Even for the veteran breeder, breeding for quality cockatiels is intriguing and challenging. His knowledge and experience has taught him what to watch for and what he must do to improve his chances of getting that clutch of special babies. Whether you are breeding to exhibit or breeding for a pet, quality needs to be your main objective.
A basic working knowledge of cockatiel genetics is one of the necessary tools needed for successful breeding. Genetics are like signs by the highways, they aid you in reaching your destination by letting you know, as best they can, what to expect and how you should proceed.
All of us have our favorite mutation of cockatiel. If you know genetics, you know which pairing of birds will give you the color you want. If you know genetics, it's also possible to know what sex a bird is when you can tell what color it is, and oftentimes you're able to determine the sex just as soon as it has hatched. I suggest purchasing one of the good genetic books available and starting your education before diving head first into breeding. Some type of banding is required to maintain an accurate genetics record, so you'll need to find a source for bands.
After your genetics education, it's time to begin your search for a pair of breeder birds. To produce quality, you begin with quality. A pair of healthy tiels is your target!
Seek our a reputable bird breeder, a cockatiel specialist preferably. A healthy appearing bird will have clear eyes, a clean vent area, and should be alert. Cockatiels are curious little creatures by nature, therefore a stranger in their midst usually doesn't go unnoticed. If a certain bird catches your eye, watch this bird for a while to eliminate any doubts you may have. Does it fly and perch without difficulties? You want to give it a good visual check-up.
Once you have decided on your breeding pair, you may want to have them checked by an avian veterinarian, if there's one in your area. If you do have it vet checked and something is found to be wrong, contact the breeder as soon as possible. Reputable bird breeders provide differing types of guarantees, so time is of the essence.
Even though your vet has checked these breeders and found nothing wrong, you still need to quarantine them for a minimum of thirty days. A new bird in a strange enviroment can sometimes put the bird under stress. Oftentimes a bird under stress will show symptoms that may not appear otherwise.
When we buy new breeder birds, we're usually too anxious to set them up. Remember that quality is your main goal, so your first priority is to be as sure as you can about their health.
The typical cockatiel breeding cage set-up is a cage at least 30" wide, 18" high, and 18" deep with a 12"X12"X12" nest box attached from the outside. If your not going to handfeed, in about 4 weeks after hatching, those little ones will fledge, so you'll need at least that much space.
I don't endorse the flight breeding of cockatiels, even for pets. There's no way to prevent in-breeding in this type of situation and there's no way to keep accurate backgrounds.
After the quarantine period and after you have the breeding cage prepared, it's time to set them up. Some breeder birds begin their relationship right away. Others may require more time to adjust. Occasionally a pair will be incompatible, but usually, given enough time, they'll adapt. The only thing left for you to do during this period is to observe and tend to their nutritional and sanitary needs. A clean enviroment, fresh food and water daily, cuttlebone or mineral block and your patience are all that's required from you.
The day the first egg is laid needs to be recorded. From that day the countdown begins. You need to check the nest box daily beginning on the eighteenth ay after the first egg was laid. You can expect hatching to begin eighteen to twenty one days after the incubation began.
Let's say there were three eggs, all fertile, and all have hatched. If you're planning to handfeed these babies for pets, I'd pull them when the youngest one is two weeks old. That's enough time for the parents to provide the necessary antibodies and nutrition needed to begin a long and healthy life.
Handfeeding is somewhat of an art. The person doing the feeding must know what they're doing or the baby can be aspirated and die right before your eyes. If you have never handfed, ask someone who has experience to show you how. It will save you some grief and keep those babies alive. The saying "experience is the best teacher" definitely applies here.
To raise the healthy and really sweet companion cockatiel, the owner needs to take advantage of the feeding periods. This little baby now thinks of you as it's only provider. Not just it's provider of food, but you're now its comforter, it's head scratcher, and its companion. An extra dose of cuddling, blended with the it feeling the security of you just being there, will normally result in a spoiled rotten baby, and that's what you want. The more loving attention you give the baby, the better adult pet you recieve.
I know a lot of people are not interested in genetics and all that scientific mumbo jumbo, but the cockatiel fanciers that breed for quality, not quantity, are usually those with an appetite for cockatiel knowledge. That knowledge is yours and your potential customers satisfaction in knowing you've done your best, but more important, doesn't that little baby bird deserve the best?