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August Abbott, CAS
August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 7608
Experience:  Cert. Avian Specialist; Int. Assoc.Animal Behavior Consult; Pet Ind. Joint Advisory Council; author
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Hi! I hope this email finds you well. I just received your

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Hi! I hope this email finds you well. I just received your follow-up email from JustAnswer, thank you! XXXXX do have a new question regarding our lovebirds. You may remember that in late November of 2008 we purchased 2 lovebirds. They are ABSOLUTELY the very, very best pets either my husand or I have owned - EVER! They are now almost 1 year of age and are so delightful! I have learned a great deal in the 4 months and it has been just a wonderful experience. We now find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation. You might recall that we were concerned about the sexing of our lovebirds. They are 2 of a 3-clutch, and everyone we talked to (including 2 vets - one from world renowned Angell in Boston) were as certain as possible that they were both males. I never thought they were both male and had immediately named them Kate (Katherine Hepburn) and Spencer (Spencer Tracy). As a result, I had them sexed by DNA. It so happens (perhaps, unfortunately), that Kate is female and Spencer is male (no educated guess on my part; simply female intuition!). They are VERY closely bonded brother and sister (although they are also quite closely bonded to me with my husband as a close runner up)! They are both "show quality" according to our avian vet (not that we planned or plan to show them - purely beginners luck - although it was their beauty and natural good nature that originally attracted us to them). Kate is a beautiful, green series Australian cinnamon hen (beautiful predominant yellow with green hint and blue and orange tail feathers with a spectacular orange/peach face). Spencer is a classic green violet (beautiful, predominant irridescent green and violet with blue and orange tail feathers with a beautiful and loving orange/peach face). I should have given more thought to the fact that they are brother and sister (although I was sure after consulting the breeder/owner and 2 vets that I needn't worry because they were both male - go with your gut!). We have managed to make it through the "adolescent" stage without issues (I have been quite good at discouraging nesting). However, it is becoming increasing difficult to discourage mating and nest building. I am not home all day every day (although they do get a great deal of time and energy!), and I just can't keep them apart (they would rip their feathers off in a day!). Initally after the DNA shock wore off, I mistakenly thought that they could perhaps be "sterilized". Boy was I wrong! We now find ourselves in a very discouraging situation. We now know that Kate could produce eggs (although not viable), even if we separated them (something we are not willing to do). However, I cannot keep mother nature on hold forever, and I am quite fearful for any babies and for Kate's well being of her having a single clutch (I can't even imagine the impact to her and us of one clutch, let along multiples). I have researched "addling" the eggs, but I don't know how traumatic it would be for Kate having "human" hands on her eggs or having eggs that do not hatch. I also do not know the effect of an "incestuous" bred clutch would be to the 'chicks'. Could you please let me know from your veterinarian medical expertise what I need to know about the impact of their breeding (to Kate and the "chicks"). I am very interested in the medical and scientific explanations so please do not hesitate to overwhelm me - I will figure it out and ask additional questions! I am genuinely interested in genetics, partially because I have a VERY, VERY, VERY rare blood platelet disorder which is my personal birth right (a genetic bonus if you will, along with others my sisters and I have inherited, though I am the only "special" one with a bleeding disorder!). My mother immigrated from Portugal, the lovely and proud immediate descendant of a long, long, long, long line of Portuguese royal bloodlines (breeding for petite women with delicate, 'royal' features - something that works well in theory but as I know too well, can really go awry in real life - especially if the gene pool is small to begin with!). As such, I am very concerned about any offspring that might arise from the breeding of Kate and Spence (inadvertent or otherwise). Could you please fill me in on the ramifications/potential issues that could arise? Thank you so very much! Sue and Ed
Hi Sue! I remember you and how responsible you were right from the beginning when you got these little beauties.

I'm trying to re-boot my computer right now to deal with a little problem so please be patient and I'll get back to you the moment it's up again ok? Shouldn't be more than a few minutes.

I love the names by the way!
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thanks so much for your quick reply. Please, don't rush! An all too familiar situation for all of us who are occasionally held hostage by our computers, and a situation that only gets worse when we try to "hurry it up"! I'll be available tonight (it's about 6:15 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time; 3:15 PM Pacific, so please, no worries!).
Thank you so much for your patience. I had a complete computer crash yesterday and am trying to use my back-up source.

Let's go over the possible offspring combos - a lot of them. I used a variation on the parents' coloring just to make sure everything was covered.

Of course having said this it wouldn't be unusual for them to throw a totally unique chick.

We'll discuss trying to curb the mating later.

