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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

All About Lovebirds Care and Core For Profitable Business In Pakistan

All About Lovebirds

   Lovebirds are some of the most fascinating little parrots!

 

  Lovebirds are active, cheerful and beautifully decorative. These petite 'pocket' parrots are very intriguing! Lovebirds come from the drier regions of Africa. Because they evolved from a very harsh environment, they are very suited to captivity. Not only do they have a good disposition, these charming, brilliantly colored little pets are very hardy and easy to care for. They can also provide you with a successful breeding experience.
   In the wild lovebirds live in flocks. They will often bond with a mate for life and show fierce loyalty and affection to their family. If you can earn there affections as young birds, you will receive that same fierce loyalty from your little friends. They are very social with both their keepers and their mate.
   The rewards of keeping a single lovebird can be astonishing. The amazingly determined spirit of a pet lovebird can far surpass other small parrots, both in their ability to learn tricks and to show affection. But because of their strong devotion, a lovebird kept singly will require vast amounts of time and affection in return in order to thrive.
What's in the name ? = Agapornis
    agapein     means     "to love" in Greek
ornis means "bird" in Latin
   Lovebirds also won't easily switch loyalties from one companion to another, whether it is to another bird or to another human. On the other hand, unless they are very attached to their keeper, lovebirds are not going to learn a lot of tricks or necessarily want to have a lot of handling.


   If you simply want to enjoy the antics and chatter of these colorful little birds, get two to keep in an indoor cage. Or you can get more to keep in an aviary. They are very flamboyant, and are wonderful birds to observe and enjoy.

Distribution    
Lovebirds belong to the genus Agapornis. There are nine species of lovebirds and they are all native to Africa except one. The exception is the Grey-headed Lovebird which comes from the island of Madagascar. Most lovebirds live close to the equator where they inhabit dry savannah regions. There is one exception, a forest dwelling lovebird, the Black-collared Lovebird.
Description 
   The lovebird is a small stocky parrot mostly between 5.1-6.7 inches (13-17 cm). They have a large bill and a tail that is either round or square. Their average life span is between 10-12 years with some living even longer. The oldest recorded lovebird lived 17 years, and we have had one person state that their lovebird has lived for 25 years.



   The different species of lovebird are identifiable by their colors and markings. They vary greatly in their coloring, and each species can be viewed for their unique combinations. Younger birds are duller in color and they have black in their beaks. The young birds coloring intensifies as they reach maturity. Regardless of the species, mature lovebirds are gorgeous parrots.
  Three of the nine lovebird species are most commonly available lovebirds for pets. The other six are more rare, and in some cases, absent at least in the United States. The three common species are the Peach-faced Lovebirds, the Masked Lovebirds, and the Fischer's Lovebirds, and all three make wonderful pets. There are a variety of color mutations in lovebirds, developed from these three common species. This is especially true for the Peach-faced Lovebird, which can be bred in hundreds of different combinations of mutations. As a result, there are many new lovebird colors available.
   A wide variety of lovebirds can be found in the pet industry and from breeders. Some lovebirds and lovebird mutations that are commonly available include:
  • Abyssinian Lovebird
  • Albino Lovebird
  • Black Masked Lovebird
  • Blue Masked Lovebird
  • Dutch Blue Lovebird
  • Fischer's Lovebird
  • Lutino Lovebird
  • Peach-faced Lovebird
Care and feeding   
 In the wild, lovebirds feed on seeds, berries, fruits, grains, grasses, leaf buds, and agricultural crops of corn, maize and figs. Their food and water dishes are best if earthenware or porcelain as they will get gnawed if plastic.

