Cockatiel Egg-laying and Incubation
The female will spend more and more time in the nest box, and she will feed from the cuttlebone and mineral block, the nutrients of which she needs to form the eggshell.
At this point it is especially important to provide water for bathing as she needs the moisture for the egg-building process within her, as well as to regulate the humidity in the nest box.
One way you will know eggs are on the way (within a day or so) is that the hen's droppings will be huge compared to what they would be under normal circumstances. The parents will store their droppings and eliminate less often but with bigger results when they do leave the nest box. Cockatiels, as most birds, are very clean; and they understand the importance of not soiling the nesting area.
These large droppings will continue throughout the nesting period. The hen may only come out to eliminate every 12 hours.
Another indication of impending egg-laying is the hen's vent. 12 to 24 hours before the egg-laying, the hen's vent swells quite visibly. The vent takes on the outline of the round egg hours before it is expelled from the hen.
Each clutch consists of 4 to 7 white eggs that are laid on alternate days. Although occasionally you will find eggs laid every day until the clutch is completed. Both the male and female share the incubation of the eggs -- the duration of which is usually between 18 - 21 days.
The hen may begin laying eggs in as little as two weeks after the first mating. This being said, sometimes a hen may get carried away and begin laying without a mating having taken place.
Eggs are laid every second day with a normal clutch consisting of 4 to 6 eggs.
If the hen has never laid before, don't be alarmed if the first egg has some blood on it and is elongated. Any chick within the egg may still develop quite normally.
Eggs can be candled about 7 to 10 days after their incubation has begun to verify fertility and development of the egg. At that time you should see a web of tiny red/pink veins starting to become visible inside the shell.
Incubating the Eggs:
Cockatiels usually don't start incubating the eggs until after the second or third egg is laid, with a clutch averaging 4 to 6. Fertilized eggs will remain viable at room temperature for up to ten days as long as the incubation process has not begun. They cannot interrupt the incubation process without killing the chick inside the egg.
Both male and female cockatiels share the incubation of the eggs and it is common to see both of them in the nestbox at the same time. Sometimes one bird will be sitting on the eggs and the other just sitting beside and sometimes each bird will incubate somet of the eggs. When one bird is outside the nestbox eating, to relieve him or herself, to eat or drink or to bathe -- the other will take over the incubation of the eggs.
The father does a lot of the egg incubation during the daytime when the hen eats and rests outside the nest box. The hen will incubate during the night, while the male usually sits outside the nest box guarding it.
You can check the nest box a few times each day without unduly disturbing the birds. In fact, it's one way to assure the birds are used to having you check on them. Announce your visit by tapping on the box. The reason for this being that if the parents get startled or scared, they may accidentally break eggs or trample chicks to death. Therefore, you really don't want to scare or surprise the parents by opening the box abruptly during the time of incubation and raising of young chicks.
After announcing yourself, gently herd the parents aside using a sturdy magazine or some other barrier, if they choose to remain in the nesting box during the inspection. Many cockatiels will prefer to leave the nesting box at that time. Even if you know that the birds won't leave the box, it is a good idea to tap on the box and announce yourself lest you startle them and they break an egg.
The advantage of having well-socialized cockatiels as breeders is that they are less likely to get scared or upset when you check on them.
Proper procedure would be to note the day the first egg was laid. I developed a form that you are welcome to use. Form in PDF Format ... Word Format.. The benefits are manifold for maintaining these records. You will be able to make educated decisions as to pairing up the chicks in the future by maintaining records of their heritage. The new owners may request that information. Breeders often use a non-toxic, water-proof soft-tip pen to mark each egg as it is laid (Number 1 for the first, etc.).
The chicks will hatch after 18 to 21 days of incubation.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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