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Hookbills will lay eggs when they are ready despite the type of nestbox used. Some parrots will lay eggs without nestboxes. Cage-laying parrots such as Amazons and Macaws may lay with or without a mate at the approximate age of 22. Smaller birds such as Cockatiels may start laying eggs anywhere with or without a mate by the age of 2. Most do need privacy and will lay at a much younger age when they are with a mate and given the proper diet, stimuli and environment. That subject will be addressed (aviary management) at another time.
There are many types of nestboxes on the market for all species of parrots - besides the homemade type. Metal is one type for northern climate indoor aviaries where the boxes would not get extremely hot from the sun in an outdoor aviary. Metal boxes are generally made in rectangular vertical (grandfather clock style) and horizontal shapes with a viewing hinged or slide-up hatch door. I had custom heavy duty hooked plates made for easy attachment to the cage rather than struggle with metal strips, nuts and bolts. Originally, metal boxes were only available as customized galvanized garbage cans. The originator of those boxes did a great job with hanging straps, attachment bars, smooth metal rings on the entry opening, nicely latched hatch inspection doors, and metal entry perches. These evolved into the current boxes available now that are less bulky. Wooden boxes are best in southern climates where birds are kept outside. Both metal and wooden boxes are also made in the boot shape to give the hen more privacy and to protect the eggs from being trampled on by the male. Heavy duty plastic boxes are also commercially produced mainly for smaller species birds. They would be the easiest to clean. Some nestboxes have both an entry and exit hole for mate aggressive species such as Cockatoos. This way, the hen can quickly exit if the male comes after her.
The best sub-strata for the bottom of the box is plain pine or aspen shavings or chips. All of my breeders prefer to start with a clean nest and then chew up plain pine chunks or shims to their own desired consistency. Many birds will throw out pine shavings until the bottom is bare leaving no cushioning for the babies. This can lead to splayed leg deformities. Never use cedar bedding because the oils in the cedar is toxic to birds.
|Pigeon Milk - Some Facts:
African green pigeons have some weird habits. Not the least of which is feeding their chicks on milk. No they don't steal it, they brew the stuff themselves.
Midway through incubating their eggs, something strange begins to happen to both Mum and Dad. A rush of the pituitary hormone prolactin (the same hormone that prompts milk production in mammals) makes the walls of their crop thicken up and blood vessels invade the area. By time the first chick scrambles from its shell, the adults' crops have trebled in weight and are sloughing off cells to form a cottage-cheese-like goo, called 'crop milk' or 'pigeon milk'. The newly hatched squabs feast exclusively on this for the first few days, thrusting their heads right inside the parents' beaks to gobble down the goodies.
Pigeon milk compares well with mammal milk; it's very rich in protein, moisture and fat, but contains no carbs. And it's more effective at promoting rapid growth than the milk in your refrigerator. Parent pigeons, however, only produce the stuff for the first week or so, and then they wean their little ones on to solids.
But why do pigeons go to all this trouble? The only other birds known to feed their kids on throat secretions are flamingos, who cough up a mixture of blood and fat. But flamingo chicks need to grow fast if they're to avoid being left high and dry when their shallow breeding pools dry out. Baby pigeons face no such deadlines.
The answer seems to be two-fold. Firstly, pigeon eggs are unusually small (relative to the size of Mum) and secondly, little pigeons are very well developed when they eventually hatch. As a result, pigeon chicks have squandered their entire food store (the egg's yolk) by the time they hatch. This is not normal. Most baby birds emerge with up to a third of their yolk intact. With this rich source of fat and protein embedded in their tummies, the chicks of other species don't eat for their first few days, giving their gut a chance to adapt to solid food. It's thought that pigeon parents cover this 'down-time' for their hungry chicks by coughing up pigeon milk.