Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Raising parakeets

Before my foray into gouldian finch breeding, I raised budgies as a hobby. I used to keep about 20 of them in my aviary and would usually have a few pairs set up in breeding cages. I was looking for some photos of my pet budgie, Juneau, who passed away last summer and came across a bunch of old photos from those days and thought they were too cute not to post. So, my post about Juneau will come at a later date, and instead I'll fondly reminisce about breeding these little cutie-pies.

Looking through the photos reminded me how dependable parakeets were as parents. They would usually lay 5-7 eggs (one every other day). Unlike gouldian finches (who wait a until 4 eggs are laid before starting to incubate so they all hatch on the same day), budgies would immediately start incubating the eggs, so the babies hatched every other day. So, with a clutch size of 6 birds, there would be a huge size diffence between the youngest and oldest baby. The above photo shows a single clutch of babies. Somehow, the little ones never got squashed by the larger ones, and in my 4 or 5 years of raising these birds, I don't remember any of the babies ever dying in the nest. I can't say the same for my finches.

As a biology major in college, my favorite class was genetics. (Ironically, my least favorite class was ornithology - I hated getting up at 5am for those bird watching field trips.) Anyway, the genetics for budgie colors is quite complex and I loved it! So many possible combinations and I spent countless hours deciding who to pair with who to achieve a specific result. Which reminds me of another thing - even with those "arranged marriages", the pairs always "fell in love" and raised a family. Again, not so with my gouldian finches, which is why letting them breed freely in the aviary works so much better than pairing them off into cages.

I used to hand feed many of them so they would be nice tame pets for their new owners. The birds in the above photo apparently didn't realize that there needs to be a hand connected to the syringe in order for it to dispense food.

Pup1 was always around for cleanup duty.

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