Saturday, February 18, 2012

Breeding One Pair of Bourkes, A Question

Allison writes, "We were recipients of a bonded pair of Bourkes (she is a rosy, he is normal) when a breeder claimed they were taking up too much space and the female laid sterile eggs anyhow. John and Agnes seem pretty happy here, and I have hung a nest box on their cage which they are definitely interested in. Would you be willing to provide a bit of guidance to a novice? Thanks in advance."

Long-time readers please bear with me. Much of this has been covered before, but it can be difficult to locate among so many posts.
Male Normal Bourke with
blue above the cere (nostrils).

Allison, I hope you actually have a male and a female. Bourkes will often bond with each other, even when the same sex if  there are no others to choose from. Normal male Bourkes have a tiny band of blue feathers over their cere (nostrils). Females don't have this. Males also have brighter blues and pinks, but without a female to compare them to it will be hard to see their differences. Rosies don't have this advantage, but behavior gives them away.

When old enough, hens (both Normal or Rosy) will squat down, lift their tails and chirp. Males throw their shoulders back and slightly lift their wings outward at the shoulder. They stand tall and appear to "strut." That's a sure sign that a Bourke is a male.

If you have a young pair of both sexes, there shouldn't be any problem. I once had a hen who seemed to dislike her mate. She scolded him and fussed all the time. After two successful clutches with him I changed their mates. She quit scolding and fussing. Both birds were happier with their new partners. However, when they didn't have any choice, they still raised babies together. After separating them though, the house was calmer and quieter. The two birds were both happier from then on.

Beginning the mating process by balancing on the hen's back.
He will wrap his tail under hers. If successful, after he hops
or flies off, she will stand still for a few moments before moving.
Rarely, you will have a hen who can't stand still during the mating process and moves causing the male to lose his balance. Or, you might have a male who can't seem to balance adequately long enough to fulfill his requirement. However, this is something that even the most timid of birds seem to overcome as they mature. Loud noises in the house can upset them. Visitors they aren't used will discourage breeding temporarily. Over time, however, most birds get used to almost any situation and find opportunities to mate. You can help though, by providing them with peace and quiet. 

Bourkes usually lay an egg every other day. Eggs typically hatch in 18 to 21 days. Cold weather slows down hatching, hot weather speeds it up. If they don't set on the eggs immediately, don't worry. Many hens wait until some or all of their eggs are laid. This can allow them to hatch closer together. If you received an older hen, she might be beyond egg laying age. They do quit laying at some point in time. I can't give you an exact age as my ten-year-old pair is still reproducing. However, another hen I've had several years has quit laying. She came to me at an unknown age.
Rosy Bourke male outside a cockatiel nestbox.
It's larger than needed, but they've raised many babies in it.
When it comes to a nest box, bigger is better than too small.

My website has lots of information about nest box size and so on. Bourkes aren't finicky, but they do like an inch or so of pine shavings in the bottom of the box (don't use cedar). Mine are indoors and the temperature is around 70 degrees most of the time, give or take two or three degrees. People do raise them outdoors, but they are more prolific in warmer temperatures. All parakeets of every variety are susceptible to cold drafts and need draft-free shelter.

Last year, at the advice of another breeder, I added rabbit salt blocks to my cages. These provide minerals, especially iodine and Vitamin D. It took the birds several months before the hens sampled them, but eventually they did. As promised, my birds were more successful in 2011 than in any other year. Indoors they don't receive enough sunlight, even through windows, so the blocks provide more of what they need.

Iodine block on bottom of cage.
Enough calcium is also necessary. Supplements are available to add to their water, but I prefer giving them cuttlebones, mineral blocks and oyster shell. This year, possibly because of the added salt blocks, not even one of my hens had a problem with egg binding, something experienced in the past. There is a post on egg binding on the website HERE.

Healthy birds have healthy youngsters. I like to give mine mixed, cooked vegetables and fresh greens in addition to parakeet seed.

Good luck. I hope they do something for you. Because color is sex-linked, your baby Normals should be female and the Rosies will be male (opposite sex of the parent colored like they are).

Peace & Blessings.

1 comment:

neversink7 said...

Quick note on the potential babies: if the male is normal and the hen is rosey aka opaline, unless the male is split to rosey aka opaline, all the babies will look normal with all the boy babies split to rosey. Only if the normal male is split to rosey will you get any rosey babies, in which case, 50% of the sons will be split to rosey and 50% will be rosey, and 50% of the daughters will be rosey and 50% normal.