  • Bird Food
      Foods available for Lovebirds include formulated diets, either pelleted or extruded, seed only diets, and small parrot mixes which offer a mixture of both. There are pros and cons to feeding only a formulated diet as well as feeding only a seed diet.
    • Formulated Diet:
         A formulated diet provides a good nutritional base so does not require the addition of vitamins. However it does not contain the phytonutrients (antioxidant pigments) that are found in vegetables, fruits, grains, and seeds. Phytonutrients are believed to boost the immune system, help a body to heal itself, and to prevent some diseases. Also, parrots can become bored with formulated diet due to the lack of variety.
    • Seed Diet:
       A seed only diet offers much more variety but requires additional vitamin and calcium supplements. Lovebirds need not only nutritional requirements met but also variety for psychological enrichment.
    A lovebirds's diet will consist of 1 1/2 to 2 ounces (45-60 grams) of feed daily for a single bird. A diet consisting of a small parrot mix along with a variety of supplements and vitamins is generally regarded as suitable. Also a formulated diet along with greens, fruits, and vegetable supplements but without additional vitamins is also regarded as suitable, and is a more current trend.
  • Supplements
       Supplements include fresh vegetables, greens, tree branches for the bark, some fruits, and millet spray. Some of the fruit supplements include berries, apples, grapes, pears, bananas, and kiwi. Some of the greens and vegetable supplements include spinach, endive, watercress, chickweed, radish, parsley, dandelions, carrot tops, corn on the cob, peas, endive, field lettuce, and various garden herbs.
       Additional proteins can be offered such as nuts. Try some unshelled peanuts as well as hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and chestnuts.
      A cuttlebone, or gravel and oyster shell in a separate dish can be offered to provide calcium. Do not feed avocado as it can be toxic to birds!
      Vitamins can be added to the food or drinking water.
  • Water
      Lovebirds drink a lot of water, so will need fresh drinking water every day.
  • Bird Baths
       Most lovebirds love a bath either in a flat earthenware dish or by spraying them with a light mist of lukewarm water. If you use a bathing dish, you will see the birds perch on the edge and dip their heads and upper bodies in the water and beating their wings. They prefer this kind of bath to getting into the water.
  • Bird Grooming
       Lovebirds generally maintain their nails and beaks on their own through climbing and chewing. Another good use they make of their tree branches.
Housing 
     Lovebirds are very active birds. When housing your lovebird, bird cages or an aviary best suited to them must provide a lot of space.
  • Bird Cages:    A minimum of 32 x 20 x 20 (81 x 50 x 50 cm) per pair of birds is recommended with about four perches, feed and water dishes and an area for a bath. When you use a small cage, you must let your pet out daily to fly around.
       If you are housing pairs of lovebirds here are a few guidelines: Try to house only one species of lovebird as mixing species can cause serious fights. House either one pair of lovebirds or three pairs, never two pairs or there will be fighting. Each pair needs about 35 cubic feet of space.
  • Bird Perch:
       Provide one or two perches about 3/4' in diameter and dishes hanging from the side for feed, water, and grit. Try to place the perches away from dishes so the food and water dish do not become soiled with bird droppings.    Do not use plastic because your bird will chew and break the plastic and it can become hazardous. Tree branches of a similar size make good perches and will help to wear the claws down naturally.
  • Bird Hide / Nest Box:
      Lovebirds like special resting places. Nest boxes placed up high, all at the same level and all of the same type work well and help prevent fights.
  • Aviary:
      A roomy indoor aviary, a bird room, or an outdoor aviary (depending on your area) are all good choices. The aviary needs plenty of light and fresh air. The outdoor aviary needs to have a protected shelter that can be heated and cooled where necessary. Flights are recommended to be a minimum of 6' x 6' x 3' (183 x 183 x 91 cm) with plenty of perches or branches at least 1 1/2" (15 cm) thick.


Maintenance    It is important For the health of your lovebird, it is important to keep bird houses and accessories clean and in good shape. Basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Weekly you should clean and disinfect the cage. Wash and completely dry the perches and toys whenever they become soiled. In the aviary, sand floors should be renewed annually.

Social Behaviors    Lovebirds as pets, as well as in the wild, are very social birds. Generally and in most situations, it is thought to be essential for their good health and happiness that they be kept in pairs, not singly. If keeping a single lovebird, you must provide the necessary social interaction that it is missing from another bird. These birds develop fierce loyalties to their keeper or their mate.
   Aside from their social nature toward you or their mate, lovebirds can be extremely aggressive towards other birds. You must be certain that all pairs get along together, and that they are true "pairs", not mismatched. Bonded pairs constantly groom each other and will feed each other from the crop during breeding season and all year round.
   These little birds will chatter all day long. They will hide in their nest box if they are startled by a sudden noise, if they spot a potential predator, or if it gets cold and windy.

