Colony Breeding / Home Page / Hybridization / Excess birds / Primary Mutations / Combination Mutations / Nestling Attributes / Selective Breeding /


Colony Flights
Aggression and Breeding in Flights
Reproductive Cycle
Optimizing Pen Production
Color and Conformation Selection
Large Scale Cage Breeding



There are a number of sites on the “WWW” containing excellent breeding information and tips for caged or pet birds. However, there appear to be very few sites that deal with colony or large scale lovebird breeding.

Cage breeding has many benefits, such as ensuring offspring identification, and reducing bickering, fighting and undesirable termination of fledglings.  It enables the hobbyist to enjoy lovebirds in their home, and can educate interested individuals about the raising and care of small parrots.  For some, the idea of cage breeding in the house can become an all consuming passion that can fill every space, whether it is an empty room, a basement or the entire house.  However, for myself, there is no greater joy than watching these birds flying free in larger aviaries (flights) or pens and the brilliant flash of color associated with the varied color mutations as they leave the ground and wing around the trees and perches, singly or in a small flock.

Like anything worth doing, the hobbyist or aviculturalist needs to define his or her purpose for wanting and having birds: usually business or pleasure (although the two can and do overlap).  There are a few first hand accounts in journals and magazines where colony breeding of peachfaced lovebirds was initiated because individuals were disappointed with cage breeding results.  However, when they placed the birds in a colony situation they achieved tremendous success.  Conversely, there are also accounts of poor breeding results from lovebirds living in a colony situation. What do you think ? I encourage you to e-mail me with comments or with your own experiences and observations.

Colony Flights

Colony breeding can be practiced in a wide array of structures, ranging from indoor aviaries to large, external structures made of wire, wood and concrete to protect birds from the climate and predators.  Some of the more common terms used to describe these structures include: aviaries; flights; houses or pens.  They can range from:

Optimizing Pen Production

When a pen (flight) type structure is available for peachfaced lovebird breeding, it is common for the breeder to put birds of one color mutation and, if short of pairs, birds split for that color mutation into a designated pen. The split bird is usually a wild colored lovebird that carries, but does not exhibit, the recessive color mutant gene being sought. Every pen is designated as housing a specific color mutation.

The use of splits and / or pieds can be beneficial if they are introduced to maintain vitality and fertility in desirable new mutations.  This is particularly true if a color mutant has proven  difficult to breed and reproduce (West German Fallow or Japanese Yellow [dilute 1]).  The result of the breeding with a bird split to the desired color will: optimize the desired color mutant offspring; provide greater stock vigor, generate fewer offspring with lower valued color, and fewer birds needing to be destroyed or sold.  Using the pied in the same way (although it is a strong bird) causes more complications as the pied penetrance and expression may be difficult to extract at some point.  However, a breeder will want to seriously consider all of his / her options when vigor and fertility need to be injected back into a recessive line or strain.  The American pied exhibits a dominant inheritance and when this is combined with a color mutant such as the Lutino (sex-linked ino), the "piedness" can be very difficult to detect and control.

Birds split for a number of mutations are very difficult, if not impossible, to identify visually (phenotype).  In fact, combining a number of mutations is not recommended as coloring can become quite indistinct / blurred or dulled.  This result is not something that is desirable in developing show birds or champions. Furthermore, and depending on the number of combinations one has tried to develop, the  offspring would require an extensive breeding program just to determine the genes (genome) they carried: a very time consuming and expensive process.  Those contemplating colony or cage breeding usually identify their favorite color mutants and pen them or separate them according to mutation.  This works to ensure that as many of the offspring as possible are the same color and that any unusual bird, sport or color variation can be identified quickly, and the parental history (lineage) researched for the cause.

Success in a colony situation requires mature lovebirds to be paired, with no extra hens or cocks in the pen.  If extra birds are present, fights will break out and the harmony of the flock will be disturbed. When introducing the bird to a pen, all of them should be placed into the new pen at the same time.  Introducing new birds into an existing flock situation without thinking of the consequences can and usually will lead to a number of deaths in the pen.  If a bird is accidentally lost during the breeding season, it is wise not to consider introducing a new mate or bird into the existing flock until the “breeding season” is over.  This appears to make introduction much less volatile, as long as: extra nest boxes are hung; birds are not overcrowded; sufficient space is available for offspring, and birds have time to get their "pecking" order worked out before the next breeding season commences.

Clean water, a balanced and nutritious diet and sometimes supplements are necessary for maximum health.  Even if all of these are present in abundance, one must always be prepared to treat their entire flock if: a contagious disease is diagnosed; mites or lice are present or e. coli is running rampant.  Cordial contact and relations with your local avian vet are  recommended for ensuring that your birds remain in the best of health.  Developing a good working rapport with your local veterinarian is worth its weight in gold.  They enjoy animals as much as you do and good friendships can develop as a consequence of regular interaction.  On the purely pragmatic side, when you need to see them quickly because something unexplainable has begun to manifest itself among your birds, or you need some quick advice on a problem you are facing, they will be quick to respond.

Stock success and productivity are highly dependent on the breeder's goals and objectives. If all a breeder wants is more birds and is not necessarily looking to improve the birds as time goes on, adding birds is not always an issue. However, if as a breeder, you are intent upon breeding upwards and improving your stock, a closed flock system and "quality versus quantity" approach may suit you better. On occasion it may be necessary to add an out-cross (or two) to a pen. However, it is best to know the bloodlines of these out-crosses so that you are not spreading unanticipated recessive fault (s) among your stock.

