will be a part of the flock. In this way you provide
your chicks with the tools they need to survive and be a contented member of the
flock. When the chicks are between three and four weeks this is a good time to give
them mixed frozen veggies. While the chicks are actually to young to eat the veggies,
the bright colors help to prepare them for brightly colored toys. And most chicks will
carry the veggies in their beaks running up and down the brooder with them. The
chicks react to them as they would playing with toys.

The parent birds in the wild spend time with their chicks teaching them how to live in
the world around them. They spend their time training the chicks how to survive and
how to interact with the other members of the flock. As a responsible breeder you
take the role of the parent birds teaching the chicks survival skills and their place in
the social order of the flock. Dependent upon you for emotional support, the chick
learns love, affection and self-confidence from being in social situations with you and
other members of the family.

Tiel chicks are very suspicious of anything new, with early socialization, you prepare
them in advance for new toys and new activities that will enrich their lives.

How to socialize chicks

Cockatiel chicks are very social creatures. One of the ways you can socialize your
chicks is to teach them to eat. Eating is a social experience. Flock oriented animals
eat together. Teaching the chicks to eat can be an opportunity for socialization with
the entire family. Select a variety of foods that you would enjoy and allow the chicks
to share the food with you. Imitation is one of the greatest ways in which you can
teach the chick to eat food. If they see you, as mommy or daddy bird, they will want
to eat what you are eating. This is a great way for the chicks to learn about weaning
foods. Starting this when the chicks are four to five weeks old gives you an ample
amount of time to teach the chicks about eating, thus preparing them for the next
critical stage in their development which is weaning.

A good experience for the chicks is to get them involved with the different members
of the family. This helps to prepare them for the family that they will be a part of after
weaning. Let family members hold, pet, cuddle, and play with the chicks. Exposure to
many different individuals in the family provides the experience that is so critical to

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socializing the chicks properly. The chicks need to learn about the family
environment and to find themselves comfortable with the noise of the vacuum
cleaner.

I had a lutino tiel chick who thought one of the most fun things he could do is ride on
my shoulder while I was vacuuming. Because he had been exposed to the regular
routine of seeing and hearing a vacuum he wasn't the least bit afraid. He enjoyed the
event and sang to the vacuum. This is an important part of socialization - teaching
your chicks to be comfortable in a family setting while activities that are typical of
families are happening. You want the chicks to enjoy new visitors coming to visit the
family and the normal everyday noises of family life such as the new baby screaming,
the dog barking, the radio playing, or the many different sounds outside of the home.

Fledging another important time for socialization

This is a critical time in your chicks' lives. They are learning all about flight and need
to be given time to fly and to learn to land safely. With flight the chicks develop
coordination, build strong muscles in the chest, wings, and shoulders. This flying
ability gives them self-confidence and makes for a very happy well-adjusted chick.
Chicks learn how to manuver while flying and how to land safely on two feet. It is
important to the chicks that they be able learn flying in a home environment, since
they will need to negotiate the dangers that are present in the home. This type of
socialization will better prepare the chick for living in a home, as he will have learned
to coordinate the speed of his flight with what is in front of him and so that he will
not crash into windows and walls which may result in serious trauma injuries. This is
an important part of socialization, in which you teach the winged members of the
flock how to survive in the home. Teaching survival skills is a necessary part of
socializing your tiel chicks.

Playing a necessary part of socialization

It is important for your chicks to be taught how to play as a part of their socialization.
A number of toys can be provided. There needs to be a variety of shapes, colors, and
textures which provide the chicks with an excellent learning experience. This training
will provide the chicks a way to escape boredom in the future, by having the ability to
play with toys. You will find that your tiel chicks are able to invent games to play.
Most of my cockatiel chicks enjoy playing fetch. The chicks are curious and
interested in everything around them. Their inquistive natures will cause them to go
running after a ball that has just been rolled past them. They will, just as a human
toddler, drop toys over the side of the cage and wait for their human to pick up the toy
so that they can throw it over the other side. This is part of learning and part of
growing for the chicks. A responsible breeder provides ample time for the chicks to
learn how to play independently. As a breeder who wants to have chicks that are
confident, happy, healthy and well socialized, providing a number of interactive
playtimes between you and the chicks is an integral part of early socializing.