Handling/Training  
  Lovebird training is best accomplished with a young bird. To have a tame lovebird, its also best to work with a single bird. Young birds have an amazing ability to learn tricks and be affectionate. Adults on the other hand, are very difficult to tame and generally won't learn a lot of tricks or imitate behaviors. Hand-raised youngsters are easiest to work with. They are already quite socialized and tame, but unfortunately they are not always available.
   Taming involves acceptance and trust between you and your bird. It means spending a lot of time with your bird daily. Start with talking softly and making slow movements. Once your bird is comfortable with you, then you can begin hand-taming. Use a dowel and push it gently against the birds chest while offering a treat to coax it up onto the dowel. This may take many tries. Once it is comfortable with stepping up onto a dowel, substitute your finger for the dowel.
   Lovebirds are not considered one of the best talkers, and only some may learn a few words.

Activities
   Lovebirds awaken with the dawn, get a drink, eat, and then immediately begin to chirp. They will generally quiet down by mid-morning and resume their chirping in the late afternoon.
   These birds are very active, flying and climbing about, gnawing on wood or chew toys, and grooming themselves many times all day. They love toys of all kinds such as seed bells, swings, ladders, mirrors, shiny objects, and wooden gnaws. A lovebird outside of it's cage will not stay on it's playpen, they like to explore. Be sure this room is safe with no open doors or windows, no toxic plants, no open water containers, and no hot stove.
Breeding/Reproduction    One of the pleasures of lovebirds is that they are easy to breed. For breeding lovebirds, each pair of birds will need 2 nest boxes for sleeping and nesting. These boxes need to be of the same type and size, and placed at the same height on the same wall.
  • Breeding Lovebirds
       Lovebirds will breed willingly as single pairs and some species of lovebirds can be bred in a colony setting. Especially suited to a colony are the white eye-ring group of lovebirds.
    • Breeding Age for Lovebirds
         Lovebirds need to be at least 10 months old, though 12 to 13 months is better. Also birds that are 5 to 6 years or older should be retired from breeding.
    • Sexing Lovebirds
         Some visual characteristics that may aid in determining sex are that the female is heavier bodied than the male and will sit more broadly with legs apart, while the males sit more upright. A females tail will appear more square while a males will appear more rounded. When observing the nesting behavior, the female will do most of the nest building work.
         An anal inspection can be done but takes experience in sexing these birds to make a fair determination. Basically there are two bones called the ossa pubes on the ventral side of the pelvis and the female will be spread wider apart than the male.

         The sexing of lovebirds falls into three categories:
      • Dimorphic Types
        The first group are different in their outward appearance and can be classified as dimorphic.
        This first group consists of:
        Abyssinian Lovebird Agapornis toranta
        Madagascar Lovebird Agapornis cana
        Red-faced Lovebird Agapornis pullaria
      • Intermediate Types
        The second or intermediate group are harder to differentiate by appearance.
        This group consists of:
        Peach-faced Lovebirds Agapornis reseicollis
        Black-collared Lovebird Agapornis swinderniana
      • Monomorphic Types
        In the third group, the white eye-ring group, there are no definite differences that can be seen. The sexing of the white eye-ring group must be determined by either a surgical probe, endoscopy, which can be done by many veterinarians or by a DNA testing, usually a blood sample or a few plucked feathers sent to be diagnosed in a lab.
        In the white eye-ring group are the:
        Masked Lovebirds Agapornis personata personata
        Fischer's Lovebirds Agapornis personata fisheri
        Nyasa Lovebird Agapornis personata lilianae
        Black-cheeked Lovebird Agapornis personata nigrigenis.
    • Breeding Environment
        If you are breeding lovebirds in a colony setting, it is very important to provide many more nest boxes than their are pairs of birds to minimize fighting. The nest boxes should all be the same and mounted at the same height of the enclosure. Also, be diligent in watching for fighting as it can lead to death.
        A nest box for a lovebird is 8" x 8" x 8" (20 x 20 x 20 cm) or 10" x 6" x 6" (25 x 15 x 15 cm).
    • Egg Laying and Hatchlings
       The female will lay about 5 eggs, though the clutch could be as few as 3 eggs or as many as 8 eggs. The incubation period is 22 - 25 days, with 75% to 80% of the eggs hatching. The hen will start to brood after the second egg is hatched. Often the male will join the hen in the nest. The chicks will begin to leave the nest in about 38 - 50 days and will be independent about 2 weeks after leaving the nest.
    Potential Problems    Lovebird ailments, signs of illness to be aware of, include if a bird seems withdrawn, its feathers are ruffled and the plumage is dull, it sits with its eyes closed, watery or dull eyes, runny nose, it sleeps a lot, it looses interest in its environment, and it stays at its feed cup. The droppings may change color and be loose (if healthy they are grayish white and not to thin). A couple other lovebird ailments to watch for are a lot of tail bobbing, dropping off its perch, odd breathing, sneezing, and excessive scratching.


