If anybody asks me which is the loveliest thing on earth? Without any hesitation I would reply, “Looking inside the cage of lovebirds and watching their activities”. In this world of ego-clashes and marital strife, they go on living a life full of pure, long-lasting and un-adulterated love. It has been proved that the hypertension of modern life can be brought under control by simply watching these cute and playful little birds.
Experts conduct research to find out the chemistry these little birds possess to keep the flame of love burning, defying the scars of time and age. If these scientists succeed in their attempts and they discover the chemical that can be applied in human beings, honeymoon once lost among quarrelling couples may be brought back for the rest of their life! We may be fortunate enough to see our ever-grumbling grand parents cooing in dark corners along with teen-agers.
The actual name of love birds is ‘Budgerigars’. For one and a half century these parrots -like small birds have been undoubtedly the most popular in cages and aviaries all over the world. Apart from their beauty and engaging mannerisms it is their adaptability to cage-conditions that make them admirable pets of bird lovers. In some parts of the world, the African and Madagascan parrot (Agapornis Personata) is also known as the love-birds.
Love to love you baby!
The budgerigars (love-birds) are attractive and playful, have remarkable intelligence, and simple dietary habits. Its color mutations are fascinating and its swift movements and activities bewitching. There are thousands of “love bird societies” actively engaged in exchanging information regarding their upkeep. The author, (a practicing vet surgeon) had always been fascinated by the wonderful world of love-birds and feel happy in the company of the love-bird lovers.
The first description regarding these birds was given by the naturalist, Mr. Shaw, in 1789. But only in 1831, a pair of live birds was brought to the Linnaen Society of
The bird’s scientific name is Melopsitaccus undulatus. It has many local names such as ‘Zebra Parakeet’, ‘Canary Parrot’, ‘Shell Parrot’, or simply ‘Love Birds’. The male birds have a typical blue marks on both sides of their beaks and in beauty they excel their counter parts. Melopsitaccus undulatus (love-birds) measures about 7 inches from head to tail-tip and its size is comparable to that of a sparrow.
In no other species of birds you can see this much of varieties as you see in love birds. The original birds were green with characteristic dark wing markings. It was over a hundred years of selective breeding that produced such an incredible number of color varieties in these birds. The common basic colors are light green, dark green, yellow, olive, grey, blue-cobalt, mauve, and violet. Their wing markings also vary in color.
Love birds can be bred in large cages and more successfully in aviaries. Birds as a whole like to live in their natural habitats so ambient space should be provided inside the cage for flying and for taking rest, objects such as branches of plants drift-wood etc are fine. A space of privacy for laying eggs is of utmost importance in a cage which should not be exposed to direct day-light and curious peeping-Toms! Bamboo-cages or mud-pots etc will serve the purpose; bottom of the cage should invariably be made of wire-mesh. Always keep the cage or aviary in a position which is non-accessible to cats, snakes or other predators.
Give enough space.
The minimum size of a cage for ten birds is one cubic meter or 4’*4’*4’ (large varieties require larger cages) wire-mesh is best for the sides and top can be of wood, tin-sheet, fiber-sheet etc. One type of cage –the box-cage- is made of three sides with tin-sheet and one side with wire-mesh. A sliding tray provided at the bottom is useful for the removal of faecal-materials and food wastes. The removal of wastes can be done once in two days. Again keep in mind that branches of plants should be provided for the birds to exercise and it will help the growth of their finger nails.
How to shop them.
Always purchase young ones from a recognized breeder, better if sourced from a local breeder so that the birds will be better adapted to local conditions. Always purchase young ones at the age group of 6-10 weeks. Give the chicks glucose diluted with water immediately after settling them in to the cage. Love-birds can distinguish color and they are afraid of dark colors. Do not disturb the young ones for the first few days by placing unnecessary dark colored materials inside the cage. When they get familiarized with the cage, small light colored toys such as balls can be given for playing.
Feeding habits (a note of caution)
You can include rice, wheat, ragi (finger millet or thina), maize, small worms, fruits, minced meat, minced eggs, vegetables, leaves, vitamins, mineral mixture etc in the diet of love birds. Some birds are vegetarians and some are non vegetarians. Always keep fresh water inside the cage. Do not keep any food materials for a long time inside the cage, if the birds are not eating it, remove it never keep stale materials inside the cage. Love-birds eat grains leaving its chaff as such; the full shaped chaff may give the owner a false feeling that the food remains un-touched by the birds. There are instances of birds starved to death as keepers mistake chaff as uneaten food.
Breeding, the multiplying effect.
Birds will start laying eggs from sixth month onwards. A small clutch may consist of anything from 3-8 eggs, the majority of which will be fertile. Incubation takes about 18-21 days. The chicks however hatch at intervals because; the eggs are usually laid on alternate days. It’s not uncommon therefore for the last egg to hatch 10 days or more after the first. Even though both parents feed the young ones, it is the female which usually remain inside the nest while the male collects food. The young leave the nest when about a month old and their parents feed them for two more weeks. By about two months, the chicks start to fly independently eat food by themselves. The colors begin to develop at the age group of three two four months.
Better management, better health.
It will be safer to trim wing-feathers at the edge so that the birds will not fly too fast. Always do it with utmost care. Trimming of the nails reduces the habit of fighting and injuring each other. Nail trimming can be done at the age of 6 months. It is not necessary to bath the birds. Keep adequate quantity of water in the cage so that they may take bath themselves as per their wish. Keep in mind that the water containers are shallow, lest the birds might drown.
Common aliments and their treatment
Common diseases of love birds are :-
1) Chronic respiratory disease: - Main symptoms are droopiness, loss of appetite, mouth breathing etc. Sometimes a mucous discharge may come from nostrils. Some may produce snoring sounds
2) White dysentery:- Faecal materials may be loose and may even contain blood tinge.. Birds will appear droopy and may become anorectic.
3) Worm infestation:- Birds may often get affected by worms. The main symptoms are droopiness, dizziness, become lazy and anorectic. Fecal material may contain blood tinge.
4) :- External Parasites:- some times external parasites such as flies, tics, lice etc may become a menace to the aviary. Frequent cleaning using disinfectants or external parasiticide may reduce the risks.
In all these cases if a bird is noticed having any ailment, separate it from other birds and give proper treatment. Always keep in mind to consult a veterinarian if your own treatment is not showing any success.
- Choose aviary only if you have sufficient time to spare and adequate affection towards pets, because love birds need more care and attention.
- Bring your chicks at the age group of six to ten weeks.
- Always purchase chicks from a local recognized breeder.
- Spare some time everyday to mingle with the birds because they need more love and affection.
- Never overcrowd the cage (allow one cubic meter for 10 birds- about 4’*4’*4’)
- Always keep small branches of trees or rods inside the cage giving ambient settings for the birds to take rest and to feel at home.
- Make sure that your neighbors are not bird-unfriendly (who are in the habit of making disturbing sounds) before starting your aviary.
Birds are our feathered friends and if properly loved and nurtured they will bring us that much joy no friend or relative can match. When struck with bouts of depression or plagued by feelings of let down, just go to the bird’s cage and watch their activities, and get relieved of all the tensions, fantasize you are one among them and feel the difference! Love birds are messengers of love; love them and experience the pleasure of giving love. Forget all the pains those ail you and gain the wings of love!