I received a phone call from a person wishing to sell Amazons, Caiques and Goffin cockatoos. I decided I would take the Amazons and the Caiques. I just didn't have space for the cockatoos nor were they in my plans.
The Caiques had never produced an egg even though they had been set up for breeding during more than four years with the former owner.
It took quite some time to get the birds into good breeding condition. Unfortunately I lost one female Caique before the birds were able to regain their health.
Cages and Nest Boxes
Once the birds were healthy, we put them into new cages and totally different nest boxes (they had been given a "Z" box previously). The new nest boxes were a 12-inch cube with the entrance in an upper corner and an inside platform below the entrance hole for the male to have a place to stand guard. The female likes privacy and the male will guard the nest site,
Since I knew nothing about Caiques I was taking a long shot on this design. Every one of the birds went into the boxes with no hesitation. The boxes were installed inside the cage with an inspection area to the back. Over the inspection area we put a flap of cage wire as a security door in case the birds should chew through the back of the nest box. Like I said, I knew not what these birds were capable of. Since then I have learned my instincts were quite good.
I did not have a clue as to nutritional needs of the Caiques; I fed them the same diet I was feeding all the other South American birds in our care. They thrived very well on it. The diet consists of small "Pretty Bird" pellets, vegetables and fruits in season. (I prefer to use the small size pellets as the birds will take a chunk of food to the perch, take a bite and drop the rest to the ground. By using the small pellets, there is far less waste and thus cut expenses too.)
The vegetables are frozen mixed vegetables containing corn, peas, green beans, carrots and lima beans. To this I add shredded raw carrots, raw finely chopped apple with extra green beans or peas. Occasionally, I will also add finely chopped cabbage and celery to add variety to the mix. Broccoli is added from time to time as are other greens. What ever is in season!
When fresh vegetables are available in the garden, I feed beets with the greens, peas in the pods, beans in the pod, chard, zuccinni, kiwi, pumpkin, other squashes and vegetables. We use what ever fruits are on sale or locally available. A food processor is used to chop the foods. Also more oranges are added to the diet during breeding season.
Seed In the Diet
During the winter months the birds are fed some seed. It is not a large part of the diet however. Each pair getting about 1/4 to 1/2 cup dry seed per day. .
As the time to bring the birds up to breeding condition approaches, they are fed soaked seed as part of the diet instead of the dry seed mix. The seed is put to soak in a bucket with one gallon of water to which I add 1 teaspoon of Vanodine 18 to kill the molds and bacteria that may be present.
We are on untreated well water that we had tested and it is good water, however, I use the Vanodine solution on the seed as a precaution.
The seed is soaked for twenty-four hours or over night and drained. Rinsed several times then fed. If there is any left over, it is returned to the soak bucket and used the next day. The first twenty four-hour soak is done at room temperature. The second 24-hour soak is done in the small refrigerator kept in the aviary kitchen. I do not soak the seed long enough to form visible sprouts, as I fear mold may be produced and this would be very detrimental to the birds. They get about 1/3-cup soaked seed per pair each day.
Breeding birds must be in the best of health. All the birds are health checked before ever seeing a breeding cage or nest box. Be sure to have your breeding birds checked by an avian veterinarian.
The cages we are using for breeding the Blackhead Caique are 3 feet wide by 3 feet high by 4 feet long. The food cups are in the front of the cage and built to be serviced from the exterior of the cage. The nest box is in the back, top right hand corner, inside the cage but with an opening into the cage and nest box for inspecting the interior. It is important to have security around the nest box, as these beauties are chewers.
Caiques seem to relish fresh clean branches with green bark to chew on. Many times I have noted they take some of the bark into the nest site. If you are so fortunate to have unsprayed apple trees with budding branches to give them all the better! Be sure any wood you use has not been sprayed with any kind of insecticide. Maple, Vine Maple Willow, Alder, Filbert or Hazelnut branches are also good to use for the Caiques.
Toys and Entertainment
Caiques are very playful and need toys and blocks of wood to play with and pass the time when not busy breeding. Because the Caiques will chew the ends of the perches, they will become too short to reach across the cage, Instead of throwing them away; we stand them up at an angle in the cage and the birds love to run up and down on them. Also, they are still good chew toys! Sometimes the birds will move them around to suit themselves. On more than one occasion, I have had them pull the short perch out and it will be free standing in the middle of the cage! They love this as it becomes springy and they flap and bounce on them. This gives you an idea how ingenious they can be!
Are They Talking?
One of the first questions a person will ask me about the Caique is "Can they talk?" The answer is " Yes, they can talk!" Their voices are small and high pitched similar to a budgie. It can be difficult to understand them if you don't listen closely but they can mimic human speech. They will respond appropriately to certain stimuli such as feeding or giving treats. If you say "Thank You" each time they will learn to say it as a response to being given food treats.
The Blackheaded Caique is not a notably noisy bird. They do have a high pitch squeal if they are upset. If the birds get the attention they deserve, there is no reason for them to squeal. They have a whistle type of call they use in adulthood to attract a mate. When a Caique bonds to its human, they may use this call to get that person's attention. It is not annoying, unlike a Cockatiel call. These birds are especially great for apartment dwellings because they are not annoyingly loud.
As for pet quality, they can't be beat! They are affectionate and want to be with you much of the time. Wrestling is one of their favorite sports! Supply them with plenty of toys and a great variety of them to avoid boredom. A bouncing rope and swings are great fun. The hand (foot) held toys are enjoyed, as are balls in the golf ball size. They should have holes in them for the birds to have a toe hold area for hanging onto them.
Bells are often a favorite item. Do not use small Budgie nor Cockatiel toys for the Caiques as they are strong enough to take them apart and may swallow the small pieces. Be sure all toys used for the Caiques are non-toxic.
Music is enjoyed also. The Jungle Talk music boxes are available to our birds.
The Caique is a very active bird and therefore should have a spacious cage for all its activities while not being with its human friends. A minimum size cage that I would recommend is about 24" wide 24" deep and 30" to 36" high. If you have space, bigger is better for these active feathered beauties. Just be sure the bar spacing is appropriate at 1/2" to 3/4".
If you desire to train your Caique, it is not difficult, as they are very intelligent. It takes time and patience on your part. The birds will want to please you once they are settled in and comfortable in their new home.
The Caique has a natural hop when trying to hurry along a branch or the ground and this is one of the actions very easy to teach the bird to do on cue. We have a female we purchased for breeding and all we have to say is "hop, hop" and she does.
When you train your pets, be sure to start with the actions that are natural to the species. Caiques love to carry things in their beaks and hold things with their feet so try activities with these behaviors.
The Caique should live up to 30 years old if given proper care and nutrition. Keeping a clean environment will help keep the birds healthy and in good condition.
Be sure to have an annual vet-check even if you think your birds are healthy. You will find the minor health problems and can eliminate them before the bird becomes seriously ill.