Preparing for the breeding season
The breeding season is the time of the year when birds mate and breed. In the wild, this normally happens in the spring. At that moment the temperature begins to increase and food becomes the most abundant. Under human care, where food scarcity isn’t an issue, of course relying on the conditions you provide, you can have a breeding season at any time of the year, depending on the species. When we talk about breeding season of birds under human care, there’s a lot that needs to be done to make sure that the birds are prepared to start. They are completely dependent on us.
There are no general recipes for this. Mostly because there are so many different species. However a lot of literature for specific species can be found. For some of them you can remove nesting boxes outside the breeding season to discourage breeding during excessively hot or cold weather, but for others the nests should stay all year round to provide hiding places. Anyway, the first thing you have to look at is the nest. If it’s not in the aviary, you have to put it there. Make sure that the nests are clean. All sorts of mold, parasites, fungi and bacteria can live in used nesting material, so it must be discarded. A disinfectant sprayer removes any dirt on the inner surface. I always like to leave the nests in the sun for a few days after being washed at the end of the breeding season. Then I store them in a dry place.
Avoid disturbing the birds when they are courting, building nests, sitting, laying, or feeding their chicks, unless it is absolutely necessary. To disturb your birds as little as possible, you should give your aviary a good clean just before the breeding season begins. That’s the time to replace perches, sweep the floor, replace the substrate, prune plants, spray residual insecticide, etc. Never during the breeding season. Your birds will appreciate having a nice clean aviary to raise their chicks. Of course the nesting material must always be provided and available all the time. Depending on the species, these materials can be sticks, mud, coconut fiber or moss.
One of the most important things is also the nutrition. The nutritional needs of birds increase as the breeding season begins. But again this will be very specific for some species or really simple for others. Anyway, in general you should start offering more fresh food to mimic the increase in food supply that wild birds would experience at the beginning of spring. Some birds are triggered due to an increase in foods with higher levels of protein and fat. For example, some frugivorous will eat meat/insects during the breeding season. You must do the same for birds that are kept under human care. Add some baby mice, mealworms or boiled eggs (my favorites because it is a good supply of nutrients and safer for contaminations). There are also birds which just eat more of the same food! We can look to our Wisbroek feeds as an example. Wisbroek Ibis-Flamingo Floating is a complete feed for the whole year. The flamingos will be triggered by the weather and will be perfectly nourished when the time comes. For parrots it’s a completely different concept. They must be fed perfectly throughout the year too, but the level of protein and fat needs to increase drastically when the breeding season starts. That is why we have developed the Wisbroek Parrot Daily and Wisbroek Parrot Booster. It is necessary to keep in mind that all other nutrients must always be present. So it is not a question of giving better feed during the breeding season. Both feeds need to be perfect, just with different levels of fat and protein to decrease or boost the production of hormones. Always keep in mind that protein and calcium (for the development of eggs) are the main nutritional factors for increased breeding performances. But you can give as much calcium as you want, if they do not have Vitamin D (by the sun or at least added in the water) it will not be metabolized.
Preparing the birds for the breeding season is not only about giving the best things. It is also the way you give it, when you give it and for what you give it. Our team is always available to give advice, as far as our knowledge reaches. In addition, my experience is that it is always the small and most insignificant details that can boost or ruin a breeding season. That is why it is extremely important to always look at what the birds do in the wild. Nature is our best teacher!
Tiago Nabiço – Manager Operations Wisbroek Research & Development Center