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Perequito

Down Feather Query

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Hi there, haven't been on for a while, but have a question I would just love the answer to.

Recently had a hen with eight fertile eggs which I knew she could not manage to rear in her nestbox, so popped three eggs in with a foster hen who had been laying infertile eggs. (Foster mum was amazed how quickly she acquired live chicks!!) Both mums proceeded to feed and nurture their babies as they hatched.

The original mum's chicks all grew their thick soft down feathers first, followed by their coloured body feathers...but oddly (to me anyway) the foster mum's two successfully hatched chicks grew their body feathers first, with the down feathers only coming in very slowly later on, meaning they had some cold bald patches without the underlying down.

I could see no obvious evidence that foster mum had been plucking the down feathers out (no little blood spots where they might have been pecked)

 

I'd love to hear ideas about what might have caused this, given that the eggs came out of the same nest...both sets of parents are housed in the same aviary with all the same food & nutrition supplies, given the same greens, carrot, apple, cuttlefish, vitamin nibbles etc.

 

Is this difference in feathering likely to be nutritional?

Could it be the foster hen fed "her" two chicks a different combination of everything available to her?

Or do you think she may have actually plucked a few early down feathers out in her enthusiasm for having live chicks?

 

PS. All the chicks have now left the nests and progressing well; the two foster chicks still a little slow to get their full down feathers but getting better every day.

Many thanks for your time :o)

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My guess is that even though you didn't see any little blood spots, it was still due to the foster mother plucking the down from the babies. They can be quite gentle about it. I have read advice on here in the past that a down-plucking mother is not a danger to her babies, but that if a hen starts to pluck the real feathers, then she can do permanent damage, stunt their growth, and even go on to actually injure or kill the chick.

 

Did you by any chance let the foster mother go for a second round? I have twice been able to get a hen that laid infertile eggs the first time to go on to a successful clutch of her own by letting her foster some chicks in the first round. Somehow the whole parenting thing makes something click, and her second clutch of eggs would then be fertile. Maybe it triggers hormones, maybe it reminds her to actually mate with the cock. Who knows?

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I recently did this with an infertile hen- 3x her eggs never hatched., Her fourth time round in Aviary she actually hatched one of her 6 eggs only- I fostered a baby with her as the twins sharing a box hatched 5 and trampled 1- so i thought of saving the little runt and placed it succesfully with her. He/she has down and pin feathers now and her other chick has proper feathers and little down left. Hope this was helpful. Is it not from them shoving the baby with their beak underneath them to keep them warm? The other hen had no eggs hatching and she had a succesful 5xchick clutch last year but this time only 1 egg also hatched of 10-there were some disturbances, Lovebird got through from other side and chased her out of nest and sat on eggs! it was so precious to see. No bird was hurt, no eggs were hurt but all the commotion made her lay more eggs and from 5 it grew to ten and i don't think she could incubate all these eggs. So i gave her one foster chick to balance them out- so she has two, another hen 2, the twins have 3, and My Greywing/cross Albino has 4 chicks. All thriving :)

 

More and pics coming up on the Twins issue - a rarety ? unusual? or normal? on new thread

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Thank you for the great replies....much food for thought, I'm most grateful to you Finnie & Maz7!

Yes I'm sure you're both right, that it must have been the foster hen doing a little gentle plucking...she had been very frustrated with her first round of infertile eggs, and totally loved these little ones to bits (almost literally hahahaha)!

Re the infertility, the male is a lovely sky pied boy we've had for quite a few years, fathered heaps of gorgeous chicks over that time, but sadly his previous older hen died.

I had some difficulty finding a new hen for him locally, so ended up purchasing one from a show breeder, and she is a very much bigger bird than my so called "pet quality" little male. I think in NZ they tend to call these big 'show quality' birds "english-type budgies".

Anyhow, I'm not sure that this very large hen and my smaller little guy are really quite 'getting their act together' ....maybe their synchronicity is not quite in sync! hopefully next season they might get things sorted. I have tried to make sure the perches are all pretty stable, so can't do much more to help them along. It might be that fostering the chicks will trigger the hormones as suggested, which would be great!

Maybe he just prefers gals the same size as him :)

I will certainly be on the lookout to make sure this hen doesn't start in on the youngsters real feathers.

Many thanks for your great thoughtful advice!

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They call them English types around here, too. But I realize how bothersome that sounds to the Australians! :P

 

But I have heard that those bigger style of budgies can have more breeding and fertility issues than the smaller, more natural pet types. I have read of some breeders trimming the feathers around the vent, believing that they block the sperm. And then that seems to work, so there must be something to the idea that the show types need help.

 

I don't know if you want to go to all that trouble. Maybe they will do better in the future in any case. If he helped her raise the foster chicks, then they ought to be a lot more bonded together now, so maybe that will be all it takes.

 

I think with my pair, it was all the hen's fault. (And she too is the bigger, show type.) Some of her eggs looked like they had started to develop, and then got ruined somehow, at a very early stage. She laid a ton of them the first time, too. After the foster chicks grew up, she was able to hatch out and raise two of her own, but she had still laid about a dozen "bad" eggs again, that didn't ever hatch, apart from the two. And then she tried to do a third round, and again, over a dozen eggs, and no real development. But by that time I felt that was due to her overlaying and depleting herself, so I had to take away the eggs and box and give her a rest.

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Yes I've heard the feather trimming thing too - will be interesting to see what happens next season.

I guess I'm a bit biased towards the little pet quality birds because they are all I've had for the last 15 years. I have found them to be pretty hardy even when we have cold snowy winters, and I admit to loving their lovely little sweet expressive faces too :) This big 'showgirl' has a VERY grumpy looking face hahahahaha, although is sweet natured.

Thanks so much again for the great advice!

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