Another Nest of Eggs- But No Young

Rainer R. Erhart


In breeding any species of birds, there are always critical periods. One of these critical periods, for instance, occurs shortly after hatching, because at that stage success depends not only on a steady and experienced breeding pair, but success also depends on the weather, on the health and strength of the youngsters and on an acceptable and nutritious feeding formula.

In lovebirds, the first anxious moments occur even before hatching. Thus, a common complaint is the high rate of dead in shell just a few days before hatching. Such repeated disapporntments seem to give rise to many hypotheses, and the length to which some breeders go to solve the problem is remarkable.

Lovebird eggs, with the exception of those of the Madagascar, are very hard shelled. Rarely are they broken, punctured or otherwise damaged within the nest. I always marvel how a nest full of nearly fledged, active young can avoid breaking the eggs their mother had layed to start her second clutch.

Because of the roughness of the shell, it is easy to come to the conclusion that a dry, hard eggshell is the culprit of dead in shell. Most articles one reads emphasize the importance of moisture, and to assure high moisture many breeders have gone to absolute extremes. The first suggested remedy is the humidifier, but of course those would work only in an indoor facility. A second measure is the spraying of eggs or even dipping them in lukewarm water. Some even immerse the entire nestbox and still others provide for a double bottom nestbox into which they insert a tray of water.

There is no doubt that the proper humidity plays a role in the hatching of eggs, but I suggest that other factors play an even more important role, and by ignoring these factors not even the wettest nest will produce good hatching results. These factors are nestbox materials, cleanliness, breeding condition of adult birds and nutrition.

One way to assure proper humidity within the nest box is to use natural wood, not laminated materials such as plywood. Pine boards, for example, are easy to work with, they are relatively inexpensive and they breathe and effectively hold moisture. A nesrbox built of pine or fir better simulates a natural cavity found in trees.

Along with a natural wooden nestbox, you should also offer plenty of fresh nesting material such as willow, palm leaves, corn stalks or any other soft branches acceptable to your birds. Never let them build a nest with newspaper; it will literally withdraw water from the eggs. Furthermore, offer fresh nesting material even during incubation. Females tend to use some of it, soak it in water and then carry it into the nest to add moisture.

Cleanliness in both your aviaries and nesrboxes cannot be overemphasized. Too often breeders reuse an old nestbox that has not been thoroughly cleaned after previous use. Ideally, all nest boxes should be discarded after the breeding season and this goes particularly for plywood boxes. But if you want to reuse them, I suggest a thorough cleaning, soaking them in hot water to which has been added bleach or any other effective germicide, and a thorough drying in the sun. I have also used the kitchen oven (on days when my wife was out of town), heated to 250-300 °F to ensure sterility. Remember that birds in the wild rarely use the same nest more than once, so why should you do differently in the confines of an aviary or bird room. Also remember that nature is a much more effective cleanser through the action of rain, temperature, bacteria and time. Most of these natural ingredients are missing in your bird room.

Why do I stress clean nest boxes? The nest box is a fertile ground for the growth of all sons of mites, bacteria and especially fungi. Since the egg is quite....

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