The simple combo: Cinnamon hen with normal peachface w/Violet male can produce normal green females; or females with single factor violet. Male = normal greens/American Cinnamon and Normal Greens.

If Kate has a seagreen factor in her American Cinnamon you may end up with (for males) Am. Cinn. Single Factor Violet/Dutch Blue or Whitefaced Blue; Am Cinn/Dutch Blue; Am Cinn Single Factor Violet/Dutch Blue.

For females: Am. Cinn/Dutch Blue, Am. Cinn. Single Factor Violet/Dutch Blue or Whitefaced Blue; Am. Cinn. Dutch Blue; Am. Cinn. Whitefaced Blue.

Line breeding or in-breeding is often done to set traits and make select hybrids. Cockatiels are so hybridized that they often look like a different species of bird from their original ancestors living in Australia. Budgies and parakeets, finches and of course the lovebirds are among the most commonly genetically engineered - and that requires mating parents with offspring and in lesser cases, brothers/sisters.

The sibling interbreeding is less done because the genetics are closer and if there's a recessive fault, not obvious in either adult, it can become an apparent fault, whether health related or physical deformity.

Let me put your mind at ease about the handling of the eggs too. Psittacines like this really don’t have an acute sense of smell. In fact, very few birds do, with the exceptions of (turkey) vultures, petrels and albatross, along with some others.

The origin of the tale about touching birds’ eggs was probably originally to discourage people from disturbing birds nests in the wild and to keep children’s hands off mating birds in the home.

Another good reason to avoid touching eggs is because the shells are very porous and human hands are loaded with bacteria that can pose a health risk to the developing embryo inside. Too much handling can impart too many oils, also naturally from our hands and clog the pores in the eggshell, causing a decrease in oxygen and possibly suffocation in the egg.

Now, back to trying to avoid this situation to begin with: If you keep them coming out of their cage regularly and perhaps establish a nighttime cage for them (see more about sleep cages and set up here ) and increase nighttime hours to 13 or even 14, they'll be less likely to breed.

By not putting a breeding box in the cage and changing the dishes around often so they don't try to make a nest out of them, it further helps.

I'd love to see pics of the classic couple if you have any. You can add a photo to this question by clicking on the 'tree' symbol at the tool bar above, not far down from the yellow smiley face.

August Abbott, CAS and other Bird Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Once again you have provided an exceptional consultation and reduced our stress and anxiety! I have been playing 'let's rearrange the perches in the cage' and 'switch that cup, dish or bowl' to keep Kate at little 'off balance' so she never reallys get a great head start on her natural nesting activities. I have also provided a full variety of 'nesting' stuff for them to 'work on' including snippets of soft cotton ribbon, soft cotton twine, bamboo 'shredders', etc. I have also (after many learning experiences) provided a round, shallow ceramic bowl which sits in their cage (I have found this much better than having them select other bowls, dishes, etc. or better yet, any dark, easy to hide in object they find outside of the cage). The bowl is easily visible and I have taught them the importance of a neat cage (I clean any "poopies" that might have landed around the inside of the cage and change the cage liners at least 2 x's a day. I also provide clean water - 1 cup for each, 1 cup each for each of them of fresh seed mix, avi cakes and veggie/fruit balls, molting/conditioning/charcoal/oyster shell mix, special daily treats like millett or sunflower seeds and change each of these at least 2 x's a day, along with similar set-up outside of the cage on their play stand). I also wash each of the perches and ropes daily with with a special sponge and 'poop off' wipes.

Since I have followed the cleaning and daily rituals religiously (but not rigidly), since the day we brought our babies home, they are used to (and of course, expect) my hand in the cage often and will readily and willingly step aside for me to complete these tasks! I have worked out a language with them that includes "have to clean the 'pooopeees' and clean cage", as well as my personal favorites "Uh Oh" for things that get spilled or dropped - usually by Mommy, and "Stinky Pewie" for the trash barrell which gets changed daily. I am often beckoned by "NEEEEEEED millett" , "NEEEEEED special seed" for sunflower and "NEEEEEEEED ribbon". They are very polite and respond to and mimmick "gentle, gentle", "just a minute", "be patient", and "coming in" - to the cage. They know and will often ask for or tell me that it is "siesta time" - noon nap time or "nighty night time" for bed time, and they let me know it is time to remove their cage cover with a resounding "Good Morning" which is repeated at regular intervals until I acknowledge that yes, it is a good morning! I have always made sure that their cage is covered for a minimum of 12 hours so they can get their beauty rest.

