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Bob Hole

To ensure your birds get plenty of exercise you should consider placing a small outside flight alongside the shed with access via a small bob-hole.

Breeding Condition

To recognise breeding condition is essential if good breeding results are to be obtained. The cock bird should be bright eyed, in good feather with a bright blue cere. He should be continually active and busy in his movements.

The hen should be equally active and keen to chew your aviary to pieces, her cere should be a rich brown colour but this is not always the case.

The age at which you can safely breed budgerigars is subject to some disagreement but to be on the safe side, hens should be 12 months and cocks 10 months.

Breeding Season

For the normal production of exhibition budgerigars for breeders concerned with showing, the breeding season commences anytime between September and November when their stock is in its first phase of breeding condition. At this time, heat and especially light in the birdroom is essential and in addition to this, due to inclement weather and other untoward conditions, this is not always the easiest time for production of numbers. In the Northern hemisphere breeding condition re-occurs again in early March, when the days are becoming longer and the weather warmer; this is a great time for breeding budgerigars.

Breeding Tips

After the 18th day you should hear the squeak of the first chick, but sometimes the fertile eggs are overdue in hatching. An idea that has worked on many occasions is putting a two or three-day old chick in with the eggs as this seems to encourage the unborn chicks to start hatching – remember to record the move of the chick.

Sometimes the first chick may not have been fed, especially if the hen has not reared chicks before. If this should happen, try removing the chick and replace it with an older one. The extra insistence to be fed from the older chick will often stimulate the hen to feed.

Do not handle chicks when you have unusual smells on your hands. A fancier once told me of an occasion when he picked some tomatoes from his greenhouse before going down to his aviary. He inspected his nest boxes and chicks, the next morning, to his horror, ten of his eleven chicks were dead.

Some fanciers clean out the nest boxes when the chicks have hatched, but so long as the chicks have clean feet and their droppings are dry, the boxes can be left until the end of the first round. If possible, it is best to clean the next box before the hen has laid her first second-round egg.

Cage Breeding

The principal of cage breeding budgerigars is that a single pair of birds are bred in a cage. The breeder gets to select which cocks and hens go together which gives control over colour, variety and pedigree. As in colony breeding single pairs seldom breed and so you need at least four breeding cages plus room for spare cocks and hens.

While the newcomer to breeding budgerigars will not have an extensive set-up, there are some basic requirements. These are:

  • Somewhere to breed the birds, perhaps a garden shed, 6′ x 4′ would do, or a brick out-house, which is weather-proof. It would make sense to try and utilise something which you may already own, so you can make your own mind up, in the future, to the extent in which you wish to pursue the hobby.
  • The intention to breed in cages rather than colony breed in an open aviary.

Cages for Breeding
By Trevor Terheege

There are three main types of breeding cage – wooden, plastic and all-wire. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Wooden cages

Wooden cages have been very popular for many years, especially as you can make your own if you have some basic DIY skills. They can be made from plywood or melamine coated boards. The problem with plywood is that they require regular painting whereas melamine can be wiped down. However, the melamine boards are often made from chipboard, which can swell if it gets wet.

The cage fronts, which can range from punch bar to plastic, can be easily purchased with 24 inches x 12 inches being the most common size.

Plastic cages

Plastic cages are now becoming more popular than wooden ones as they are light and are easy to clean and maintain. Plastic cages are manufactured by several companies and are ready to use. They can be made to suit a customer’s requirement as single units or in blocks with removable slides to enable them to be extended into flight cages when not being used for breeding. They usually come with a removable slide in/out bottom tray to make cleaning easy – the tray can be slid out and the build-up of seed husks and droppings can be removed without too much disturbance to the breeding pair. In addition, the cage fronts can be easily removed which makes it simple to wash the inside of the cage.


All wire cages

Some breeders like to use this type of cage as they can be hung on a wall with the use of hooks and then easily removed and stored elsewhere when not in use, thus giving more space in the bird room. They usually fold flat for storage. Wire cages come with a removable plastic tray in the base of the cage. One advantage with these cages is that the pairs can easily see other pairs in the adjoining cages, which stimulates their breeding activities. They are easy to clean and maintain and also reduce the areas that mite can live. A major disadvantage is that much of the mess generated in the cage, tends to come out onto the floor of the birdroom.


