Budgies aren’t shy when it comes to breeding and the turnaround from mating to chicks is very quick.
Buying a pair of budgies is very popular, and minds begin to wonder about breeding from healthy, happy pairs. It is not as easy as simply having a male and a female, if your pair do not bond it is game over!
Ensuring you also have the correct environment for a pair is imperative. The guide below will show you how to breed budgies, from selecting a pair to breed from, to looking after the chicks once they arrive.
Selecting a Pair
When deciding on a pair of budgies to breed from, you must ensure that they are not related. Breeding budgies that a close relatives can result in genetic mutations, resulting in still born or deformed chicks.
It is best to breed from budgies that are in exceptional health and at least one-year-old. If you have a pair that have already bonded, this is fantastic. You can tell if a male and female have bonded if they preen each other or hold beaks. This will ensure that mating and eggs will come sooner rather than later.
If you want to breed a particular colour of budgie it is best to read information on budgie colour genetics. There has been lots of research into colour mutations in budgies and how to achieve them. However, like anything in the natural world, this is not always guaranteed!
Breeding Environment for Your Budgie
Once you have a specific pair that you would like to breed from, separate them from the rest of the chatter. This will ensure that no other amorous cocks (male budgies) get to the hen when she is in the breeding condition. Furthermore, it gives the pair time to bond and mate in private, away from the prying eyes of their aviary mates.
Ideally your budgies need to be alone in a large cage, 24 inches by 16 inches is ideal, with a height of around 18 inches. If you have a pair of budgies who have always lived in a cage of this size, you will just need to make a couple of easy changes.
The most important addition to any budgie cage is a nest box on the side of the cage. Often this requires a little DIY; cutting the wire or removing a door so that the entrance hold can be reached. The kind of nesting box you use for your mating pair is completely down to personal preference. As long as it has a hinged lid, so that you can check on the eggs and the chicks, it can be of any design. Many budgie breeders use a wood conclave in the base of their nesting boxes. This stops the chicks getting splayed legs. Owners just place the conclave in the bottom of the box, along with pine shavings. The hen will then arrange this as she deems fit when she is broody.
As with any daily budgie care, you must ensure your pair has a cuttlefish, mineral block, and at least two perches. Food and water must be provided as per usual, with the quantity increasing during her broody period, pregnancy, and when the chicks are born. You can give your pair lots of fresh vegetables and specialist pellets during mating.
The hen will also benefit from having some soft wood to gnaw on, this will help encourage her to breed. Furthermore, budgies naturally breed in the rainy season. You can help get them feeling frisky by frequently spraying them with water.
You may not catch your pair mating, so it is best to keep your eye out for all the right signs. When your hen is ready to breed, her cere (the section at the top of the beak that looks like nostrils) will become thicker and crusted over when she is broody.
The big tell-tale sign that mating has been a success is when your female starts nesting. She will happily faff and rearrange the wood chips in the nesting box, preparing the area just how she likes it. Do not be alarmed if you see your hen throwing chippings away out the hole, she simply doesn’t want that much.
Once fertilised, you can expect the first egg in roughly 10 days. Your hen will then lay one egg every other day until she had laid them all. Once the first egg has appeared, you female will take to sitting on the nest, so do not worry if you rarely see her. It can be very tempting, but keep checking the nest box to an absolute minimum so you do not disturb proceedings. Also, do not touch the eggs. Human hands can carry bacteria that can be absorbed through the delicate egg shell.
Around 18 to 23 days after the initial egg is laid, the baby budgies will start to hatch.
Looking After Budgie Chicks
Even whilst sitting on her eggs, keep an eye on your female. If the cere turns blue on your hen, you need to act immediately as this means she is losing condition and will struggle to feed the chicks. Being unwell can cause your hen to become violent, and it is not unheard of chicks to die or be featherless at the hands of their distressed mother. During this period, the male will feed the hen, who in turn feeds the chicks. Therefore, it is imperative that both your cock and hen are well cared for.
Once hatched, check subtly and regularly. It is the only way you can check if they are being fed, and that siblings aren’t smothering each other. Don’t be worried if you have chicks of all shapes and sizes. The chicks will hatch at different times, sometimes days apart, and therefore their development will vary. If your hen has an unmanageable number of chicks, you can foster them to other pairs that are breeding.
Between 10 and 15 days after hatching, the feathers will start to come through on the chicks. At this point, you can change the bedding in the nest box and check their limb development. Calmly close off the entrance to the nesting box so that the hen cannot enter. She will be quite happy in the cage with the male, but do not keep the chicks away from the mother for too long.
Gently scoop the chicks out of the nest box and place them in a bowl lined with a soft towel. You can then check each chick individually and get them used to being handled.
At around 20 days old, the chicks will start to move out of the nest. At this point, provide them with extra food to encourage weaning and a shallow bowl at the bottom of the cage for foraging. With so many small additions to the cage, it is best to insert another water bottle. Now that the chicks are out and about, handle them as a regularly as they can, and teach them to perch on shoulders and fingers!
When the chicks are six weeks old, they will need to be moved to another cage. They will be fully feathered at this age and ready to learn to fly. Moving them to a large cage will allow them to harness this skill. Having a cage with different heights of perch will help the chicks gain strength and become experts in the air. At this point you can either let the chicks go to new forever homes, or move them into a large aviary with all the older birds; some of which may be relatives.