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Beginner Breeding Problems

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Beginner Breeding Problems

 

by Bill Panter, Champion Breeder

 

In discussion with a couple of Beginners recently, the talk turned to some difficulties encountered in the bird room during their second season of breeding budgerigars. The problem which concerns me the most is the misinformation about what is commonly called "splayed" chicks, the condition where a chick from just a few days old is found to be lying flat on its belly with its legs stretched (usually) straight out sideways, or sometimes out behind it, instead of the regular position under it.

 

The Beginners had all the usual answers to this condition. They had been told by "more experienced breeders" that the problem was the result of the hen 'sitting too tight'. Well maybe, but why only one chick in the nest affected and the others okay?

 

My observation of the "splayed chick syndrome" began when I was also a Beginner and I too received similar advice from so-called "more experienced breeders". The advice given then was to leave in the affected nest unhatched eggs or put in glass marbles or imitation eggs or switch in larger chicks to "keep the hen up". Then of course you must bind the "splayed" chick's legs together to rectify the problem.

 

All this advice would be reasonable if the problem was indeed caused by a hen sitting too tight, but that is not usually the cause. In fact it's a condition found in many other birds and animals which is known simply as rickets, caused by a lack of calcium in the system or an inability to absorb it.

 

Just because there is cuttlefish bone and shell grit in the cage does not mean that the hen (and thus the baby) will get sufficient calcium from it. There is also a requirement for vitamin D3 to assist in the absorption of calcium into the chick's system.

 

The earliest sign of the "splayed chick syndrome" is a dark red discoloration of the knee joint noticeable at about 5/6 days of age. Later, both the knee and the hip joint are discoloured, followed by the chick lying flat and being under developed. In the most extreme cases feather formation is also affected - if the chick manages to live long enough.

 

If you observe the condition at an early enough stage (4 to 7 days) the only treatment needed is the addition of liquid calcium to the water plus a suitable source of vitamin D3. Birds treated in this manner generally completely recover, even to the extent of making it to the show bench.

 

The problem birds are those not noticed until 10 days or older. Treatment is as above, plus the need to tie both legs of the chick together for about two weeks. This can be achieved by putting a ring on both legs and tying the rings together with a piece of nylon thread. The baby will complain noisily at first and sprawl awkwardly around but soon get used to the discomfort. It's also best to minimize the number of chicks in the nest to reduce competition for the hen's attention.

 

I have in the past used Elliot's Calcium Supplement (which contains calcium lactate) at a rate of 8 ml per 30ml of water for six days, then reverted to clean fresh water without further trouble in the nest. Another product which is proven effective is Calcivet which is a calcium, magnesium and vitamin D3 mixture in a readily acceptable form. It may be used in drinking water, over green food, on soft foods or given directly via crop needle in cases of rickets.

 

While on this subject of calcium deficiency, it should be noted that hens laying soft shelled eggs do not have or are not converting enough of their body calcium for the shell making process.Just add liquid calcium to the water in that nest box and see the improvement.

 

Egg binding in laying hens is often as a result of calcium deficiency too. Although this is not the only cause, a deficiency can be prevented by a little forethought. Why not put a small amount of liquid calcium in the drinking water when the birds are first paired up? It's a worthwhile and harmless precaution. And remember to always follow the manufacturers instructions when giving medication of any sort to your birds - just because a little is good,more is not necessarily better! In fact, the exact opposite is usually the case.

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It s pleasing to see from this article, that my advice in the past agrees with this authors article. All exactly the observations I have encountered and what I have advised in the past as well :)

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It s pleasing to see from this article, that my advice in the past agrees with this authors article. All exactly the observations I have encountered and what I have advised in the past as well :fear

 

 

Good artical.........thanks

Gas

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Yeh Kas, I thought this article is very good, something that we all need to know.

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Kaz someone (possibly you) posted an extract from an interesting research article in the past week (?) advising caution on calcium supplements as it can cause long term organ damage, especially to the kidneys. I cannot find the damn thing now ... but I remember he (the author) concluded that budgies have a narrow range of tolerance to calcium - too little AND too much can BOTH cause problems.

 

As a follow-up on my own chick who displayed severe splayed leg in one leg but responded within 24 hours to additional (pet litter) box filling - he has fledged fine and shows no sign at all of his previous condition.

 

Cheers,

KathyW.

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Kaz someone (possibly you) posted an extract from an interesting research article in the past week (?) advising caution on calcium supplements as it can cause long term organ damage, especially to the kidneys. I cannot find the damn thing now ... but I remember he (the author) concluded that budgies have a narrow range of tolerance to calcium - too little AND too much can BOTH cause problems.

 

As a follow-up on my own chick who displayed severe splayed leg in one leg but responded within 24 hours to additional (pet litter) box filling - he has fledged fine and shows no sign at all of his previous condition.

 

Cheers,

KathyW.

Not me KathyW.

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Kaz someone (possibly you) posted an extract from an interesting research article in the past week (?) advising caution on calcium supplements as it can cause long term organ damage, especially to the kidneys. I cannot find the damn thing now ... but I remember he (the author) concluded that budgies have a narrow range of tolerance to calcium - too little AND too much can BOTH cause problems.

Not me KathyW.

 

 

Found it!! :)

 

1. A Study of the Dietary Requirements and Toxic Levels of Calcium and Vitamin D3 in Budgerigars.

A moderately common problem seen in budgerigars and some other species of birds is calcium deposition in the kidney resulting in kidney failure. The cause of this disease has been hypothesized to be either excess calcium or vitamin D3 in the diet. To determine the cause of this disease, groups of budgerigars were fed diets containing various concentrations of calcium and vitamin D3 and allowed to breed. Results of this study showed that budgerigars need less dietary calcium (0.3%) than most other species for growth and egg laying. When dietary calcium concentrations reached 0.7%, mild calcium deposition occurred in nestlings and adults. When calcium concentrations reached 1.5%, death occurred in chicks and adult birds. All seed diets containing less than 0.3% calcium resulted in weak bones in laying hens and their eggs did not hatch. Vitamin D3 concentrations ranging from 500 to 3,300 International Units of vitamin D3 per kilogram of diet did not cause calcium deposition in the kidney as long as diet did not contain more than 0.3% calcium.

This research is important because it shows that budgerigars can only tolerate a narrow range of calcium in their diet. Calcium concentrations in seeds are insufficient, but calcium concentrations found in most pelleted diets will be too high and could be toxic. Therefore, it is necessary to supplement seed diets with some form of calcium, e.g., cuttlebone and if you are going to feed pellets, they should be no more than 25% of what a budgerigar eats. This research also shows that budgerigars can tolerate a wide range of vitamin D3 concentrations in the diet without problems.

 

David N. Phalen, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ABVP (Avian)

Associate Professor

Small Animal Clinical Sciences and the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center

Texas A&M University

College Station, TX

 

LINK:

Presentation given to the World Budgerigar Organisation& BAA Grand NationalLas Vegas, Nevada October 21, 2005.

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Yes I saw that article too & worries me about adding Calcium to their water, as then they have no choice of whether to take it or not. Calcium blocks or cuttle fish seem better as then they can choose.

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Yes I saw that article too & worries me about adding Calcium to their water, as then they have no choice of whether to take it or not. Calcium blocks or cuttle fish seem better as then they can choose.

Calcium in the water isnt a constant thing with my birds, Norm. I just use it when necessary as an extra supplement.

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