Friday, December 31, 2010

Bourkes Laying Too Many Eggs. Why and What to Do.

Someone searching the internet for "my Bourkes are laying too many eggs," reached my site. I haven't addressed this question before, so here goes...

More than one hen in this box.
First, are you sure you have a pair of Bourkes and not two hens? Bourke hens—especially sisters or mothers and daughters—will sometimes share a nestbox, hence many eggs although not all from the same bird. If you have multiple hens present, provide at least one nestbox per hen. Extra's are even better so that they won't argue over the same box.

Are they in an aviary setting with several birds and not everyone has a mate? A hen alone will often lay many eggs if she doesn't have a male with her. She can be so eager to raise babies that she just keeps laying. I've seen Normal Bourke hens (wild color) do this more often than Rosy Bourkes.

If you're certain you have a pair, one male and one female, they may not be compatible and haven't bred. If her first clutch wasn't fertile, she may lay more eggs in an effort to have fertile eggs. The later eggs just might be fertile, so don't remove any of them unless you know for sure when each was laid. This is often not an easy thing to determine as, unlike some other birds, Bourkes go right back to laying. If you're lucky, the hen's first infertile eggs will simply help keep later fertile eggs warm.

I had one Normal Bourke hen who sat on a dozen eggs and four hatched! Having too many didn't mean that the fertile ones were harmed because there were too many. She managed to cover all of them. The first ones she laid were not fertile, then she bred and added to her clutch. I could have candled the eggs and removed those that appeared to have no life, but decided not to bother her.

If your bird is fairly tame, you can pick up eggs and hold them over a flashlight, but wait to be sure you know they are several days old before doing that. After a few days red vessels begin to show in fertile eggs. Myself, I'd rather let the hens decide which eggs are good and which are not. I usually leave them alone until the hens give up on them.
Fluffed out as far as possible to cover all the eggs.
Broken shell indicates an egg has hatched!

Experienced hens can tell the difference between good or bad eggs. Infertile eggs help keep the others warm and should be left there. Even after babies hatch, any remaining eggs add warmth. Eventually, eggs dry out and become very light. At that time, hens usually discard them if you haven’t already. They will push aside eggs that are no good, maybe even toss them out of the nestbox onto the ground.

I usually don't remove extra eggs until all the babies leave the nest. Then the nestbox should be cleaned anyway before it is used again.

If you are unsure about an egg, perhaps you think it's old, but worry about tossing out a good egg; here's a test. Take a cup of warm water (not hot, not cold, but warm to your touch), and gently place the egg in it. Good eggs sink. Old eggs float. Floaters can be thrown away. Gently pat the good egg off and replace it. A little moisture won't hurt it. In fact, hens need a water source for bathing as they may need to take water in their feathers back to the nest to keep the eggs moist.

Be sure to have lots of calcium sources available for your birds. Each pair should have a cuddle bone, mineral block and it's wise to add oyster shell. Some birds will ignore the other two, but use the oyster shell. Fresh greens are excellent too. Our birds love kale. If you have only one bird, it is still wise to offer fresh greens, although more important for breeding birds. On an earlier post, I gave the calcium amounts in various fresh foods.

After a hen has raised two or three clutches, remove the nestbox and let her rest for the remainder of the year before returning it. Or, at the very least, leave a minimum of three or four months between her previous clutches before returning the nestbox. I prefer to limit my birds to three clutches a year as I don't want to over-tax them. Returning nestboxes stimulates them to breed, as does day length — either natural or artificial light for twelve or more hours per day. If you don't want to raise birds and they are still laying even without a nest box, add more hours of darkness. If necessary, cover the cage with a dark cloth for two or three hours a day. You can also remove whatever they are laying eggs in ... a feed cup, for instance.

I've talked mostly about hens, however, the males also work hard at raising the young. They feed the hen while she's on the nest and once the eggs hatch, their work steps up. They must feed her more often. Some males enter the box to help feed the young, but normally they wait until the babies are feathering before doing this. After the babies leave the nest, they still need to be fed and most males take this over almost exclusively. By now, most hens are thin and need to recover. Depending on how many youngsters he has to feed, he's kept very busy. Older males may suffer more than younger ones and should be watched closely.

One of my older pairs were on their third clutch last summer when I decided to pull their two-week old babies and hand feed them. Rhett, my first Bourke was looking slightly "natty" and mom was too thin. These are not young birds, but they still want to produce, so I've let them. Although I took their babies, they weren't upset. Perhaps because they felt they'd done enough, were tired and glad to be empty nesters for a while. Also, they could hear their young when I fed them. The babies were moved to a small cardboard box, and placed near a space heater. Now, I’ve become so attached to these tame sweethearts, that I probably will never sell them. That's a risk when you hand feed!

