Side-by-Side Caging

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Q: We would like to breed Amazons and have been buying older birds that were previously kept as pets. Some are imprinted, and some are wild imports that have never really become tame. We have heard that it is best to keep them in separate cages side by side until they get used to each other. What we do not know is how long they should be kept this way before being placed in the same cage in order to ensure maximum compatibility.

A: About 15 seconds! That is how long it takes me to take an Amazon out of its parrot cage and place it in a breeding flight. In my experience, the method that you refer to has proved to be of no or negative value. I am sure that there are those who will disagree, but I have yet to talk to anyone who can verify that this method has resulted in birds that were previously incompatible becoming compatible. Whenever this method seems to work, it is usually because the birds have liked each other from first sight. I do know, however, that there are many examples of this method causing birds that would have been compatible to become hateful of one another.

Anyone who has owned Amazons would be quick to agree that they will usually make an immediate decision as to whether or not they like or dislike something or someone. Placing two Amazons in separate cages that are side by side can often be counter-productive. More often than not, any initial negative or neutral feelings that one bird had for the other will get worse due to jealousies. If they could talk they would be saying, “You put fresh food in her cage before mine!” “You made eye contact with him before me!” Before you know it, you have a major “sibling rivalry” going on between two birds that would have been fine if they were initially “thrown uncaringly” into the same flight and semi-ignored. The tamer the birds, the worse it can be. Tame birds are much more sensitive to human interaction.

The method that we use at the Institute is to place new prospects together the first moment they see each other. The most important thing to remember is that the birds must be introduced into a new cage in new surroundings at the same moment. It will do you no good to put a different cage in the same room if one of the birds already feels that the room is part of its territory. With an exceptionally possessive bird, it can help to take the bird out of its familiar surroundings for a week before bringing it to the area where it will be placed in the flight with its prospective mate. For example, if a bird feels territorially possessive of the family room, move it into a holding cage in the bathroom or garage for a week before placing it the bird room with its new mate. This will make the bird feel insecure and less likely to become violent toward a perceived intruder.

We monitor them continually, but from a distance. When servicing the flight, we work as quickly as possible and never make eye contact with either of the birds. We expect a bit of bickering. We even tolerate a few feathers flying. This is natural and necessary. The male will have to exert his dominance over the female before he is willing to accept her as his mate. If the fighting is continual or if it appears that the birds might cause each other injury, they are separated. We have found that no amount of time will cause an incompatible pair of Amazons to become compatible and productive. If there is a problem with compatibility, new mates for each of the Amazons should be found.