Saturday, February 27, 2010

Defeating Moths

Moth eggs and larvae seem to always be in parakeet seed, probably in other forms of bird seed too. When introduced into your house they can be real pests, and some even damage wool clothing. 

This morning I opened a bag of crushed oyster shell and was surprised to find a live moth in it! How it got there is anybody's guess. Probably transferred from bird seed to the oyster shell and then locked in the bag. That got me thinking that maybe I should share my experience about moths with you.

This green moth (a luna moth?) is not the same kind you find in seed. It  was on the side of our barn and pretty. Moths that infest seed are small and brownish.

In order to rid our home of them I used to put a light dusting of an insecticide powder in the bottom tray of my bird cages. The tray is under a wire floor, so there's no way they can reach the powder and there's newspaper over it too. This helped. We also bought moth traps and caught a few that way, but never all.

Then we found a better way!

We have a large upright freezer in the basement and every bag of bird seed, millet or any other bird product is put in the freezer for at least 24 hours (preferably 48 hours). This insures that all insects, their eggs, larvae or pupae are killed. It works wonderfully! I then bring the bags back into the house and let them return to room temperature (so the moisture is expelled) before transferring the seed into the plastic, lidded containers used to store the seed until I dish it out for the birds.

We no longer see moths anywhere in our home. Smile. I hope you can find room in your freezer for your bird seed.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Brand New Eggs Can Wait ...

This is Rivka, a Scarlet-chested parakeet hen, better known as a Splendid parakeet. Rivka has laid her first egg in this clutch. She doesn't seem very protective of it, does she? When I opened the box, she didn't cover and protect the egg. Why not?

The truth is, all parakeet eggs can wait a few days before being incubated and still be viable. Many hens will immediately start to incubate and just as many will wait until they've laid all their eggs.

Don't worry if your hen leaves the nest and appears to abandon an egg, or her eggs, overnight. Once they're all there, she will return and begin to protect and incubate them. It's common for hens to wait. For this reason, if you've seen a pair successfully mating, but she lays her egg on the bottom of the cage, (can happen with a 1st time young pair) even if it's been there for a couple of days and is cold, it will still be good if not damaged or infertile. You can foster it under another hen, or attempt to incubate it yourself. See section in my Archive about incubation. 

When a hen waits to incubate her earliest eggs, this may cause them to hatch closer together since the chicks don't start to grow until the eggs are warm and cared for. Typically, Splendid eggs hatch one each day, whereas Bourke eggs hatch every other day (both at 18 to 21 days...timing can vary with room or day warmth). They also lay the same way: one a day for Splendids and one every other day for Bourkes. Of course, this is the norm ... variations aren't unusual.

If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact me at:

Have a wonderful February ... all our trees are in bloom and it's gorgeous on the south coast of Oregon.

Love & Blessings.

Choosing Names

I talked a bit about naming birds in the past, and thought I'd elaborate. I want to remember the parentage of birds kept as breeders. We keep written records online, however, their names are a quick reference. Thus, I choose names that help me remember lineages. As the flock grows, it's easier for me to keep track of them than for my husband who is less involved, so a small 3" x 5" file card with their names goes into the skirt at the bottom of each cage. Skirts help catch extra seed that's thrown out.  

Here are some of the names we've used for Bourkes and Splendids. See if you recognize why.

Rhett & Scarlett = Bonnie (remember Gone With The Wind?)
     Bonnie & Clyde (infamous American outlaws)

*Rhett & Cherry = Rory (also Rhett Jr.)

*Bing & Stella = Bella  (also Bing Jr.)
     Bella & Rory 
    Willow & Bing Jr.

Rainbow & Jewel = Rainy, Gem (also Rainbow Jr.)
     Rainbow Jr. & Rivka
     Misty & Rainy
     Gem & Rudy

Sugar & Spice = Candy
     Candy & Chitter

Dolly & Dolph

Merlin & Millet = Meryl
     Meryl & Madelyn

I acquired two male birds from a gentleman named Rudolfo. One of them became Rudy and the other we named Dolph. I'll always remember where they came from and that they weren't birds I bred myself.

If your mind doesn't work like mine, perhaps this won't work for you. However, if you see the connections, come up with combinations of your own and share them with the rest of us (email: I can always use other clever name relationships. I'm reluctant to use long names like Samson & Delilah, Napoleon & Josephine, or Guinevere and Lancelot ... although Lance & Gwen works!

This is Rhett, my oldest bird, and his mate, Cherry. He is facing us, she is turned away. The babies above are their current three, not yet out of the nest, but close to it.

* Originally Bing & Cherry were a pair. Bing was a beautiful singer like Bing Crosby, and since there are Bing Cherries, his wife became Cherry. However, they didn't produce and when other hens became available I put one with him and named her Stella (another variety of cherry tree).  Then, Rhett's mate died young and Rhett married Cherry. Together they've produced many baby birds, as did Bing & Stella. Rhett is my very first bird and still a healthy dad with 3 babies in the box right now (shown above).  

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Parakeet Health Risk

If you keep other birds along with your grass parakeets, there’s something you should know. I learned about it the hard way when we lost our best breeding pair. Parakeets are highly susceptible to a disease called Canker and it can be carried by other birds that have no symptoms.

This protozoan infection (a single celled organism) is prevalent in cockatiels, love birds, and especially pigeons and doves. It may not harm them unless they are old, sick or weak. It is more likely to be harmful to parakeets, especially when stressed through breeding or other infections or bacteria. Under those conditions, it’s very easy to lose parakeets to this disease.

