Some Thoughts On Breeding Problems In Birds

When you are breeding birds, at each stage of the breeding cycle, problems can arise, and some of them will require rapid intervention from you in order to save a bird’s life.

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Breeding Problems In Birds

Breeding Problem Number 1:

What happens when the birds simply show no desire to go to nest. There can be a number of reasons for this ranging from an incompatible partner to inadequate nesting facilities.

Start by reviewing your management of the birds. Try to offer other nest sites and materials in the shelter and in the flight.

Next look at the diet your bird is on. Maybe a supplement of calcium will help to encourage breeding activity. Some birds, even small ones like budgerigars, need to be within sight and sound of others of their kind if they are to breed successfully. This can also apply to finches.

In the case of larger parrots, try swapping their partners. The result can be surprising in some cases where hens have gone to nest successfully within a few weeks after having failed to make any attempt to nest for years.

Breeding Problem Number 2:

Egg binding is another breeding problem in birds which is potentially fatal.

This occurs when a hen cannot expel the egg from her body and so it forms a blockage usually in the lower part of the reproductive tract.

Chilling, immaturity, a calcium deficiency or even old age, are all possible causes of egg-binding.

Muscular activity is depressed by cold weather and by a lack of calcium in the diet.

If the egg is abnormally large or has a soft rubbery shell which is also caused by calcium deficiency, it is more likely to be retained inside the body.

The earliest signs of egg binding will be seen when the hen is seen out of her nesting box and looks unsteady on her feet. Her condition will rapidly worsen and she will lose her ability to perch and will sit huddled up on the floor.

Emergency veterinary treatment is necessary under these circumstances, with an injection of calcium borogluconate frequently being given to improve muscular contractions to force the egg out of the reproductive tract.

Should this fail, however, more radical action like surgery will be required to remove the obstruction.

Birds normally recover quickly from egg binding, but they need to be prevented from laying again until at least the next breeding season. Use this time to discover why the problem arose in the first place and pay particular attention to the diet of your breeding birds.

In most cases egg binding is most likely to happen with the first egg, but if she has laid some eggs already, you can place the eggs in an incubator. This can also be done with eggs that have been abandoned.

Breeding Problem Number 3:

In some cases, even during a good breeding season not all the eggs will hatch.

This may be because they were not fertilized at the outset, as often the hen will retreat immediately into the nesting box, and so mating does not take place.

These are described as clear eggs because it is possible to see through them when they are held up in front of a bright light.

Those eggs that contain well-developed embryos that died lat in the incubation period are opaque, and live eggs have a delicate network of blood vessels.

Breeding Problem Number 4:

Chilling can be a cause of losses of fertile eggs, while problems with humidity, especially in an incubator may have this effect as well.

The shell is not actually a solid barrier, but consists of many thousands of microscopic pores through which water evaporates during the incubation period. This allows an air-space to form at the blunt end of the egg and enables the chick to start breathing air about 48 hours prior to hatching.

If the rate of evaporation is inadequate the chick will effectively drown in the shell.

Breeding Problem Number 5:

Another cause of death can be if the shell is heavily contaminated and bacteria pass through the pores and overwhelm the chick’s immune system.

Breeding Problem Number 6:

Most birds will feed their chicks’ without a problem and this task will be mostly done by the hen at first. If the chicks’ call persistently from within the nest and you discover that something is wrong, you may need to take over, which is not something to be undertaken lightly.

It is a time-consuming operation to hand rear and special hand rearing foods must be mixed for each feed as per the instructions on the package.

Good hygiene is particularly important and the use of a probiotic preparation is also needed to increase the chicks’ resistance to infection.

A teaspoon with bent sides makes a good feeding nozzle.

Wipe off the chicks’ bills after each feed to prevent any food deposits hardening and distorting the growth of the bill.

Keep the chicks’ in a warm brooder, gradually reducing the temperature as they grow older and start to feather up.

Solid food should be introduced to their diet at this stage gradually and regular weighing in is the best way to monitor progress. Remember that chicks’ do lose some weight as they near fledging age.

Breeding Problem Number 7:

Feather plucking of the chicks’ in the nest is a problem usually confined to budgerigars and lutino cockatiels. There is usually no warning as one of the adult birds denude their offspring withing a few hours, usually just as the feathers over the back and wings have emerged, but in all other aspects they have been great parents.

There is nothing that can be done here and the plumage will be starting to regrow by the time the chicks’ leave the nest.

Unfortunately this does appear to be an inherited vice, and such birds are best homed as pets rather than being kept as part of a breeding program.

Breeding Problem Number 8:

The sudden death of young birds can sometimes occur in the post fledging period and it is virtually impossible to establish the cause without an autopsy.

An autopsy can be very valuable however as it can help to save the lives of other birds and alert you to a health problem in your stock which otherwise go undetected.

A lot of the time it can be intestinal worms. These parasites are normally acquired while the chicks’ pick at the droppings of adults and the worms are far more devastating on a young bird than an adult one.

Sometimes young budgies that die soon after fledging are often the victims of trichomoniasis, having acquired the parasite responsible while being fed by their parents. Treatment of the adult breeding stock will help to prevent further losses, once the cause of the problem has been found.

Any other thoughts on breeding problems in birds? Please comment below.


  1. This is a valuable and well-researched article and I hope that it will help bird owners who are looking to breed their birds.  While much of it is technical, I found it interesting that birds may need to have other birds around or have a different partner to make them feel frisky.  I guess they are not much different from humans in that respect!

  2. Oh my goodness, I had no idea that there were so many issues related to bird breeding! It’s a lot of things to keep in mind, but your research into all of these issues does provide some guidance on how to mitigate these things that could arise and end up being fatal to the birds. Thank you for the information – it helps to know which things can be treated at home and which things can not.

    1. Don’t stress, as most times breeding birds goes seamlessly without problems. It is just good to be aware that problems can crop up and what to watch for in your breeding birds.

  3. I didn’t know there were so many problems with keeping birds! This is a valuable and well-researched article that I hope will help birders looking to raise their birds. I guess they’re not much different from humans in that respect! Thanks for the info – it will help you know which items can be treated at home and which cannot.

    1. Luckily most of the time breeding goes smoothly, just as it does in humans, this article is just to make you aware of the pitfalls that can happen.

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