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 The Basics

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Pete
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Posts : 391
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Join date : 2009-05-29
Age : 29
Location : Whitby, North Yorkshire

PostSubject: The Basics   Wed Jul 08, 2009 6:40 am

Determining the sex of your lovebird extremely difficult. When your lovebird reaches maturity, which is around one year of age, it may show some signs of whether it is male or female, such as ripping up paper and stuffing it into its feathers (female behavior) or regurgitating for its owners (male behavior: the male feeds the nesting female). But none of this behavior is a reliable indicator of sex. Females have a larger pelvic space than males, in order to lay eggs, and therefore tend to be "wider in the hips." However, the only sure method is DNA testing. Companies exist that provide such service. The most important thing to consider when deciding to breed lovebirds is how much time and energy you have. Breeding birds need to be in top condition; first of all, they must be supplied a healthy diet with sufficient variety. A good pellet mix, or a high-quality seed mix are at best mere supplements to a wide variety of fresh vegetables, limited fresh fruits, and healthy grains. Note the "Diet" section, below, for a list of foods that present toxicity issues. In general, choose fresh vegetables such as baby carrots (cooked slightly for better assimilation of beta carotene), string beans, squash with yellow or orange flesh, peas, broccoli, zucchini, snow peas, sunflower sprouts, pea shoots, sprouted seeds and beans, (excellent for protein)and fresh (not canned) corn. If your bird is reluctant to try some of these, try sprouting their seed mix. It will be familiar to them and seeds are much healthier when sprouting (lower in fat, higher in amino acids for instance).

Grains: You can sprout many grains at home. Millet and quinoa are two popular grains to sprout. Also, cooked brown rice and cooked quinoa are relished by many parrots, though this should never be a major staple. Quinoa is a South American grain, so parrots from this region probably ate it in the wild. Any food you can duplicate from the natural environment is a candidate, after toxicity issues are understood. Vegetables should always comprise the largest portion of the diet. Fruits should be provided as an occasional treat. Millet sprays should also be limited as a special treat, because some lovebirds will gorge on them. Grapes, cherries, and blueberries are suggested in limited quantities. Use organic fruits only, and wash well. If inorganic fruits and vegetables are used, be sure to wash well to remove contaminants, pesticides, and bacteria.

Lovebirds should not be bred unless they are a year old and sexually mature. Lovebirds sometimes do breed while still immature, but they are likely to be poor parents, or other problems can arise. If a lovebird is provided a mate, and a nesting box, then courtship and mating will result.
Breeding in lovebirds should occur during the warmer months of the year. Most lovebirds require a high humidity in the nest during incubation.

While the female will do most of the work constructing a nest (nesting material must be made available), occasionally the male will assist. Lovebirds need extra moisture during breeding to create eggs, to guarantee good egg development, and then to feed the chicks with liquids and regurgitated food, so plenty of fresh water needs to be provided, along with more fresh fruits and vegetables than usual. All such products should be fresh: remove any scraps daily, to avoid bacterial infections. Check with breeders, your pet store, or your veterinarian concerning vitamin and mineral supplements, such as providing a mineral and salt block, and extra cuttlefish bones for more calcium.
For hatching and proper embryo development, recall that parrots breed in jungle-like conditions, using nesting material high in moisture. Place a mat of moistened peat or well-compressed, moist sphagnum moss in the base of the box. Palm fronds, soaked and washed well, long, or fresh-cut green grasses—cut to varying lengths under 6" long, can suffice. It may be convenient to grow grasses on a windowsill if you cannot cut long grasses from an unmowed section of a yard. Be sure to do research before placing any nesting material inside the cage to check for toxicity. If you cannot find nesting material, check with a pet store or bird breeder for supplies. Never use newspapers or any absorbant material that will dry up the nest or act as a sponge, drawing moisture away from the nesting materials. Depending on the species of lovebird you choose to breed, the female will carry nesting material into the nest in various ways. Peach-face Lovebirds for example, tuck nesting material in their tail feathers while Green Masked Lovebirds carry nesting material back with their beaks.

The nesting box should be deep enough to allow the chicks, after hatching, to always be resting on new layers of fresh material that the parents will continue to bring into the box as the chicks develop. Once the lovebirds start constructing their nest, mating will follow. During this time, the lovebirds will mate repeatedly and you can expect eggs to follow 3–5 days later. The female will spend hours inside her nesting box before eggs are laid. Do not disturb her. Once the first egg is laid, a new egg will follow every other day until the clutch is complete—usually 4 – 6 eggs.

The female will sit on her eggs for 21–23 days, usually receiving much attenntion from the male. Just before hatching, the chicks will make a small crack or hole called a pip hole. This allows them to start breathing oxygen. Not only does it help them breath better, but it is an indication that hatching should follow 12– 24 hours later.

Once the chicks hatch, it is important to avoid touching them. They are very fragile, but the mother will feed and care for them. These first feedings are crucial: the mother will supply her chicks with a clear, nutritious liquid containing digestive enzymes. As the chicks mature, the mother will provide regurgitated material containing more solids. Check with breeders and your veterinarian before attempting to hand-raise or hand-feed any chicks. If you choose to hand feed the chicks, remove them 8–10 days after hatching to begin hand-feeding. Removing one chick at a time will cause the mother to abandon the nest, so if you choose hand feeding, take the entire clutch from the nest at one time, place them into a brooder, and begin the process, making certain that their crops are completely empty before their first feedings, before giving them a formula feed. If you are inexperienced in hand feeding, never try to hand feed chicks without an experienced teacher.

The first few feedings might be difficult; however, most babies eagerly accept feedings. Some breeders choose to spoon feed, while others use a syringe. Whatever method you choose, take caution and be prepared for hours of work. If you choose not to hand feed, but want to interact with the babies daily while their mother feeds them, with patience, the mother should learn to trust your presence, and eventually, you should be able to touch the chicks without upsetting the mother. Place your hand over the chicks at first. Next, remove all the chicks at the same time and held them in your hands for a few minutes with a warm towel under them. Stay close to the cage, allowing the mother to be able to see everything you do: so long as she isn’t frightened and accepts your company, your patience will be rewarded. While the chicks are younger and fewer feathers are present, hold no longer than a few minutes at a time. The babies can easily get cold and weak if they are away from their mother for too long. As the babies mature, handling time can be increased to 15 minutes, three times a day. This method produces tame chicks, and saves you the hard work of hand feeding.

As the chicks grow, they will feather out and start to explore the cage, leaving the nest for longer and longer periods of time, during which they will practice flying, climbing, and exploring objects and toys inside the cage. The mother will encourage them to eat on their own until fully weaned, which occurs at approximately 8 weeks of age. The male Lovebird also helps teach his chicks to eat regular foods. After the chicks are weaned and they have learned to fly, clipping the birds' wings is acceptable and suggested.[citation needed] Clipping the birds’ wings will ensure that your birds don't accidentally escape. The young birds should be removed once they are all independent, for the mother instinctively attempts to drive the young birds away when they are sufficiently mature, in order to be able to nest again. Hence, they must be removed, or the mother could harm them. To rest the breeding pair, remove the nesting box, clean and sterilize it, and place it in storage. Lovebirds produce healthier chicks and have fewer health problems themselves if bred only once a year.

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