Monday, June 4, 2012

Question on "Screaming" Rosy Bourke Hen

Bonnie left a question attached to the post  "Breeding Bourkes, Splendids or other Parakeets". Her questions and my answer follow:

"Hello, I am very grateful for your blog and all of the helpful information about bourkes parakeets! I have a concern about my female rosey bourkes parakeet. I think she may be about to lay an egg, and last time around this time (a month ago) she displayed some odd behavior. She began to scream in a high pitched voice to her mate, and this would prompt him to feed her. However, the screeching would continue even right after she ate. I thought this was perhaps because she had an egg inside of her and thought it would stop when she laid, but then she started passing very watery droppings and eating constantly without ever seeming to feel full. When she began to sit at the bottom of her cage, and when I noticed that the male bourke also seemed to be passing watery droppings, I took them to the vet. He gave me an antibiotic to administer to them, and within 3 days they both looked much better. The female then laid a misshapen egg, which I think may have been the problem.

Two weeks ago, I decided to give them a nesting box in case they were stressed about not having a place to lay eggs. While they have peeked their heads inside, I haven't seen them go in.

My concern is that the female is making the same (very high pitched- more high pitched than her mating call to him) screaming sounds. Again, this prompts the male to eat and feed her. What worries me is that the screaming continues into right after she has eaten and she seems very stressed out. Her droppings are normal which makes me feel better. Is she stressed about the male's presence in the cage? (Their cage is quite big though; they are not cramped). Is this normal female behavior? Thank you for any guidance you can offer me on this!!!! "
Posted by Bonnie to The Splendid Bourke Bird Blog at June 4, 2012 5:51


Hens that are going to lay eggs have larger than normal droppings, and often they are wet and/or darker than is usual. Since both your birds had wet droppings, the trip to the veterinarian for antibiotics was a wise decision. Better safe than sorry.

We have two hens...a mother and daughter actually...who are louder then the others when asking to mate. They are the exception, but it's not unheard of for Bourke hens to screech at their mates. A long time ago we were given a pair of Rosy Bourkes because the former owner couldn't stand how she screeched at her mate. They'd even had babies together. She was scolding him much of the time, so I separated the pair and put them with new mates. Instant peace and tranquility! Sometimes two birds aren't meant for each other, just like people. Both birds were happy, quiet and very productive with their new mates.

When I've had hens with egg-binding, they've been quiet and miserable. None ever "screamed." Hens in trouble usually sit on the bottom of the cage, fluffed up and sick. We had one exception to this who died in her nest box because she was out of sight, but typically they abandon all interest in any eggs they already have. The hens end up on the floor of the cage, huddled up and looking lethargic. I've never had one make any noise at all. If your hen ever does have egg binding, please search "egg binding" on this site for articles on how to save her.

I assume you have plenty of calcium available for your hen...cuddle bone, mineral block, oyster shell...that sort of thing. I highly recommend a rabbit salt block. Bob Nelson recommended this to me and I've not had a single bird experience egg binding since I added the salt blocks to their cages. They contain Vit. D and iodine and it took my birds about a year before I saw them use them. Now they're at them regularly. The blocks are small and I put them in the bottom of the cages on newspaper. If in contact with metal they will damage wire cages. When they become soiled from droppings, I wash them off and put them back on fresh newspaper.

The other thing you can do for your birds is provide them with vegetables and greens. Fresh is good, but I also buy frozen vegetables for us and always share some with the birds. Mixed vegetables give them a choice of carrots, peas and corn. Mine prefer the corn, but too much is fattening. Fresh greens are also good. They love spinach, kale and any kind of lettuce. When breeding, and especially when raising young, spray millet is healthy. It's fattening too, so when its not breeding season and they aren't raising young, I don't give it to them.

Bourkes are susceptible to fatty livers, so too much fat can be fatal. Some are more susceptible to this than others. I used to give them safflower seeds, which they all loved, but lost a young hen to  organ failure from obesity (an avian vet's autopsy indicated it). So, I no longer provide safflower and have cut down on how much corn and spray millet they get, giving it only during breeding months to breeding birds, or babies recently out of the nest.

Good luck. Let us know if your pair is successful in raising youngsters.

Peace & Blessings.


stuart said...

g,day, my name is stuart and im from victoria australia but at the moment im gold prospecting in western australia, i like your blog as ive had averies all my life and the bourke parrot and guildian finch and scarlet parrot are easy my favourite birds, since ive been in WA ive come across bourkes in the wild about 40 miles nth of laverton, they run along the ground like road runners until you get to close then take flight and are very swift, they seem to be in flocks of about 30 to 50 birds with only a few adults in the flock, catcha later, Stu

G. A. Lewis said...

Very interesting, Stuart. I would love to visit Western Australia and see them in the wild. In captivity they can be very prolific. Sounds like they are naturally as wild birds too. Thanks for sharing. Stay safe and may your prospecting bring things of value to you, gold or otherwise. Many blessings to another bird lover.

Terry said...

I have a pair of Bourkes that had 5 babies 6 months ago they all hatched and turned out to be beautiful birds. She has been suiting on 4 eggs the last 10 days the male is not being very nice, last time he took such good care of her. I have seen him several times run across the cage a knock her off her eggs then yesterday morning I found one of the eggs in the middle of the cage broken open and the baby dead. I was heartbroken and worried because I dont know what happened then today he ran across and knocked her again. What In

G. A. Lewis said...

Wow, that's a tough situation. I wonder if removing him would be of benefit. If he's not feeding her, then I'd be tempted to try separating them.

I wonder if he wants to breed, but doesn't want to do the hard work of feeding the young. Had a male zebra finch like that once. He'd raised a few clutches, but later in life he started throwing his offspring out of the nest. I put them back and he'd toss them out again. That was before I knew how to hand feed.

Maybe be prepared to help her feed the babies when they hopefully hatch. Good luck. Let us know how it turns out.

Melissa said...

Hi, I love your blogspot. I have a male and female normal bourke's parakeets and I am planning to breed them in the spring time. Many times in the cage she will go into her mating pose for the male, but he usually ignores her. However, while they were outside the the cage today, they mated two times. Does this mean I should put a nest box in the cage? Even though it's November, I don't know what time of the year is breeding season for bourkes. I would prefer to wait until the spring, but I donn't want to make a mistake and lose any eggs she might lay without a nest. Thank you!

G. A. Lewis said...

Thank you, Melissa. You don't say where you are, but I'll assume in the USA. In Australia, November is the perfect time of year. Smile.

Bourkes, like all birds, are affected by the length of daylight. If the artificial light in your home is on in the evenings and/or early in the morning, as far as they know the days are longer and it's a good time to breed. If you don't want them to, then reduce the hours of light.

However, in the Pacific Northwest where we live (Oregon), it's rather chilly yet I have a hen raising three babies at present. The house is kept warm and the babies are doing fine. This is her 3rd clutch this year and she just happens to be later than the other hens were.

If you want to let them raise a clutch, provide a nest box and be sure that the house is least 68 degrees Fahrenheit, although 70 or 71 is better. They will probably raise a second and third clutch, if allowed. More than that a year isn't healthy for the hen.

When she raises them is less important than that they are in a warm location with adequate daylight and plenty of healthy food. Be sure to use the search engine on my site to find other posts on breeding and raising Bourkes. You'll find appropriate nest box size and so on.

Good luck! - Gail