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by John D. Goss
I first became interested in Eclectus parrots around 9 or 10 years ago, when I observed a baby female. Like most people, I was completely captivated by her stunning beauty. Within a year, I had my first pair and have been raising Eclectus for about 7° to 8 years. I raise and specialize in two subspecies of Eclectus -- the Vosmaeri and Solomon Islands. Both subspecies come from islands surrounding Australia and Indonesia. Very few of these subspecies have been imported into this country in the past few years. Availability is generally good in the United States.
Breeding potential of domestic birds in captivity is excellent. A Vosmaeri hen is capable of producing eggs around 2° to 3 years of age. The male, however, needs to be around 3° to 5 years of age to fertilize the eggs. The males take a bit longer to mature than the females.
The Solomon Islands can produce, and have been known to produce at 18 months of age, with the males just a bit older. The Solomon Islands have been known to lay 3 eggs, but the norm is 2.
The Eclectus is a parrot that is quite prolific in captivity. If I am to pull eggs for incubation, I do so at approximately the mid-point, which would be around 2 weeks. After the eggs are pulled, within 17 to 21 days, a new egg is laid. The second egg follows in 3 days. If the chicks are left with the parents they are pulled at about 10 days to 2 weeks. After the chicks are pulled, a new egg is laid approximately 14 to 21 days later. This can continue year round. A question that I have been asked many times is: will the birds die from over-producing and depleting their bodies of calcium? Being concerned about that also, I have consulted with Eclectus breeders around the country. The general consensus is that even if the nest box is closed off, the hen will recycle and lay eggs off the perch or on the floor of her cage. They will even lay in their food dish and try to sit on them there. I have found that leaving the nest box up year round causes less stress on both the male and the female. Some of my pairs will periodically rest themselves. If your birds produce year round, the key to keeping them in optimum condition is the proper diet. I also would recommend supplementing them with a good calcium powder 2 to 4 times per week, sprinkled directly on the food. At all times a cuttle bone and a mineral block should be available.
The cage is made from 14 gauge wire 1 inch by 2 inches. The size of my breeding cages is 4 feet high by 4 feet long by 3 feet wide. There are two perches - one in the front, and one in the back. Seven inch crocks are used for food and water. These are the heavy ceramic crocks that the birds are unable to tip over, and are easily cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis. These are placed on a feeding shelf which provides easy maintenance for the keeper, and makes it difficult for the birds to soil their bowls. All of the cages are suspended from the roof of the aviary. The bottom of the cage is approximately 4 feet from the ground.
I have used many different sizes and shapes of Eclectus boxes over the years. I've used L-shaped boxes, along with the grandfather clock style nest boxes in the upright position. The nest box that I am happiest with and will use from now on is made from ° inch plywood -- no wire on the inside or outside. The dimensions are 24" high, 20" deep and 13" wide. At the top of the nest box, just inside the entrance hole, is a platform. The inside dimensions are approximately 12" by 12". The male can then sit on the platform and feed the hen if need be.
I also have an inspection door at each end of the nest box. The two inspection doors enables me to hang the box on any side of the cage that I wish. I then have complete access to the nest at any different angle. The nest boxes are filled with pine shavings to a depth of 2 to 3 inches.
The diet for my adult breeding pairs consists of a seed mix which is blended to my specifications. This mix contains a basic parrot mix, combined with a small hookbill mix, along with red peppers, pumpkin seed, whole corn, oat groats and dog food. This provides a variety of seed sizes. Approximately twice a week spray millet is offered, more for their enjoyment than any nutritional value.
In addition, a vegetable mix is fed seven days a week along with the seed mix. The basic vegetable mix consists of carrots, apples, squash (either yellow or zucchini), sweet yellow corn on the cob cut into ° inch wheels, and kale or endive. The carrots are put through a food processor. About half of the carrots and squash are sliced; the other half is grated. I also add unprocessed wheat bran to this fresh food mix. A few times a week other items are added. These would include sliced sweet potatoes, parsley and celery. Seasonal items are added such as cranberries, which are given on a daily basis until no longer available.
The Eclectus are given extra fruit two to three times a week. The variety of fruit also depends on what is in season at the time. Generally the birds receive cantaloupe, honeydew melon, grapes, papaya, mango, kiwi fruit, pomegranates, etc. etc! The list is endless as to what fruits they will eat.
General Breeding Information
The Vosmaeri hen usually lays 2 eggs. Incubation time is 28 days. The female will do most of the incubation. The male will occasionally go into the nest box, and they will both sit in there at night The male shares in the feeding of the chicks.
The Solomon Islands normally lay 2 eggs, but it is not unusual for them to lay 3 eggs. This is also true for the Red-sided species. Incubation is also 28 days.
When artificially incubating eggs, I use the Turn-X 7 model available through Lyons Electric Co. in San Diego, Calif. The temperature is kept at 99 degrees on the dry bulb. Due to the very humid conditions in Florida I do not worry about the wet bulb reading. The base of the incubator holds sufficient water to ensure an adequate humidity level. Distilled water is used to prevent mineral buildup.
If the eggs have been left to hatch naturally with the parents, I usually leave the chicks in the nest for about 10 days.
The chick will hatch in approximately 40-50 hours after the initial pip. The weight of a newborn Vosmaeri chick is around 16 to 18 grams. Solomon Island chicks are 14 to 16 grams. I do not feed newly hatched chicks for the first 6 to 8 hours. The first feeding will then consist of a 50/50 mix of lactated ringers and baby formula. The last feeding for the day is around 9 to 10p.m. I do not feed during the night.
Eclectus babies start to wean anywhere from 9 weeks of age, and are usually off baby formula and on to adult types of food about 12 to 16 weeks of age. I have had some babies go past 16 weeks, which is not unusual. I don't try to force the issue to get them off of baby food. If they feel they need to eat baby formula at 4 months they let you know, and should be allowed to continue being handfed.
When the babies are around 10 weeks of age, I start to offer them a selection of the same foods that I give to my adult birds. The selection is not as heavy on the fruit as with the adult birds, but is basically the same with the addition of soaked Zu-preem.
My handfeeding formula for the Eclectus is the same that I use for the rest of my psittacine babies. It consists of Zu-preem and peanut butter. Preparing this formula is quite easy.
The proportions I am currently using are approximately 100 Zu-preem biscuits covered with 9 cups of scalding water. Let that soak for about 20 minutes, mixing with a spoon or whisk until all biscuits are saturated. Put this container into the microwave and cook it for approximately 8 to 12 minutes, turning and/or stirring the mix a couple of times during the cooking process until the edges, but not the center, are bubbling. After the mixture is cooked, I add 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of creamy peanut butter to the hot mixture, and stir thoroughly. This is now your stock mixture. Refrigerate. I make up enough to last for one day only. A fresh mix is made daily.
You can then take out of the refrigerated mix only what you need for each feeding, thinning as needed. If you heat up the mixture in the microwave, be sure to mix thoroughly before feeding to prevent hot spots in the formula.
Eclectus make fascinating, wonderful pets. The very fact that they are so different from any other species, makes them all the more interesting. Both the males and females are capable of having large vocabularies. Their unrivalled beauty and devotion to their human companions makes them an ideal pet.
John D. Goss
John Goss was born and raised in England and came to the U.S.A in 1971. He worked as a photographer in Florida for the next 10 years. He found his true love in breeding birds 12 years ago. He now lives in the country side on 5 acres with his birds -- around 300 or so Eclectus, Cockatoos, Macaws, Africans, Amazons, Hawkheads, Conures, Emus and Rheas. The only time he picks up his camera nowadays is to photograph his birds!