Breeding Tips and Tidbits

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© Jean Pattison — The African Queen


We just had a cold spell here in Florida and I have been through many colds and have a bit of a handle on what temperatures are safe for chicks. Breeding birds can be a humbling experience, and this year was no exception.

I have found Poicephalus chicks just hatching and chicks over three weeks old, with lots of down can take temperatures at about 28 degrees for short periods. I had recently moved some of my proven pairs to another area, and it was going to be cold. I pulled all Senegals and Capes that were at the ten day and above mark. I knew the hen could keep three younger ones, or three eggs warm. Anytime there are over three chicks or three eggs, and maybe a pecan or two, I remove some if not all of the babies, and hope for the safety of the eggs. This year was not good. I lost three clutches of Senegals. They were in a less protected area. The ones in the old area did fine. Next year I will put heat lamps on the nests. The greys on the other hand, had no problems keeping their babies warm.

Speaking of temperatures, I can tell when a chick is too warm, but being able to tell if it is just a degree or so too cold has not been easy for me. I found a tip in the book, “Parrots Hand Feeding and Nursery Management” by Howard Voren and Rick Jordan. If you put the wing tip of a chick against your upper lip and it feels cool the chick is cold. I now use this as my guide for regulation of the babies air temperatures in the nursery. In newly hatched chicks, one degree can mean the difference between life and death.

Chicks in the Nest

I have often heard it said … “When a pair of birds have more than three chicks, it is a good idea to pull the oldest.” I have not found this to be the case. Generally Poicephalus can easily take care of four chicks. I have found most Poicephalus feed chicks according to time rather than age. It appears at a certain time all chicks start getting more adult food, and plenty of it. The youngest baby will be packed full of the same hard, solid food as the older chicks, and in just about the same quantity. This can be difficult when first bringing them in from the nest. One more than one occasion I have used plain water or very thin formula, with a human digestive enzyme, to help digest all the food in the crop, in a more timely manner. Of course if one needs to pull a chick or two, due to a big clutch, pulling the youngest may be the wiser move.


When I first started breeding I had a friend who literally raised 300 incubator hatched babies a year. I remember watching her, permanently bent, over the table feeding one chick after another. I made up my mind right then and there, I would breed birds and have a life too. Well I was wrong about having a life, but I am not permanently bent. I knew then I did not want to ever incubator hatch a chick.

This breeder had also told of birds leaving their nests and finding eggs, ice cold to the touch, and bringing them in to put in the incubator. I sure hoped my birds never abandoned eggs.

As it turned out, many times just days before hatching I would see hens out playing and taking baths when I thought they should be sitting their eggs, and sure enough the eggs were ice cold. My mind was made up; I was not pulling eggs. As it turned out the eggs hatched just fine and I had many healthy chicks. My thoughts are the eggs need a cooling down period, and nature does manage to do things right, regardless of what we may think. A lot of my domestic hens spend a good deal of time out of the nests, much more so than the wild caught hens. I assumed my domestics really didn’t know what they were doing, but those too turned out fine.

We worry when we don’t see the hens out of the box, and we worry when we see them out too often. I guess we just have a need to worry.

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