Have a SAFE and SANE New Year's Eve.
Remember, you don't need alcohol to have a good time.
God Bless and Protect you and yours through 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Taming Bourke Parakeets

Hidden under my hand is a baby Bourke being fed,.
I spoke with a woman recently who wanted a hand fed Bourke so that it would already be tame. The two Bourkes on my arm at the left are equally as tame. Yet, the one closest to my shoulder was hand fed and the one by my elbow was not.

In fact, Pretty Boy, as I've started calling him was several months old before I decided to work to tame him. Generally, the younger they are, the easier to tame any bird. In spite of the fact that he wasn't newly weaned, he tamed down easily for me. There are exceptions, of course, but most Bourkes are gentle and sweet, so also easy to tame.  Success, however, largely depends on the person who is doing the handling.

Pretty Boy was in a cage with other Bourkes and Splendids scheduled to be sold. I looked at his deep rose color one day and decided he'd make a nice mate for one of my favorite young hens. So, he stayed and I started talking to him.

"Sweet" talking to Bourkes encourages them.
Talking softly to any bird frequently throughout the day is important. They are alert little ones and will listen to you. Honest. You can say almost anything, but I think they sense your intent. So, it's wise to tell them how much you care for them and want them to trust you. "Sweet" talk is as important to a bird you want to tame, as it would be to a newborn child. Talk to them as if they are a baby and they'll respond best.
Pretty Boy isn't hand fed, but he's tame.

Chasing a bird around in a cage will do more to frighten it then tame it. If you have a safe room, free of mirrors or uncovered windows, use it. Allow the bird to fly, and walk to it again and again until it's willing to get onto your hand or finger. It will tire. You may have to pick it up and put it on your hand, or open your hand and let it stand there. Once it sees it's not in danger, it will gradually begin to allow itself to sit on your finger. It can't hurt to offer it a treat that it likes. If the bird is panting (I hope it didn't get that tired), offer it a cup of cold water. A familiar container like it is used to in its cage is good. I like to offer the Bourkes spray's something they love.

Remember, all the time you work at taming any bird, never, never lose your temper or speak loudly at it. If your patience is wearing thin, give it up until another day. A soft, kind voice is the only way to tame a bird. Children are often good at taming birds ... but, only if they are sympathetic and kind to animals already. 

Pretty Boy would fly around the room until tired,
then would get on my hand or finger.
Gradually, he learned I was friend, not foe.

Another view of Pretty Boy ...
hand tamed, not hand fed.

Not all Bourkes like to be kissed, but some allow it.
Pretty Boy is fine with it, even though he's not hand fed.
Here he's more concerned about the photographer than me.
An important note: Never let your birds' beaks get into
your lips or mouth. Human saliva is full of germs that are
bad for birds!

Bourkes love to bathe and what's more fun than
 sharing it with an owner they love?

They keep me giggling with their cute antics.

Flame decided it was more fun to pick at my hair
while the others were elsewhere.

Flame is curious though.

Okay, I'm prejudiced in favor of Rosy Bourkes! Smile.
I find such pleasure in these small jewels. Better than any TV show!

If you let them, these are treasures that will give back,
not only entertainment, but also love.
Hope you had a wonderful, blessed Christmas
and will have a fabulous, safe New Year!
God Bless All of You!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Christmas to One and All ... God Bless You.

Hello All,
Merry Christmas Week! I set up this cute little scene for my birds and asked them to sit still on Santa's shoulder or foot, or anywhere in the setting. They could choose. Would they? Of course not! Even Rosie and Flame refused to stay put long enough to snap a photo of either of them...
Hope everyone has a blessed Christmas. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Splendid Bourke Parakeets, or those Moody Bourkes & Splendids

Hello All,

Why are you so cranky today?
Seems like I've been posting a lot about wild birds lately. I could go on some more about the rowdy Steller's Jays outside ... those pretty dark blue birds, but it's about time I returned to the designated topic!

Splendid male keeping company with a Rosy Bourke hen.
This is about moody, or occasionally temperamental parakeets. I admit to naming one of my tame Bourke hens "Trouble." Probably haven't told you that before since it's not a positive name. Smile.

