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and Companion Parrots
Copyright © Linda S. Rubin | CockatielsPlusParrots.com
Breeding Articles
©2004 & 2006 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 2004 issue of BIRD TIMES magazine &
September 28, 2006 issue of CAGE & AVIARY BIRDS, UK
The average number of eggs a breeding pair of cockatiels will lay is between four and six eggs per
clutch. Although as few as two eggs or as many as ten eggs can be laid, these extreme numbers do
not often occur.

When an exceptionally large number of eggs are laid in a clutch, it can indicate several possibilities.
For example, if ten eggs are laid closely together it is possible that the “pair” are not actually male and
female, but rather, two females, each laying a clutch of their own eggs together in the same nest box.

Even if the pair are indeed male and female, an exceptionally large number of eggs could represent
two separate clutches, with the second round of eggs laid shortly following the first clutch.  This could
happen if pairs are inexperienced, or if the first round of eggs is infertile.

Eggs take a full 18 days of incubation to hatch once a pair begins to sit the eggs in earnest. On
occasion, a hen may not begin to sit full time until the appearance of the second or third egg. In the
event eggs are not incubated as soon as they are laid, the eggs laid at the beginning of a clutch must
be given several additional days to hatch.

After five days of continuous incubation, eggs may be carefully candled to see if they are fertile.
Professional or homemade candlers can be used, or else an egg can be carefully held up a few inches
away from a light bulb to view. A fertile egg will reveal red veins with a small round center, resembling
the shape of a spider. These are the veins pumping blood to the heart. As the embryo develops, it will
continue to take up most the empty space in the egg as the air space correspondingly grows smaller.

Although some tame cockatiels will tolerate their eggs being handled for candling, it is best not to
disturb pairs too much or they could abandon the eggs. To avoid harming the embryos, handle the
eggs gently as cell division at this time is extremely sensitive. Do not allow the eggs to chill by
keeping them out too long, or the embryos will die. Candle eggs gently, yet avoiding delay so that
eggs will not chill. If a pair becomes nervous, it is best to forego candling the eggs or the pair could
abandon or destroy them.

Both the male and the female share the duties of incubation. Males will normally perch as sentry
outside the box, guarding the nest entrance hole. More devoted males will help to incubate the eggs
sitting next to the female all through the night. The female will only leave the box during the day once
the male relieves her so that she may quickly eat, eliminate her droppings, and bathe, returning
dripping wet to sit upon the eggs. This added moisture from the morning bath allows the hen to
control the humidity within the nest box. Once the chicks are ready to hatch, this regulated moisture
will enable the chicks to turn in the shell and cut their way out with an “egg-tooth,” which will
disappear shortly after hatching takes place.

Chicks hatch with eyes closed and a sparse down covering their bodies. The normal color varieties
will have yellow down; the whiteface mutation and its crosses will hatch with white down feathers.
Color mutations such as lutino, whiteface-lutino (albino), and fallow can all be identified at birth by
their red eyes hidden beneath closed eyelids.

The eyes begin to partly open around ten days of age, which is often the best age for banding because
a cockatiel’s foot is usually still small enough to slip a closed, coded, aluminum leg band on, without
the band slipping off. Chicks from show bloodlines may grow larger and require banding a few days
earlier, while some pet stock may not be ready to band for another week. The best guideline is to go
by the size of the foot and as the eye slits begin to open. Always check newly banded chicks the first few
days to be certain the bands did not fall off and become lost in the nest litter.

Closed banding cockatiels is highly recommended as a form of permanent identification. Closed,
traceable bands that include the breeder’s individual band code and year can be purchased from
societies that make bands available for their members.

Chicks fledge the nest at four to five weeks of age, fully feathered, with shorter tails and crests. After
they fly the box, they may return to the nest for a few more nights and are usually fully weaned by the
parents by eight weeks of age.

Linda S. Rubin has raised and kept cockatiels and parrots for 30 years and is the author of several books (see www.
CockatielsPlusParrots.com). She is the Founding President, Genetics Consultant and a Panel Judge for the Cockatiel
Foundation, Inc., a panel judge for the Society of Parrot Breeders & Exhibitors, and serves as a board member of the American
Federation of Aviculture, Inc.
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