As a result, Kate keeps a pristine bowl which is largely comprised of lovebird ground millett (very soft). This is changed often by Kate (by dumping large portions or all contents onto the bottom of the cage liner which is separated by a rack at the bottom of the cage which is removeable for cleaning). She then starts the process over again with a fresh batch of Spence-ground (or should I say Kate commanded) millett. They have both been trained to understand that "pooopeees" are not good for them around the cage and thus there is never (and I mean never) anything but clean "stuff" that Kate wants to have in the bowl. If anything unseemly (say a feather - just kidding!) appears in the bowl, she will dump the contents and begin again. This process has kept her "nesting" instincts satisfied, but since she never seems to be able to actually complete the bowl in its entirety to her satisfaction, the ACTUAL nest has yet to be built (not for lack of purpose or a labor of love by these two!).

I know that this ritual will only last for so long, and that the odds of my being able to distract them from mating (by significant out-of-cage time, sufficient sleep time and ongoing bowl/nest preparation) decrease with each day. I am also very aware of the effects of human oils and bacteria on objects - living or otherwise. In my younger days I played flute and piccolo for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and I have first-hand knowledge of the damage that human interraction does with solid silver and silver-plated nickel woodwind instruments! It's truly amazing up-close and personal!

All of this blither aside, I was most concerned about hatching ill or deformed babies. Obviously the possibility of a recessive gene from either bird which might produce ill effects to the offspring cannot be minimized or dismissed. I certainly want to continue to deter humanely and interactively the normal breeding instincts, but absent any medically sound and safe procedure or pharmacological solution (which I'm sure would cause more ill effects than nature), it appears to me that breeding is not "if" but "when".

I feel much better about the situation now, and will continue my "distraction" methods for now!

I would love to share some pics with you, but I know you are experiencing issues with your computer, and sometimes pic files are enough to push those things right over the edge! I will definitely compile a couple for you over the weekend and will forward to you.

Thanks so very much! Kate, Spencer, Susan and Ed

Sue, thank you again too. I will never be able to express how nice it is to find owners as conscientious as you and Ed. If only everyone who adopted a bird realized how intelligent and personable they are. Once they appreciate the scentience there is far less mistreatment and that's a world we'd all do better in.

It takes a special human to not just own a bird, but to share a life with them.

And I'm repeating myself, as I've said this to you before.

I think I've resolved the computer issue, though it was very scary at one point when I thought I deleted everything on my back up drive. Surprised

I'd prefer not to be a computer expert, but since I have no teenagers in my immediate vicinity to do this for me, I'm forced to know a little more than how to turn this thing on.

Remember - do not press accept again on this. I will be glad to follow up as often as you need.

Have a very good night and pleasant weekend

August Abbott, CAS and other Bird Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Hi again - I just went through my questions and saw that the payment to you for early April did not go through my account (I remember having difficulties with it, and when I didn't receive any notice from JustAnswer, I assumed - incorrectly - that it was all set)! I'm so sorry! So you know, I believe I have submitted the amount due for early April, today and at least one, hopefully two, bonus amounts. Ed and I can't thank you enough - I did suspect that our lovies were okay, but I was very concerned about mutations!

I am familiar with the outbreak in the 1970's, and of course, with the 1918 "Spanish flu" pandemic. Again, having lived and worked in Spain (as well as having worked as a pricing actuary for domestic and international health, disability and life insurance), I am VERY familiar with the devastation of a pandemic (I was also involved in the determination - that would be guesswork - originally with the AIDS epedemic, which the insurance industry in the US not only knew about in the 1970s, but had begun to test all life insurance applicants whose insurance amounts required a blood draw. The Red Cross was unable (more like unwilling) to accept a determinable test for the virus until the mid 1980s (October, 1985) because they were not equipped to test blood donations and they feared a negative reaction that might affect blood donations. Additionally, there were (obviously) negative implications for all blood transfusions which could not be ascertained completely and worse, could not be treated (although you know, safe here in the US now, we still have considerable risk from certain forms of hepatitis).

I just heard that Spain has had it's first confirmed case of swine flu today - I'm sure that country is quite fearful of a recurrence of the 1918 pandemic that devasted that country's population, and as you know, took nearly 50 million lives worldwide (more than 2.5 x's the 19 million lost worldwide in WWII).

Hope you have a great evening, and thanks so much the reassurances!

Oh Sue, you didn't have to do that. I really enjoy you and our correspondences - although limited to this public forum.

With everything you have lived through and come out unscathed, it wouldn't be Karmic to have something like this flu get you. No, I look forward to hearing about the oldest living couple 'ever' in years to come -- that would of course be Kate and Spencer Wink, but they need their caretakers don't they?

Please remember that you can follow up as often as you'd like by using the reply button and do not press accept again.

You have a good night too

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