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BREEDS & THEIR NEEDS
LOVEBIRDS
(Agapornis)
Fischers,  Masked,  Black-Cheeked &  Nyasas  +  Peach-faced

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Go to Main "Breeds" Page

 

Some of the info. on this page was submitted by S.P. Club Member, John Gregg,
 who is a very knowledgeable Owner and Breeder of Lovebirds
Click on links in Table below
6to go to specific topics

Nearly all the photos on this page are "Thumbnails"
 - Click on them to see a bigger picture and press the "Back" button to get back to this page.

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Blue Fischer Lutino - Normal -Dilute Green Fischers: 
Blue + Normal
Peach- faced
Agapornis Roseicollis

Nrml. Fischer Left
+ Dilute Masked Rt.

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Lutino Fischers Medium Green Fischer Normal green Fischer Blue masked Nrml Green masked

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Lutino Masked
Lovebirds
Lovebirds nesting - the cock is keeping guard but his N.box doesn't have the sentry box. Lovebird egg being "candled" after approx 
5 days showing embryo.
Peach-faced Hen ready to start laying eggs. You can see the bulge between her foot and her tail in the picture Hen carrying nesting material on her back under her wings.

INFO on the BREED 

  • Lovebirds are known as an "eye-ring species" and originate from Africa.

  • The "Eye Ring" group, as they are known, are made up of four separate and distinct species of Lovebird

  • The Masked, Fischer's, the Black-Cheeked and the Nyasa Love Birds.

  • There are 9 known species of the Lovebird (Agapornis) 

  • They are not sexually dimorphic, so it can be difficult to know if one has a true pair without the presence of fertile eggs or without having the birds DNA sexed.

  • In their natural coloration, all four species have characteristics that make them similar in appearance: 

    • The eye-ring, a red beak and a green body.

    • The Masked and the Fischers are about the same size (6 inches long), with waxy red bills and blue-colored rumps. 

    • The Black Cheek and the Nyasa are smaller (5 inches long), with light-green rumps 

    • (any discoloration is a sure indication of hybridization with Masked or Fischer's Love Birds). 

    • They have a distinct brown iris, and their bills are red at the tip and gradually fade to a
      pale pink at the base.


SPECIES PECULIARITIES

  • All Lovebird species can be colony-bred. 

  • In fact, some breeders believe these birds thrive and breed better in colony settings. 

  • Black-cheeked and Nyasa Love Birds are extremely peaceful in colony setting. 

  • The only possible problem is that Nyasas have been known to attack the youngsters of other pairs that are emerging from the nest box for the first time. 

  • The masked and Fischer's Love Birds are also peaceful but can occasionally show aggression toward lone, unpaired birds. 

  • While the Masked and Fischer's are fairly hardy, black cheeks and Nyasas should be wintered indoors. 

  • Prolonged cold and damp weather can be deadly to them.

  • So a frost-free shelter/shed is essential

  •  + roof over the Aviary - perspex or wood.

  • Clear Perspex up the exposed sides of the Aviary, which can be removed when weather improves.

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MASKED LOVEBIRD

  • They originate from N.E. Tanzania.

  • Have a look at the photos above and notice the wide, white ring around the eye. 

  • The head should have a solid black "hood" over it, with yellow around the neck, and a red beak. 

  • The flights are black.

  • A Blue Masked will have the eye ring and black hood, but a blue body with white around the neck,
    and a pink beak.

  • Legs : grey

  • A Dilute Masked Lovebird, is very similar. 

  • The differences being that the Dilute has more white on the head and body and white flights.

  • Masked can be prone to pluck their youngsters while they are in the nest.

  • Masked are perfectly hardy and can be wintered outside in a covered Aviary, with dry frost-free shelter but don't require extra heat.

  • They can stand low temperatures but damp conditions are another matter and must be regarded as
    a major health hazzard!


FISCHERS LOVEBIRD

  • They originate from S. Kenya & N. Tanzania

  • They are hardy, easy to house, feed and breed.

  • An excellent bird for novices to start with.

  • Mainly grass-green in colour.

  • Forehead : bright red

  • Rest of head, face, neck and breast are an orange-red with a faint olive-green suffusion.

