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Breeding African Grey Parrots
 

The following Breeding African grey Parrots article is a personal view on what can be a very controversial topic with many different and varied opinions on each of the aspects involved.
Obviously we use and recommend our own products.


STOCK SELECTION
I am going to assume that breeding your African Greys is a hobby which hopefully pays for itself from the sale of young birds and to get young birds you need good adults. Before we start let me reiterate once more this is my own personal opinion and many other people will have their own views, talk to as many as you can then make up your own mind from the data available. What follows is what we do, it works, if it’s not broken why fix it?
Ideally and if you are very lucky someone will offer you a proven adult pair who you can see with the chicks from the last clutch they raised. Two points the chances of being offered proven pairs is like having a necklace made from hens teeth, it just doesn’t genuinely happen very often and when I say “Adult” as the vast majority of breeding birds have been wild caught and imported it is almost impossible to say with any certainty how old a bird is just that its eyes have gone from baby black to adult yellow. If you think about it most baby African Grey Parrots are bred for hand rearing as pets so true British bred aviary birds are not common. Most likely you will acquire a surgically sexed pair of African Greys from a reputable dealer.

All you can guarantee at this point is that you have one cock bird and one hen bird. If you are unsure about the sexes of your birds then DNA sexing is now cheap and accurate.
Breeding African Grey Parrots
So now you have your two birds, one male and one female, chances are that is about all you can say about them. Being intelligent, parrots have a social structure which includes relationships. The term for a pair of birds who have fallen for each other is “Bonded” Look for birds who sit next to each other engaging in mutual preening and even feeding one another. Once your pair of Greys reaches this point you are halfway there. Now a warning “Bonded” is a word used far too often by people selling pairs of birds just to encourage a sale. Always rely on your own observations not on what you are told! It can take African Greys years to bond and if they don’t like the mate you have chosen for them they will not breed.
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HOUSING
Well hopefully you have picked out a good pair of potential parent but where to house them. Obviously you should sort this out before purchasing your stock, but people do the funniest things.
A couple of things to consider when constructing your flight. Number One African Greys chew, then they chew a bit more and then they finish off with a good chew. Yep they are destructive little buggers. If you are going to use wooden framed panels then it needs to be internally wired, metal frames are better. Also the grade of wire needs to be strong enough to resist repeated worrying from the birds. They may not be able to bit straight through a piece of wire but bend it back and forwards far a while and it will break.
The amount of space you allocate to each pair is upto you. Many commercial farms use three foot square suspended wire cages with the nest box attached to the outside, other people will make a flight as big as possible. Personally our greys are housed in cages six feet long, four feet wide and four feet high. These are elevated from the floor by 24 inch high legs. This gives (and remember it is only our opinion) room for perches, ropes and enough length for some exercise. Again many will disagree but it is a personal choice and these make a nice compromise between two extremes. Each flight is equipped with a three pot swing feeder which reduced disturbance and the chance of escape. The nest box is fitted to the end in it own little safety porch and is made from inch thick ply. Any joins in the wood are covered by metal plates to prevent the destruction of boxes in less than a season. The roof of the safety area and half of the flight have a roof.

Right, birds chosen and housed so its time for some chicks right? Well not quite so fast. It can still take upto five years before your birds lay their first clutch, two or three more years after that to get the hang of parenthood so patience is definitely a virtue. However there are a few things you can do to speed thing on their way which we will look at shortly.

