Monday, March 24, 2014

Can Parakeets Be Mean Or Cruel? Kill Their Young or Their Mates? Questions.

 
I've been answering questions to rosie.birds@gmail.com, but haven't blogged lately. I have many questions and answers to post and eventually will; however, this one arrived today and touches me. Here it is with my answer. Please don't hesitate to comment if you've experienced anything like it, or have suggestions. Thanks!  
 
QUESTION:
Hi.  I wonder if you can give me some advice please. I had a pair of Bourkes parakeets. The little pink one was the male, the normal the female. They have lived together for three and a half years.  The female has laid eggs four times. Time before last two hatched but she killed the babies.

Yesterday we went out for the afternoon and evening and when we got home the floor surrounding the cage, which is huge, was covered in pink feathers. The Rosie was at the bottom of the cage with hardly any feathers and blood on his back. He was obviously in shock. We put the separated in the cage to keep the female away from him, gave him some water and millet and left him for the night.
This morning when we got up he was dead in the corner of the cage.

I am heartbroken as he was such a gentle lovable little character.  I can't understand why the female killed him. Do you know if this is normal behaviour.  We don't know what to do with the female now as she will be on her own.  It would appear that she does want babies as she keeps laying eggs and sitting on them. I would be so glad of any advice you could give.  Thank you.
 

 
ANSWER: 
Wow, how terrible. Are you certain she did it? Sounds like you are. Parakeets of any variety can have birds that are mean. Bourkes are usually very sweet, but exceptions happen. I am surprised, however, that the male Bourke didn't fight back and protect himself even though Bourke females usually do boss (hen peck) their mates. I wonder if he was already weak or sick. All birds hide their health problems very well.

I had one hen that I think was mentally ill. I'd sold a Rosy hen with a Normal male. The person who bought them had them for a while, then gave them to her grandmother. While there, they laid a clutch of eggs and hatched one. One day she called to ask me to take them back. She said the baby had died in the nest and they didn't want to go through that again. She didn't tell me if the baby was bloody, but I've wondered since. Had no reason to speculate about it at the time. I don't know what the pair lived like for about two years away from me.
 
When I got them back, I put the Rosy hen with a Rosy male and sold the Normal male. She hatched two eggs and when I checked, one baby was dead with its neck torn open. I took out the other and found a wound on it too. I hand fed that baby. With the next clutch, I checked daily and after four eggs hatched, the littlest had a wound on him. So, I removed and hand fed all four.

At that point, I removed the hen and gave the male a different hen. I believed he was the culprit and thought that would tell me. However, he and the new hen began raising healthy offspring and had many clutches without a problem.

Months later, the guilty hen began to hang her head oddly. Day by day it got worse and within a few days of that odd behavior, she died. Have to admit, I wasn't sorry to see her go. I've wondered if she had a brain tumor or something wrong with her. I still have two of her offspring, a brother and sister. They are both sweet birds and have raised many lovely Rosy Bourkes with their Rosy mates. I don't think the problem was genetic and wonder if that hen was driven crazy somehow in her former environment. Or, was there a health issue? No way to know.

Is there any chance that a rodent could get into the cage? The male would protect his mate, or try to. My cages have such narrow bars that nothing could get through, even if a mouse or something did get into the house. As much as I wanted to believe that a hen would not do that to her young, it was my hen...sounds like it's probably yours too. If your hen were mine, I'd be afraid to let her have another bird in a cage with her. Yet, she lived for 3 1/2 years with her mate ... really odd that she'd do that to him.

I've had other strange things happen with birds over the decades I've raised them. Below is a link to a blog I did about some of the "mean" birds I've encountered.
 
After you read the post below, especially about the feather pulling male Splendid, I should tell you that one of my Rosy Bourke males fed a sick Normal female all winter when she had something wrong with her. She must have had a stroke because all she could do was pull herself along the floor with her beak. He kept her fed and alive and she gradually recovered! Amazing. Only two toes remained paralyzed. That was my sweet Rhett bird. He'd lost Scarlett and I gave him Willow. After she recovered, I gave him a Rosy Bourke named Cherry. Cherry and Bing had not gotten along well, but Bing did fine with our Normal, Stella.
 
Sweet-natured, Normal Willow got Bing Jr. as a mate, a Normal split to Rosy, so they produced Rosy hens and Normal males.  Rhett and Willow never reproduced together, but each were good parents with their last mates. Loving Rhett had three hens in his lifetime and was kind to all of them. Cherry, on the other hand, was always bitchy ... poor Rhett. Scarlett and Willow were both nicer.
 
 
Peace & Blessings.
 

4 comments:

Kim Dickey said...

While reading this post I started thinking about that maybe there would be some type of mineral deficiency involved (not necessarily from diet persay but perhaps the birds body is not producing it properly.) I remember hearing about chickens pecking each other to death (usually around the neck) due to bad salt deficiencies. Also a brain tumor in both cases seems likely as well. A sad but very interesting post nonetheless.

G. A. Lewis said...

Interesting idea, Kim. I wasn't providing iodine salt blocks when I had the destructive hen. They all have them now.
As a teenager, I had banty chickens and when a hen was injured by a dog, the other chickens all went after her. When one is injured, chickens will attack the weak one. Sad, but true...maybe with many birds that's the case. But, I wouldn't expect it of their mate or their own young.

DJ said...

Hi. We have what we think is a female rosy bourke, about 2 or 3 years old. She is pretty quiet and sweet in general. Lately she has been exhibiting some new behaviors that I wonder about. For one, she seems to have ax"foot fetish". She is obsessed with our toes when our when we have bare feet. She is mesmerized and will gently peck at them. Second, she sometimes will sit one the table with us and make a soft squawking sound which I've never heard her make until recently. We no longer clip her wings and she can fly around the house, but she likes to be wherever we are. She was stepped on when we were clipping her wings so we decided not to clip anymore, plus it's good for her health. I am wondering if any of these new behaviors are related to adolescence or being a female Bird. Could she think our toes are little baby birds and she wants to feed them? Isort the squawking sound something that adolescent birds do? Does Bourke behavior change in adolescence and when is adolescence in Bourkes?I appreciate your comments. Thank you!

G.A. Lewis said...

Hello DJ, Very young Bourke hens will exhibit mating behavior even before they should be laying and raising young. The sounds you hear might be a hen's request to mate. They also squat forward and raise their tail behind them. If she's doing that, she's a girl. Smile. The idea that she might be treating your toes like baby birds is interesting. Toes are bare and pink and about the right size. Or, maybe she likes the salt she gets from them? You might want to add a rabbit salt block to her cage ... it's good for all birds at all times. Glad you let her wings grow. Yes, it is healthier for her. Bourkes love to fly and need the exercise.