  • Beak : Red

  • Legs : Grey

  • Sexes look alike and need DNA test to identify sexes that you are unsure of.

  • Fischers can be housed as separate pairs or in a colony.

  • They also are a hardy bird and require similar housing to the Masked Lovebird. (see above)

  • Young Lovebirds can be reared without addition to the adults' normal diet.

Peach-Faced Lovebird 
(Agapornis Roseicollis)                    

Click to enlarge picture >>                

PeachFcd L.birds.jpg (55685 bytes)

  • They originate from South & S.W. Africa

  • Approx. 6" (15cm)

  • A popular species with Bird Breeders.

  • Probably the easiest for Novices to start with.

  • Mainly Apple-green in colour

  • Under surfaces :  Yellow-green

  • Forehead : rose-red

  • Sides of head and throat : salmon -pink

  • Rump : sky-blue

  • Beak : Yellow

  • Legs : Grey

  • Sexes : alike  - DNA to certify sex.

  • They are "Free Breeders"  but . . .

  • NOT Suitable for Colony Breeding!

  • They like to roost in their nest boxes throughout the year inc. Winter and this can lead to eggs
    being laid out of season with risk of egg-binding, Dead in Shell (D.I.S.), + Chick mortalities.

  • The require similar housing conditions to the Masked and the Fischers (except at Breeding times,
    when they must be housed in pairs).

DIET :

  • They thrive on Small Parakeet Mix and Millet Sprays.

  • They are very similar to Cockatiels to feed.

  • Cuttlefish, Iodine blocks (the pink ones) and grit must be freely accessible at all times 

  • It is esp. important to make sure they have ALL the above, leading up-to and during the Breeding season.

  • They appreciate Egg-food and "Ad Herb" added to the Water when conditioning.

  • Fruit and Veg is a must to keep them healthy and provide vits and minerals.

    • They love apples, broccoli, cabbage, kale, carrots, parsley, and spinach.

    • whole grain breads

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SEXING:

  • They are very difficult to Sex as both sexes look virtually the same.

  • The pelvic bone can help to tell them apart when in "Breeding condition".

  • The Hens may appear to have a wider pelvic bone area.

    • You would really have to catch and examine them to be sure,then have a known cockbird to compare to

  • This is not always a 100%  way of telling them apart.
     

  • It has been said that if you compare the Tail Feathers

    • The female's tail feathers "appear" to be all the same length

    • The Cockbird's tail can have a longer tail feather in the middle of it's tail.
       

  • As in a lot of other breeds the Heads can, if you study them carefully, appear slightly different.

    • The Hen's head is slightly smaller when you see them together

    • The Cockbird appears to have a more solid, bigger head than the Hen.
       

  • As I said after studying my Bourkes - the Stance of most birds can differ when they are perched RELAXED

    • Either sex will be alert an upright if they are disturbed or when you first  come into the Aviary but . . .

    • Hens, when relaxed, often appear to perch in a more horizontal plane to the perch

    • the Cockbird sits more erect and higher in it's stance.

    • If you see a line of birds together it is often more noticeable.
       

  • You can use trial and error - i.e. put "pairs" together and wait and see if you get chicks 

  • or let them pick their own mates, if you breed "en-colony".

  • HENS, as with most bird breeds tend to BITE and mean it.

  • COCKS can still bite but not with the same determination as a Hen will.

  • If you get fertile eggs then obviously they are a true pair.

  • If you get lots of eggs (i.e. 10-12 per clutch and both birds seem to spend a lot of time in the Nestbox)

    •  you could have 2 hens

    • esp. if they are all infertile!

DNA Sexing is the only sure way. 

  • You need to pull a fresh "blood feather" from the birds' chest 

  • or prick the birds' knuckle and take a tiny drop of blood.

  • Then you send either (or both) of the above to Avianbiotech or similar to get them
     DNA Sexed.  

  • It costs approx 13 per bird (2008)

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TELLING A LOVEBIRDS AGE

  • The best way is to have them closed ringed as chicks.

  • The second clue as to age is the first moult. 

  • This happens at about 4 - 6 months.

  • Until this happens they have their immature plumage.

  • The young bird loses its immature colour as it moults into its adult plumage. 

  • The first sign of what is sometimes affectionately call "measles."