The choice of cage comes down to personal choice as each works successfully for their primary objective of breeding budgerigars. However, when making your choice you need to consider cleaning, maintenance and the space you have available. The other consideration is cost – wire cages are the cheapest option, with plastic cages being the most expensive, but you do need to shop around as prices can vary. And of course, you could choose to use more than one option.


Candling is the process of holding a strong light above or below the egg to observe the embryo or check for fertility.


A fertilised egg takes 18 days to hatch. When hatched the chicks should be pink and healthy, and squeak to be fed. Feeding is carried out almost exclusively by the hen by regurgitating a substance from her crop, known as crop milk. There are two points worth noting on the feeding of chicks by the hen, the first being that baby budgerigars are fed on their backs which is most unusual for birds and secondly the hen can grade the feed she is giving to the chicks depending on their ages, so that the older the chick the more seed content of the crop milk.

Do not handle chicks when you have unusual smells on your hands. A fancier once told me of an occasion when he picked some tomatoes from his greenhouse before going down to his aviary. He inspected his nest boxes and chicks, the next morning, to his horror, ten of his eleven chicks were dead.


The group of eggs that budgerigars lay is known as a clutch of eggs.

Colony Breeding

Colony breeding in the UK is usually carried out in an outdoor aviary with the flock of budgerigars flying free within the enclosure. However, you can colony breed indoors if you have a large enough flight cage. This method of breeding is more about breeding in quantity than breeding for quality, which cage breeding offers.

You would think that as colony breeding closely follows breeding in the wild it would be the easiest to undertake. However, this is not the case. There are a number of issues which can arise. With the birds being able to select their own partners they do exercise their choice and have preferences. Hens will sometimes also select a new partner during breeding and spare hens will break into nest boxes and destroy eggs and chicks.

Within your colony it is unlikely that all the hens will be in breeding condition (ready to breed) when most of the cocks are, so it is best to have extra females. Once the pairs have selected each other any spare hens and uninterested cocks may be removed from the colony. As a minimum you should start with a least three pairs. You should also ensure that your birds are not over-crowded – an aviary 2 meters high by 3 meters long by 1 meter wide will hold up to six breeding pairs.

You should provide 50% more next boxes than the pairs you have to give them a choice. The boxes should be hung as high in the aviary as possible and all at the same height. The nest site of choice will be the highest and so by removing this situation will reduce the amount of squabbling. Some hens will fight to the death over specific nest boxes.

A gap of around 12 weeks can be expected between rounds of chicks. Taking up to three rounds is acceptable and then the nest boxes should be removed, and breeding activities will cease.


A concave is a rounded depression in the floor of the nest box, at the furthest end from the opening, where the hen will lay her eggs. The concave will prevent the eggs rolling around the nest box as the hen moves around inside the box. Most off the shelf nest boxes come with a removable concave already fitted.

Egg Production

Once you have paired your birds, the hen will spend more and more time in the nest box and after 4 days her droppings will begin to change. They will become increasingly wet and copious and at about the tenth day the first egg will appear. At this time, your first eggs will bring feelings of great pleasure and excitement of things to come. Eggs are now laid on alternate days and may vary from 3 to 10 in number, 6 being the average.

Fertility / Infertility

Hen & Cock Infertility
By Dr Rob Marshall B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc. (Avian Health), Sydney

In many ways, the results of a breeding season will determine the overall enjoyment a fancier may get from this hobby. Fortunately, the culture of keeping exhibition budgerigars has promoted accurate breeding records containing information concerning the eggs and young. This data is of great value as it allows the fancier to improve breeding results by selecting fertile individuals for breeding. Eggs offer a wealth of information and enable the fancier to solve breeding problems and improve the overall health and breeding performance of the budgerigar stud.

The common egg problems to be discussed are failure to lay eggs (infertile hen) and clear eggs (infertile cock).

Background Information
The time frame in which breeding commences is critical to breeding success. Breeding problems, especially cock and hen infertility, should be expected when budgerigars commence breeding at a biologically inappropriate time of year. In the Northern Hemisphere, “pairing” during December (prior to the shortest day of the year) or in June (the month reserved for adult budgerigars’ principle moulting period) is more likely to result in breeding problems, irrespective of artificial internal lighting systems being used. Artificial lighting systems may give good breeding results for other species but are less effective for budgerigars who rely more on their unique “survival” breeding clock system and less upon the “spring” breeding clock of the ancient bird.

