Budgerigars in the wild tend to breed during wet spring and summer periods when water and food is plentiful. They also need long daylight hours to stimulate the mating instinct.
Stimulation for breeding budgerigars can be provided by artificial light. They need 12 hours of light a day during this time and the sunshine that makes it through your windows (if the budgerigars are indoors) is not enough to satisfy their vitamin D needs.
Given the right materials and space, budgerigars breed easily. If you present them with a suitable environment you can usually rely on the birds to simply get on with it, without much intervention from you.
Budgerigars in an aviary tend to pair up. However, many breeders are looking for the magic formula, the two birds whose combined genetic heritage will result in the perfect show bird. In a mixed flock, this means intervening to pair Spangle with another Spangle etc. If your aim is sheer colour and variety then letting them match up and get on with it by themselves will do the job.
If your chosen pair of budgerigars fail to bond, you can take it as a sign that you need to do a fresh spot of budgerigar matchmaking. Give them a day or two before intervening. It is common for a pair to be defensive at first if they have been thrown together for the first time.
Budgerigars are physically able to breed after six months, but should not be allowed to do so until they are at least 10 months old. A younger budgerigar will often fail to be a good parent. Once the budgerigar has matured, females will be able to breed for four years and males for six.
First-time mothers sometimes lay eggs outside the nesting box. This is fine, as long as you put the egg in the box as a signal that this is where the others should be laid. Once she’s settled on an egg in the cosy box, she won’t repeat the mistake.
Once paired, budgerigars reach peak fitness when the males cere is a vivid blue and the females is chocolate brown. They begin to perch, feed and preen together. Providing bathing water helps get them in the mating mood. The male budgerigar displays to his mate, with lots of head-bobbing and feather-fluffing, his pupils often dilating to pinpricks. He accompanies this with a bubbling, liquid song, often working himself into a hyperactive state of all-singing, all-dancing eagerness.
The female watches and listen to these antics closely, but does not join in. She has her own mating season chirrup and the male often joins in with her when she shouts it.
Just before mating begins, the male budgerigar persistently courts his mate, tapping her beak with his own to stimulate her. The female eventually lifts her tail in the air, raising her wings a little to let the male know that his wooing efforts have been successful. The male budgerigar then ‘treads’ the female by performing the ‘cloacal kiss’ – touching the vent or cloaca (an all-purpose repository for sperm, droppings and egg-laying, common to most birds), and rubbing from side to side. The process is swift, but will take place several times that day.
Budgerigars make very little fuss about nesting. The female will inspect the nesting box or if one is not provided, she will start scratching around in the corners of the cage or aviary for a suitable spot. Other members of the parrot family like to shred paper and collect dried grass and line their nests, but not budgerigars. If you put these items in the nesting box to make it warmer and softer, that’s fine, but don’t think the female is going to help you!
A female who has felt the hormonal surge of the mating season may start searching for nesting opportunities beyond the cage, if she is allowed free-flight in a room. The space behind the books on a bookshelf, or that cobwebby area at the back of the hi-fi are the sorts of places that will appeal to her. This behaviour is sometimes accompanied by heightened aggression. You can take her mind off nesting by confining her to the cage for a couple of days. Check her diet and go easy on the high protein foods, as these tend to bring on the nesting urge.
Once mating has finished, the female will install herself in the nest box, arranging the minimal furnishings, and emerging to eat and feed on the mineral block and cuttlefish. The male will start to feed her with regurgitated food as soon as she is nest-bound. Her abdomen will be visibly swollen as the eggs develop, as will her vent. Her droppings may be larger than usual, with a slightly different hue as she stocks up on the protein and minerals she needs. This is perfectly normal.