Trouble is a hand fed hen hatched early last year. Her brother is "Pastel" because in addition to pink, he has light yellow on his wings and blue on his rump ... three pastel shades. Trouble received her name after frequently refusing to go back into her cage. Of all my tame birds, she's always the last to go home. Catching her can be a lot of trouble.

Yet, she loves to fly onto me, take baths and eat from my hands. She's very tame. The trouble with Trouble is that she's probably TOO smart. They're all smart, but she's too smart for her own good. I had decided to sell my little trouble maker, but now changed my mind ... again. Very unusual for me...yea, right.

Most Bourke faces are darker than these two who have pink eyes.
This morning Trouble decided to stay with me almost the entire time she was out of her cage with the other tame birds ... six all together. She nibbled my hair and talked to me, being very loving. How can you sell one that does that? Silly, huh? Then when I decided they'd all been out long enough, I walked to Trouble's cage with her, Pastel and Flame on my shoulders. When I opened the door and leaned toward it ... all three went in! That was a first for Trouble. She was very mellow and sweet today.

Hand feeding makes any bird very tame. One baby being fed.
The others are older and occasionally like a taste of baby food.
Sometimes before I open the door and let everyone fly out, I will put my hand into the cage and invite them to ride out on my hand. Yesterday, for some reason Pastel refused to get on my hand. Now, this is unlike him. He's usually the first to jump aboard, but not yesterday. In fact, after everyone else was out, he still wouldn't get on my hand. After chasing him around the cage a couple of times, I told him he was welcome to stay home, that I wasn't going to open the door and let him fly out. He had to do it my way or stay put. So, he didn't get out yesterday. Today, however, he was very friendly and first to jump on my hand ... go figure.

What I'm leading up to with these stories is that birds have mood swings too ... just like we do.

Pink-eyed Rosy Bourke couple.
Some refer to the lighter shades as Pink Bourkes.

Snowbird, an albino budgie we had for 12 years was quite a character. She was very tame when out of her cage, but if you put your hand in her cage, watch out! She would attack the intruding hand and actually bite it, sometimes hard enough to break the skin. But, open the door and invite her out and she was gentle as could be. Pick her up and she wouldn't bite. There was something about her cage being her castle and she didn't want intruders. Cleaning her cage took place when she was out of it! Snowbird was purchased as a companion to Skybird, a tame, blue five-year-old budgie. A year after we bought Snowbird, our much sweeter Skybird, was dead on the floor at age six. He loved her too much, perhaps?

Splendid or Scarlet-chested Parakeet Pair. Hen is below.
As for Splendids ... well, every one of them is different too. Aging Rainbow isn't as tame as he was as a youngster. He doesn't bite, but he also prefers not to come out of his cage. His companions are my tame Bourkes and he gets along fine with them, but since his mate passed away over a year ago, he's lost his vim and vigor. Wish I could find him another mate.

Friendly Pair of Splendid or Scarlet-chested Parakeets.
His mother, Millet, was the sweetest Splendid I've ever owned ... well, maybe her daughter, Jewel, was just as sweet. I made no effort to tame Millet as she was purchased as a breeder. Yet, I could put my hand in her cage and she'd nibble my fingers or take treats from them. She was a wonderful little bird married to a terror ... her mate, Merlin, pulled her feathers and was abusive. Yet, he fathered and cared for his young. Fortunately, his sons and daughters all seemed to have their mother's personality.

Pair of Normal Bourkes in their wild color. Hen in front, male in back.
They say that Bourkes will never mate with any other species of parakeet. Yet, when Millet died and Merlin was alone, I put this male Splendid in a cage of single female Bourkes. One Normal hen (native color) decided she wanted to mate with him and gave him her "come-hither" behavior. Eventually, he paid attention.

Splendids have interbred with Turquisines and other small parakeet varieties, but never Bourkes. He decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, his normal behavior was to pull out a feather from his mate's back before lifting his second leg up. The first time he did it to Willow, the normal Bourke hen, she looked startled and moved away. The second time he pulled out one of her feathers during an attempted coitus, she attacked him! From then on he was terrified of her and kept his distance. That was fine with her! There's a lesson in that. Ladies don't accept abuse, or you may die young like poor, sweet Millet. Be a Willow! Willow eventually got a mate, younger than she, and they raised many, many baby Bourkes, both Normals and Rosies. She's now retired and he's still her loving companion.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hummingbirds Being Stalked by a Cat or a Hawk?

You know how the sky is before the sun comes up, but there's already light outside? I wanted to allow whatever natural morning light there would be into the house for the birds this morning. So, very early I drew open the window blinds to cloudy wet skies and dim light. Sitting on the railing of our west deck was a rain-soaked hawk.

