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· Member of the Month March 2011
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Aggression Toward Chicks, And What To Do

Aggression Toward Chicks and What to Do

Aggression is a very common, yet most often it is an easily avoided problem when breeding budgies. Here are some of the common signs that you can watch out for to avoid this problem before it happens, and what to do if you see your pair begins being aggressive

Why Does A Pair Attack Their Chicks?

Contrary to some people's belief, a budgies aggression
toward its chicks or their mate is really not meant to be mean as far as the birds are concerned.
Instinct is the key factor in these cases, and the birds are only acting on their hormones and the drives that these hormones cause.

In Australia where budgies are native, there is only a very short period of time where there are enough food and water supplies to raise healthy chicks. As
a result, budgies raise their clutches as quickly and closely as possible during these times.

Once the oldest chicks are nearing the age of leaving the nest (4 + weeks) the hen will naturally begin a new laying cycle, so that by the time the previous
clutch is ready to leave the nest and be taken care of by the ****, she can begin incubating a new clutch as quickly as possible.

In our homes, there is also the added problem of limited space. Attacks can easily be avoided when there is enough space to get away, but within the confines
of a cage there is a limited amount of space and the chances of aggression are much higher. This is especially the case if you do not have an appropriate sized
cage for your pair and their chicks in the first place.

What Are The Signs Before An Actual Attack?

There are a number of behavioral signs if you are observant that you can watch out for long before there is a real attack, so please be aware of what they are
ahead of time so as to avoid a serious one.

Mating is one of the first things to watch out for.
Most pairs stop mating after all of the eggs of the clutch are laid and during incubation, and while in the process of feeding young chicks. Once the chicks
are 2-3 weeks old though, mating is one sign that the hen is beginning a laying cycle and a new clutch is on your pair's horizon.

Aggression toward the chicks is another sign.
This will often start out more subtle and increase if not stopped and can range from pecking to feather plucking and full out bloody attacks. The increased hormone levels of a new laying cycle can, and often does, cause aggression toward existing chicks who are in the nest box or breeding cage, and removing them from harm's way is the only way to keep them safe in these instances.

When the hen starts spending more time in the nextbox this is definitely a big warning sign. Once the chicks are 2-3 weeks old most hens stop spending all
of their time in the nest box, only going in to feed and check on the chicks. If you notice your hen starting to spend more time in the box she is planning another

What Should You Do To Prevent An Attack?

Limiting high protein foods, daylight hours and putting the hen in a new cage once the chicks are 3 weeks old will help to throw your pair out of breeding
mode and prevent another clutch all together.
Once the chicks are nearing the 3-week mark in age you can reduce the daylight hours of your pair to 8 or so to discourage them.

After the chicks have fledged removing the nest box is an obvious thing to do. Often times though they will try to start another clutch before the previous one is ready to leave the nest or be separated from them unless you remove the hen before this happens.

If your hen lays an egg or two on the floor after this foster them to another pair if possible, or if not dispose of them before she can start the incubation process. While it is not ideal to dispose of them, you must choose the lesser of two evils in this situation and the eggs will not begin to develop unless incubated.

By letting a pair raise another clutch exhausted you not only run the risk of the chicks they produce being weak and dying, but your pair themselves are in danger of becoming sick or dying from the exhaustion.

They will quite literally breed themselves to death, and you need to think of their health and well being first in this situation.

Immediate Steps To Take If You See Any Signs Of Aggression

There is no time to waste if you see the chicks being abused!
Usually when one of the parents are abusing the chicks it is from wanting to start a new clutch. Most often it is the hen that begins starting to eliminate
the chicks and the male soon follows, feeding off her behavior and the desire to mate again.

If the chicks are 3 weeks or older removing the female is the best course of action. Putting her in another room out of earshot and sight is usually all that is
needed to calm the male and for him to finish raising and weaning the chicks safely.

I have never had a male be aggressive toward a chick without the female with him, 99% of the time the female is the instigator of the aggression. If the chicks are 2 weeks or younger removing the female is still the
most logical decision, but some supplemental hand feedings might be needed if the male does not willingly go in the nest box right away.

There is no telling when this might happen, so again be sure you know how to hand feed at any time. In either case, put plenty of extra food for the male to
easily access to help wean the chicks. Placing some sprays of millet in the nest box if you have not already done so is also a good idea (make sure they to not become dirty, as they can get mouldy quickly) so the chicks can begin learning how to crack seed on their own.

Once the chicks are out of the nest box, weaned and ready to be separated from the father you can put the hen back with her mate.
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