Budgerigars will naturally come into breeding condition and many breeding problems are solved by breeding at the right time of the year with budgerigars that are in “breeding condition”.

Hen Infertility (Failure to lay eggs)
A failure of the hen to lay eggs signals that she is infertile or “barren”. Hen infertility may be temporary and a failure to lay eggs should not immediately preclude her from future breeding. Exhibition hens follow the same breeding pattern as their wild sisters and need to reach, “breeding condition” before they are capable of laying eggs. The failure of the hen to come into this breeding condition is the most common cause of hen infertility in the first round of breeding.

To solve the cause of hen infertility the fancier should check when the hen was placed in the breeding cabinet. In most instances hen infertility results from an inappropriate starting time and the absence of a well-defined “breeding condition” in the hen.

Closely examine the hen for:

  • A loss of breeding condition signalled by a pale blue cere.
  • Hens will fail to come into breeding condition if obese.
  • “Going light”. Irrespective of the cause of “going light”, the hen will lack the strength and vigour to lay eggs.
  • Physical problems such as “soft belly”, internal growths, hernias, uterus infections and rectal prolapses are also identifiable by a careful physical examination.
  • Check the quality of the food and presence of latent disease. There may be an underlying disease (Chlamydiosis, Streptococcal or E.coli infection) or food contamination (stop providing all soaked, sprouted and wet food) when a high percentage (higher than 10%) of hens fail to lay eggs.
  • Check the breeding records for genetic weaknesses or evidence of inbreeding.

Cock infertility (clear eggs)
Eggs that fail to hatch are not always infertile and should be carefully examined to determine whether they are “clear”, “addled” or “dead-in-shell”. Many budgerigar fanciers use a candling torch to determine the fertility of eggs. Candling is the act of shining a light (usually an optic fibre torch) through an egg to observe whether it is clear (infertile), or fertile. It is also used to identify eggshell abnormalities and dead-in-shell problems. Clear eggs indicate infertile eggs and therefore a breeding problem. This is often, but not always, associated with an infertile cock.

In order to solve a clear egg problem, the breeder must differentiate the infertile egg from an egg in which the germ or embryo has died.

Clear (infertile) eggs are as fresh and as clear at the end of incubation as on the day of laying. They carry no odour at any stage when broken open and show no blood vessel activity when candled.

Eggs in which the embryo has died are usually darker in colour with dark streaking present. Will emit a foul odour when opened and reveal blood rings and other signs of a dead embryo.

Physically examine the cock bird for signs of failed breeding conditions such as obesity, weight loss or illness. These symptoms could be the cause of clear eggs.

The testicle enlarges ten-fold as the wild cock budgerigar is stimulated into breeding condition by the onset of suitable climatic conditions. The wild budgerigar has evolved over three million years to breed on the run, and in doing so, has survived the harsh conditions of arid inland Australia. In the wild, breeding activity may terminate (the testicle decreases in size to a minute inactive organ) in a matter of a few days when conditions become unsuitable. This phenomenon may occur with the captive budgerigar. Cock birds may suddenly “fall out” of breeding condition when the environment becomes unfavourable for breeding. When breeding, the cock budgerigar needs three times more energy during the pairing process and up to ten times more energy when feeding young. In the breeding cabinet the budgerigar requires even more energy to feed its young. When a depletion of energy occurs, the cock bird will quickly lose breeding condition and also the ability to fertilise eggs.

Processes that inhibit the cock to access and utilise this energy, such as obesity, disease and poor nutrition, will result in clear eggs. Cocks who are obese become infertile and do not come into breeding condition. Those carrying disease will be more at risk to lose this breeding condition during an energy drain and any subsequent stress of pairing. Male fertility in the budgerigar stud can often be improved by the addition of quality protein, vitamins and energy feed supplements.

Other causes of clear eggs
Inbreeding is also a common cause of infertility in cock birds. Male fertility is more hereditary than female fertility and sterility is passed down in the genes from father to son. An unrelated and proven fertile cock should be introduced when a high level of cock related infertility is experienced in an inbred line of birds. There is also a very close relationship between sterility and nutrition. Excessively long or thick feathers around the vent (buff feathered vents) are a common cause of male infertility, as they prevent the passage of sperm into the cloaca of the hen. These feathers should be clipped short with a sharp pair of scissors prior to pairing.

