How to Hand-Rear Budgies

Many budgie owners want to experience firsthand how their own birds raise their offspring. Although the breeding pair does most of the work, as a bird owner you have to pay attention to a few things when breeding budgies. Before taking any steps in this direction, deal with the breeding conditions beforehand.

Basic Information & Breeding Requirements

If you would like to breed budgies yourself, you cannot simply let nature take its course in the birdcage. After all, in Germany, you need a breeding license for this. Conversely, without these papers, you are violating the Animal Disease Act (TierSG). The background to these requirements is to counteract the spread of the dangerous parrot disease (psittacosis). This highly contagious infectious disease mainly affects young animals, but can also be transmitted to humans – and in both cases is usually fatal.

Beyond the legal framework, of course, you need sufficient information so that budgie breeding can thrive. The parent animals should be at least one year old and in good physical condition when they breed for the first time. When they are younger, the birds are often overwhelmed with rearing. After all, there are other tasks besides laying eggs: First and foremost, of course, feeding the chicks and rowing them, i.e. picking up the nestlings under the wings or the breast plumage and warming them there.

Challenges & Potential Problems

Unfortunately, there are complications in budgerigar offspring that can even endanger the lives of nestlings and hens. Laying distress is one of the most common problems. In the process of this, particularly thick, thick-skinned, or deformed eggs develop in the hen, which can only slide through the laying gut with difficulty and can even get stuck. Typical symptoms of egg shortage include a swollen stomach, paralysis, or shortness of breath. In this case, a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about birds must be called in immediately.

Another problem sometimes occurs immediately after hatching: some young birds are born with deformed or broken beaks. Even then, the vet should be informed immediately. Often he can correct the beak. Otherwise, there is a risk that the nestling will never be able to eat normally.

Problems can also arise with the male budgie; especially with young or inexperienced animals. They are often overwhelmed with the rearing of the young and find themselves in the dilemma of two instincts: One impulse tells them to look after the offspring, the other – self-protection – advises them to flee. Because of this internal conflict, many roosters become nervous (or even aggressive) and begin to pluck feathers from the young. If you notice such behavior or if you discover bald spots in the young animals, you should immediately separate the rooster from the offspring.

The Necessary Breeding Accessories

If you have decided to breed in spite of the possible complications, you will need special accessories: The most important thing is a suitable hatchery. Without them, the birds will not mate in the first place. As so-called “cave breeders”, budgies need a dark cavity; nesting boxes are ideal for this. In addition, it is important to provide a place for the birds to raise chicks in peace. It is important that it offers enough freedom of movement, as they usually do not use the free flight offered during the brood.

Last but not least, a suitable diet: In order to ensure the health of hens and chicks and to minimize the risk of laying deficiency and deformed eggs, breeding animals should be given food that is particularly rich in vitamins and minerals. As a nutritional supplement, you can, for example, enrich the drinking water of your birds with special vitamin and mineral drops.

The Breeding and Rearing Season

When the selected birds have mated, the female will begin preparing the nesting box. As soon as the first egg is laid, the hen will only stay there and incubate the clutch. She warms the egg with her own body around the clock while the rooster brings food for the hen; apart from that, it is most undesirable in the nest box. More eggs can follow every two days. The breeding season for budgies averages 18 days, sometimes longer.

After hatching, the mother feeds the young birds with a milky, pulpy secretion; the forestomach milk. After four or five days, the hen begins to mix the forestomach milk with pre-digested grains. The ratio of the components changes in the following days until the feed consists only of grains, fruit, and green fodder.

The average nestling time, i.e. the time between hatching and leaving the nest, is generally 40 days for budgies. At the end of this time, the young animals are already making their first attempts to fly. As soon as these attempts are successful, the nestlings are considered “fledged”. However, that does not mean that the little ones are already independent. And for that long, they should definitely stay with their mother.

The most important criterion for recognizing when you can give up the little ones is the “feed firmness”; that is when the young animals eat enough food to be able to survive on their own. This usually takes five to six weeks. In order to develop healthy social behavior, the young bird should only be separated from its parents and siblings between the eighth and twelfth weeks.

(Half-) Orphans & Hand-rearing

If the hen dies during rearing, this does not automatically mean that the males will take over rearing. If the chicks are rejected by the father, the nestlings should be put in the nest with another budgie mother if possible. Oftentimes, an already brooding hen will accept the newcomers and care for them as if they were her own. If that doesn’t work or if there is no second breeding pair available, you have to take care of hand-rearing. This is quite difficult and should only be done in emergencies or by professionals.

Important: Unfortunately there is still a rumor that hand-reared young birds become tame faster. But firstly this is not true, secondly, many young birds inexperienced breeders die in agony in the first few days. If all other measures fail, hand-rearing can only be the last resort.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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