Need for attention part of socialization

Tiel chicks as members of the parrot family are intelligent birds. The more intelligent
the bird, the more it needs attention. The chicks have very complex social and

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psychological natures and therefore much greater needs for love and companionship.
Your chicks, once fully feathered and able to be held for short periods, need love and
attention. Take time to hold your chicks so that they feel warm, loved, and safe with
you. Companionship with their clutch mates is for a very short time. The chicks need
to feel secure as companions of their human flock.

As a breeder it is important to provide for the needs of the chicks that are in your
care. Receiving attention that is totally focused on the chick is an important of part of
socialization. This kind of focused attention should be given to the chick for at least
one hour as a day. The chick needs to feel loved, secure, and assured that it's needs
will be taken care of by his human flock. Cuddling, petting, holding, warmth and love
are some of the most basic needs of the chicks during socialization. You must provide
companionship for your chicks so that they are not lonely or bored. If the emotional
needs of the chicks are not being adequately provided, this may result in a chick that
has behavioral problems. Teach your clients how to continue the socialization process
with their new bird. Understanding and providing for the needs of the bird will result
in a loving companion and trusting pet.

Our responsibility as a breeder

We are the ones who are responsible for our tiel chicks quality of life. We must give
them a stimulating environment. Train them with the tools that they will be to be
comfortable with their human flock. Help them to adjust to the sounds of a home
which is not a natural environment for them. Allow them time to interact with other
members of the flock. Provide opportunities for them to be active participants in
family activities. We are the ones who can make a difference as to whether or not our
chicks have the skills to survive living in the human flock or have a life filled with
loneliness, despair, and misery because the necessary socializing was neglected. May
all of your chicks find happy homes filled with love and the joy of being part of a
family.

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.

Copyright © 2002 Iris Brzezinski and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
Email: ilbrzez@msn.com

Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine

A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds.
Articles on the care & breeding of pet birds, pet parrots & exotic birds

Birds n Ways Home Winged Wisdom Home Articles Listed by Topic

Cockatoo Parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises

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Pet Bird
Magazine, Ezine
July 2002 Magazine

Winged Wisdom Index Articles by Topic Birds n Ways Home The WWW Library

THE RESPONSIBLE BREEDING OF COCKATIELS

Part VIII - Weaning Tiel Chicks


by Iris Brzezinski

What is weaning? and what does


this mean to the chick and to you
the handfeeder? Weaning is
Independence. The chick now eats
enough on his own that he no
longer requires handfeeding
formula to maintain his body
weight. As a responsible
handfeeder your ultimate goal is to
have chicks who are independent
and able to forage for food on their
own. Weaning is a process. It takes time, it does not happen overnight. Weaning
requires patience on the part of the handfeeder.

How can you tell if a chick is ready to wean?

Weaning indicators start very early in the handfeeding process. Between three and
four weeks you will notice that your tiel chicks are pecking at the substrate in the

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brooder. This is instinctive in tiel chicks, since in the wild they are ground feeders.
They will peck at the brooder substrate looking for food. This is a good time to
introduce millet, cereal grains and thawed frozen mix veggies to beak and peck. The
chicks do not eat the food. They beak it, carry it in their mouths, and play with it.
Eventually they do taste the food. The brightly colored veggies also prepare them for
the vibrant colors of toys and gets them use to seeing them.

The emotional and physical needs of the chicks must be met during the weaning
process.

Weaning is a very stressful time for the chick. There is a greater need for reassurance
and security during this time. The chick needs confidence that food will always be
available. Once assured that those critical needs will be met, the weaning process will
move rapidly. The chick is a unique individual who is growing and maturing at his
own rate of speed. No one can accurately predict when the chick will wean. The
emotional and physical maturity of the chick dictates when the weaning process
finishes. Most handfed cockatiel chicks wean between 8-10 weeks of age. However
its not unusual nor abnormal for the chick to wean at 12 weeks.

