Planned Co-Parenting in Raising Tame Chicks
Before making the conscientious decision to breed one or more pairs of budgies, a person must first take into consideration the amount of time spent needed to properly tend to the breeding pair and eggs/chicks and their availability when it comes to conciliating work schedules.
This is especially true when not working from home and the amount of hours the breeding pair will be left unattended when no one else is able to keep an eye on the pairs/chicks and help out/offer extra support whenever needed. And at last, to take immediate action when the chicks’ lives are at risk (whether by neglect/abandonment or aggression) and they need to be raised by us.
At no given point in time is it absolutely necessary to remove the chicks from the comfort of the nest and the familiarity of the parents with the sole purpose of raising “tame” chicks. Chicks will tame naturally by the time they are old enough to be carefully handled on a daily basis and if the continued work is made in order to properly socialize the chicks.
Choosing a suitable pair who meets the age, health and temperament/personality requirements will increase the chances of a successful and smooth breeding journey and this is especially so when we as owners take an ongoing supportive role in satisfying the needs of the breeding pair by giving them everything they need in order to raise their chicks. If the breeding pair has a good, trusting bond with the owner, this will also be extremely helpful in terms of more closely following the whole breeding process, including the egg laying , incubation period and the chicks’ growth.
A breeding pair should be on an appropriate diet so that they are able to get all of the nutritional needs required to raise a healthy clutch of chicks. They should have access to a good quality seed mix for budgies and pellets as well. As to fresh foods, they should have daily intake of veggies and egg food which is a vital component during breeding. Egg food promotes the healthy production of crop milk essential for the first days of the newly hatched chicks’ lives. A good calcium source is also very important not only for egg production but also for the healthy development of the chicks’ bones.
It’s important to have a suitable nest box with a good concave bottom, this will prevent the chances of the eggs rolling around in the nest while the hen moves or momentarily leaves the nest (decreasing the chances of dented, broken eggs) and it will also limit the chances of the chicks developing splayed legs. Bedding on the nest is optional especially during incubation, since most hens will take the bedding out of the nest and while doing so, the chances of the eggs to break or even be thrown out of the nest along with the bedding are higher. The feathers that naturally fall during the incubation process should suffice and if need be, bedding can be applied after the chicks hatch.
The nest box should be placed on the outside of the cage and attached onto the cage’s bars either by making an opening on the breeding cage to fit the nest in or by using one of the cage’s doors. This will provide a much easier access to the nest, not just for checking the eggs/chicks, but also for cleaning purposes. From the moment the nest box is introduced into cage and as the hen first starts to get inside and spend some time there, it’s good to get her used to the nest checks and this can be done by gently tapping (two little taps are enough) the top part of the nest box where the lid is, the hen will quickly associate this with the opening of the lid for checking purposes and she will momentarily leave the nest or move away a bit while on the nest for us to see how the eggs/chicks are (this is if the hen is tame and trusting of the owner who does the checks).
Besides the increased amount of time spent on the nest box, the other signs that indicate a hen is about to lay is the change in size and consistency of the droppings, they are massive in size and have more of a flattened out appearance and are slightly watery. The vent area will also increase in size and will progressively get swollen as the egg grows and the time approaches for the egg to be laid. During this time and for egg tracking purposes, it’s best to do daily nest checks for eggs twice per day, one in the morning and the other at the day’s end (at sundown and before “birdie bedtime”). It’s important to keep a record of the day each egg was laid in order to make an estimate on the time the eggs are supposed to hatch (18 -21 days time frame depending on when full incubation starts). These daily checks on the nest are also vital in case we need to discard a broken egg or an egg that has gone bad and needs to be removed from the nest.
When a chick is about to hatch, we can actually hear muffled little chirps (while still working its way out of the egg) if we stand close to the nest without opening it. Despite the excitement of the very happy occasion, during this time it’s best to not disturb the hen and the hatching egg/chick too much and take full advantage of the times the hen leaves the nest for a very short break to check the hatching progress.
From the moment the first chick hatches and this is for all newly-hatched chicks, two quick nest checks per day (one in the morning, the other before birdie bedtime) should suffice. If the hen happens to leave the nest anytime for the little break, you can take the extra turn to see how the chick and eggs are doing. These checks are just for the duration of a few seconds, just to see if the chick is cleaned, has good colours, is well fed and if the eggs are looking good. Unless special cleaning of the chick is needed (if food is on the cere and needs to be gently wiped) then there is no need to pick a recently hatched chick (for the first 5 days). During the daily nest checks it’s very important to notice the stance of the growing chicks and to always be careful and tuck the legs/feet in the proper position (if there is a little straying right after they have moved around) while on the nest and even when handling the chicks. By doing this and being ever vigilant, the chances for splayed legs are reduced to great lengths.
I have always done this and by using a good nest box with a proper concave bottom and tucking the growing chicks’ little feet properly, in my 20 years of breeding and close daily monitoring of the chicks, I never had one single case of splayed legs.
As the chicks grow, it’s vital to make sure the nest doesn’t get too soiled and to clean it accordingly, as to avoid the chicks from getting their growing feathers and feet caked in poop. The bigger the clutch size is, the more poop will be produced and the more frequently will the nest need to be cleaned. It’s vital to make sure the chicks’ feet/legs are completely cleared and cleaned of any poop, because the build up can have serious consequences and compromise the healthy growth and development of the toes and toenails. The poop can be gently cleaned from the feet by using a cotton ball soaked in lukewarm water. If there is bigger build up, you can carefully place the foot on a shallow dish of warm water for a few seconds in order to make it easier to then clean the feet.
