Saturday, July 9, 2011

Unwanted Breeding

Hi Sandee,

Hopefully you can offer some needed advice. I recently adopted a bonded pair of parrotlets from a rescue here in NC. The two birds (5 &6) have had several different homes over the last 5 years and I knew that I could provide a stable place for them. The day after I got them home I had an egg. That was about 10 days ago. Now I have 5. I don’t want to breed the birds and was told by the rescue to “addle” or “shake” the eggs vigorously to keep them from hatching.

Here is my dilemma: Up until yesterday only the female was exhibiting cage/food aggression, now it’s both of them. When the male is out of the cage he is good for a while then will just bite down hard for no reason. I am not reacting, just putting him down. I don’t take him out of the cage, he comes over to me. I’ve been practicing positive reinforcement but he seems to just like to test the waters. Usually it’s my fingers he goes for. He’ll just walk right over and “chomp!”

Question 1: This nesting/hormonal/aggression should end after the hen has gotten bored of sitting on the eggs, right?
Question 2: I don’t want to separate them, they’ve been together for years and sleep next to each other, preen, chat and get along fine. I don’t want to cause other problems. Help?
Question 3: Is there a good chance that this will only happen once a year? Or, even better, stop?

PS: I don’t have a happy hut, nesting box, cuddle toy, anything like it. The hen decided her food dish was a good spot. No, it wasn’t empty.

Thanks for your input,

Dear Kim:

Thank you for your email. It sounds to me like these birds are acting perfectly normal for two Pacific parrotlets that are a bonded breeding pair. Parrotlets are very territorial and aggressive especially when they are a bonded breeding pair. You have to understand that Nature designed these birds to protect themselves and their offspring from predators. Pacifics come from a very dry, desert-like area and they have to compete for food and nest sites not to mention everything preys on them including other birds. I always say parrotlets have to be tough because they come from region where spiders are bigger than they are. Just because we humans take them into our homes and ‘love’ them like feathered kids doesn’t mean they give up that instinct. They are not domesticated birds like budgies or cockatiels but are still very much wild animals. That is why offspring have to be pulled for handfeeding and imprinted upon. Otherwise they would be just as wild and unhandleable as their untamed cousins in the wild. Even if they are hand-fed and imprinted, unless they are placed in a pet home upon weaning and constantly interacted with by humans they revert to their wild natures. Again, it is how they were designed to help the species survive in very harsh conditions. Even hand-fed socialized pet parrotlets are aggressive and territorial with their cage – that behavior never changes. If these birds were pets, would act this way in defense of their territory.

Parrotlets are either pets or breeders. They are not both. They either imprint and bond with humans or with other parrotlets. These birds are half way finished with their lives and are a bonding breeding pair doing what Nature designed them to do – procreate. While anything can happen, I would be money you will never be able to tame them, never be able to handle them, never make them into pets as we humans define them. They can live perfectly happy lives breeding and producing offspring as God and Nature designed them to do. I never can understand why people think that is such a terrible thing. Had we not interfered with them, that is what they would be doing. I think its appalling a shelter would allow them to keep breeding and then kill the embryos rather than placing these birds in a breeding environment so they can do what they were supposed to do. As for your question about stopping them breeding, short of separating them, that isn’t going to happen until they are physically unable to produce.

Wish I had better news for you but to me, it really is about the birds. They can live the rest of their lives quite happily without any human interaction other than feeding and cleaning going on to produce offspring as Nature intended. The question is can you live with that. If not, I would recommend placing these birds with a breeder who can attend to their needs and make them comfortable until they are no longer able to produce chicks.

Hope this helps and best of luck to you and your birds.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,
Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization
A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase

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