  • Once the "measles" passes they have their Adult plumage and cannot be aged reliably without a dated closed ring or DNA testing.

                      Pictures of some young Lovebirds - the 2 on either end are only a few weeks old.
                                       The 2 in the middle are going through their first moult.

            After first moult they start getting little speckles
            of colour on their foreheads - see the middle two!

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PREPARATION for BREEDING:

  • You can breed "en-Colony" or in Breeding Cages (except the Peach-faced - see above)

COLONY BREEDING

  • You put several pairs in your Aviary (the No. of pairs depends on the size of your Aviary).

  • Then the birds pick their own mates and therefore you should end up with true pairs.

  • Altho. not necessarily the pairs you may have selected, if you were choosing pairs to breed in cages.

  • When you put Nest boxes in you must make sure they are all of similar size and design.

  • The Nestboxes are a similar size and design to a budgie nest box but they have a little "sentry" box
    on the end with a perch inside.

  • This is so that the cockbird can sit in there and guard the nest while the hen sits it's eggs.

  • The Sentry box end makes it look like a double nest-box but it has no front to it - so it's just a
    shelter area, with a perch.

  • Hang them all the same height and the Popholes must also be at the same height and size - to stop fighting.

  • They all want the highest one!

  • You must always put in more boxes than pairs - some people suggest 1/2 as many again.

    • i.e. if you have 10 pairs then you put 15 boxes in.
       

  • To help stimulate the birds into "thinking" breeding you need to add Willow and Fruit tree twigs and branches.

  • They need a continuous supply of "sappy" branches as HUMIDITY in the Nest box is paramount
    to the successful incubation conditions of the eggs.

  • When a pair is ready to mate, they will select a nest box and the hen starts stripping  whatever nesting material is available (newspaper, willow, fruit tree, & hawthorn  branches, palm fronds) with her beak.

  • She will begin tucking them in her rump feathers, just above her tail, to carry back to the nest.
    (
    see photo)

  • The birds then start to strip the bark and use it to build a nest in the nest box.

  • The hen will take these into her box and arrange them just the way she wants them. 

  • She makes a "bowl" in the back half of the box and a wall of sorts, to separate the front and back
    of the box, with a little passage way on the right for going in and out.

  • She will keep going back and forth until she either is satisfied with the results or runs out of material.

  • The bird's protein levels should be upped in preparation for breeding:
     

  • Egg-food + Frozen, cooked sweetcorn + Vit and mineral supplement

  • (inc. a calcium supplement once or twice per week - follow instructions on tub - do not overdose on calcium as this can do more harm than good).

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CAGE BREEDING:

  • One pair to a cage 

  • You can use "selective Breeding"  i.e. you decide which bird goes with which.

  • Make sure you introduce your pairs gradually because the Hen could fight and damage the cockbird, esp. if they are not ready to breed or are not compatible.

  • Poss. use a breeding cage with a removable mesh slider in between, so they can see each other and communicate thru the bars.  (similar to introducing canaries).

  • You need to know the sexes to make sure you have a pair.

  • Optimum cage size:  48" x 24" x 16"

  • With one Nest box - which they use to roost in when they are not breeding. 

  • This gives them security and warmth, esp. during the winter months.

  • You can have the N. boxes on the inside or outside of the cage.
     

BREEDING INFO:

  • They line their boxes and make themselves a nest in the Nest box with the willow & fruit bark stripped off the branches you provided.

  • The Hen makes the nest.

  • When they have finished the nest site 

  • THEY LAY 5 - 6 Eggs every other day.

  • START INCUBATION : after 3rd Egg is laid

  • INCUBATION :  22 - 23 days (as they don't start to incubate until 3rd egg - you can make it easy by adding 5 days to the
                                                        incubation period. This is how long it takes from 1st egg being laid until Egg No.3 being laid.
                                                        So if you add 5 onto 22 = 27 days from 1st Egg being laid - this gives you a more accurate idea.
                                                        Then you often get a couple hatching together then another the following day followed by the
                                                         rest at the normal spacing of every 2nd day)

     

  • HATCHING : The young hatch on different days, which means they all of diff. sizes.

    • The chicks are miniscule when they first hatch - no bigger than a 1p piece!!

