By Linda S. Rubin
I have a male and a female cockatiel. My female, Jewels, is approaching 16 months old and my male is approaching 15 months. In the early spring, they began a mating process, but my local pet shop told me the females are not fertile until 18 months, so not to worry. I followed this advice and no babies came along. They are again mating with each other, and at this point I have not put a nesting box in their cage. I uncover them between 9 and 10 in the morning. In the evening they like to be covered about an hour before dusk. Can refer a good resource book about breeding? Could you offer some advice in case my cockatiels breed so I’ll know what my part should be in keeping them safe and allowing the hatchlings to develop? We are not planning on becoming breeders, but if babies come along, the more the merrier.
Cockatiels physically mature at an early age and theoretically can fertilize eggs while very young, even at the tender age of 4 to 6 months – although they seldom succeed at parenting. However, it is usually recommended that cockatiels should never be set up to breed until they are a minimum of 12 months of age, or ideally, 18 months, which provides the maturity needed to successfully rear young. This may have been why the pet shop owner quoted this particular age to you.
To breed successfully however, cockatiels require five breeding prerequisites that include optimum nutrition, temperature and humidity, extended photo-light (daylight) hours, an adequate nesting site and an appropriate mate. From what you have stated, it would appear that the reason your cockatiels have not bred is probably due to insufficient daylight hours, which are needed to stimulate breeding hormone levels adequately.
To emulate the breeding season, aviculturists allow their cockatiels to awake at daybreak but typically add a few extra hours of daylight by providing artificial light beyond dusk – for example until 9 or 10 p.m. These extra hours coincide with the natural breeding season, which ensures parent birds have the added time to seek out food and feed hungry chicks for a final good meal to last the night.
Provide a nutritious conditioning/breeding diet consisting of a quality cockatiel mix, cockatiel pellets, cuttlebone, water, dark green leafy vegetables and other soft foods. Attach a cockatiel-size nest box outside of the cage to allow the forthcoming chicks the space they need when they finally fledge the nest and perch inside the cage. Although some pairs act as if their cage is a nest box, especially if it is covered a lot of the time, most cockatiels prefer a natural nest box in which to reproduce. The fact that you allowed your cockatiels freedom to fly outside the cage on a daily basis is important, because it allows them to build up stamina for the breeding season and it improves the hens muscle tone for important egg-laying muscles to successfully lay eggs and prevent egg-binding.
The Cockatiel Foundation, Inc. has a series on supporting cockatiels during egg-laying.