It is critical that the chick eat enough to support growth and sustain life. Monitoring
the chick's weight needs to be a high priority. By doing so, you will be able to tell that
the chick is eating enough daily to maintain his body weight. If the chick is losing
weight, he's not weaned yet and needs to receive handfeeding formula so that he
doesn't lose too much weight.

During this time you will need to weigh the chick everyday. If the chick looks too
thin or is losing an excessive amount of weight you will want to supplement with
handfeeding formula. The chick should not lose more than 10% of his body weight
during the weaning process.

As the chick learns to eat his weaning foods, the amount of handfeeding formula
given to the chick can be reduced. Weaning should not be hurried or forced. The
primary goal is a healthy chick who is well nourished and radiantly healthy with good
feather quality. Forced weaning results in a chick who is suffering from malnutrition
and who is very insecure.

When weaning, my ultimate goal is a healthy, happy, well-adjusted chick who has
maxed out on his weaning weight. The chick will go on a pre-flight diet between four
to six weeks where he will lose weight in order to fly. This can be mistaken for
weaning. Normally a handfed chick will regain his appetite around the sixth week.
When this happens the chick will again eat more volume in the syringe, most of the
time eating his full crop capacity at the bedtime feeding.

It is very important not to hurry the process. Many try to wean their baby birds too
soon, denying them the emotional security and quality nutrition that they need. I find
that instead of cutting out feedings, I can cut back on the amount fed in the syringe
without compromising either the chick's emotional security or his nutrition. In the
afternoon feeding, instead of feeding 12cc/ml I will feed 10cc/ml, the next day only
8cc/ml in the feeding until the chick refuses to take anything from the syringe for
three days in a row. After that I no longer offer that feeding. I like my chicks to wean

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around ten weeks, so in the beginning of the eighth week I am down to three feedings
a day. At each feeding I give 10cc/ml and then put the chick back to explore the
variety of weaning foods I have placed on flat dishes in the bottom of his brooder.
The chick is much more willing to explore new foods with a half-full crop than one
that is empty.

It is very easy to starve a weaning chick.

As a responsible handfeeder you must make sure that the chick is receiving enough
food to survive. The chick is growing during the weaning process, which means all of
the vital organs need the nutrients in the formula to sustain growth. A chick that is
losing weight too quickly should be checked by an avian veterinarian to make sure
that the chick is not ill. Weaning a chick is hard work and requires much attention to
detail so that the chick receives a quality diet. What we want to avoid is having a
healthy chick die because a novice handfeeder didn't realize the amount of food
necessary to feed the chick or the number of times during the day that the chick
needed to eat. Chicks that aren't receiving enough handfeeding formula will refuse to
eat weaning foods even though they are very hungry. A chick that doesn't recognize
the foods given will starve to death rather than eat what he doesn't know to be food. A
crop that is half full of handfeeding formula allows the chick to safely explore the
wide variety of weaning foods that are made available to him.

A chick that is begging for food should be given his handfeeding formula. There isn't
any such thing as a spoiled chick, only a chick that is very hungry and needs to be
fed. It is up to you, the handfeeder, to make sure that all of the chick's needs are met.
Chicks that are well-fed don't cry nor do they beg all the time for food. If you have a
chick that is weaning age and seems to be having problems, even though you've done
everything to meet the chick's physical needs for food and his emotional needs for
affection and companionship, its time to make an appointment with your avian
veterinarian. Weaning is a stressful time for the chick and it is possible for the chick
to become ill during the weaning process.

Many problems can arise during the weaning process.

The digestive tract is not able to handle an over stuffed crop. As a result the chick
may vomit the handfeeding formula or the crop may become impacted and require the
assistance of an avian veterinarian. The chick is much more vulnerable to bacterial
and yeast infections during the weaning process. Flying is a potential problem during
weaning, as most chicks new to flying would rather fly than eat. Again the
responsible handfeeder must be on top of things in order that the chick receives
everything he needs for a happy and healthy life.