    • they grow at a fantastic rate, so the parents need a protein-rich diet to enable this to happen.
       

  • FEATHERS Start to Appear : 10 - 12 days (so from now u have some idea of the colours you may have)!

  • FLEDGE:      Approx. 35 -40 days and are fully feathered.

  • RING AT:       8 - 10 days

  • RING SIZE:   M  (same size as Kakis)
     

    • Just a note : some parents (of all breeds of bird - not just Lovebirds) can object to the "Shiny ring" on their chicks' leg and will try and remove it, often with disastrous results - so if you colour the outside of the ring using a black felt tip pen, prior to fitting, this can help and it will wear off in time.

  • RINGING : Hold the back 2 feet level with the leg and keep the front 2 together to feed thru the ring and then up the leg past the back to feet. 

    • Make very sure all 4 feet are free of the ring and it's can move freely up and down the leg.

    • - I have seen an odd bird where the long back to is still trapped in the ring even into adulthood!

FOSTERING EGGS AND CHICKS

  • All of the Love bird species make excellent foster parents for other Love birds.

  •  If they are on eggs, additional eggs can be added, or chicks can even be added to an existing nest of young.

  • Just make sure that the eggs or chicks, are within a week of the same age of the those in the nest that you are adding them to.

  • Also, no more than five young should be in the total clutch. 

  • Infertile pairs can also be used to foster eggs and raise young.

INTERBREEDING BETWEEN THE 4 SPECIES (Hybridization)

  • All four species will freely interbreed with each other, and their off-spring are fertile. 

  • It's a tragic mistake to make. 

  • It was thought that the "eye-ring group" was simply one species with four sub-species. 

  • This has resulted in massive hybridization in an effort to produce a variety of colour mutations.

  • This is unfortunate because it has become increasingly difficult to find 100% pure stock.

  • An example of this hybridization is found in the "ino" factor (lutino and albino). 

  • The only true natural occurrence of the "ino" factor has been the lutino Nyasa lovebird. 

  • All other mutations, such as the lutino and albino Masked and Fischer's, and the lutino Black Cheek, have hybrid blood in them from the Nyasa.

  •  Hybridization has also occurred in the blue series  -  the blue Fischer's and blue Nyasa originated from the blue masked. 

  • The same holds true of the dilute mutation (yellow and white) of which the Masked is the legitimate origin of this color, and the dilute yellow Fischer's is ultimately of hybrid blood.

FURTHER INFO.

  • They love baths - so make sure they have bathing facilities with clean water, daily.

  • They love Willow twiglets, esp. when breeding to make their nests but also to help provide humidity.

  • They do not mix well with smaller finches or canaries etc., as they can nip their legs clean off.

  • Be careful if adjoining Aviaries contain smaller birds.

  • Make sure they are double-meshed to prevent such accidents.

  • 19g small 1/2" x 1/2" mesh is ideal and helps prevent vermin getting in too.

    • Mice can get thru 1" x 1/2" with ease - impossible I know but I have seen them and they don't stop to squeeze thru they just "run" thru - unbelievable!
       

  • Lovebirds (Masked & Fischer) are very hardy and do not need to be kept particularly warm all the time,

    • but should not be exposed to freezing conditions.

  • They are fairly consistent in their breeding efforts. 

  • With a little luck, patience and conditioning one can expect about a dozen young each year from a steady, compatible pair. 

  • These birds are fun to watch - they seem to be little clowns, always showing off.

PARASITES

  • ECTOPARASITES (Parasites that live on the outside of the body, as opposed to in it)!

    • Mites  - Pellonyssus viator

    • Feather Louse - Afrimenopon waar Amblycera.

  • TREATMENT

    • IVERMECTIN - "Spot-on" (0.1% strength) which is a "systemic" (it is absorbed into the body thru the skin) Wormer that kills internal and external Parasites

      • i.e. worms inside the body and mites and lice on the outside.

      • You must wear rubber gloves when dealing with this wormer as it works by being absorbed thru
        the birds skin.

        • Therefore it would also be absorbed by your skin with adverse effects in some people.
           

      • Hold the bird carefully and blow apart the feathers on the back of the neck where it can't reach with it's beak.  (Same principals apply when putting "Frontline" on your Dogs/Cats).

