Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brand New Out of the Egg

Cherry's no longer young, and she still hatched this little fellow only moments ago. I noticed her out of the nest being fed by her mate and thought I'd check. I really didn't expect to find a baby, but voila! Good for her!  Baby is still wet with a piece of his broken shell near by.

Although she's had eggs that didn't hatch in the past, she always successfully raises every one of her hatchlings, so I expect this one to be fine. This baby is only minutes old.  As an experienced mother, she's not bothered by my meddling.  ;-)  This is the sixth baby from four clutches at present, so I'm excited. Two other mothers have two babies each, and won't be hatching other eggs in their current clutches. Cherry and Candy, however, have a baby each with the potential for other eggs to hatch.

Current Two Clutches

Hand feeding the older two babies.  Banded the two smaller ones yesterday at 8 & 10 days of age. Notice the soft fuzz that covers baby Bourkes. You won't see this on Budgerigar parakeets, bald when they hatch. Bourkes are cuter... 
Notice the fat tummy on these guys ... they've just been fed. Their crops even show up at the tops of their shoulders.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hand Feeding Answers…

I’ve been asked if I have a way of knowing the appropriate weight of baby parakeets as they grow (specifically Splendids). Honestly, I’ve never weighed my babies. We could, and have a postal scale to use for items sold on eBay. (We’re 45egl, but nothing’s offered at present).

Food and warmth are what baby birds need. A soft voice is helpful too. While small, I feed ours every 3 hours and let them eat as much as they can. Parents stuff the babies so full that they look like they'll pop, so I don't think we can over feed them. After leaving their parents, the first 2-3 feedings should be very thin to encourage things to move through. The material I've read says to let their crops empty before filling to avoid sour crop. However, I've never had a problem feeding them when they still have some food left in their crops. As long as it's soft, they're fine. You don't want them to weaken from not eating enough. If the crop feels hard, massage it gently to see if you can get the food to move around and eventually on through … always be careful and gentle. No pushing!

After the first week of age, I try to feed our babies at least four times a day, or 5 times in 24 hours ... more often when newly hatched…maybe at 2-3 hr intervals. By about 3 weeks, they can wait to be fed every 4-6 hrs between feedings. I've been getting up at 2am to feed my current two ... I think they could go all night now, but they're still small and I want them to do well. When they finish feeding, their crops are wider than they are and look like little balloons.

I use Exact hand feeding formula. It gets hard when it dries, so I try to dab as much of it off the birds as possible after each feeding. I use a warm damp tissue. It's easier to remove it while it’s wet than after it has dried. I most recently purchased Exact at

I always boil the water before mixing it with the Exact. The package gives recommendations for the amount of powder & water based on the bird's age. As the mixture cools I keep checking it against my wrist. The Exact package gives preferred temperatures, but a drop on the wrist works fine...just like with a baby's bottle. When the small dish I've mixed it in begins to cool down, I place it into a larger dish of the previously boiled water to warm it back up. Works fine.

Our hand fed babies are kept in a small cardboard box. It’s secured to the tabletop with duct tape with a small space heater on the floor below. There's a thermometer nearby, and the temp in their part of the room is usually around 78 degrees. One side of the box extends over the edge of the table allowing the heater to warm the bottom. I spread a layer of pine shavings inside the box and cover it with a clean paper towel. I replace the towel each time I feed them. After feeding, I always return the babies to the warm corner. Later I sometimes find them elsewhere in the box. They’re old enough to move about now and this is how they regulate the temperature to stay within their comfort zone.

We had a 4-hour power outage due to a windstorm last Sunday, so I put a wool sock over the babies to help keep them warm. Luckily, the house never got very cold.

Other people keep baby birds in glass aquariums with a heating pad over it and draped down one side of the outside of the aquarium. A thermometer is kept inside to monitor the temp. Pine shavings or newspaper in the bottom helps keep it clean and dry.

If you keep baby birds warm (ideally in a box where one corner is warmer so they can move to, or away from, the heat), and make sure they are well fed, they should do fine.

Once the babies feather, they still need to be fed. Typically, parents feed them for two weeks or more after they leave the nest. When they are fully feathered, I fear they may fly into a window or something, so I move them to a cage, but continue to feed them every 4-6 hours until I’m sure they’re eating on their own.
Several food sources are introduced at this time: nesting food, if you have it, assorted parakeet seed and especially spray millet – the easiest thing for a baby to learn to eat. My fully-feathered babies also sample whatever I have available that’s safe for them: bread, peas, corn, spinach, celery tops, carrots, fresh fruit (NEVER AVOCADO!). However, seed is always present. So is fresh water, replaced daily, if not more often.

Even when they begin to scratch around and appear to eat, I offer them Exact formula. Most eventually refuse soft food in preference for seed. Occasionally, you’ll get one who likes to be babied and wants to continue to be fed. Then you’ll have to decide when enough is enough… smile.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hand Fed Baby Bourke Parakeets

The tiny Bourke in the photo with two eggs hatched the day the photo was taken, Jan. 18, 2010.  His head is facing downward so that only his neck and back show.

The two larger babies are about two weeks old. They grow fast! Their sister from an earlier clutch is very interested.  She likes to share their food, although she's been able to eat on her own for weeks.
The egg photos below show the potential for differing sizes of parakeet eggs. They are round or oval with no problem. However, I've never seen a very small egg hatch. The eggs in these photos are left from clutches that didn't hatch. Most often simply infertile.