If a person isn’t experienced in handling delicate little chicks, it’s best to hold off for the first 10 days of their lives. Twelve days of age is a good time to very gently pick up a chick for just 2 -3 minutes at a time and a couple times per day. Before doing so, the hands should be washed, dried and warm. It’s also important to be careful and not disturb the hen and chicks when it’s feeding time. This can be easily detected when hearing excited little chirping coming from the nest. This aspect should be taken into account during the daily handling of the chicks for socialization/taming purposes. As the chicks continue to grow and feather up, we can increase the time they spend with us.
Before the chicks reach weaning age, it’s best to not have them out for longer than 10 minutes at a time.
The chicks can be handled one time in the morning after feeding time and when having filled crops and the same goes for the late afternoon (before sundown) nest check after the chicks have been fed.
If throughout the day, the hen leaves the nest and you have the opportunity for an extra nest check and quick handling of the chicks, you can do so.
From the time the oldest chick reaches 3 weeks old and is almost reaching weaning age, the first practises at eating can be achieved by placing half of a spray of millet inside the nest box. Once the chicks see momma budgie eating the millet, they will begin to investigate the food source and start to practice eating. Chicks will usually start to get more curious about trying out food when they are 23 – 24 days old.
Placing a soft, leafy green by the nest box’s entrance will also encourage the chicks to nibble on it, when seeing father budgie eating it with gusto.
The weaning process and gaining of independence is a very important milestone on a chick’s life and it’s our job as owners/breeders to help the chicks during this challenging transition period and making it as less stressful as possible. During this time, it’s also common to place the hen on a different cage in order to prevent a double clutch and to avoid potential aggression done to the chicks. The job of helping out with the weaning is up to the father budgie and us. This is when we need to take a more active role with the chicks, not only in terms of socialization, but also in introducing all types of different foods for the chicks to eat.
When the chicks first start to leave the nest and begin to more actively explore the world outside the nest, we should place bowls on the bottom of the cage so that the chicks have easier access to food. These should include a seed mix, pellets, egg food and veggie/sprouts mix.
During weaning, we can have the chicks spending more quality time with us (till up to 20 minutes at a time, 3 or 4 times per day), again it’s important to not interfere with feedings done by the father budgie. We can use this extra time to cuddle, play with the chicks and promote a positive, fun and encouraging environment for them to practice their eating. In this instance, playing with food is permitted in order to make the chicks more curious and receptive to eating. Using our voices to praise the chicks when they start nibbling the food is also beneficial.
To sum up, making the weaning onto the grown up foods a fun and positive activity will greatly benefit the chicks, reduce the stress levels and promote the healthy growth (physical and mental) of the chicks. The easiest seeds for weaning chicks to start to practice on are millet spray, canary seed, flax seed and Niger seed. It’s also useful to have a good seed mix for finches, as these seeds are essentially the same that can be found on a budgie seed mix, only they are smaller in size and easier for weaning chicks to dehusk and eat.
Again I will reiterate the importance of egg food during a chick’s growth, this alongside the dry food (seed/pellets) should be readily available at all times. As far as veggies go, it’s best to start with soft leafy greens, such as baby spinach leaves. Chicks will usually take very well to spinach and once they try it out, other types of veggies can be introduced. An easy way to do this is by finely chopping up the veggies and mixing them into the egg food.
If the proper care and attention is not given to the weaning chicks and in certain cases, when a chick isn’t adjusting well to the transition and is taking longer in terms of weaning, this can contribute to a deviation during the chick’s formative stage of development, resulting in a negative change in the growing chicks' behaviour through the trauma experienced during the first stressful time of their lives, which is the weaning process and gaining of independence.
When the transition to independence isn't as smooth as it should and the chicks experience lack of proper nutrition and in some cases continued episodes of slight starvation, they have higher risks of developing insecurities towards food and this will later translate into issues with dominance and aggressive behaviour when it comes to sharing food and fights for food bowls and even bullying when the insecure budgie doesn't let a mate or friend to eat as he/she pleases.
Another aspect worthy of note which is essential to the chick’s healthy development is the access to the nest box till the time comes when the chick no longer needs it for extra comfort and to spend the night in. We should keep the nest box on the cage till the youngest chick gains enough confidence and starts sleeping out of the nest with the older siblings and father. By doing so, we will be reducing the chances of the chicks developing insecurities towards their general safety and from having issues with anxiety/nervousness.
Depending on the father budgies and their hormones, sometimes the intimate act of feeding a begging chick during weaning can lead to undesired passionate advances from the father and this is regardless of the chick’s gender. These sporadic mating attempts aren’t fully carried out by the adult male, and even if they were, the female chicks would not be able to produce eggs. This is also one further reason of why we need to more carefully monitor the chicks during weaning time, to have a more active role in helping out the chicks and to intervene when these mating attempts happen.
While this account on raising chicks is more directed to parent raised chicks, the same information on safely weaning also applies to hand reared chicks. While these chicks can take longer to fully wean, it’s vital to introduce them to all the different foods listed above as soon as the chicks are past 3 weeks old (22 – 24 days) and to encourage them to try the solid foods in between the hand feedings.
There comes a time when the weaning chicks will naturally start to crave new foods and their desire to take the formula will progressively decrease and this is why we must start this introduction to new foods early on, so that the transition is as smooth and as stress free as possible.
After the chicks are weaned and this is regardless of the fact if they were parent raised or hand fed, the continued daily interactions in terms of training are needed to further strengthen the bond between owner and young budgies.
RIP sweet Tito (Summer 2008 - January 17th 2013).
You are missed and never will be forgotten.
Last edited by aluz; 02-04-2016 at 12:29 PM.