Home | Bird Breeding | Lovebird Breeding Problems: Cautions for Small Parrot Breeders

Lovebird Breeding Problems: Cautions for Small Parrot Breeders

Abysinnian Lovebirds

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Klaus Hofmann

Watching a pair of Lovebirds as they bond, and then court and rear their young is one of the most rewarding of all parrot-keeping experiences. Unlike many parrots, Lovebirds are often happy to settle down and breed in modestly-sized cages, and most make fine parents. But while mated pairs may produce clutch after clutch of eggs, aggression (to owner and mate), infertility, ailing chicks, and a host of problems can arise – many of which take owners by surprise. Today I’ll review some of the concerns most often brought to me by Lovebird owners, and others I’ve experienced while caring for these and other small parrots in zoos.


Distinguishing the Sexes

The commonly-kept lovebirds, such as the Peach-faced, Fischer’s and Masked, are not sexually dimorphic, in that males and females are identical in appearance (Abyssinian, Madagascar and Red-faced Lovebirds are sexually dimorphic, but these species are not common in the trade). Experienced breeders can often hazard a very good guess as to the sex of mature birds (via shape of the pelvic bones, overall size) but individuals vary greatly. The most skilled old-timer of my acquaintance estimated that he was correct 85% of the time.


Nest box

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Snowmanradio

If you can observe each bird for some time before buying, you’ll have a better chance of picking a pair. Females of commonly-sold species carry nesting material tucked into their tail feathers, and males tend to feed females rather than vice-versa…but some individuals try to reverse these activities! To confuse matters further, same-sex pairs often form.



While mated pairs usually get along very well, getting to the “mated pair” point can be trying for bird and bird owner alike. Lovebirds can be quite pugnacious (a group under my care at the Bronx Zoo bullied their small antelope exhibit-mates; please see article below), and are often very picky when it comes to mate selection. Also, captive conditions can affect hormonal output, so that the birds may come into breeding condition at different times of the year. Unwelcome mating attempts can lead to serious battles.


Lovebirds – even friendly, long-term pets – invariably become very protective of their nests and chicks, and often remain aggressive towards people throughout the breeding season.


Hybrid Lovebirds

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Snowmanradio


Infertility is especially frustrating to owners (and, one would imagine, their pets!) because we become aware of it only after the normal incubation time has passed and we are expecting chicks any day (I do not recommend candling eggs to check for fertility…please post below for further info).


Infertility seems to be more common now than in years past, if my experience is any guide. Poor diet, inbreeding, age, genetics, and a host of other factors may be involved. Please see the article linked below for detailed information.


An Embarrassment of Riches

It is possible to do “too well” at Lovebird breeding.   Spurred by ample food and ideal living conditions, some pairs breed too often, draining the female’s calcium stores and jeopardizing her health.


Finding homes for the birds you produce can be a daunting task. Cute as they are, Lovebirds can be noisy and difficult to tame, and proper care takes a good deal of time, effort and money. They are not a good pet choice for most people. If you care about the fate of your birds – and all private breeders that I’ve met do – you may have quite a job finding appropriate homes for your youngsters.


Fischer's Lovebird

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by BS Thurner Hof


Keeping and breeding Lovebirds takes time and money, even if all goes well. If medical problems arise, chicks are abandoned by parents, or you wind up keeping extra birds due to incompatibility, expenses can mount quickly.


It is not realistic to think that you will earn a profit (or even break even!) by selling baby Lovebirds, as small and large scale breeders typically produce more birds than the market can bear. Most pet stores have established relationships with breeders, and do not accept birds from others.


“Home-Bred” Does not Guarantee Good Pets

Lovebirds generally make great parents, and will vigorously resist attempts to check on or remove hatchlings. But if the young are left with their parents until they fledge, taming may be a long and ultimately unsuccessful prospect. Experienced keepers desiring human-bonded pets usually remove nestling Lovebirds at age 1-2 weeks, and hand-feed them. However, hand-rearing should not be attempted by novice breeders. Please post below for further information and references.


Some folks do quite well with a middle-ground technique. Young birds are removed from the nest and handled for a short time each day, after which they are returned. Owners are spared the difficulties of feeding the delicate chicks, and the birds tend to respond well to human contact after fledging. However, this process can evoke extreme stress in the protective parent birds.


t238363Tips and Additional Information

Wood shavings should cover the floor of the box to a depth of 2-3 inches. This will help to prevent the splay-legged condition that is often seen in chicks raised on hard surfaces.


Wild lovebirds carry fresh bark into their nests, possibly to increase humidity. Captive lovebirds will readily utilize moistened cypress for this purpose. Lightly spraying the female lovebird when she is out of the nest will also help in this regard (do not spray within the box itself).


Peach-faced and several other lovebirds tuck nesting material within their feathers to transport it to the nest…don’t miss watching this unique behavior if you have the opportunity.


Peach-faced Lovebird chick

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Toumoto

The Eggs and Chicks

Female lovebirds usually lay their first egg 7-10 days after copulation, with an additional egg being produced at intervals of 1-2 days thereafter.


Usually, the hen sits and is fed by the male. Male Masked Lovebirds, however, often sit near the hen, but it is not clear if they are actually doing anything useful!


The eggs hatch in 20-27 days, and the chicks leave the nest after 35-50 days. They are fed by their parents for an additional 2 weeks after fledging, by which time they are usually completely independent.



Further Reading

Masked Lovebirds as Pets

Infertility in Captive Birds



  1. avatar

    Wow, lots of little things to know about these guys!

  2. avatar

    Glad you enjoyed…good luck in your studies and career, Zoo work has it’s downsides, but very rewarding overall. Frank

  3. avatar

    hi…. I am a goose breeder which produce a lot of noice. I would like to start lovebird breeding .my question is .is there any problem with the noice other birds wil affect lovebird breeding…?

  4. avatar


    Well, there’s not many birds noisier than breeding geese – how do you adjust! What species do you have?

    But seriously, lovebirds usually adapt quite well. I had a breeding group (peach-faced) that shared an exhibit with small antelope, in a building crowded with visitors (Bronx Zoo)..they did fine. There are individual differences in birds, but most do well if given lots of room, high perches and secure nest boxes. Enjoy and please keep me posted, frank

  5. avatar

    Hi Frank Thank you for the link, its all very informative, my birds must have heard me talk about removing the nest as Ive found they have another egg in there, so will see how they go. Regards judy

  6. avatar

    My pleasure, judy, I hope all goes well, frank

About Frank Indiviglio

Read other posts by

I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
Scroll To Top