I recently opened a dead egg to see why it didn't hatch. In the past the hen has produced three healthy clutches with 8 healthy youngsters. This egg was in a clutch of three eggs, two hatched healthy babies. This egg had actually been piping, but had quit and several days later I opened it to investigate.

Instead of a normal chick, this one had a normal-sized head and body, but no limbs. The body had no wings or legs. Although it developed for the normal length of time, it couldn't open the shell. Nature prevented this deformed baby from exiting its shell.  Fortunately, it's the only one I've ever seen like this. I don't open every unhatched egg, but was curious about this one.

Bourke & Splendid eggs can vary in size. Some are round, others oval. Although white, slight color variations may also exist. For countless reasons, more eggs don't hatch than actually do.  The two tiny ones on the right in this photo weren't likely to hatch under any circumstances.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More on Incubation – What We Did Wrong

I researched incubation of eggs and decided that, although the maintenance temperature for our Bourke parakeet eggs was okay, when they started piping they required more humidity than what was provided. This is likely why they were unable to hatch. I wish I’d acquired this information sooner. However, in the future if fertile eggs are laid on the bottom of a cage, or abandoned, this knowledge will be put to good use!

The average incubation period for parakeet eggs is 19 days from the day the egg is laid. However, 18-21 days is also common. Temperature is very important during incubation. Temperature can vary between the top and bottom of an egg, so turning them about five times every 24 hours is necessary. Overnight can be eliminated, but be sure to turn them late and early again the next morning. Never leave them with the small end up. Eggs should either be placed large end up or on their side. Turn eggs on a 90-degree plane as gently as possible. If they are not turned regularly, chicks may stick to the inside of their shells. Turning should continue until one or two days prior to hatching or until the eggs are piping.

For the eggs’ first week, the temperature should be 101 Degrees Fahrenheit, then 102 Degrees F for the second week, and 103 Degrees F until hatching. If you’re fortunate enough to have a large commercial forced-air incubator where turning is not required, the temperature can be kept at 99-100o F. However, most of us do not have access to that state-of-the-art equipment.

Eggs lose water while being incubated, so humidity is key. For optimum growth, a relative humidity of 60 percent should be maintained until eggs begin to pip. Then relative humidity should be raised to 70 percent. A pan of water is imperative; however, it may not be enough. In such instances, suspending a piece of cloth from the water will provide wick action.

To gauge relative humidity, wrap a wet cotton cloth around the bulb of a thermometer and suspend it in the hatching chamber. With evaporation, the “wet” bulb thermometer will have a temperature lower than that of a dry bulb thermometer in the same chamber.

Ventilation is important too. The older the egg, or the larger number of eggs present, the more oxygen will be used by the developing embryos. Also, more carbon dioxide is released. Ventilation capability must be incorporated in the incubator area.

Testing for fertile, viable eggs: When a hen suddenly died, I removed the eggs from her nest box, expecting the embryos to be dead too. However, I gently put them in a bowl of warm water. One sank and the others floated. I assumed the floaters were no good and discarded them. The one that sank went under another hen and ultimately hatched.

Newly laid eggs will display red veins if they’re fertile. These should appear very soon, but I’d give the eggs a few days before discarding any. If, after a few days, you shine a flashlight through the shell and all you see is clear liquid and a yellow yolk, the eggs weren’t fertilized. I tend to let my hens sit on them anyway, until the hen decides to abandon them, but that’s a personal choice. Maybe they’d go back and lay good eggs sooner if the infertile eggs were removed.

Incubating eggs may seem complicated, but consider the fact that the Chinese developed artificial incubation as early as 246 B.C. And, in the year 400 B.C. Aristotle wrote about Egyptians placing eggs in dung heaps and successfully incubating them. Personally, I’d rather use a light bulb and thermometers.

Happy incubating and good luck!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Informative BOURKE BOOK

          This book was published in the UK in 1997. My husband found this copy for me in 2006 on It’s not a large book and I’ve discovered a few instances in which I disagree, but for the most part it’s been very interesting and informative. If you want to search for a copy of your own, the ISBN number is 18527906l-x …
Good hunting.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Four in a Row

Our Fabulous Four are being split up today. Three are being sold. One stays. I can’t part with all of them. The three who are leaving will be missed.

Each has a distinct personality all their own. Number one is outgoing and adventurous, as well as sweet and loving, and I think he’s the prettiest of the bunch. Number two is timid and stand-offish, although she likes being catered to. There is no number three because the band was lost, so number four is next. She’s a lighter pink than the others and the first to jump on my hand at every chance she gets. She’s the one who’s staying. Number five is the most determined of the bunch. The youngest, he’s always been the bravest. He’s very assertive, and the most vociferous at asking to be fed or let out, he’s also always the first out of the cage. It’s tempting to keep him too … but I have to limit myself.

Maybe there will be an unrelated baby that I’ll hand feed in the future and keep to put with number four. Can’t keep calling her with a number, besides she was actually number 3 in the clutch…but, her band says #4. Since we sold Fuchsia from the last clutch, maybe I’ll use that name for number four. From now on this baby will be Fuchsia (a plant with pink or rose-colored flowers).