Raising Love Birds
A practical and no-nonsense guide to one of the most gentle pets.
By Sheryll dR. Karunungan
Love is in the air – lovebirds that is. These pets are now becoming popular as business ventures as well. Good company, low maintenance and a tidy return investment all combine for an ideal alternative to the old school tradition of breeding of dogs and cats.
Lovebirds make for among the smallest of parrots. They range in size from 13-17cm and vary between 40-60 grams in weight. Their beak is quite large for their bodies which are stocky, and their tails are blunt. Most are green in color but mutation (where breeding pairs are chosen to produce varieties in color) is part of the challenge. Birds with mutations attract the eyes better and command higher prices.
How to start – space
Before even buying a breeding pair, space is the primary consideration. You need not have a large space but comfort is key. The rule though is the bigger the better.
Cages should be large enough for movement and allow for growth of feathers and tail. Individual cage ideally is 24 x 24 x 30 inches. A minimum of 20 x 20 x 30inches for one bird and 25 x 25 x 30 inches a pair is required. Squared shape ones allow for corners for the birds to ‘hide’ when they feel insecure or threatened.
Cage bars should be spaced no wider than 3/8” (1cm) apart to keep the birds’ head from peeking through. Regular check-ups should be made that there are no jagged wire edges protruding. Clipping and bending is sometimes needed. Secure that the room is rat free as well.
Trays with old newspapers are advisable for easy cleaning of droppings and such. Cages should be cleaned weekly as well.
Attach a cuttlebone to the side of the cage for the bird to feed on to keep it’s beak in shape and to provide calcium as well.
Strategically place at least two perches for your bird’s use. This will help to keep him active and strengthen his grip and leg bones.
Toys are good idea as well. They help your bird deal with loneliness and boredom. Make certain that the toys are for lovebirds or cocktails and not parakeets because those are smaller and can easily be torn apart by your bird. You do not want your bird to accidentally choke on torn toy parts. Small bells are a big no-no as well. They are proven choke hazards.
The space should provide adequate sunlight and shade. Lovebirds like drying their feathers in the sun while a tarpaulin shade is advisable during storms to help keep them calm. Direct sunlight should be filtered by detachable curtains and the room should contain no drafts.
The first couple
There are nine species of lovebirds. The peach-faced, masked, grey-headed, and red-headed species remain in good population and are what is being openly traded in the market.
The fisher’s and lilian’s are near threatened while the black-cheeked is considered vulnerable.
A responsible breeder should take care that only certain species should be on offer.
In choosing, cost should not be the primary factor. This is an investment and your starter pair will be for the long term. Choose an established reputable breeder.
Pick a bird that is alert and reacts well to movement. Feather colors are what most buyers take into consideration.
Breed pairs only of the same species. Mixed specie or hybrid pairing often result in sterile birds.