        • (bearing in mind most birds can do the Exorcist Act i.e. turn their heads 180degs either way!)

        • Put one drop only onto the exposed skin. 

      • DDT or Pigeon Louse powder will get rid of feather mites/lice
         

    • Click on this Link to see further info on Worming & other Worming Methods and Wormers.

AVOIDING SPLAY-LEGGED BABIES
Click on this link and have a read it's quite inspirational :  http://roseicollis.net/Splayed.php

You know it when you see it:

  • A poor chick's legs are spread straight out from the body and the chick is unable to get a grip and sit up with its legs properly underneath its body. 

  • Splay legs can be very traumatic for the novice breeder. 

  • The best way to deal with this is to PREVENT it.

  • Even the best nest-builders should be given a basic substrate for the nest box. 

  • I recommend  4Easibed

  • Easibed is non-toxic and easy to get -

  • Put about 2 inches into the nest box. 

  • Then give the hen her usual nest-building materials.

    • + willow branches (which is the Lovebirds personal choice)

  • She will build her next on top of the substrate

  • This prevents the chicks from ending up on the bottom of a nest box on a slippery wooden floor, where they can't get a proper grip. 

  • It also cushions them if they have an overzealous mother who sits very tightly on them. 

  • If you've already got chicks in the nest and realize they are hitting the wooden floor, remove chicks, remove the nest built by the mother (try to keep it basically intact).

  • Add 2-3 inches of Easibed, replace mother's nest on top of the substrate, replace chicks

    • Problem hopefully resolved

    • DO NOT FORGET to add a Calcium supplement to the soft feed 2-3 times per week to help prevent this.

TREATMENT For a chick with splay legs

  • the best way to treat it is to double-band the legs, 

  • Use flat, broad dental floss to tie the legs together (not too tight) to hold them in the proper
    position under the body.

  • Place the baby in a cushioned cup to help hold it in the proper position.

    •  Obviously this can entail pulling the baby from the nest and hand-feeding it separately from other chicks,

    • as the string between the legs could strangle other chicks in the nest. 
       

  • If you are having difficulty, take the chick to the vet. 

  • You do not want to let this go, as these birds are often severely crippled and will need special
    caging and extra help all their lives

VERMIN

  • See the note on weasels - I hadn't realised that they can squeeze thru a gap as small as a man's
    wedding band - Just think about it!!!

  • So just imagine how small a space mice can get through! - I've seen a mouse go straight thru
    a 1" x 1/2" mesh - unbelievable how they do it but they do!!
     

  • Mice leave a trail of urine as they move, which creates instant contamination and risk of disease to
    your birds, esp. if they go into your birds feed dishes.
     

  • Check this website out for ultrasonic Pest controls to help keep vermin out of your Aviaries:

  • www.dazer.com
     

  • One other method of keeping mice and other vermin out is to fix your mesh on top of 2 -3 rounds of  breeze blocks, to give a solid bottom to your Aviary, which isn't so easy for vermin to negotiate, as they can't get a decent claw-hold!

  • or if your mesh goes to ground-level then cover the bottom 18" - 2ft of the mesh with something slippery like big 6 corrugated roof sheeting or a slippery piece of perspex sheeting.

  • Then the vermin won't be able to climb up to the mesh height and gain access to the Aviary.

  • Poison is a big "no - no" if you have other animals + wild birds, unless you can put it into a narrow pipe/tube that is too small for any other domestic animal 

  • Make sure you position it when wild birds can't gain access either.


MOUSE TRAPS :

  • Make a small wooden boxes with lockable lids - approx 6" long by 4" wide and 4" high with
    a piece of 1" x 1" mesh across the front - so the mice can gain easy access 

    • Remember, I said they can get thru smaller mesh than that, so 1" square is easy for them.

    • You then put a dish of poison inside the box and keep it replenished. 

    • This is then safe from all other animals and birds, so long as you keep the lid shut tight.

  • Traps work - once again beware of other animals and birds.

  • Sweep up and keep spilt feed cleared up, to deter the vermin.

  • Dispose of the bodies safely.

Roseicollis.net
A Website dedicated to Keeping and Breeding Lovebirds
http://roseicollis.net/nature.php

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