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Go Back   Talk Budgies Forums > Budgie Talk > Budgie Breeding


Budgie Breeding Before breeding any species, it is important to learn as much about the animals, their personalities and the best practices to follow for responsible and ethical breeding prior to making the commitment to take on the responsibility.

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Old 10-04-2016, 03:15 PM
freixas (Tony Freixas)
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Default Breeding for color - detriment to bird health?

I am posing some questions, not making statements of fact.

My avian vet says she sees twice as many cases of cancer in parakeets as in any other type of parrot. I'm assuming she's adjusted for her patient population; if she sees twice as many parakeets as any other parrot, the statement would not be interesting.

It's possible that parakeets only get brought in when they are really sick and, since they are the most popular pet bird, the vet gets a larger number of cancer cases. The vet is a smart lady, though, and may be speaking only about birds brought in conscientiously since they were acquired.

Does anyone know the cancer rate of parakeets vs. other parrots?

If, indeed, the cancer rate is higher, I am tempted to guess it might be due to breeding for characteristics other than health, e.g. color. I have no evidence that this is the case and I would be interested in other's thoughts.

This question is of interest to me since my pet, Shadow, died at about 6.5 years from cancer. I am spooked enough by this recent loss that the "replacement" parakeet I acquired has native colors. I realize this is probably no protection against genetic problems (at least, not in the population of pet parakeets, which is where USA parakeets come from), but I can hope.

Another interesting thing the vet said is that, if a parakeet can survive past around 8 years, it stands a greater chance of living to a ripe old age. The ages from 6-8 tend to be when a lot of cancers show up.

I can speculate all day and so can some of you. What I'm interested in is either statistics that address any of these issues or empirical knowledge from people who have raised many birds over a long period of time.

Related to this discussion. some of the interesting questions I can think of are:
  • Does breeding for color result in less healthy birds?
  • Do parakeets have more cases of cancer than other parrots?
  • Do wild parakeets have lower rates of cancer than pet parakeets?
  • Do parakeets in the age range 6-8 have more cases of cancer than at any other similar age range?
I rarely find scholarly articles on parakeets when I search the web, so that's usually not helpful.

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Old 10-04-2016, 03:59 PM
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I will answer from my experience in both breeding and keeping budgies.
Colour is not an accurate way to tell whether a given budgie is healthier than another.
It's more of a matter of combined factors, such as responsible, ethical breeding, if the breeding pairs are strong, healthy and come from good bloodlines.
The way the budgies are raised when it comes to diet and general care/hygiene also plays an important role.

One thing I would not advise unless it's proven the pair comes from extremely good bloodlines is to breed two visual Inos (albinos/lutinos) together.

During the 6 years I had my dark green normal budgie Carioca, he never had one sick day. Unfortunately, that didn't keep him from developing cancer and not being able to win the fight after being diagnosed.
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Old 10-04-2016, 08:41 PM
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I don't think it really matters whether you select for colour, size, feather shape etc. If you do not select healthy birds then you are likely to pass on problems regardless. It is the same with other animals, if you breed from animals with certain health tendencies you are likely to pass them on. A green budgie is just as likely to have health problems as a blue one as they are bred in exactly the same way and often have the same parents, colour is no protection unfortunately.

However, cancer is really not a good example as I believe environment is as likely to cause this an genetics. The genetic link to cancer is probably created by toxins, diet etc which alters how our genes behave. So, as our environment becomes more toxic and our diets less natural we can be altering our genes to make us susceptible to cancer, and passing those altered genes on to our offspring. I can see no reason this wouldn't also apply to our birds also.
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Old 10-04-2016, 08:58 PM
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You may find the information in some of these articles useful.

Cancers and Tumors of Pet Birds: Disorders and Diseases of Birds: The Merck Manual for Pet Health

Research Gate: Tumors in Pet Birds

Somatotroph Pituitary Tumors in Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus)

Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine: Tumor Control in Birds

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Old 10-05-2016, 01:20 AM
freixas (Tony Freixas)
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Hmmm...I skimmed through all the articles. None seemed to address any of the issues I had a question about.
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Old 10-05-2016, 01:42 AM
freixas (Tony Freixas)
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I realized, after thinking about this, that all my questions are probably too difficult to be addressed empirically or even in a scientific project (though the latter might be possible).

Does breeding for color result in less healthy birds?

This requires comparing wild parakeets (or parakeets from breeders who do not have a goal of breeding parakeets for any particular characteristic) with parakeets from breeders who focus on getting unique colors, raising the parakeets in both sets under similar conditions, carefully recording any cancers and doing this with enough parakeets for the results to be statistically significant.

Do parakeets have more cases of cancer than other parrots?

I suspect that parakeet breeders focus on parakeets and only vets really get enough exposure to causes of death in the diverse members of the parrot family to even attempt to compare mortality. Even in the case of vets, they would need try to understand the conditions under which the parrot was raised.

Do wild parakeets have lower rates of cancer than pet parakeets?

This one would require scientific research. It would be difficult because wild birds don't live as long as pet birds (at least, pet birds that are well taken care of) and so often die of something other than cancer.

Do parakeets in the age range 6-8 have more cases of cancer than at any other similar age range?

This is probably the only question that breeders might be able to address, but only if they keep and care for large numbers of parakeets over their lifetimes. I'm not sure how many you would need to get statistically significant results.

Of course, for any single parakeet of any type, wild, natural coloring or unusual coloring, anything can happen. Cancer can occur in any bird for genetic, environmental or just luck of the draw. There are still odds, though, just as one can say that a smoker has a higher chance of getting lung cancer than a non-smoker, even if there are smokers who live long lives and never get any type of cancer.

I thank everyone for the information they provided, but I don't think anyone will be able to answer my questions.
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Old 10-05-2016, 04:22 AM
tonic (Toni)
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I would imagine wild budgies would have lower rates of cancer due to their more natural diet and reduced number of toxins (our homes are filled with chemicals and fumes that are harmful that a wild budgie never encounters).

Older budgies would definitely have higher rates of cancer. Most cancers take years to grow to a dangerous size, so are only harmful once the budgie is older. Living longer also accumulates the effects of diet and environmental causes of cancer.

If you want empirical results to answer these questions, you are right that you are unlikely to find them here, or on any public discussion forum.
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Old 10-06-2016, 04:33 PM
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I have had a discussion in the past with my avian vet that has 30+ years experience in the field and it is his experience that budgies do have more cancers than other parrots. I have had budgies with kidney, reproductive and brain tumors and they were not older birds.
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