Pet bird breeding is a demanding but highly rewarding activity. Some people do it as a personal hobby whereas others do it for profit. Whatever your reason, at a minimum you’ll need a pair of healthy, mature birds plus the correct equipment and bird breeding supplies.
Choosing the correct pair of pet birds
This one’s a no-brainer, you obviously need a pair of male and female birds that are the same species. However, most bird species will mate for life and so you need to ensure that the pair gets on well before you try to begin breeding. Also, some species are easier to look after than others and you’ll also need to check the health of your birds.
Selecting the species
Most people just go with the pet bird species that they already own. However, if you’re completely new then here are a few bird species which are easier to begin breeding with. When looking for a beginner species to start breeding, you want one that is:
- Smaller (these are easier to manage)
- Matures quickly (which requires less initial care)
- Strong and sturdy (delicate species are harder to breed)
- Is common (so there’s already lot’s of species specific information on how to do everything)
Bird species that match up to the above criteria include:
Checking the health of your birds
Before birds being breeding, you should check the following:
- Gender of the bird – a rookie mistake is incorrectly sexing your bird. Easy in some species but much harder to determine in others. You can even do it genetically (with kits such as this one kit or pack of 5).
- Sexual maturity and fertility – each species will mature at different ages. Find out when your bird reaches sexual maturity before you start breeding.
- Strong and disease free – avian disease screening is possible at most vets and is necessary to prevent diseases from spreading to the offspring of birds. See this resource from the AAV for a list of tests you can perform.
- Genetic health and unrelated pairs – a number of companies will let you know the genetic details of your bird to check they are not related as well as checking for genetic diseases. This is especially important for show birds. Some of the companies that offer this service include:
Species specific instructions for breeding
People have been breeding birds for centuries and instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, you can just learn from the hard-earned mistakes of others. However, each species is different – which is why we recommend researching information on the species you are about to breed. Listed below are some how-to videos of the best birds to breed:
- Instructions for breeding Parakeets/Budgies
- Instructions for breeding Lovebirds
- Instructions for breeding Canaries
- Instructions for breeding Cockatiels
9 Essential Bird Breeding Supplies
Once you have chosen your birds and screened them, the next thing to do to start breeding properly is to buy some of the following pieces of bird breeding equipment:
1) Bird breeding cages
A bird breeding cage is what you get when you place 2 normal sized cages next to one another. Because of this, bird breeding cages sometimes get called a double bird cage or divided bird cage. However, in between the two cages is a mid-section that is removable. This is so you can separate the males and females from one another when needed during the breeding cycle. Each half of the cage will have its own water, feeder, perch and everything else that is normally included in a cage.
There are 2 main types of bird breeding cages. Both types are normally stackable in case you own several pairs:
Small bird breeding cages
The cage listed above is an example of a smaller sized bird breeding cage that is aimed at finches and parakeets.
Parrot breeding cages
The above cage is aimed at larger sized birds such as macaws and African Greys.
2) Bird breeding boxes
A breeding box is where your bird will be encouraged to lay its eggs. These boxes like the ones listed below are attached to the side of the bird breeding cage. Most bird cages will come with their own breeding box door upon which you can attach your breeding box to and some even come with a window so you can peek inside and see what’s going on.
Once a fertilized egg is laid, it can either be raised by the mother bird itself or placed in an incubator and hatched. Whether this should be done depends upon the species of bird and whether or not you or not you want the mother bird to be involved in raising the chicks post hatching. Incubators are needed if anything happens to the parents of the birds.
Incubators can be designed to hold several eggs, provide heat and monitoring and will rotate slowly so that heat is dispersed evenly:
This incubator from Brinsea is ideal for providing everything you need to raise several fertilized eggs at once.
After incubation, the egg will have hatched and the bird can now be transferred to a brooder (if the parent is unable to help the chick). A brooder provides heat and humidity for newly born chicks whilst they are in this fragile period of time. Brooders are also useful if the pet bird is sick or injured.
The brooder listed above is aimed at people raising chicks and ducklings by providing a constant flow of heat. The heat panel height can be adjusted so it works with different species of bird.
On the other hand, this brooder shown above from Brinsea allows you to monitor and control the temperature, humidity and air flow/filtration (which helps stop airborne diseases). Perfect for newly hatched exotic birds.
Once past the brooding stage, you can then think about getting a bird cage heater as detailed in our guide here.
5) Thermometers and Hygrometers
Constant warmth is needed for a properly fertilized egg to develop. When using an incubator or brooder, you’ll want to keep this warmth at a steady temperature and the best way to monitor this is via a digital thermostat like this one pictured above. This also tracks the humidity levels using the built-in hygrometer because you don’t want the heater making the air too dry.
6) Avian Scales
Monitoring the weight of a newly born bird allows you to have a good idea of how fast it is growing. The problem is that it’s quite hard to get your birds to sit still on normal scales. Luckily, specially made avian scales exist (such as the one listed above) that come with a perch pre-installed into them – which makes your job much easier.
7) Avian lighting
Brooders and incubators can provide the initial heat required during early development. But later on, a bird kept in captivity will need full spectrum lighting to maintain it’s health. You can read our guide to this here.
8) Food, nutrition and supplements
You can get specialized bird feed mixes such as the one listed above that are aimed at birds which are breeding baby chicks and so need extra energy.
Whereas the bird food listed above is aimed at newly born baby chicks and not the parents of those chicks.
Additionally, cuttlebone is usually provided to breeding birds because it is a good source of calcium that is required in the development of eggs. For information on bird vitamins and supplements, check out our guide here.
9) Bird Banding and Leg Identification
All new pet birds that have been born should also eventually have a leg band applied to them. You can read our full guide to bird banding here.
Starting a bird breeding business? Try this management software
This is for people that are managing multiple birds, breeding birds for profit or if you’re a geek and like to keep an eye on data. Some of the popular bird breeding software available includes:
One last thing
Don’t forget to check the legalities of your state as to whether or you’re allowed to breed your species of bird. Also, check your landlord contract or home owner’s association rules if applicable.