They like toys and places to hide. (They are also known as pocket parrots.) The hand fed babies love to be with people and will ride around on your shoulder or in your pocket as long as you will allow them. It is very easy to spoil this little patch of feathers. Just remember that you are working with a bird that will remain like a two-year-old child and it is best to set your boundaries in the beginning rather than try to correct the problems you create.
Greycheeks can be difficult to breed. A breeding routine for us begins with several pairs of healthy, sexually mature, breeding stock. A minimum flock should be three pairs or more.
We have 10 or more pairs in the breeding program at all times. It is common for some pairs to take a year off from breeding. By having a larger number of pairs should give you a good working flock.
All birds new to my facility will be isolated for a month or more, away from all other birds at my facility. Once the prospective breeder is deemed to be healthy, it will be introduced to another, of the opposite sex of course. All adult breeders are surgically sexed. I prefer surgically sexing the adult stock as many times problems may be found and solved from viewing the sex organs and knowing in advance if they are viable breeders. The pair will be introduced slowly to be sure they will bond properly. If the pair is not bonded, they probably will not produce fertile eggs.
In early spring, depending on the weather in our area, I begin to prepare the breeding cages. Each cage is 24" wide X 18" deep X 24" high. The California style cages are hung from the ceiling and cement floors below. A perch of natural wood branches from Vine Maple, Alder or Maple are installed in each cage. Wood shavings are laid beneath the cages to catch droppings and food to prevent the buildup of debris on the floor. The floor is cleaned and new shavings put down on a regular schedule.
All cages in our facility are built to be serviced from the outside. This is less threatening to the birds by not invading their territory for feeding. The nest box is attached to the outside of the cage at one end. The nest box I use is similar to the offset Cockatiel box. A partition is installed to separate the entrance from the actual nest site. This gives the nesting pair more privacy and security. The entrance hole is cut in the upper corner toward the back of the cage. The box measures 9" long X 6" wide X 8" high. It opens at the top for inspection. Pine shavings are provided in depth equal to the depth of the 1 1/2 " entrance hole. The pair will pack down, chew up or remove any unwanted shavings. A visual barrier is used between the cages of each breeding pair to provide more privacy. This way the birds are kept busy with their mates and not arguing with a neighbor over territory.
It will take a pair about a month to settle into their breeding quarters and get serious about nesting, so don't get discouraged. Remember, patience is important
A pair should lay 4 to 6 eggs per clutch and begin to sit tight with the third egg at which time the pair remains in the nestbox most of the time. Each will take turns coming out to eat during feeding time in the morning and again in the evening. The hen will usually sit in the nestbox waiting for the male to return, at which time she may go to the food cup.
During the morning feeding is the time that I check all the nest boxes. Each box is checked daily in order that it becomes part of the regular routine and does not seem to upset the pairs. There are always a few exceptions of course!
Personality Changes During Nesting
The birds become more protective and some pairs are absolutely vicious when they are nesting. Hatching should begin in about 26 days. This may vary with some pairs but seems to be an average. I do not artificially incubate the greycheek eggs, as all my pairs are excellent parents. When the babies are 10 to 14 days old, they are pulled for hand feeding.
Occasionally a pair will go back to nest when the babies are removed from the nest. I have more than one pair that has laid three clutches in a season. I discourage multiple clutches by removing the nest boxes, as over breeding is too stressful and a health hazard. After all the babies have been removed from the parents for hand feeding, I remove the visual barriers, which gives the birds a sense of flock interaction. I no longer put the birds into a community flight. The community flight can be too dangerous for some of the meeker birds. It is also a good way to prevent some of the disease dangers.
Because the little Greycheek Parakeet prefers a hiding place to sleep, we build small bedroom boxes similar to the open front Finch box without the bottom in it. This is placed in the upper corner where the entrance was for the nest box. With no bottom in the box, there is much less cleaning and less danger of mold and bacteria buildup but still gives the birds a sense of security and privacy for sleeping.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, our weather can get very cold and I have found the Greycheek will acclimate nicely if protected from freezes and kept at about 45 degrees or higher. If heat is needed, I provide a red heat lamp, electric (oil-filled) radiator or some other heat source. Never use the white heat bulbs, as they will blind the birds.