Forced weaning destroys the pet quality of the chick and emotionally scars him for
life. During the weaning process there is no need for rigid schedules, no rules as to
when weaning should occur, no forcing the time when weaning happens, and no food
deprivation to get the chick to wean earlier. Chicks who beg should be fed even if it
means that they only eat 1-2cc/ml. This will assure the chick that food will always be
available. As the handfeeder, remember that the chick is totally dependent upon you
for all of its physical and emotional needs. Patience is a requirement during the
weaning process - the chick will wean when he is ready and not before then.

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The bedtime feeding is usually the last one the chick gives up when weaning. Most of
my tiel chicks will pig out on their bedtime feeding. You must remember that you
don't want to overfill the crop. There is danger that the chick will vomit excess
formula and aspirate it into the lungs. Aspiration usually results in pneumonia in a
chick and as a result needs an avian veterinarian who can prescribe an antibiotic for
the chick. Normally 10-12cc/ml is more than adequate before putting the chick to
bed. I remove this feeding when the chick eats nothing from the syringe that is
offered three days in a row. If at anytime the chick begs to eat, I fix formula and feed
the chick. I've found that the chick will eat 1-2cc/ml and will walk away from the
syringe. Usually the chick never begs again for the feeding. I weigh chicks everyday
when weaning. As long as they are eating enough to maintain their weaning weights I
do not offer formula. If I find that there is one who is still losing weight, I add
supplemental handfeedings. A chick that is not maintaining a normal weight is not
weaned and needs the nutrition the handfeeding formula supplies.

Weaning needs to be done by a breeder who has experience with the subtle problems
that may occur during the weaning process. Keen observation as to what is happening
with the chick is needed. Evidence that the chick is beginning to wean is
demonstrated by the fact that he will feed himself. Another indicator which is critical
to the weaning process is that the chick begins to drink water on his own. When my
chicks are of weaning age, instead of waiting their turn with the syringe, they will
perch on the edge of the formula dish and eat. This is a good sign that the chicks are
learning about feeding themselves and it isn't long after that, that they are eating
independently, no longer requiring any handfeeding formula to maintain their weight.

Weaning Regression

When weaning your cockatiel chicks it is important to remember that chicks just
weaned and going to a new home may experience problems with weaning regression.
It is recommended that you keep your weaned chicks for two weeks after weaning.
That way you can monitor the chick's weight to be sure that the chick is eating
enough on a daily basis to maintain his weight. Chicks going to new homes are very
stressed, as there is nothing familiar to them and most will back off on eating until
they feel more secure. This can be devastating for the just weaned chick who has just
begun independent eating.

Warnings should be given to the new owner that if the chick begins to make static
noises and is head bobbing, the chick is having problems with weaning regression.
Instructions can then be given to the client as to whether he should bring the chick
back for more supplemental handfeedings. It is not recommended to allow a novice
owner that is new to birds to finish weaning the chick. As a responsible breeder you
must take responsibility and work to wean the chick. It is absolutely vital that the
chick's dietary requirements be met and that the quality of nutrition available to the
chick not be compromised. Weaning is best done by those who have experience and
know the subtle indications that something is going wrong. A novice may not
recognize the fact that the bird is sick or not realize that the chick is actually starving
before it is too late to help the bird. Weaning is a time consuming task which takes
time to do it right. Even at this late time, as the chick is getting ready for
independence, it is still possible for a novice to feed the formula in such a manner that
the chick dies as a result of aspiration. Food can be fed with hot spots so that the crop
is severely burned. Formula that is warmed in a microwave develop hot spots some of

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these reach temperatures over 120 degrees Fahrenheit which cause 3rd degree burns
of the entire digestive tract. This is fatal to the chick. Weaning is a critical time in the
life of a chick. It should be done by those who have the experience to bring the chick
safely through this most critical time.

Why you should not purchase an unweaned bird

There are many reasons why weaning a chick is the most difficult process in the life
of a baby bird. If you have no experience with weaning a chick you are likely to miss
the subtle indicators that the chick is in trouble. Buying all the supplies that a breeder
needs to successfully wean a chick can be overwhelming. If you are buying the parrot
for a pet, the investment in a gram scale, syringes, handfeeding formula, probiotics,
and digestive enzymes is considerable. Also you will need emergency supplies if the
chick develops crop problems. Without the proper equipment and the training that it
takes to wean a chick properly, it should be left in the hands of the breeder who has
the training and the equipment to do the job right.