Solutions for individual breeding cages with infertility
The high incidence of sterile cocks and infertile hens in the very best quality show birds is often genetically linked. Purchase the lesser quality but more vital brother or sister of a lifeless champion because they will be of the same gene pool. It would be advisable to breed from these lesser birds because they will inevitably breed more offspring and the progeny will in turn be more fertile.

Trim excessive feathers around the vent.

Use nutritional and health supplements to bring the cocks and hens into peak breeding condition.

Solutions for a high incidence of infertility
Adjust the time breeding commences. Start breeding after the shortest day of the year or at the beginning of autumn. Do not breed when it is very cold or hot.

  • Identify health problems and “cleanse” the stud with a pre-breeding health programme. When a widespread infertility problem occurs, seek veterinary help to identify and eliminate diseases such as French Moult, Megabacteria, Chlamydiosis, E.coli and Strep. infections.
  • Fortify the diet to lift the overall nutritional status of the flock.
  • Change the breeding strategy. “Outcross” when weak lines and inbreeding result in cock or hen infertility.

If a nest of young is too large in terms of numbers, it would be safe to foster some of the young to nests where there are similar sized babies. To avoid possible rejection by the foster parents, this should happen before they start to feather up.


See Sexing

Hand Rearing

Hand rearing may become necessary when parents abandon their nests and refuse to feed their young and you have nowhere to foster them. Alternatively, some breeders will hand feed to make the bird super tame.

Feeding and hygiene

A disposable plastic syringe can be used for feeding. This is faster and cleaner than using an eye dropper or a plastic teaspoon. Spoon feeding may take longer but it is beneficial as you could use thicker consistency of food towards the end of the hand rearing process. The tip of the spoon can be softened in boiling water and moulded to make a funnel for ease of hand feeding.

The last option would be a crop needle, which is the most effective method of hand feeding but you do need to be experienced to use one.

All equipment should be sterilised before and after use.

There are a number of baby bird food formulas available and the Birdcare Company, who is a sponsor of The Budgerigar Society, produces a hand rearing food additive called Formula Plus. It contains specialist nutrients that are not routinely included in commercial hand-rearing formulae, but which play a tremendous role in supporting the well-being and development of young chicks. Some of these special ingredients help to support the chick’s natural immune system, which works to keep infection at bay, while others help with the rapid replication of cells. For a chick to grow, it must increase the number of cells in its body, and it has to do it at a pretty phenomenal rate at that.

Add Formula Plus to your usual hand-rearing formula to help prevent sickness by supporting the immune system, to maximise growth rates and to help with feather production. It makes weaning far less stressful for the chick, reducing the risk of chick losses at this very critical stage in their development and helps to prevent weight loss at weaning. All in all, it will make chick weaning a far easier process for you and bring stronger, fitter chicks.

For detailed instructions on hand feeding see:


Under normal circumstances the time between laying and hatching is 18 days assuming fertility. Testing for the presence of an embryonic chick may be carried out on the sixth day after incubation has commenced. This may be achieved with the use of a Candling Torch available from the Budgerigar Club, this device shines a bright light into the shell enabling blood vessels in the yolk to be seen quite clearly if the egg is fertile. The hen exclusively incubates on the eggs although the cock bird may join her in the nest box.

On the basis that everything is in order, the first chicks will hatch out followed by its nest mates on the following alternate days.

Sometimes fertile eggs are overdue in hatching. An idea that has worked on many occasions is putting a two or three-day old chick in with the eggs as this seems to encourage the unborn chicks to start hatching – remember to record the move of the chick.


The verb to husband, means “to manage carefully,” and derives from an older meaning of husband, which in the 14th century referred to the ownership and care of a household or farm. Today it means the “control or judicious use of resources,” and for us, the breeding and care of budgerigars.


Inbreeding is the mating of individuals that are closely related through common ancestry, as opposed to outbreeding, which is the mating of unrelated individuals.


See Hatching

Laying – signs of

See Egg Production


See Artificial Lighting

Line Breeding

Line breeding is a term commonly used to describe milder forms of inbreeding. Typically, it involves arranging matings so that one or more relatives occur more than once in a pedigree, while avoiding close inbreeding.


Budgerigars reproduce through cloacal copulation and the two birds rub their cloacas or vents together so that sperm is transferred from the male to the female.