My digital camera isn't fast enough to snap a
photo of our local hawk, so I borrowed this one.
Our hummers are prey!
I've seen him only twice before and wrote about how he panicked the Bourkes through the window. This sighting was auspicious since I'd mentioned him to my husband as we lay in bed last night. About two weeks ago I started to step out onto the back porch at the south side of the house, and looked down before stepping out. I always check before I step. By doing that I've been fortunate to miss stepping on a tiny green tree frog and another time a small preying mantis. Our back porch is open, but has a roof over it, so little critters sometimes find refuge there ... especially when the weather turns cold.

This time, two weeks ago, there was something strange laying on the door mat. I feared it was a large spider and stepped over it, but it didn't move. I leaned in for a closer look. Sadly, it was the head of a hummingbird! My first thought was to blame one of the cats ... how dare they! We have three hummingbird feeders and, as I've mentioned before, our cats have been trained with a loud "NO BIRDS!"  By learning to first avoid the birds in the house, and with the same command repeated many times outdoors, I thought they'd come to avoid outside birds too. It was perhaps only ten feet away from one of our feeders, and I was shocked to see it.  But, which cat did it? How do you scold the perpetrator if you can't be sure who it was?

As we discussed this last night, my husband noted that he has never seen a cat decapitate a bird. Eat its breast meat maybe, or kill it to fling it and play with it, but decapitate? However, an animal that wanted to eat a hummingbird wouldn't eat the long sharp bill. We tossed around the possibility of the small hawk we'd seen, but I dismissed that. He'd been hunting little rabbits and mice, but surely not swift hummingbirds! Today's discovery of him sitting on the railing of the deck about 20 feet away from one of our feeders waiting for a hummer to land changed my mind. He is the culprit! The cats are vindicated.

My husband asked, "Shall I chase him off?" That was a tough question. He's very pretty and he needs to eat too. However, we decided that stalking our hummingbird feeders is not fair game. So, we did chase him away to go back after rodents. Leave our lovely little hummers alone!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cats with Tame Birds, a Tale of Five Bourkes and one Splendid Parakeet

Sweet Patches asleep on a pillow.
This is a cat story. I've talked about my cats with the birds before, but our cats never cease to amaze me!

I have six very tame birds within my menagerie of over a dozen parakeets. Five are Bourkes and one is a Splendid. These favorites of mine get to come out of their cages for free flight and lots of attention fairly frequently.

When they come out to fly around I generally keep them confined to two rooms of the house where it's safe. They can fly back and forth between the two rooms (living room and kitchen), visiting the other birds and my husband or me by landing on our shoulders, arms or hands.

Baby birds being handfed are in box inside cage.
Patches likes being near their electric heater too.
When the birds are allowed free flight, the cats are either outdoors, or shut in a bedroom. It's not that they aren't always trustworthy when the birds are in their cages, but why tempt fate with birds who are flying everywhere.

Yesterday, after the birds had been out of their cages for about an hour, it was time to put them away. I'd been puttering in the kitchen over dirty dishes, watering plants, and assorted odd jobs while the birds flew on and off me, tickling my ears, flying onto my hands and generally having fun. Of course, they'd made lots of wild flights into the living room, circling around many times. They like to exercise and chase each other.

What makes this time different is that when I walked into the living room to gather them back to their cages, our elderly calico cat stood up on my desk chair, leisurely stretching. On the wood floor about five feet in front of her was my Splendid, Rainbow, walking around on the ground as he likes to do. She could easily have leaped on him! The birds had flown over and around her for an hour or so and she had made no attempt to harm them! She could easily have swiped or pounced on several of them while I was in the kitchen and I might not have known.

Patches likes keeping me company as I
pursue another past time, knitting.
Now, this is a cat we have not had since she was a kitten. I think it's easiest to train cats you've raised. However, she was a sickly stray who survived in the woods near our home for at least four or five months before I was able to catch her and get her well. We've rescued other cats that we didn't keep, but in very short order she walked up to our big Malamute/Lab mix and rubbed up against him. I figured if she was going to make friends with him that easily, she deserved to stay with us. Besides, she's very pretty. 

Over time we've come to trust our cats enough that we don't worry about leaving them alone with caged birds while we're outside in the garden, or off to another room to work on a project or something. However, if we expect to drive away to go shopping, to church, or wherever...then we confine the cats to a bedroom or let them outdoors if that's where they prefer to be when the weather is nice. I don't leave them alone with our birds for hours at time. Yet, we have accidentally left a cat asleep in a chair and gone off for a full day, only to find it was in the house all that time with access to the birds, but nothing happened.

