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.
As a hobbyist, be prepared to shell out 150-800 per bird. For serious breeders, 4,00-4500 pesos a pair is a good buy.
Where to look
A lot of the known breeders have established aviaries in Bulacan . There is also an aviary in Cainta, Rizal as well as in San Pedro, Laguna. Small breeders can be found in the Manila and Quezon city areas.
Breeders can be found in as far as Bataan and Naga city. You can check for local Avian societies to see if there is one near you.
Breeders though in Bulacan, Cainta, Laguna, and Batangas are often willing to bring their birds to the city by arrangement at no or minimal additional costs.
Lovebirds are easy to feed. An assortment of vegetables or ‘salad’ should ne served. Romaine lettuce carrots, beans, squash, corn, whole rains and fruits are their staple diet. Mashed hard boiled eggs, oats, camote tops, wheat germ, or sunflower seeds can also be given.
No avocadoes, chocolate and dairy products though. These are toxic to the birds.
Pellets (available in pet stores) should be used as a supplement. If using milet seeds, read labels carefully. Some have high fat concentrates.
Use two seeds cups. One is for the veggie salad, the other for the pellets. Feed once a day at a regulated schedule (am or pm at a specific time). A small cup ofpellets and half a teaspoon of salad per bird is enough. Oyster or sand grit helps to facilitate digestion.
Always provide clean water and change it at least twice each day.
Deworm your lovebirds every three months. This can be done at home. Follow the instructions carefully.
It is also a good idea to give antibiotics(3-5 days duration) when changing cages, transporting the birds or just when there are sudden changes in weather.
If is always advisable to begin as a hobbyist before turning it into a business. Your personality and temperament should match well with your birds.
Some find the breeding of lovebirds difficult but others find it is quite easy. A good pair can be prolific in laying eggs. Lovebirds mate all throughout the year and some birds mate as soon as they are placed together inside the cae while for other pairs it takes a long time. Mating pairs should be placed in an isolated area potential parents it takes at least a year for the birds to mature before they are bred. Pick a pair that is strong and active.
Prepare a nest box made of woodshavings on each side of the case for easy monitoring.
It takes 23-25 days for eggs to hatch and about a month and a half until they are ready to be separated from their parents and handraised. Record everything. This includes the laying of eggs and the hatching. Put leg tags on the newborns.
A pair averages four birthing a year. If your pair does not seem to want to take care of their young, do not be alarmed. Some lovebirds are simply like that.
Foster parenting is not uncommon and they have also been known to foster parakeets.
Most breeders of lovebirds would take the time to share selling tips with each other. They freely lecture on care and other know-hows and are happy simply to find others who share their interest.
Variations methods of selling are employed. Word of mouth, print advertising, placing ads in Pet care and classified ads magazine such as Buy & Sell as well as selling online via personal websites and community seller sites are being done.
Most customer make a repeat buy if they are happy with the initial bird/pair is bought. Referrals from seller to seller are also given.
Lovebirds are active, sociable creatures. They are loud, and make noises throughout the day especially during the first morning hours.
They also chew on everything! When they are let out of the cage, carefully keep them away from electrical wirings and furniture.
They love to bathe in warm weather and bathtubs can be bought at any pet store.
As with any endeavor, it takes a lot of time, patience and solid hardwork to make it viable. Whether as pets or a business venture, raising lovebirds is a good option. They make for good, lively companions and live for 10-15 years.