       Some of the common lovebird ailments, illnesses your lovebirds could contract, are injuries from fighting, Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease, Polyoma Virus Infection, yeast infections (Candidiasis), Avian Pox Virus Infection, bacterial infections, internal parasites, mites, ticks, egg binding, intestinal influenza, coccidiosis, respiratory ailments, and diarrhea. An ailing parrot should be taken to a avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
    Availability    The most available types of lovebirds for sale are the Peach-faced Lovebird, the Masked Lovebird, and the Fischer's Lovebirds. There are many beautiful lovebird mutations developed from these three groups of birds that are also readily available. Many other species of lovebird are available but not be as readily found. Lovebirds are also fairly inexpensive little parrots.
    Author: Clarice Brough, CAS


  • Breeding Lovebirds - is it a good idea?
    Breeding lovebirds can be a rewarding, educational and overall challenging experience -- but it's EASY to get started. Provided you have a true and mature pair (at least 10months or older), they will go down to the business of breeding pretty quickly.

    The other side of the coin is that bird breeding can also become addictive, expensive, tiring, and heartbreaking. I loved taking care of my breeder lovebirds and especially handfeeding and socializing the babies. Lovebird chicks are so adorable; they love snuggling into your lap or your hand. They are trusting and ever so affectionate. I fell in love with every one of my babies.

    The toughest part for me was to find good homes for them. You get rather attached to them, but you cannot keep them all. So the next step is to find good homes for them. I was very dismayed about not finding many homes I felt comfortable with. Many times I wondered if my baby was going to be okay, as I had to "compromise" when it came to what I understood to be a good home. In the end I stopped my birds from breeding by replacing their fertilized eggs with dummy eggs. This was the end of my breeding activity.