Aggression and Breeding in Flights

Birds that are familiar with each other (family unit with a well developed pecking order) appear less likely to exhibit aggression towards one another and their offspring, whether in a cage or flight.  However, this may simply be attributed to the available space per pair, nest boxes, food and mates. Comments ?

When colony breeding is undertaken, a certain amount of fighting and bickering should be anticipated.  Identifying the overtly aggressive animals is fairly straightforward, and the breeder can take steps to deal with such animals so that the health of the colony and production of offspring is not negatively impacted.  Aggression, depending on how it is defined:

Aggression, as founded on instinctual avian responses: 

The flightiness, territoriality and brooding exhibited by “wild caught” animals and their offspring 

(a fight or flight mechanism)

Aggression, as defined by the pet trade.

In this instance, any bird that shows aggression towards the breeder, fellow feathered friends or potential clients might be considered too aggressive.

Some believe that knowingly or unknowingly, breeders have selected for more docile / calm birds. 

is critical to successful marketing.  An experienced breeder may have been willing to put up with a higher level of aggression (fright) when there was only wild stock available, but may now be loathe to do so with all of the captive breeding activities and the desire (market) from the public for “well bred / well mannered“ birds.  Despite the breeder's knowledge, understanding and comfort with dominance displays, sexual aggression and a colony’s (flock’s) hierarchical structure (pecking order), the public comfort level with aggression or excessive aggression, is driven by less knowledgeable buyers and pet stores.  A breeder dependent on that market must accommodate the wishes of his clients and seek more malleable parrots or handfeed offspring for that outlet.

Aggression in “broody” hens is well known, but males too can show a surprising amount of aggression towards each other when seeking a mate.  This aggression usually consists of chasing a competing male away from the hen and box , sometimes resulting in mid-air collisions/ attacks, where both males end up on the ground, shake it off and return to the same activity.  Eventually they sort things out and breeding goes on uninterrupted, unless two hens are sharing a box and the two males are relegated to hanging around outside the nest box.  Spacious pens enable ample opportunity for birds to flee and feed if they are being picked on by a more dominant bird (s). If this continues, the bird being attacked should be removed from the pen.

Pairs, in a colony, will usually stay together if they have nested successfully in the past, even when the hen is “visited” by a promiscuous neighboring male and eventually lays his eggs.  This is one of the reasons that mutantions, of the same color, are housed together in colony settings: it reduces the impact of unanticipated matings.  However, enabling birds to select their own mates is thought to improve egg production and the overall well being of the birds.  In this environment, birds may be less stressed and less likely to re-pair.  As well, there is the belief that some hens and some cocks are preferentially treated (dominance) and that other males and females are more responsive to them.  They may be so interested that they attack or chase away their own ardent admirers.  Old wives tale or myth....Comments from the readership ?

Colony breeding is often seen by the cage breeder as a hit and miss affair, a lottery for color and conformation.  This may be true unless the pens are being managed for very specific lines.  From what I have been able to gather about other species success, the champion bird is 60% work and planning and 40% luck.  To me this is still a gamble and I have problems seeing how a cage situation does not depend on luck.  For more on colony breeding thoughts, please read on.

Color and Conformation Selection

If you were breeding for a specific trait or color mutant, would you want to house your birds in a colony setting or in separate cages ? I think the majority would respond by saying a cage setting.  However, please consider the following situation and see if you feel the same way at the end.

A large stock (strain) of like birds is a definite asset in maintaining stock virility and fecundity while developing a “strain” or “crafting” your birds towards the lovebird standard. In fact, it would seem that improving ones stock through colony breeding would appear far easier (“relatively speaking”) and safer than selecting for form and color in a limiting cage situation (unless we are talking about equivalent numbers of birds in either a colony or cage setting). The thoughts behind the colony breeding (despite the obvious preference for cage breeding today) follows:

The Reproductive Cycle

If birds are housed outside in open flights, the climate can have a significant impact on the reproductive cycle, mortality, feather loss (potentially ?) and the cessation of egg laying. However, birds in a colony situation may keep laying when the breeder does not want them to, despite the weather.  Let's say that the breeder has taken three nests and the birds are still active.  What does he do ?

In this instance the boxes might be plugged or taken down when the fledglings are old enough to leave the box, but before the hen has time to refurbish the nest and lay more eggs. Sometimes eggs may still be in the boxes placed on the ground, and the hen will continue to lay in that box.  Promiscuity and stubbornness are two of the endearing features about these birds, whether they are escape artists, acrobats or winged wonders, there is always something in their pint sized frames and personalities to engage the observer.  Reproduction is one of the most exciting elements in keeping these parrots and everyone waits eagerly for the eggs to be laid, hatched and finally for the young to fledge.  The birds obviously enjoy their boxes and spend a good portion of their life in them.  Is it right to take the boxes away from the birds and leave them with only perches ?  There are several ways to look at this:


If anyone has specific information they can write for inclusion in this part, it would be very helpful

If anyone has any difficulty or disagreement with the material, steps, or inferences involved with the information above, please feel free to offer corrections and advice. All helpful and constructive remarks are welcome