Genetics, Breeding and its Challenges

Reproductive Dysfunctions / Challenges:

  • Eggs: Failure to Hatch – Causes and Solutions
  • Dead-in-Shell Chicks
  • Egg Laying (Chronic)
  • Egg Binding
  • Egg Eating / Egg Breaking: The eating or breaking of eggs has been more observed in larger (especially wild-caught) parrots. Two of the worst offenders are Amazon parrots and cockatoos. They may jump down on their eggs in an attempt to hide or protect them from their caretakers thus accidentally breaking them.
    • One solution is to artificially incubate the eggs.
    • Some breeders were able to resolve this problem by enlarging the cage or flight where the parrots are housed and / or to change the nest box to a longer, narrower nest box that is darker inside. Often, a boot-shaped box was the solution.
    • Obviously, minimizing disturbances in and around the breeding birds is crucial.
    • Some parrots have gotten into the habit of eating their own eggs, and in most cases, there is little that can be done except remove the eggs and incubate them artificially.
  • Egg Abandonment: Smaller, captive-raised, birds tend to abandon their eggs more often than they would eat or intentionally break them (which may be a problem with larger parrots). The problem is more likely to occur in birds that have been hand-raised and did not have the benefit of being raised by their natural parents.
    • Pairing an inexperienced parent with an experienced breeder will often resolve the issue.
    • Some parents are not good breeders no matter what actions a breeder may take and these birds should be taken out of the breeding program, or their eggs should be pulled and be fostered by better parents or can be artificially incubated.
    • Sometimes even good parents abandon their chicks and eggs. This may be caused by them feeling insecure about their nesting site. There may be too many disturbances for them to feel comfortable raising their chicks. It is important to minimize the handling of, and disturbances in and around, the breeding birds.
  • Egg Yolk Peritonitis
  • Infertility / Infertile or Clear Eggs
  • Mate Aggression
  • Prolapsed Cloaca
  • Soft-shell / Abnormal Eggs:
    • Excessive environmental temperatures
    • A diet deficient in Calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D and trace minerals
    • Chronic oviductal pathology
    • Diagnosis includes dietary and management review. Hematology, blood chemistries and cultures may determine the cause.
    Incubation Temperature
    • The Youngest Chicks Don’t Thrive or Die: Depending on the bird species, hens lay one egg each day or every other day until the clutch is completed (smaller birds lay eggs every day, larger birds every other day). The eggs will, therefore, hatch one or two days apart. The chances for the smallest chicks are diminished, as the larger chicks are stronger and more demanding and will, therefore, receive more food than the younger chicks. This may result in stunted growth and, in some cases, even death.
      James Anagnos, an experienced canary breeder, suggests the following: “[T]he day she lays her first egg take it from her and store in safe place in a cup with some tissue or cotton. [Please refer to this webpage about properly storing eggs BEFORE incubation]. Take all her eggs every day as soon as she has laid them. When she has laid all [or her last] eggs, place them all back in her nest. She will now incubate all the eggs at the same time, so all the eggs hatch at about the same time. This will give all birds an equal chance. They are all the same size and strong.”This will greatly reduce the chance of losing the younger chicks.
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