The area where we breed our Greycheeks is under the roof extension of our metal building and enclosed on three sides. The remaining side is wire screened but covered with plastic during the colder months of the year for heat retention. The South end of the wall has a large window that we can open to allow unfiltered sunlight in on nicer and warmer days.
Sunlight is very important to all living things. It is necessary for assimilating vitamins and minerals. It is very important that the birds assimilate calcium well before breeding time. Cuttlebones are provided but often times the birds just tear them apart and the calcium ends up on the floor. Therefore I make a powder from the cuttlebones and sprinkle this on the vegetables. A mineral block may be provided but in my opinion, the Greycheek does not care for them.
I use very small amounts of vitamins and mineral supplements. If the diet is well balanced and nutritious, they are not needed. They will get the needed vitamins and minerals naturally. To bring the birds into breeding condition, I don't change the diet a great deal. Vitamin E and Micro-vet is added to the vegetables very sparingly.
It is very important to provide your Greycheek with a nutritious diet. An essential part of the diet is pelleted food, vegetables and fruit with some seed to provide entertainment. If given free choice, these little darlings will eat just fruit! This is not in their best interest. About 1/3 cup of vegetables with fruit is served daily. A daily ration consists of frozen (thawed of course) mixed vegetables to which I add raw shredded or finely chopped carrot and fresh apples. Oranges, broccoli and other foods are added as they come into season. During the summer raw or partially cooked beets, peas in the pod, beans in the pod Swiss chard and any garden vegetables we have are added to the diet in small amounts. Of course corn on the cob is a big favorite! The birds need to know there will be plenty of food to raise a family so more than they can consume is given to them daily to encourage breeding. When young ones are in the nest, more will be need of course. It is amazing how much these little birds can eat. Just remember, when young are in the nest, the parent birds will need larger amounts of soft foods to feed the babies.
I never feed fruits, which has ever contained a pit! The pits are toxic and the toxins can bleed back into the fruit causing them to contain the toxins. If you feed the fruit you may be feeding the toxins. Using the Hale Peach as an example, note the color (red) that has bled back into the fruit even after you have removed the pit. Imagine this is the toxin. How much of it have you fed your bird? There are plenty of other fruits to feed your bird so why take a chance? If it has a pit, question it.
Do not feed your birds spoiled foods or rotting fruits. My theory is, if it isn't good enough for me, it isn't good enough for my birds.
If you only have one or two Greycheeks, it is very simple to provide a good diet for them. Just share your healthy meals with your bird. It is much easier to tell you what not to feed your birds. Do not feed highly spiced foods (including salt), fatty foods, candy, (sugars) neither caffeine nor alcoholic beverages. If in doubt about a food, don't feed it. It is far better to err on the side of caution than to be sorry later and the bird pays the price.
Another very important part of any diet is of course, clean, fresh, water every day. One way to accomplish this is with the use of water tubes or water bottles with rabbit style fountains. Greycheek Parakeets don't drink much water but they do love to bathe and will use the drinking water if need be. To avoid soiling the drinking water, I give the birds a separate bathing vessel. I have found the heavy plastic 6-inch flowerpot drain tray works well for the bath water. The ones I have are safe to put in the dishwasher. This makes cleaning easier and more sanitary.
These little birds are very active during playtime and should have a variety of toys to occupy them when they are caged. Ladders and swings are fun, as are colorful acrylic toys that are available. Just be sure it is the appropriate size for your birds. Because these little ones are strong, I suggest Cockatiel sized or stronger toys for them. They need toys to chew and destroy. This will keep the beak from over growing.
Can They Talk?
The Greycheek does have some ability for mimicry but are not known for the speech clarity of their larger cousins. The Greycheek Parakeet has a higher pitch voice and not always easily understood. I have several who have very clear voices and it is a real thrill when I enter the aviaries and hear "pretty bird" or "hey turkey, turkey". I just grin and repeat the phrases. They also do a very good wolf whistle!
As a pet, caging your little bird is very easy. There are so many styles available on the market today, the only recommendation I have is: "The bigger, the better!" Just be sure it has appropriate bar spacing for your greycheek parakeet. Enjoy your wonderful pet!
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