We saved the rest of our Bourke flock with a medication called Ronivet-S. It’s available over the internet and must be in their water for 7 days. If your parakeets are exposed to any of the larger birds, it might be wise to treat them all (large and small) with this medication. Also, always wash your hands before handling your birds or their food. If you’ve been outside, maybe picking fruit, cutting flowers or shrubs, working in the garden, or just holding a handrail that may have wild bird droppings on it … you could be bringing this protozoan into your house.

The first symptom I saw in our birds was a lot of stretching the neck and swallowing. I read that these parasites lodge in the throat. Eventually I noticed “goo” coming from the male’s beak. This wasn’t the same as the mixture of “milk” he fed the hen to give to their offspring. It was more like he’d thrown it up and couldn’t get rid of it. It stayed around his beak. He couldn’t eat and died a day later. The hen showed signs shortly thereafter and quickly died as well. If we’d known what it was, we might have saved them. Research and an autopsy told us, and the rest of the flock were quickly medicated. The stretched neck swallowing subsided in those birds that had been doing it.

Any new bird is quarantined, and before joining our others, is subjected to a week of water with Ronivet-S. It’s the only water given that week, or birds may not drink it. I also replace it every day with a fresh batch. I pre-mix it according to directions and store it in the refrigerator for the week.

May your birds remain ever healthy… (By the way, the birds in these photos are a pink Bourke and a Rosy Bourke).

Bourke & Splendid Relationships

The following question came from a gentleman in Delaware:

"I was wondering if you could post some thoughts on your BLOG about Bourkes and Splendids getting along together. One friend of mine warned me that Bourkes could be mean to Splendids ... but other people have told me they get along fine, even caged together. I have no problem keeping mine is separate cages but I was hoping they would be friends when out of their cages. I also heard that, though related, Bourkes and Splendids will not try to interbreed – hopefully that’s true because I wouldn’t want to cross them."

Male parakeets of any variety can be aggressive with one another if confined together. They may want to chase competitors away from their breeding area, even if there's no hen present, and certainly if there is. Housing hens together, however, shouldn't be a problem, nor should housing a male with a hen or hens. Bourkes and Splendids are very compatible and I often keep them together. During breeding season, however, my birds are separated as pairs in a cage of their own.

The only drawback for housing Splendids and Bourkes together is that Splendids love to destroy their drinking water. Bourkes are a lot less likely to do this, but if they share a cage with Splendids, they may be forced to drink yucky water. All my Bourkes get fresh water every morning. However, cages with Splendids in them get their water changed even more often. As a Splendid owner, you'll see why.

Years ago I had a budgerigar hen destroy the nest of another hen, killing her babies. They were in an outside aviary with extra nest boxes, but she wanted that specific one. That budgie hen didn't remain with the flock once I discovered who'd done the dastardly deed. I can't imagine a Bourke doing anything like that. I've even had normal Bourke hens share a box together with no problem. In that instance their eggs weren't fertile, so there weren't babies to share. Don't know how that might have turned out, but I suspect the two would both have fed them.  

Bourkes are very gentle birds and easy keepers. At times I’ve had more hens than males and could house hens together without a problem. The same thing when I’ve had extra males and not enough hens for them. As long as a hen wasn’t present to argue over, the males got along fine in the same cage.

Splendids have interbred with other neophema grass parakeets. Everything I’ve read about Bourkes says that they won’t interbreed with any other species. Yet, at one time I had a widowed Splendid male that I put in a cage of extra Bourke hens so that he wouldn’t be alone. One normal Bourke hen, Willow, was very eager to breed and invited him to mount her.

Now, this particular male Splendid, Merlin, had been an abusive husband to his sweet little mate. He had a habit of pulling out her feathers when breeding, leaving her back bare. (No others have done this to their mates, not his sons or his grandsons).

Merlin decided to accommodate Willow, put a foot up on her back, and plucked out a feather. She screeched and moved away, turning back to look at him. An accident? She decided it must be, and invited him back. He moved to her, put one foot on her back, leaned forward and yanked out a feather. She screeched again, turned and leaped at him, chasing him all over the cage as he cried in fear. (Bourkes are slightly larger than Splendids). Willow went into a nest box and laid infertile eggs, but every time she came out to eat, Merlin dashed into a corner and cried. She ignored him ever after.

Eventually Willow got a young male Bourke as a mate and has raised countless, healthy baby Bourkes. This last summer she decided to “retire” and isn’t laying any longer, although she still enjoys allowing her mate to feed her.

This is a very young pair of Bourkes ... a rosy and a pink Bourke. They are from the same clutch.

There's more on breeding Bourkes in my Blog from October, 2009.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Photos Compliments of Others

This baby Splendid was rescued and is being hand fed by Debbie in San Diego. Not all new parent birds realize they must feed their young. My first clutch of three Splendids went unfed and died before I knew what to do about it. Fortunately for this little guy, Debbie did know what to do and he's progressing well.

With my birds, the second clutch with the same parents did fine. They hatched three of their four eggs and raised all three. This pink cage is another example of a nice travel (or transition) cage.

The photo below is of a "Rainbow" Bourke parakeet, another color mutation. This bird was bred in Australia. Visit "Visual Wings" on the internet to see more attractive grass parakeet photos.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Now There Are Three

       My last post shows a single baby in the photo. She now has two siblings. These photos taken today, February 1, 2010, show three baby Bourke parakeets with one egg remaining. Hope it hatches too! Currently I have many babies in nests, and have already raised quite a few in the last couple of months. It would seem that Fall is a better time of year to let them raise young than Spring or Summer. At least that's proven true this past year.

       However, Splendid eggs have all been infertile for quite a while now. I'm considering switching their mates to see if that will work better.

       In previous years I always removed the nest boxes to give the hens a rest. This year, however, they didn't do much all Spring and Summer so I left the boxes up. The Bourkes have been bountiful.  Smile.