What kind of experience is it to find that you have accidentally aspirated your new
baby or that you have burned the chick's crop and have to suffer the agony of
watching the chick die when it could have been avoided. Or that you have followed a
rigid weaning schedule and discover that you have a chick who is suffering from
malnutrition and is literally starving to death.

When you change from one handfeeder to another you set back the weaning process
by about two weeks. With some chicks it is possible that it will take a month.

It is important to keep good records when the chick is weaning. You want to know
how much food you fed for that day, what is the weight of the chick and if the chick
gained or lost weight. Weight loss that is continuous should send up red flags that the
chick could have a bacterial infection or an other systemic problem which needs an
avian veterinarian. Weaning a chick is hard work. For those who have dedicated their
lives to aviculture and the breeding of healthy, happy, well-nourished, well socialized
and independent parrots, it is a joy to send a successfully weaned chick home to his
new family. Nothing compares to the joy of having your new baby fit into your
family and adjust to his environment because his breeder gave him all the tools he
needs to function in a family. Allow yourself to develop a relationship with your
already completely weaned chick who is ready to bond with the family who chose
him. You will never regret such a decision nor will you experience the heartache and
heartbreak of losing a chick because he was not weaned.

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.

Copyright © 2002 Iris Brzezinski and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
Email: ilbrzez@msn.com

Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine

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Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine - The Responsible Breeding of Cockatiels Part VIII -... Page 6 of 6

A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds.
Articles on the care & breeding of pet birds, pet parrots & exotic birds

Cockatoo Parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises

Copyright © 2002 Birds n Ways All rights reserved.


Page design: Carol Highfill ---- Last update: July 1, 2002

Contact Us>

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Pet Bird
Magazine, Ezine
November 2002 Magazine

Winged Wisdom Index Articles by Topic Birds n Ways Home The WWW Library

THE RESPONSIBLE BREEDING OF COCKATIELS

Part X - Selling Your Chicks


by Iris Brzezinski

Your tiel chicks are finally weaned


and have been eating well on their
own for two weeks. The chicks
have successfully maintained their
weaning weights day to day and
are now ready for a new home and
family. The decision to entrust you
precious tiels to another family is a
tough one, as you have grown to
love each individual chick.
However the time has come when
they must leave the nest and become companions to families who want to adopt them.
In this article we will discuss some of the ways available to find the best family for
each one of your chicks.

One of the first decisions you must make is whether you want to sell to a pet store or
sell the chicks privately. You will have more control in the sale of the chick to a client
who comes to your home and chooses a chick. There are a number of questions that

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can be asked to ascertain whether or not the client has realistic expectations when it
comes to owning a parrot. Parrot ownership is a commitment for a life time and it
should be stressed that cockatiels in captivity have the capacity to live for thirty years
if taken care of properly.

Lets look at some of the questions you will want to ask a perspective bird owner. The
first and perhaps the most important key question is "Why do you want a bird?" If the
client's answer is that the color of the bird will go well with the wallpaper in the
family room, this isn't a person who has a strong commitment to developing a bonded
relationship with the bird.

As you know parrots require time and attention from their owners. Different types of
attention are required - ambient attention where the bird is with the family, one-on-
one attention with that special bonded companion, and flock family time. A critical
question to ask the client is, " Do you have the time needed to spend with the bird?"
and are you willing to give the bird the different types of attention that is needed?
Often a client doesn't realize the level of commitment that is needed.

Birds are by nature very noisy. They scream at sun up and then at sun down which is
normal behavior for them in the wild. Since the parrot is only two to three generations
removed from the wild all of its natural behaviors are still intact, even though the bird
is captive bred. Another important question to ask your perspective buyer is, "Do you
have a problem with noise, is noise an issue?" Then explain that parrots are noisy
whether in the wild or in the family room. Cockatiels are known for their contact calls
where they will call for members of the flock to find out where they are and if they
are allright. These calls can be very loud and irritating for the client who doesn't
understand the flock behavior of cockatiels. Teaching the client about the noises that
are associated with owning a parrot helps the client to develop a better understanding
of what it takes to own a parrot. Then the client is able to make an informed decision
as to whether he can live with that level of noise for the next thirty years.