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FEEDING
When it comes to your birds the quality of what goes in relates directly to results you get out. There is a saying with computers; rubbish in rubbish out. Exactly the same is true for your birds. A poor diet deficient in essential vitamins and minerals will result in small clutches of weak chicks if you get any eggs at all. Birds fed on a high quality diet will normally repay you with larger clutches of strong healthy chicks. One of our pairs has just hatched four chicks from four eggs in the middle of winter. Mother and babies doing fine. Check the books on African Greys most will give clutch sizes of between one and three eggs. Time for a simple bit of maths. One extra African Grey chick which has been hand reared will sell for approximately £500. You need to buy a Pair of African Greys a lot of extra food to use up £500 and don’t worry if she wasn’t fit enough to lay that extra egg it wouldn’t be there. Time for another warning! If you take the chicks away very early or even incubate the eggs the natural response is for the birds to lay again. This sort of forced breeding will not only reduce the number of years a bird will lay for but puts serious strain on the hen who will start to suffer from stress and calcium deficiencies. Given time it will even kill her. For this reason we never let a pair lay more than two clutches in a year and every third clutch at least one chick usually two are left with the parents. This allows a break in the breeding pattern and resets the adults parental clock. As an added bonus it creates English Bred breeding stock something which is much needed if we are ever to stop the import of wild caught birds.
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THE BREEDING SEASON
African Grey’s do not have a specific breeding season; they can and will lay at any time of year.It is possible to manipulate them to lay when the weather is
Breeding African Grey Parrots
more favourable for the survival of chicks and less strenuous for the parents i.e. when it is mild and dry in the late spring and early summer.
So how do we achieve this. Most birds have a breeding season which is directly linked to food availability for the young birds. In the wild African Greys have their food source available all the year round due to the climate in the natural habitat, hence no breeding season. If however there is not sufficient food they will not waste their time on egg laying just to see the chicks die and unduly exhaust the hen bird. We therefore need to stimulate a seasonal response from the birds by manipulating the way you feed.
But what to feed?
Obviously we use our own products and out initial range consisted of those products we have tried and tested. We feed a combination of different food items.
Premium Parrot “Ideal” or “Banquet” is the seed of mix of choice. Either is suitable but our breeding pair get a mixture of both.
Fruit and vegetables are offered daily (see fruit and vegetables article) onto which Psittamix Vitamin and Mineral Powder has been sprinkled.
Eggfood containing berries and freshwater shrimp
And our exclusive magic ingredient Parrot Palm Fruit Extract
Let’s create that season shall we?
November, December, January and February are generally cold wet months when raising chicks can be hard work. During these months we feed seed and fruit on a daily basis. Eggfood with Parrot Palm Fruit Extract mixed into it twice each week. This mixture provides the birds with a good all round intake which allows them to recover from breeding and to survive our inhospitable winter.
Once into March increase the Eggfood to daily and increase the amount of Parrot Palm Fruit Extract to double the recommended rate. The Parrot Palm Fruit Extract is the key here. As it made from West African Palm Nuts which are one of the African Greys main food sources fooling them into thinking a bumper crop is on the way will stimulate them into egg laying.
Everything should be replaced with fresh on a daily basis; you will soon be able to gauge how much your birds are eating by what has been left at the end of each day.
This routine should (stress should) see eggs at the end of April.
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ON EGGS
Its now late spring and hopefully you have 3 large white eggs in the nest box. African Greys take about a month to hatch so leave them alone. If you keep looking in the box all you will succeed in doing is driving the hen out, the eggs go cold and the unborn chicks die. Feed them and leave them. Only experienced keepers who have the correct equipment should attempt to hand rear from the egg and it is preferable on many counts to leave them with mum for the best part of three weeks before hand rearing anyway.
Your best course of action however had is to forget about the next box for about seven weeks after the first egg has been laid. When you do go to check there should be eighteen to twenty day old young in there which are strong enough to be brought in for hand rearing. By leaving the chicks with the parents this long achieves two main things, it passes on all the important gut bacteria and sorts out any weak chicks in the clutch. It may sound cruel but you reduce the viability of a species by rearing every potential runt from every clutch.
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HAND REARING
Another very important piece of equipment is needed now, the brooder. Brinsea make some excellent examples and you can find second-hand ones for sale but get them
Breeding African Grey Parrots
calibrated and serviced before using them.They are designed to hold a steady temperature for extended periods of time and your chicks are very much in the quality of the incubators hands. The temperature depends on several thing, hold old the chicks are, the weather, where the nest box is sited, number of siblings etc etc. It needs to be warm enough for a chick to digest it food and not seem lethargic but cool enough to stop them thrashing around if too hot. A bird well covered in down will require a temperature of around 29 deg F or 85 deg C. But again this is a starting point close observation is required to fine tune your settings.

Our baby African Greys are fed using the bent spoon method, this can be messy until you get the hang of it but we believe a better bond is formed between human and bird by trying to imitate the chicks mother.
The formula used is Nutribird A21 mixed to the manufactures recommendations. We then add a small quantity of Parrot Palm Fruit Extract and have found highly satisfactory growth rates using this combination.
As the chicks develop they are first introduced to Premium Parrot “Ultima” a soft mixture of peas, beans, mountain ash berries and fresh water shrimp. It has proven to be a perfect transitional food before being introduced to seed. All of our chicks leave us with at least a month’s supply of “Ultima”, a jar of Parrot Palm Fruit Extract, a bag of “Ideal” seed together with the recommendation to keep using all of them.
It is impossible to dictate how the new owner will look after their bird, by giving them the best start in life you are doing all that a breeder possibly can.

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Note: The above article is a personal view, Junglegold Limited can take no responsibility for any repercussions you may encounter if following the information within said article.
Copyright © 2004 Junglegold Limited 

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Thankyou to Mike at Junglegold Limited for his kind Permission to allow me to Reproduce the above Article.
Breeding African Grey Parrots

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