    Last, but not least, forget about making money. Lovebirds are so plentiful that people pay very little for one -- notwithstanding the many hours a day you spend handfeeding, cleaning up after the breeder birds and chicks, and socializing the baby. In addition to which, good quality food and supplies are expensive. This is a labor of love, not one of making money. Then, of course, come the vet bills ... I don't know of any breeder who makes money with birds. You do it because you love it and you understand the work and cost associated with your hobby.
    Sexing Your Lovebirds
    Lovebirds are not sexually dimorphic, which means that you cannot visually tell if a lovebird is a male or a female. However, there are some subtle differences between males and females, but they are only SLIGHT differences and do not constitute a definite method of sexing lovebirds.
  • Hens are usually a little larger than male lovebirds, although her head may be slightly smaller.
  • Hens often have wider pelvises (as they have to pass eggs) and are usually a little broader than males and often perch with their legs a little further apart than cocks. Experienced breeders can quite often sex lovebirds by feeling their pelvic bones (under the tail). The male pelvic bones are closer together, feel pointier, less "flexible" than female pelvic bones. With some birds you can feel a distinct difference, others are "iffy" to say the best. Quite similarly to us humans, where some females are more "rounded" than others. It is not a definite method, but breeders are using it regularly -- understanding full well that it is not a sure method of sexing.
  • Don't Trust Natural Pairings: Lovebirds don't always pair up male and female, but sometimes pair up with a same-sex lovebird. Breeders will find out about such pairing when both birds start laying eggs (10 or more eggs in a nesting box), or no eggs are laid at all. Of course, eggs laid by two paired females will be infertile.
  • DNA Sexing: If you want to make sure that the lovebirds are the correct sex, you could use a DNA service to test it. There are feather and blood DNA sexing services available. You send in samples and get the results in days -- at a much lower cost than having your local vet do it.
  • Nesting Behavior: One of the characteristics of an adult female lovebird is that they will tuck nesting material under their wings (please refer to image below) and carry it into their nest box. Males, or young females, will also try to do it, but usually the nesting material falls out very quickly. I have heard of the odd male who has mastered the art of "tucking and carrying" -- but I have never witnessed one myself. I have only seen adult females who were able to do that. It is a pretty good way of sexing a lovebird -- with accuracy maybe up to 80%.
  • Male Feeding Female: Males will be more likely to regurgitating for its owners or mates, as the males typically feed the nesting females.

Housing your Breeder Lovebirds
My recommendation is to start small when it comes to your breeding stock. Start with one pair and expand if you like at a later stage.
Lovebirds will generally breed well when kept as single pairs. Some lovebird species can be bred in a colony setting. The white eye-ring group of lovebirds are particularly well suited to colony breeding. This being said, the peach-faces are equally easy to breed in an aviary / communal setting - particularly if there was plenty of room for all. The major drawback of communal breeding is the fact that one has less control over the pairings. But if the caretaker isn't too involved in the genetics, that probably won't matter to many.
If indoor / cage breeding is preferred, get a good-size breeding cage - a cage that is large enough for you to put the nesting box in.
The cage / aviary should be large enough for natural branches, toys -- I love creative, fun homes for my birds. They spend their lives (or most of their days in their cages) -- make it a fun environment. SPACE IS IMPORTANT. The lovebirds at the very least should be able to "beat their wings" without hitting something every time. They need to be able to climb and play for exercise. I have heard the theory that supplying toys and the like will distract birds from mating or parenting. This is not so. The happier a bird, the better a parent it will be. Besides, we are not talking about automatic "breeding machines" -- birds are living beings. They deserve better than being exploited without consideration of their happiness and welfare.








Alternatively, if your preference is a larger aviary, please visit this website for samples of very attractive and functional outside and inside aviaries, including instructions for you to build them yourself -- if you are handy enough. It also has links to suppliers and ready-built aviaries / flights, if this is your preference.
Lovebirds are usually pretty social birds and many breeders keep a colony of lovebirds in one aviary. Because of their gorgeous colors, they make very attractive aviary occupants. However, they can be pretty noisy -- this is something to be considered if your neighbors are close and "noise-sensitive."

Nesting
Lovebirds reach sexual maturity around one years of age. Many can be sexually mature earlier - but it is not wise to breed them younger than a year.
Setting up the Nest Box:
I have always used a cockatiel nesting box; although at times they have settled down in a parakeet nesting box. But I always preferred to use the cockatiel box since smaller boxes would get messy quickly, and as the chicks grow, parakeet boxes get VERY crowded.
I provided my lovebirds palmfonds, tree twigs/branches, dried grass, leaves, spray millet, eucalyptus (refer to "safe woods - some caution advised), shredded / unscented / white paper towels, and even newspaper to tear up and carry into their nesting box. Decomposed non-toxic saw dust, wood shavings or other suitable materials are great to line the box with, to soak up any droppings.
  • Nesting log / nest-box material: Add about 2 inches of decomposed suitable nest box litter to the bottom of the box to help stabilize the eggs and absorb the droppings from the chicks.

    Options for suitable nesting material are decomposed non-toxic saw dust, corn cob, shredded newspaper, clean straw / dried grass or wood shavings (i.e., Aspen shavings or wood chips). The larger wood chips the better, so the parents don't feed it to the babies or the chicks accidentally ingest it.

