The breeding season normally starts towards the end of March. By this time I ensure the birds have at least 14 hours of light (the light is extended by about 20 minutes per week from the beginning of January) with a minimum temperature of 10C (50F).
I use a double breeding cage per pair with the cock and hen initially separated with a slide in the middle of the cage. I like to have the pairs next to each other for at least a month before pairing together to finally assess that the pairing is correct. Once I am happy I pull the slide away from the back of the cage by about 1 cm so that the birds can see each other. I also put a little nesting material in the bars of the cage of the hen bird and watch her reaction. If she starts carrying it in the back of her beak she is heading towards being in breeding condition. The cock bird at this point should be singing strongly. Providing the birds are in breeding condition by about the last week in March I will put in the nest box in the cage. If they do not look to be in the correct condition I wait until the signs are there to be seen.
The nest boxes I use are wooden in construction. I used to used the round clay type but found that the hens would generally strip out the nest felts and start building on the floor behind the front rail of the cage.
I concluded that this was because they were looking for some privacy so I tried the wooden type and have never looked back. It is very rare for one of my birds to refuse to build in this style of box.
As you can see from the pictures above I form the basis of the nest with various material that can be bought from specialist birdroom suppliers. The general shape can be made using a light bulb as a moulding tool. The nest box is then hung using a picture hook onto the cage front as shown above. You can see the level of privacy that will be gained by the hen sitting on the nest.
Removal and 'setting' of eggs
Once the hen has built her nest and the cock bird introduced she should lay the first egg within about 7 to 10 days. I remove the egg and place it in my egg drawer as can be seen below. It is put in the section corresponding to the pair number. A dummy egg is placed in the nest box. This is done for each egg. On the 4th day at about 6 pm in the evening, the eggs are returned to the nest along with a dusting of an anti mite powder. The card on the cage is marked up to show the day the eggs were set and also the expected hatching day of 14 days later.
Checking eggs for fertility
At about 6 days you should be able to tell if the eggs are fertile. I do this by holding the egg between my thumb and forefinger and hold up to a strong light. If the egg is fertile the appearance of the egg should be very dark. If it is infertile you will be able to see the yolk outline.
The development of the chicks after hatching
Nest of 3 chicks at about 6 days old
Chicks at 21 days old (mum's the one on the right), soon to be moved onto their own. At this point they are "rung" with a split aluminium ring of the current year colour. Ring colours are as follows:-
RING SIZE IS E
Chicks will leave the nest at about 18 days old and start to pick at the food. When they are about 21 days old they may be ready to be moved from their parents. This should only be done if they are eating and beginning to look independent. Normally by about 24 days they are ready to be moved.
The youngsters are kept as a family and put in a single cage with perches set as low as possible. I always put seed on the cage even though I know they will not be eating it until they are about 5 weeks old. I do this as putting it on later becomes a point of curiosity and may cause them to eat before they are ready. The youngsters are given fed on the soft food mix plus soak seed as their main diet until about 6/7 weeks old. Once they are seen to be eating hard seed the soft food and soak seed is reduced until they will be just having a small amount of soft food each day through the moult which starts at about 10/12 weeks old.
(c) Jeff Hamlett 2005 -
Last modified: October 18, 2020