But, leaving them alone while the birds fly free is a different story. A bird's flight should excite a cat, right? One swipe and a cat can bring a bird down. I've seen Mockingbird's with a nest in a lime tree chase a cat who ignored them until one day she reached up and killed one. Fortunately, the bird's mate continued to feed and raise their young, but it never again dived at that cat.

One of my favorite cats of all-time, Mei-Ling. Introducing her
to a baby Bourke while also getting him used to her. Notice she
has no claws out. She's curious, but not overly so.
She quickly lost interest.
Sleek black Mei-Ling has been with us since 7 weeks of age and is now 4 1/2 years old. I'd be less surprised if she ignored free flying birds.

Yet, as a stray Patches survived many months alone by hunting birds, mice and anything else she could catch! With yesterday's peaceful acceptance of birds flying all around her, she has gone up in my estimation by over 100%. My husband says she knows which side her bread is buttered on and isn't going to risk being tossed out. Not, that I'd do that. Nor will I deliberately release the birds in her presence again. Why tempt fate.

Oh, by the way, our big old "Malamutt" is safe around the birds too. He's even had them land on him. He doesn't particularly like it, but he doesn't hurt them. They think he's just one more member of the family, which he is. Smile.

May all your pets bring you boundless love, comfort and blessings.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bjarne's Birds: Photos of Bourkes, Splendids & Turquoisines in Color Morph's

I had six tame Rosy Bourkes and one male Splendid out for free flying today. About an hour later, all the Bourkes went back to their cages on my finger without any problem. Got no arguement from them.

The handfed Splendid, however, refused to go home. Eventually, I got out a net and caught him with it. He didn't seem to mind... He knew he was supposed to go home, and must have figured he deserved to be caught in a net. I rarely use a net, but he just would not go back in his cage.

Found this site full of fascinating color changes in both Bourkes and Splendids.

I don't think you can breed a prettier bird than a male Splendid parakeet in his natural state. However, Bjarne's photos of birds he's bred for different colors are all very interesting.  I once thought I might like to try and breed a solid black budgerigar, however, if it takes 22 aviaries like Bjarne has for his parakeets, I'm not up to it. Smile.

Hope you enjoy his photos. 

Bjarne's Birds ... Interesting Bourke & Splendid color changes

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Splendid Bourke Bird Blog versus Sowing the Seeds of Christianity Blog

(Don't miss the hummingbird video at the end).

This blog is about six months older than my husband's blog and for a long time I had more readership than he did. Now, he's passed me by. For the month of November this blog had 1,735 views and his had 2,644! That's only 909 more than me... :-)  Sowing the Seeds

Yet, I suppose there are a lot more people in the world interested in Christian history than there are those of us who love birds. Me, I'm interested in both! Smile.

My husband is diligent about blogging three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Diligent is not a word I'd use in relation to my blogging...

I've reposted two of my husband's bird related blogs here, one on Ancient Aviculture and one on the History of Pet Birds. I suggested them to him!

Currently he's chosen a theme for December, "All Things Christmas." You might want to have a look. He's an excellent 1st century scholar, writer and novelist. A link in the left column via the cover of  "Witness" (for Witness & Disciple videos click here) will direct you to more information about his fictional, but accurate portrayal of first century life in Judea. The characters should touch your heart. I think his second novel, "Disciple" in "The Seeds of Christianity(TM) Series" is even better. The third, "Apostle" is expected in February, 2011. Can you guess the title of the fourth book? Perhaps I shouldn't tell, but's "Martyr," however, which characters and how will be a surprise.

Along with my blogging, and my own attempts at having a novel published, I get to enjoy doing the first edits of his novels. They're also available as e-books.

On another note, if you read my earlier post about our snow, it melted within a couple of days. It's actually warm here on the South Coast of Oregon the high 50's (Fahrenheit, not Celsius). Still lots of hummingbirds visiting our feeders, but haven't seen our local hawk for several days.

The video below, although of Alaska, is a wonderful film of hummers like those we see every Spring and Summer. The little Rufus hummingbirds really are as aggressive as in this video. We've been able to have them eat from our hands too. It's a wonderful experience. I use a red lid, but NO food color. Boil four parts water to one part sugar and allow to cool. I make four cups of water and one cup of sugar to fill three feeders one or more times a week. In hot weather, it needs to be replaced often or it can ferment. In winter, it lasts longer.

Peace & Blessings!