Hatching Cockatiel Chicks & Their First Days of Development

Hatching Chicks

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Hatching Chicks:

The eggs hatch approximately 18 to 21 days after incubation begins. However, do not jump the gun and remove eggs that didn't hatch as expected. Sometimes the incubation starts later then the breeder is aware, or the circumstances weren't optimal prolonging the process.

If the eggs are late, you can candle them to assess fertility. If the egg is anything but translucent when candled, leave the egg at least for 28 days before removing it from the nest box.

As the hatch date approaches, increase the amount of soft food given to the parents so that they will be accustomed to it when they need it for feeding the babies.

Before an egg hatches, the chick inside starts peeping. The chick uses a special egg tooth to peck around the circumference of the egg. It takes from a few hours to two days to peck all the way around it, depending on the strength of the chick and the thickness of the egg. This process is called "pipping." Once a chick has pipped most of the way around its egg, it turns inside the shell and breaks out of the egg.

After the exhausting hatching, the chicks can often be seen resting on their backs. During these first few hours of its life, the chick's main requirement is warmth provided by their parents. For the next 8 to 12 hours, the parents will not feed the chick, as it receives nourishment from absorbing its yolk sac. This is a very crucial step. If the yolk sac isn't properly absorbed, the chick isn't likely to survive. Only after process that is completed, the parents should commence feeding.

  • If the parents don't start feeding after about 8 hours, the breeder may want to assist by feeding the chick a drop or two of Pedialyte. If they parents still haven't started to feed the chick after 12 hours, you may need to pull the chick for handfeeding, or -- if you are lucky enough to have another breeding pair which is at the same stage of incubating / egg hatching -- you could foster the chick out with them. Handfeeding chicks from day one is very challenging as they require night feedings for the first week.

Novice breeders may be concerned to see the chick laying on its back with a full crop and the fat abdomen and think something is wrong. However, this is perfectly normal. Parents will feed the chicks this way until they are strong enough to get up and beg for food. Generally, the biggest chick that cries the loudest gets most of the food.

  • Sometimes, parents may push a chick aside from the rest and not care for it. This could be because the chick suffers from a medical problem; however, it could just as easily be because the parents of over-whelmed -- maybe because they are physically exhausted or feel there isn't enough food for all the chicks. The situation needs to be assessed by the care taker and remedial action may have to be taken. In any case, the chick may need to be hand-raised.

  • The Youngest Chicks Don't Thrive or Die: The chances for the smallest chicks are diminished, as the larger chicks are stronger and more demanding and will, therefore, receive more food than the younger chicks. This may result in stunted growth and, in some cases, even death.

    James Anagnos, an experienced canary breeder, suggests the following: "[T]he day [the hen] lays her first egg take it from her and store in safe place in a cup with some tissue or cotton. [Please refer to this webpage about properly storing eggs BEFORE incubation]. Take all her eggs every day as soon as she has laid them. When she has laid all [or her last] eggs, place them all back in her nest. She will now incubate all the eggs at the same time, so all the eggs hatch at about the same time. This will give all birds an equal chance. They are all the same size and strong."This will greatly reduce the chance of losing the younger chicks.  


The first ten days of a chick’s life is a period of very rapid growth and development.

For the first week, a chick is blind and helpless. A newly hatched chick is wet and has the appearance of an embryo. Its eyes are closed and it has a yellow down (white down if it is a white-face chick) rather than feathers. The down will be wet initially; but once it dries, it will be rather fluffy. The chicks will lose that fuzz within days and be completely bald.

After about 10 days you will be able to see pin feathers, which are their first feathers. At that time, the chick can easily move around the nest box and beg for food. Their vocalizations change from soft peep, peep, to loud and raspier calls for food.

Chicks with red eyes are probably going to be Lutinos (yellow cockatiels) or true Albinos (white cockatiels). All others will have dark eyes. 


Chicks are usually banded at seven to ten days old. 

Raising Chicks

Article by Sibylle Johnson


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