Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Breeding Problems and Solutions

If you have paired your birds and the female is not laying or the eggs are infertile consider the factors below to help you decide on the remedial action that is most appropriate.

1. Is the male and/or the female too fat?
Birds that are too fat will not lay or will have problems with laying. Feel the breastbone. If it is rounded so that it can hardly be fed, the bird is too fat. You will need to reduce the food and/or exercise the bird.

2. Have the male and female been pair before they are in breeding condition?
The female should sing and display when the male is brought close to her. If she does not react to the male she is not ready. The male should similarly display and sing his territorial song when the female is near. When the birds are not fully ready, placing them together could result in them partially building the nest or completing the nest and then abandoning it. To get the birds into breeding condition, supplement their food with vitamins A, E and calcium with vitamin D. These vitamins should not be given more than 3 to 4 times a week as a problem with toxicity could arise.

3. Has the pair been introduced too late?
If the female squats and chitters when the male is close, she is over-ready. If they are paired, she will likely build and complete the nest in a day or so and lay the following day. If the eggs are laid within 4 days of the pair being placed together, it is likely that the first 2 to 3 eggs will be infertile.

4. Have either or both of the birds been kept indoors and then been transferred to an outdoor aviary to breed?
The differences in the day and night temperature outside the home varies substantially from those indoors. The change in temperature from indoors to outdoors will cause the birds to go into molt. This process will not be immediately obvious as it may take 2 to 3 months before the birds go into full molt. Such a molt, known as a false or stress molt, will cause further problems in breeding as the birds yearly hormonal cycle will be interrupted.

5. Are the birds getting enough protein or are they being fed too much carbohydrate?
If there is a lot of carbohydrate in the diet the birds come into apparent breeding condition as evidenced by the loud singing and display. This causes the birds to rush into breeding when the system is not fully ready to lay fertile eggs and this results in infertility.

6. Have the pair been provided with abundant live food?
If the birds do not have abundant live food available to them their breeding will be adversely affected. Obviously, the bird's brain will tell it to have chicks only when the conditions are optimum for the successful rearing of their young.

7. Is the male infertile?
In rare instances, the male will be infertile. If the female has laid eggs, the fault cannot be with her if the eggs are infertile. The solution is of course to replace the male to test if the first male was infertile or if the infertility of the eggs is due to some other cause.

8. Is the aviary located in an unsuitable location?
The location is unsuitable if it is in direct sunlight. The shama is a forest bird and cannot take much heat. If the birds are panting in the afternoon the temperature in the aviary is too hot. The birds will not be happy if the aviary is open and too bright. I use the black netting that is used in fish ponds to cover the aquariums. It blocks out about 85% of the sunlight.

9. Is there a lot of human or animal traffic around the aviary so that the birds are constantly disturbed?
Make sure that the birds are disturbed as little as possible. Apart from feeding and providing bathing facilities leave them alone.

10. Do you often check the nest-box to see if the nest is built, the eggs have been laid etc. ?
Don't do it. Leave the birds alone.

11. Has a suitable nest-box been provided?
The shama is a cavity nester. In other words, it builds its nest in the hollows of trees. Make sure that the nest-box is suitable. The presence of a suitable nest-box will stimulate the pair to breed and I usually place the box in the aviary when I pair the birds.

12. Is the location of the nest-box suitable?
Is it too near the door so that every time it is opened the birds are disturbed? Is the box placed at the correct height? The box should be placed between 4 to 7 feet high.

13. Has suitable nesting material been provided?
The presence of suitable nesting material in sufficient quantity will encourage the birds to breed.

14. Are the feathers around the vent of the birds too thick?
The male does not have a penis and what happens during copulation is that the vents of the male and female come together and the male squirts his semen into the female. If the feathers around the vent are too thick, the vents do not come together and the semen does not enter the female. Trim the feathers around the vent.

15. Do the birds have mites or other parasites on the body?
Watch the birds when they roost at night. If they appear uncomfortable and preen themselves constantly they probably have mites. Use Frontline or other insecticide to kill the mites.

16. Are there shamas singing nearby that disturb the breeding pair?
Shamas are territorial and the presence of males in nearby aviaries will stress the birds and cause them to throw the eggs or chicks.

17. Are the shamas in a mixed aviary with other birds?
If so, the other birds may be disturbing the pair. It is best if the breeding pair is alone in the aviary.

18. Have the birds been fed a variety of live food for quite some time before they were paired?
Such feeding is necessary to bring the birds into breeding condition so that fertile eggs are laid.

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