Stimulating Breeding Through Diet

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Q: We have been breeding parrots for many years and are always looking for ways to increase our production. When we first started our aviaries, we fed 50-percent pelleted diet and 50-percent seed on a free-choice basis. When we got near the breeding season, we would begin giving the birds plenty of fruits and vegetables. Within two months, most of our stock would be on eggs. Several years later, we discovered that professional breeders and vets recommend giving some fruits and vegetables on a year-round basis. Since we have started this, our breeding season does not seem to be as strong as it was in the past. Do parrots need to be denied fruits or vegetables for a time so they can be stimulated to breed by them?

A: Definitely not. Unfortunately, you are being influenced by a misconception that is extremely common in psittaculture. It seems perfectly logical to people who live in the northern hemisphere that parrots would naturally breed in the spring. This misbelief would, of course, lead to the erroneous conclusion that the sudden availability of all the vegetation and fruits that appear due to the spring rains would be the natural breeding stimulus. The fact is that this is the exact opposite of what actually takes place in the wild. In the wild, parrots have evolved to breed in the winter, not the spring. Even though most people have not been to the jungles to see this, there are two facts that all psittaculturists know that should verify this. As we all are aware, parrots nest in the hollows of trees, and spring is marked by the coming of the rainy season. In the heavy tropical rains, the hollows in the trees fill up with water. Parrots cannot nest successfully with their eggs wet or underwater!

Another important fact is that baby birds need a diet that is much more concentrated than any fruits or vegetables could be. Seeds and nuts are nature’s only concentrated food sources. Seeds and nuts are a major part of what babies in the wild are raised on, and their appearance is a major dietary breeding stimulus. Seeds and nuts are most readily available in the tropical winter, not the spring. In short, you should be feeding the fruits and vegetables all year long. Seeds should be added to the diet coming into and during the breeding season to produce the breeding stimulus.

If you have been feeding pellets and seeds on a free-choice basis, I am willing to bet that the birds were consuming more seeds than pellets. The breeding stimulus that was created by your introduction of fruits and vegetables to the diet was created by the alleviation of the vitamin deficiencies that are usually incurred when the parrots eat a diet that is too heavy in seed content and too low in fruit and vegetable content. Granted, the elimination of vitamin deficiencies is a breeding stimulus; however, I cannot recommend proceeding in this manner. Allowing birds to become deficient so they can be stimulated by the elimination of the deficiency has a very negative influence on the long-term health of the birds.