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When Do Budgies Breed?

What triggers budgies to breed and reproduce? And how can we reduce or limit these behaviors in our homes?

There are a lot of myths and misinformation floating around surrounding budgie (and parrot) breeding and what controls or triggers their reproduction. In this article we are going to lay out what are the actual factors that affect budgie reproduction and breeding shown not only by decades of scientific research but also by applying that knowledge in our homes.

A Common Theme in Bird Breeding

Most birds in the world have a defined yearly breeding season. Chickens are a great example. Every year, at the same time each year, resources become plentiful and create a favorable environment to lay eggs and raise chicks.

But how do these birds know what time of year it is? After all, birds don’t have calendars.

Well, as the earth rotates around the sun, the length of the daylight changes. If you live in the continental United States, you’ll notice the daylight is much longer during the spring and summer months and shorter during the winter months. For birds who have a defined yearly breeding cycle, their bodies evolved to sense the day length, triggering their breeding when the days are longer, suppressing their breeding when the day length is shorter.

 

Budgies, however, are completely different.  

Budgies are Opportunistic Breeders

If you travel around Australia, you will find that the budgies there do not breed at any one time of year1. Weather conditions vary wildly in different parts of Australia and as a result, budgies breed during very different times of the year in different areas of the continent. The budgies there are highly nomadic, traveling vast distances over a highly unpredictable continent to access the small pockets of rain that provide food and water for these birds.

 

Budgies settle down to breed when rain becomes consistent in one area, forming small ponds and supporting the growth of nutrient-rich grass seeds. This influx of consistently available high calorie foods around large eucalyptus trees allows the budgies to stop migrating and stay in one location. The trees provide ample hollows for the budgies to use as nest sites to lay eggs and raise their young.

 

The young grow quickly being fed these nutrient-rich foods. For 4 weeks they are fed by their parents and rapidly grow. As they grow their full flight feathers and fledge (fly out for the first time) from the nest, they follow their parents and family group to learn how to identify food and hone their flight skills.

 

The consistent rains end as quickly as they came and dwindling food supply forces the budgies to return to their nomadic patterns and disperse from the area, on the move once again in search of food and water brought on by the sparse, unpredictable rain tens of miles away.

Q: What triggers budgies to breed and to exhibit hormonal behaviors?

A: Budgies in captivity breed in response to very specific environmental conditions including high calorie diet, temperature, humidity, and vocals by a mate.

Now that you know a bit about budgie breeding, it will make a lot of sense why certain factors will trigger budgies to breed in captivity.

 

Budgie breeding is stimulated by several factors, listed in order of importance.

  • High calorie diet
  • Presence of a nest site
  • Vocalizations by the male mate
  • Adequate temperature
  • Adequate hydration

As you’ll notice, day length is not on this list. This is because budgies are almost completely unresponsive to day length as a major regulating factor of their breeding2. In fact, budgies given all of the factors listed above and placed on short day length will continue to breed and lay3. Interestingly, placing them in extended darkness seems to intensify their laying compared to birds given 14-hour daylight each day4. Other studies also show budgies continue to lay when given 6, 2 or no daylight at all3.

 

This is a great example of why misinformation is a dangerous thing. Many veterinarians and content creators mistakenly share the information that if you have a hormonal budgie, they should be placed on extended darkness. Not only is this not effective, but it is also likely actually exacerbating the problem, which I have actually seen in my own clients. I have now had several clients come to me saying their budgie continues to lay more eggs despite being placed on almost 18 hours darkness per day. This poor budgie not only has barely any quality of life and spends the majority of its life in isolation, but it’s actually not doing any good for the bird.

Wrapping up

If you have an overly hormonal budgie that is laying eggs, the most crucial thing you can do to get their hormones under control is to put them on the right diet. (If your budgie is sitting on eggs or about to lay, do not take the eggs away because this will usually trigger them to lay more.)

 

Seed diets are extremely high in calories so if your budgie is eating mostly seed mix, that high calorie content is triggering their body to go into breeding. What makes the seed diet dangerous is seeds are simultaneously low in 30 other nutrient categories, one of which is calcium. The lack of calcium means that the budgie will pull calcium from its bones to construct the eggshell and for muscle contractions. However, because the bird is on a deficient diet, they will rapidly run out of calcium, resulting in poorly formed eggs which can get stuck inside the bird and become fatal.

 

For budgies on pelleted diets, the danger is slightly less because pellets are balanced in various nutrient categories so it will not deplete their calcium stores as quickly. However, this type of chronic laying still happens because most pellets are formulated to be higher calorie to improve the taste of the pellet. However, in doing so, these pellets are now too high in calories for budgies to use as a base food without it stimulating their breeding activities.

 

In order to solve this problem, we have to look at where your budgie is in the breeding cycle and slowly walk your budgie onto a diet with the proper calorie and nutrient levels. We also need to look at your budgie’s cage setup and home to identify what they are claiming as a nest site and change the layout of those areas.

Wrapping up

If you have a budgie that is laying eggs and you want them to stop or you have a budgie that is displaying excessively hormonal behaviors, schedule a private video session so that you can get your budgie’s diet properly formulated and their space adjusted and solve this problem once and for all.

 

Want to Fix Your Budgie's Hormones For Good?

In addition to the factors mentioned above, nest boxes can also trigger certain reproductive behavior in budgies. Check out our article on nest boxes to learn more!

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Literature Cited

  1. Wyndham, E. Movements and breeding seasons of the Budgerigar. Emu 82, 276–282 (1982).
  2. Pohl-Apel, G. & Sossinka, R. Gonadenentwicklung beim Wellensittich,Melopsittacus undulatus unter verschiedenen Lichtbedingungen. J. für Ornithol. 116, 207–212 (1975).
  3. Putman, R. J. & Hinde, R. A. Effects of the light regime and breeding experience on budgerigar reproduction. J. Zoöl. 170, 475–484 (1973).
  4. Tienhoven, A. V., Sutherland, C. & Saatman, R. R. The effects of exposure to darkness on the reproductive and hypothalamo-hypophysial systems of Budgerigars, Melopsittacus undulatus. Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. 6, 420–427 (1966).

1 thought on “When Do Budgies Breed?”

  1. blank

    Thanks for this thorough and scientific article! You make the science easy to understand.

    What are “excessively hormonal behaviors” to watch out for, besides egg-laying? Wondering what to look for in male budgies and what is a “red flag” to correct.

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1 thought on “When Do Budgies Breed?”

  1. blank

    Thanks for this thorough and scientific article! You make the science easy to understand.

    What are “excessively hormonal behaviors” to watch out for, besides egg-laying? Wondering what to look for in male budgies and what is a “red flag” to correct.

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