Breeding cockatiels – How to get started?
Before you decide to give the nestbox to your cockatiels you must consider carefully if you truly want to let your birds nest.
Cockatiels are the bunnies of the avian world and even if there might be some difficulties in the beginning of the process, cockatiels may get so excited about producing babies that they won’t stop. Are you willing to let them nest regularly? Pet cockatiels don’t have the natural rain season cycle so it is possible that they are all the time hormonally more active then they should be. If you want to breed your cockatiels, you should keep in mind the surroundings they have in wild. Their nesting season is mostly in the rainfall so what you should do is to create surroundings that simulate that kind of a season. Shortly: shower them more often, give them a lot of fresh food and see that they won’t experience any kind of lack. To avoid overexcitement after the breeding, let the birds rest and let them also have a “dry season”.
You should also consider if your couple has something to give. Be sure that the pair is not related! Consider if you have a good reason to let your birds have a clutch. More than just because “the chicks are so cute!” – In the end, you won’t probably be even seeing the chicks until they come from the nest box, looking almost like adults.
Read as much as possible. Read and feast with information as much as you can. This how you can avoid some of the beginner mistakes. If you decide to let your cockatiels nest, remember to have patience! Do not disturb the parents! Do not peek in the nest when the parents are there, just let them have their privacy.
What kind of cockatiel is suitable for breeding?
Laymen quite rarely think too much about the quality of the breeding bird. But that is also very important think to think about. Even though your tiel does not meet any of the standards it can still be just as beloved pet. All the cockatiels just are not suitable for breeding. I listed here some characteristics that you should examine when considering the quality of your cockatiels. Very rare of cockatiels match with every standard but perhaps your cockatiel has something extremely great that you want to ennoble. And if there aren’t any flaws with the bird – go ahead! Just try to find a partner that would also have good characteristics.
– The crest should be long and full and it should make a little curve.
– The body structure should be svelte but wiry. The body has to have also a good substance which can be seen from the round curve of the chest. The shoulders should be good and strong – and the wing tips should not cross each other when the cockatiel is perched in a neutral posture. The back should be wide and straight.
– How’s the head shape? The neck should curve very slightly. Above the chest should be a small nip. The head shall not be bull like nor cone shaped.
– And the size? It’s often thought the bigger the better but this is not true; some shows could punish also because of the overdone size. Too small isn’t good, either! 100 grams is just fine – your cockatiel doesn’t have to look like a wrestler who built his body with steroids.
– The cockatiel should have large and round eyes that have a bright look.
– Cockatiels have four toes, two pointing front, two pointing back. The grip of the feet has to be strong and no toes or claws can be missing inborn.
– How’s the color quality? Does the pattern of your pearl cover all the grey areas or is the pattern lazy, leaving grey areas without pearling? Are the pied markings somewhat symmetrical? Does your grey cock have good contrast or does it look more like dusty and lame? Read more about the color mutations and their quality from the colors and genetics section.
– The most important thing is that the bird is healthy. Never let a sick bird nest! If you know that the family tree of the cockatiel contains a lot of inborn diseases or sickness cases it may not be wise to let the bird breed.
The first step is to find a suitable mate for the cockatiel. Every so often the lack of chemistry between the birds contributes to their not getting along with each other, reducing their enthusiasm for mating. It may also be an obstacle if either one of the cockatiels has previously had an extremely close mate. Regardless, the cockatiel does not demonstrate strict monogamy, and therefore it is possible to introduce a new mate to a bird who has lost its original mate. Fidelity, of course, varies greatly amongst individuals. Even so, the cockatiel does not, in general, need others if the bird has become attached to its mate.
A bird which has been living a long time without the opposite sex may have difficulties coping with a new mate. This is particularly a problem of the males. If the bird has become attached to a toy or to other birds of the same sex, it may be hard to introduce a new mate. In order to succeed in this, all other distractions must be removed.
If the relationship is harmonious, the birds will partake in shared activities, and in the end, they will most likely stretch and preen corresponding areas of their bodies simultaneously.
Especially in the case of breeders, the desired color of the chicks may also contribute to the choice of the partner. It might be good to point out that obviously, a chick of a lutino and a grey cockatiel will not come out multicolored. For further information about the inheritance of colors, check out the Colours and Genetics sections.
Cockatiel’s breeding age
Both participants must be ready and prepared for parenthood. Even though the cockatiel is sexually mature at a very young age, it is best to wait until the bird is truly ready for being a parent. A good age for mating is generally thought to be two years, although at the earliest stage the male has to be at least one-year-old, while the female should be a little older, around a year-and-a-half. If the cockatiel is too young, it may be an irresponsible parent, and a young female might not yet be physically suitable for producing eggs. Brooding is hard work, and a bird still full of youthful energy might not have what it takes to finish the work. Although a sexually mature female cockatiel is immediately able to produce eggs, similar to a child who has recently begun to menstruate, it would probably not be the perfect parent.
The most basic implement required for breeding is the birdhouse or a nest box. A recommended size is 25cm for both sides and 40cm in height. One side of the box must have an entrance hole preferably 7cm in diameter, and ideally, a perch should also be attached to the hole. In order to help the cockatiels to reach the hole from inside the box, some people use small twigs to construct a ladder for the birds, but the birds are most of the time able to reach the hole with a single hop, depending on the number of wood chips on the floor, and therefore the ladder will probably be unnecessary. Of course, the cockatiel does not measure its nest with a ruler in its natural habitat, and nesting may indeed succeed even in exceptional conditions.
The bottom of the box should be covered with suitable stuffing, for example, wood chips which are sold for rodents. A general amount of chips should be spread since at first the parents toss and paw them around. The box also needs a lid for examining the life inside the box and through which to clean the box and to remove any deceased chicks.
The box is preferably placed outside the cage in such a way that the entrance hole of the box is next to a hole in the cage. It would be extremely helpful to have a grating which can be used to prevent entrance to the box (click the adjacent picture in order to see a bigger image). Fortunately, some cages do have gratings of this kind. When lowered, the grating prevents the parents from entering the box during cleaning and other situations during which it would only be in the way.
The cockatiels do not need any special lighting while they are nesting. Nesting instincts may arise even better during the autumn than the spring because in their natural habitat the birds nest during the rainy season when water and food are easier to acquire. Hence, it would be good to offer the future parents a variety of different foods and a bigger water bowl in which to bathe (but make sure that the birds will not drown). In any case, it is recommended to offer the birds a chance to bathe while they are nesting.
The room in which the nest box is should have a higher humidity than normal. This can be achieved with wet towels or a bowl of water near the box if it is not possible to use a humidifier. Shops also sell nest boxes, many of which have a place for a water bowl under the actual brooding compartment.
Diet during breeding
Well before breeding, the parents should be accustomed to food that will in future be easier for them to regurgitate. This does not mean that seeds and pellets should be removed from them. Suitable food to offer includes fresh foods, vegetables, fruits, sprouts and everything nourishing and healthy.
Calcium is a very important part of a nesting bird’s diet because the female needs it in order to lay eggs. Lack of calcium may result in the bird and the eggs becoming more fragile. Therefore the bird should be taking any possible vitamins well before laying eggs.
The bird should also be given protein-rich food before breeding, for example, eggs (including the shell, but the most important part is the yolk) and fish, which should not be given more than two times per week.
Stock photo of a grey male: Shutterstock / Eric Isselee