    Please note that some wood shavings - such as pine, cedar and redwood - give off aromatic hydrocarbons (phenols) and acids that are toxic and can cause dermatitis, allergic symptoms and irritation of the digestive tract. They should not be used in cages, aviaries, or nestboxes.
Do make sure not to give any poisonous or chemically treated (insecticides / fertilizer) plant material to your birds. This website will provide you information on toxic and safe plant material for your birds. For non-toxic insect and weed control, please visit the Green and Healthy website.
If space allows, offering a choice of nest boxes, and placed in various locations within the aviary, can allow the parent birds to make their own choice.  Once a pair has chosen a specific nest-box and been successful in it, offer that one to them each breeding season.  Try and keep that one for their exclusive use.  Once a pair has chosen its nest-box, the other ones can generally be removed.  If the "spare" boxes are to be removed and moved to another flight, ensure the nest-box is cleaned to ensure the receptacle has the minimal contamination of mites, parasites and pathogens.

Lovebird Mating and Parenting
Courtship begins when the male feeds the female; then mating will happen which may be lengthy and repeated several times a day for several days. The male climbs onto the females back, often holding on to her flight feathers for a good grip. Eggs can be laid as early as 3 to 10 days after mating, then one or more every other day. Typically the clutch contains 4 to 6 eggs.
The incubation time is approximately 22 - 25 days and it can take up to 24 hours for a chick to work itself out of the egg. It's best not to interfere with the process, except when you found that the youngest chicks tend to get neglected by the parents. For appropriate advice, please visit this webpage.
The egg sac contains needed nutrients for the chick to absorb. I was over-eager in the beginning and pulled the chick from the egg -- causing it to die. A common mistake that inexperienced breeders make. Nowadays I would only observe and assist only if I notice that the baby is in trouble. When a hen is brooding, she may not come out of the nest box very often. The male will go into the nest box and feed her. Once the babies have hatched, the female and female will feed them. I liked to provide mashed hard-boiled eggs to my parent birds to help them feed the chicks. They really LOVED it -- and it had the protein and calcium they needed for the chicks. I grind up egg shell (from boiled eggs) and provide it to my birds (breeders or not) -- as this is an excellent source of calcium for them. I also provide various soft foods to them. You will be amazed at how quickly the food disappears once there are babies to be fed. Always make sure to provide a constant supply of food, so that the parents can get on with their challenging job of feeding their babies.
  • Chicks with yellow-white down are blue series babies, such as dutch blues, cream faces, etc.). If the chick has an orange down, this means it'sa green series baby (normal green, lutinos, red-face, etc.).
  • Photos of Peach-faced Lovebird Chicks (normal greens and 1 lutino)

Lovebird Chicks:
The average clutch consists of 4 to 6 eggs. On a couple of rare occasions, I had a compatible pair lay 8 eggs -- and they all hatched, which is an achievement. I had to constantly provide them with fresh nestling food to feed their big family.
The average incubation is 24 days, varying from 22 to 25 days. Both hen and cock share in incubating the eggs.
Nest inspection is generally not tolerated.  If nest inspection is necessary, wait till both parents have left the nest.  They tend to be very aggressive and protective of the nest area when breeding.
Pulling / Socializing the Chicks:
I pulled the babies from the nesting boxes once they were one or two weeks old, as I enjoyed handfeeding them. I found it difficult to tame them once they were kept with their parents for four weeks or longer without daily interaction with humans. If you want to handtame them -- I would recommend to start socializing them at one week or two, but not much later than that.
Some breeders told me that they were very successful at taming babies by taking them out of the nestbox on a daily basis and socializing them, and then putting them back with their parents after they were handled for 30 minutes or so. This way, they didn't need to handfeed them -- yet the chicks became tame.
Lovebird babies wean at approximately 8 weeks of age, with some earlier and some later. They should be weaned onto a good variety of foods, including fresh fruits/ veggies, leafy greens and herbs (my birds love parsley), pellets and seeds.


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