One of the most complex parts of owning a parrot is feeding a nutritious and varied
diet. Birds need a wide variety of foods in order to meet their basic requirements for
vitamins and minerals. The learning curve with regards to diet is large. Most people
need a couple of months to learn the essentials for properly feeding a parrot. An
important question to ask the perspective bird owner is, "Are you willing to chop
fresh fruits and vegetables daily?" and "Are you willing to learn what foods are
needed to keep the parrot healthy?" Since an adequate diet is essential to the life
expectancy of the bird, it requires a commitment of time and energy to feed the bird a
nutritious diet.

The parrot is an emotional and sensitive creature who needs attention. "What are your
plans when the bird reaches sexual maturity and is no longer the sweet baby that you
brought home?" "Are you willing to learn the behavior modification techniques that is
needed to change the behaviors?" Parrots have long life expectancy in captivity and
should not be abandoned because the bird doesn't behave as it did when it was
younger. Therefore it is very important that the decision to have a parrot be a decision
based on the bird's lifetime.

Parrots are perpetual two year olds. "Do you have the patience to live with one for the
next thirty years?" The oldest living cockatiel just died at the age of 36. If you got

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your cockatiel at 20 years old that means it's possible for him to be alive when you
turn 50. A parrot owner must understand that having a parrot is a commitment for
life. This means cleaning a cage everyday and dealing with the noise that bird makes
everyday. While some birds are quieter than others, noise is still part of owning a
parrot. Birds make messes. They toss food out of the cage, throw it at the windows
and walls and will cause its owner to have a new hobby - "vacuuming". None of this
gets better after the thirty years. Parrots do not grow up. They are two for the entire
length of their life and this must be taken into serious consideration before the client
is allowed to buy the chick.

All parrots need yearly check-ups by an avian vet. "Are you prepared to invest the
money necessary for the care of the bird?" Parrots are high maintnenance pets which
cost more to take care of than any cat or dog. It is important for the client to
understand that there are medical problems with birds which must be taken care of as
soon as possible. With a parrot you can not afford to wait to see if the symptoms go
away. Waiting another 6 hours or another day may mean the bird's life, so it is very
important to understand the urgency when the bird isn't acting normal.

Offer your new client a three day guarantee where they can have the bird checked by
an avian veterinarian to make sure the parrot is in good health. Stressed birds bite out
of fear - allow the bird time to acclimate to his new surroundings.

Offer continued assistance with the pet bird and after the first week call the client to
make sure that everything is going well with the bird. Provide a list of recommended
reading materials for the continuing education of the pet owner. If the client has a
computer then recommend some the URLs to bird sites that will assist the client in
caring for his new pet.

Offer the client time to consider his decision has to whether or not he can make the
commitment that is required to have a companion parrot. A parrot is not a throw away
pet, no matter how much has been paid for the bird. The prospective bird owner must
be given a chance to decide if he wants the responsibility for a pet which may live for
thirty years. An informed decision which acknowledges the hard work involved
taking care of the parrot hopefully insures the bird a loving caring home for its entire
life.

Personal responsibility in selling your cockatiel chicks is needed in order that the
right family be found for each chick. Finding that loving, caring family who is willing
to provide all that the chick needs in, time, attention, medical care, excellent nutrition,
toys, and a cage large enough for the parrot takes time. I find that after handfeeding a
chick for ten weeks my heart's desire is to find a family that will give my chick the
best home possible.

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.

Copyright © 2002 Iris Brzezinski and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
Email: ilbrzez@msn.com

http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww69e.htm 9/9/2010
Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine - The Responsible Breeding of Cockatiels Part X - S... Page 4 of 4

Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine

A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds.
Articles on the care & breeding of pet birds, pet parrots & exotic birds

Cockatoo Parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises

Copyright © 2002 Birds n Ways All rights reserved.


Page design: Carol Highfill ---- Last update: November 1, 2002

Contact Us>

Visitors

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