Breeding Lovebirds in Cage or Aviary


One of the questions frequently discussed by lovebird breeders concerns the pros and cons of breeding lovebirds in cages or aviaries. Basically there is no single answer, because the choice not only depends on the species but also on the available breeding space.

My experiences with lovebirds over the past twenty five years form the basis for most of the ideas in this article, but I have tried to incorporate successful practices of other aviculturists who I have befriended in America as well as Europe.

Every species of lovebird has its own breeding preferences in the wilds of Africa and knowledge of these preferences should give us our initial clues as to how to breed them in captivity. Only after the stock has become semidomesticated should we attempt to alter some of these preferences in order to make them fit better into our own breeding environment. A good example is Agapornis pullan·a (the redfaced lovebird) which chooses an arboreal termite mound as its breeding site. When first attempting to breed wild-caught pullaria we must match this nesting environment as close as possible. However, well-established, aviary raised redfaced may be tempted to breed in lesscomplicated nest boxes, filled with peat or similar material.

As a general rule those species without white eyerings (Madagascar, Abyssinian and redfaced Lovebirds) breed in single pairs, their nesting cavities being widely separated in a forest or forest savanna environment. Interestingly enough these same three species also do best in captivity when bred in single pairs. The peachfaced lovebird and the white eyeringed species (Fischer, blackmasked, Nyasa and blackchecked lovebirds) are all colony breeders and a number of pairs will occupy large weaver nests. Some also occupy closely spaced nesting cavities in one single tree such as the baobab. These last five species therefore have no difficulty adjusting to a colony-type breeding arrangement.

In my own avianes I have basically followed the natural breeding prefer-


ences of lovebirds, but as you will read later on, I have also experimented with different arrangements. All my Abyssinian lovebirds of past years (I have none as of this moment) I have bred in single pairs in aviaries six to eight feet in length, three feet wide and nine feet high. This species becomes very aggressive during the breeding season and doesn't tolerate other birds in the aviary. Several friends also had good success breeding the Abyssinian in large flight cages (see the AFA Watchbird, Dec. !Jan. 1980).

The Madagascar lovebird is the most timid of all the species I have kept; hence it settles down much faster in small flight cages. If given a choice it actually prefers a box type cage. In these semi-enclosed cages it quickly selects a nest box and settles down to commence with the breeding activity. I have never kept more than one pair per cage or aviary, although I don't find them particularly aggressive toward other birds.

I have never bred redfaced lovebirds, but have corresponded with breeders who have. Most have kept them as single breeding pair but some success has been recorded under colony style conditions (see Prestwich, 19 5 7 A vicultural Magazine, Vol. 63, 1).

Until recently all my peachfaced lovebirds were bred colony style in aviaries measuring 8' x 3' by 9' high. Each aviary holds between 3 or 4 pair. This arrangement has produced more consistent results for me than any other. A few breeders in California also have recorded good successes in very large aviaries with as many as 20 or even 30 pair per aviary. Such large numbers obviously limit any control breeding. On the other hand a number of California breeders have successfully changed to cage breeding which has allowed them to set up many more breeding pair per given area. Individual cage breeding, however, has also increased their workload.

My Fischer's and Nyasa lovebirds are all bred colony style and I really don't intend to change that arrangement. I have long learned that "the more the merrier" applies particularly to the Nyasa. Breeding results improve significantly if many pairs are kept together and if the colony is disturbed as little as possible. Ralph Small achieved some of his biggest successes keeping as many as 15 or more pair per aviary. Unfortunately, the number of Nyasa have declined significantly and one rarely encounters large breeding colonies.

My experiences with colony breeding are summarized below where I have


listed both the advantages and disadvantages.

While traveling in Europe last summer I saw a modular system of individual breeding cages that were not only functional but also very beautiful. Unfortunately the price of this unit, including shipping, was prohibitive and I began to look for alternate options. What I finally came up with is a unit which is as practical and space saving as the European unit, but easier to clean, easier to move and at about one fourth the cost. I was fortunate to find all materials needed for this unit right in my own hometown through "Corners Limited."

My basic unit is shown in Photos 1 and

2. It consists of four cages, each measuring 36" by 18" by 12" deep. The entire cage unit is designed to fit through a standard door so it can be easily taken outside for thorough washing after each breeding season.

The bottom of each cage can be outfitted with a galvanized metal tray, though I prefer the unit without trays. Instead I use a heavy pliable plastic sheet similar to the plastic used as runners for carpets. A thick plastic prevents the birds from destroying it, yet it is clear or transparent enough to let light shine right through to the bottom cage. Metal drawers always give the bottom cages a very dark appearance. Another advantage of the soft plastic is that it can be rolled up easily, taken out through the large cage door and then washed thoroughly in the sink. Any dirt which is spilled from the cages and falls to the floor is easily swept up once a day and presents no real problem. On the whole I find this breeding arrangement very hygienic and breeding success has been very good.

One of the very unique features of this breeding unit is the horizontally placed nest box in the upper right hand corner inside the cage. This next box is made of 3,4 inch pine, measures 10" by 7" by 7" and has a 2" diameter entrance hole. The nest box slides in and out on a simple tray and can be easily inspected by partially pulling out the box and then lifting the hinged lid. (see Photo 2). Eggs and young will always be in the front part, away from the entrance hole. None of the boxes have been fitted with a landing perch at the entrance hole, yet the birds instantly adapt to it, often disappearing into the box within a few hours after having been introduced.

Present! y, I am using this arrangement with a control breeding program of a new mutation and I am somewhat excited about the results. All young are removed from these breeding cages as soon as they are on their own and are

placed in an aviary to strengthen their flight and to prepare them for next year's breeding program.