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Copyright © Linda S. Rubin | CockatielsPlusParrots.com
Breeding Articles
EGGLAYING BEHAVIORS & PROBLEMS
Part 1: Aggession & Broodiness

©2003 Linda S. Rubin
CF Genetics Consultant  
& Panel Judge
©2000 All Photos and Articles “All Rights Reserved” by Author.
Written permission from author required for reprints.

First published in the August 2000 issue of BIRD TIMES magazine
With the arrival of warm weather you may have noticed your companion male cockatiel has become downright aggressive
towards you, even to the point of biting. Or, in similar mode, your usually sweet cockatiel hen has become quite moody and
developed into quite a grouch! Don’t take it personally, it’s to be expected, especially if your cockatiel has just celebrated its
first birthday and become sexually mature. For good or ill, these are nature’s hormones coming into play and the rightful
passage of your cockatiel coming into full sexuality. In other words, your cockatiel is simply looking for a mate because it is
driven by nature to reproduce.


Although cockatiels are non-seasonal breeders (which means their breeding schedule does not have to coincide with a
particular time of year as with most other parrots), cockatiels are influenced by weather, specifically by the amount of heat,
humidity and light they are exposed to.


In their native Australia, cockatiels live in the arid interior in desert conditions and they reproduce during the rainy season
when the increased rain showers provide an abundance of seedpods in the milky stage, which they use as food to feed their
young. The increased humidity and rain also allow the parents to bathe frequently, providing additional moisture when the
parents return to incubate their eggs. The length of daylight hours, or photolight period, also provides enough time for parent
cockatiels to seek out an adequate amount of food so they may digest and regurgitate it back to their young.


What does all this have to do with the moodiness of your pet cockatiel? Your companion is simply responding to the many
factors that would prepare it for raising a family on its own. The primary factor is its age, which can range from eight to
fourteen months, with twelve months as the average age when sexual maturity is achieved.     


Although some birds may mature fast (e.g., in six to eight months), it does not necessarily mean they have the ability or the
maturity to successfully raise a family.  Rather, raising a family at too young an age can endanger the health of birds that
should be allowed to wait until they are old enough to safely reproduce. Most reputable breeders will not set up a pair until
they are a minimum of twelve to eighteen months old.


Next, increased daylight or photolight period, such as the increasing light when spring and summer weather comes into play
can trick our pets into thinking it is the beginning of the breeding season. Additionally, increased temperature, adequate
humidity, an abundance of food, and finally – what the bird thinks is an appropriate nesting site and/or mate – all contribute
to throwing our growing adolescent pets into this early adult phase of their lives.


Male aggression may be more obvious to observe, since males clearly sing and strut about, showing off by opening their
wings at the shoulder, bowing, and singing a warbling, perpetual song for minutes at a time. They’ll serenade shiny objects
at a drop of a hat, from cage wire, mirrors, and other gleaming items, to singing for their owners and other objects they may
be attached to. Much to many owner’s surprise, these delightful sessions may end with an unwelcome hiss or hard, painful
nip to the hand as it seems for no apparent reason, but it is all part of the struggle of raging hormones and frustration.


It appears the tamer a bird is, the less fear it has of its owner and so the more likely the occurrence of a painful bite. It would
be wise to keep the bird away from your face at this time, or young children whose sudden movements might result in a
painful bite. Frustrated males denied the opportunity to reproduce have been known to attempt to copulate with their perch
by rubbing their tails in rhythmic movements while loudly singing and chortling. There is no danger to this activity and
owners should not be alarmed by it.


Hens may appear more grouchy, or focused on looking for an actual nesting site, especially if they are preparing to lay eggs.
They usually begin by shredding paper at the bottom of their cage, arranging a corner so that it is clean of debris, to deposit
eggs laid one at a time on an every other day schedule.


In fact, both hens and males may shred or tunnel under their cage paper. If allowed outside the cage, it is not unusual for a
hen to scout out her own nesting site. These sites (which are appropriate from the hen’s point of view and not necessarily
yours) may range, for example, from an empty area of a bookcase, to an empty shoe, to a corner of an upper shelf. The
author even heard of a hen laying a clutch of eggs under her owner’s bed!


Prior to laying eggs, hens will often lie flat across the perch or sit backed up in a corner of the cage, with their tails raised
high in the air, singing a soft warbling song that sounds like little cries. This song is normally used to signal to males that
they are receptive and ready to mate.


In general, it is more important to watch a hen during the breeding cycle, especially if she lays eggs, because it is imperative
that enough calcium is offered in the diet. The outer shell of each egg is composed of calcium and if the amount of calcium
in the diet is inadequate, the hen will draw the necessary calcium from her own bones putting herself at risk for disease.
Providing fresh cuttlefish bone (with the soft side facing towards the bird), dark green, leafy green vegetables high in
calcium, and other supplements to the diet is essential in order to maintain good health.

Part II will continue with coping with Egg-laying Hens and Their Nutritional Needs.

Disclaimer
Articles on this website are not meant to take the place of proper veterinary and other medical care.
If your bird appears ill or shows symptoms of illness, please contact your avian veterinarian as
quickly as possible. Birds are prey animals and hide their symptoms in order to survive; by the time owners
see symptoms, a bird may have become extremely ill. Owners are advised to seek medical attention
immediately.

To find an avian veterinarian in your area, contact the
Association of Avian Veterinarians  at
 www.aav.org.
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