Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Female Not Laying


It is Saturday and I am taking the day off from work. I would like to spend some time contributing my experiences, thoughts and possible solutions to the problems that Satrio, Irwan, Andy and others have mentioned with regard to the shama not laying eggs. At some other time, I will try to deal with infertile eggs, the pair throwing out eggs and similar problems.

Female not laying

For the female to produce eggs, the hormones that make her lay must be present in her body. For this to happen, her reproductive organs must be in good condition. To ensure this, she should be given a multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement sometime before the breeding season. Preferably, vitamin and mineral supplementation should commence before the molt.

Vitamins A, B and E are especially important. Without sufficient vitamin E, the bird’s sexual organs will atrophy (the man’s also, to by the way) and in severe cases, the bird will become sterile. In the month before the eggs are expected to be laid, calcium should also be given. It will be required to make the egg shell.

I have found that giving the vitamins and minerals 3 to 4 times a week is sufficient. Too little or too often results in problems. We can consider these at some other time.

If the female has the necessary vitamins and minerals, and her other nutrition and care are correct, she will come into breeding condition 1 to 1½ months after the completion of her molt. She will then want to mate. If a male in top form or breeding condition is placed close to her, the female will be aroused. This will further help to improve her breeding condition.

Before the birds are paired, they should have been given plenty of opportunity to exercise. If possible they should be placed in separate aviaries several months before pairing. At the least they should have a month in the aviary. If separate aviaries are not available, they can take turns of a week in the aviary and a week in the cage.

It is more important that the female have the exercise. It is she who will be producing the eggs. She will also have to spend more effort than the male in brooding them and in looking after the young.

When the female lays, it is her breast muscles that do the work in pushing out the egg. To exercise these muscles, it is preferable that the aviary where she and/or male are housed be higher rather than wider as flying up and down will help to strengthen the breast muscles.

Please note that an aviary that is suitable for exercise is unlikely to be suitable for the chicks that newly emerge from the nest-box. For such chicks an aviary that is wider rather than taller will avoid the chicks falling and injuring themselves.

In preparation for breeding, the pair should be given a variety of live food in quantities that are more than they can finish during the day. The presence of plentiful live-food helps to stimulate the birds into breeding condition. This is a fact and it is also logical. In the wilds, the birds breed after the end of the monsoon when insects and other live-food have become plentiful. Obviously, they will not be able to successfully raise their young if they will be unable to adequately feed them.

In addition to giving the breeding pair plentiful live-food supplemented by vitamins, especially vitamin E, and minerals I also ensure that their aviary and living conditions will be conducive to a successful mating.

The aviary should be in a cool and shaded area without strong sunlight shining into it. If you see the beaks of the birds open for extended periods it may mean that the place is too hot. Birds don’t sweat and they cool themselves by ‘panting’.

Care should be taken to ensure that there will be nothing that can disturb the birds while they are breeding. The aviary should be rodent proof. In addition, the area around the aviary should be free of cats, rats, shrews, lizards, snakes and anything else that is likely to disturb the breeding pair. Even if these do not actually enter the aviary, their attempts to do so will sufficiently disturb the birds so that they will not breed. Also, subject to the exception that I mention later, the birds should not be disturbed by human visitiors.

When placing the pair in the aviary, I also install the nest-box. The presence of a suitable nesting site helps to increase the birds breeding condtion.

The nest-box should be placed where there is no direct sun on it. Otherwise, it may become too hot during the day and the brooding female will be uncomfortable.

In the wilds the nest is located from close to the ground to about 12� above it. I have found that a height of about 5’ to 7’ to be generally suitable.

If the pair is in breeding condition, the male will almost immediately visit the nest-box. He is the scout for a good home and he will invariably inspect the nest-box before the female. He may enter the box. If he likes it, he will call softly to her. She will respond by standing at the entrance and look in on him. When he emerges from the box, she may enter to see for herself the home that he has found for her.

Once the pair starts to inspect the nest-box, it should be a matter of time before the female starts to build her nest. Whilst the male may sometimes assist, it is usually the female that does most of the work of nest-building.

Ideally, the nest should be completed in 2 to 3 days. Diligence in nest building indicates that the pair is in top breeding condition. If the nest is completed within this time, the first egg should be laid 4 days after the pair stop nest-building.

Any unused nesting material should be removed from the aviary once the pair stops nest building.

If the pair take many days to build the nest than they are not in top breeding condition. The matters set out in this post will then need to be considered.

Sometimes the pair appears to be compatible but they do not build their nest for a several weeks. Alternatively, the nest is build but no eggs are laid. When this happens, review all the things that should have been done to prepare the birds for breeding. Perhaps you may have inadvertently omitted to do something. If so, remedial steps should be taken.

Lets assume that you have done all that should be done and the female is still not laying. This suggests that she is almost but not quite in breeding condition. We know that the pair are almost in breeding condition because they accept each other and they are not fighting. Otherwise, the male will not tolerate the presence of the female and he will even kill her. However, as the female is not laying, the pair do not have sufficient hormones to cause the female to do so. What can or should be done?

Before considering the above question, consider if the pair have been transferred to an outdoor aviary from an indoor aviary or cage where they have been for many months. If so, the answer to the problem is likely to be that the change in night and day temperatures are causing the birds to enter into premature molt. Instead of a build-up of the hormones that are necessary for breeding, these hormones are declining and being replaced by the hormones that cause the bird to molt.

It takes about 3 months from the time that the birds are first transferred from indoors to outdoors for the signs of the molt to manifest itself. In the meantime, the male will sing less and less and they will gradually start to lose interest in breeding.

How do we cause the hormones for breeding to increase? Firstly, consider if the vitamins that could assist in breeding, such as vitamins A, B and E should not be increased to 4 times a week if we are giving less than this. Consider also one or more ways to stimulate the pair into breeding condition.

As you may know, some species of parrots are very difficult to breed. In my wanderings on the internet several years ago, I came across this remedy from the USA. When a pair would not mate and produce eggs the owner would take the male out for a drive around the city and then return him to the aviary. The drive appeared to stimulate the birds into breeding.

I have tried the above remedy with a variation. I take the male (by car or other transport) to a bird gathering and stay until he is singing and displaying well. I then return him to the breeding aviary as soon as I return home. I have often seen him mate immediately he enters the aviary. I suppose the presence of the other males has excited him and caused an increase in the hormone that is required for breeding.

A similar effect may be obtained by placing a caged male shama close to the pair’s aviary. The male in the aviary should sing and display aggressively and chase the female away if she approaches too closely to the stranger. The female should also be excited and sing. If they do not do so, the required hormones are not present or are not present in sufficient quantities. In such event, consider replacing the bird that does not appear to be in breeding condition. The alternative is to leave them together in the aviary or to separate them, until they come into breeding condition.

After a few minutes, remove the caged male. The pair will then feel that they have successfully defended their territory. A successful defence tends to increase the level of testosterone (which is the hormone required for breeding) in the pair.

If a caged male is not available, a CD of shama songs may be played to the pair for 5 minutes or so. Your friends may also be asked to visit the pair. When the birds are in breeding condition, the presence of strangers will excite them.

Something else that can be done, is to remove the male or the female for several days and then re-introduce the pair. Sometimes, absence makes the heart grow fonder and the reunion is sweet and sexually stimulating.

Another thing that can be done is to change the nest-box or to relocate it to some other part of the aviary. Perhaps the height is not right for the pair. Try placing it higher or lower. Is the nest-box to close to the aviary door so as to cause the birds to feel that the location is unsafe? Sometimes, just relocating the nest-box to some other part of the aviary will cause the birds to mate and to have eggs.

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