The male persistently courts his mate by tapping her beak with his own to stimulate her. The female eventually lifts her tail in the air, raising her wings a little to let the male know that his stimulation has been successful.

The male balancing on the females back and the entire act usually lasts only a few seconds.

Nest Boxes

There are two types of nest box to choose from – internal to the cage and external to the cage. Today, it is generally recommended to use externally mounted nest boxes. These of course use up valuable room in a small birdroom so for a small shed I would suggest that they are placed inside the breeding cage.

While not utilising any space this can present further problems, the first being access to the chicks for checking, cleaning and ringing purposes and so therefore the nest box door should be accessible. To give the hen privacy when incubating the eggs, the entry hole should be facing the back of the cage. The other problem is that budgerigars are very destructive, and the box will be badly chewed and needs to be of strong construction.

Nesting Material

Budgerigars do not need any nesting material. However, it is good practice to put a handful of untreated, softwood shaving into the nest at the time of pairing. In the wild, the hen would clean out the hollow of a tree and this would be a part of the stimuli for breeding. The same thing applies in the birdroom and inevitably she will empty the nest box of the shavings.

Number Of Rounds

How many nests should each pair be allowed?

This is a difficult question because the answer could be seen to be controversial. In days past and in the view of many fanciers even today, pairs should be restricted to rearing two out of three rounds of eggs, with the final round being fostered to other pairs. The ideal clutch size being four chicks and a single chick nest should be avoided – these should be either fostered to another pair or other chicks fostered into the single chick nest. If you do move chicks or eggs around the nests make a note of any changes and then correct pedigree information can be maintained.

However, many breeders today believe that so long as the pair remain fit and healthy, and chicks are being successfully reared, then the number of rounds has little impact on the adults. In fact, when split up after two rounds, it is not unusual for the pair, which are still in tip top breeding condition, to become unwell because of the stresses caused by the removal of the breeding environment.


Outcrossing is breeding from unrelated individuals. It is usually carried out to bring in a certain variety, colour or trait that is desired.

Pair Bonding

A pair bond is the strong affinity that develops in some species between a mating pair. In some animals and birds this may be for life but in the case of a budgerigar it is not. For budgerigars, a pair bond may form in the flight but almost as soon as they are separated the bond is broken.


If you are colony breeding your budgerigars, they pretty much choose their own partners. Cage breeding is a different matter as you choose the two birds that are to breed together. Breeders use several variations when it comes to introducing the pair to the breeding cage. Cock bird first, hen bird first, both together. The time between introducing the birds to each other also varies from a few minutes to a few days. In practice, this seems to make little difference and a pair of budgerigars in breeding condition just want to get on with the job in hand.

Record Keeping

In a colony system record keeping is neither practical or warranted. For those wishing to track parentage and pedigree information cage breeding is the only option.

When cage breeding budgerigars, record keeping is essential for several reasons. The first is to keep track of birds bred, so you can follow the lines back if for example a feature is lost. It also provides a check to ensure you do not breed too closely. It provides details about outcrosses you may have introduced in the past and most importantly it means you do not have to rely on your memory.

Breeders use many ways to keep track of their bird’s pedigrees; from nest box cards to an index system and even commercially bought computer programmes.


There was a time when breeders used to keep their cock birds segregated from their hens. This was claimed to stop pair bonding, which we now know is easily broken. It is much better and more natural to allow cocks and hens to live together. It also has the added advantage that hens tend to gain weight if left as a group, but cock birds will chase hens in the flight which will help reduce the weight gain.


Once a budgerigar is a few weeks old, you will be able to tell the sex of the bird by looking at its cere (the nostril area). For most varieties, a hen’s is brown, and a cock’s is blue.

Stock Birds

If you keep exhibition budgerigars there are show birds and stock birds. The stock birds are those individuals that possess the ability to pass desirable features to their offspring but do not pass muster on their own for showing.

Stock Cages

Stock cages are usually large cages – often breeding cages with the dividing slides removed – that are used to house a group of budgerigars.


Weaning is a natural event that occurs when baby budgies are around 5 or 6 weeks old and can feed themselves and become self-sufficient. At this time, they can be removed from the breeding cage and placed in a nursery cage with other similar aged babies.

When To Pair Up

See Breeding Condition

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