The Abyssinian Lovebird (Agapornis taranta) is largest of the lovebird species and is native to the mountains of Ethiopia in Africa. They are sexually dimorphic. Mature males have a red brow and red, feather eye-rings, while the female is all green. All young Abyssinians look like hens until the first molt. Young males have under wing black coverts. Adults have black-edged wings. Baby Abyssinians have white down and the nails are grey, even as hatchlings.
Two kinds of nestboxes can be used but my biggest success has been with parakeet boxes that measure 4 x 4 x 4 and have an entrance hole in the upper center of the box. Slant nestboxes usually work when budgie boxes don't. I try and encourage the use of budgie boxes with my pairs, because slant nestboxes must be specially made and can be hard to come by. Nesting material, or lack of, has been one of my biggest problems. Some Abbys use their own feathers but mine don't. Pine shavings are quickly discarded, as is most anything else I put in the box. I finally tried hay and it seems to work better than anything else does. Our local feed store also carries hay for livestock and they give me whatever they have that is loose. I generally put it in a microwave oven before using it to make sure it's clean. My pairs have been very tolerant with me, as I have been known to put clean hay in their boxes when they have had eggs or even babies, should the nestbox get too messy. Just recently, I had one of my Abyssinian hens allow Carefresh to remain in her box after her chicks hatched!
Abyssinian Lovebirds are native to a colder climate and their diet needs to have a higher fat content than other Lovebird species. I use a basic Cockatiel seed mixture to which I add roughly 20% non-colored pellets
Diet has a definite effect on breeding success. I feed unlimited sunflower seeds, along with figs. I use fresh figs when they are in season, or dried Calimyrna figs. The remainder of the diet is what I use for my other lovebirds. Some of the favorites include juniper berries, fresh shredded carrot, broccoli, collard greens, peas, sugar snap peas, steamed fresh corn, kale, millet, and home made cornbread. Abbys, being very alert and curious, seem to be more willing to try any new food, where my other lovebirds are more hesitant. Abyssinians tend to be big eaters and the amount of food consumed when there are young in the nestbox is just phenomenal!
I tend to offer a lot of broccoli and collard greens to my Abyssinians. My avian vet has questioned whether or not Abyssinians require more calcium that what shows as an "acceptable range" for normal lovebirds. Probably this spring, I'm planning to have complete blood counts done on several of my Abbys and then compare those readings with what's considered "normal range" for lovebirds.
Handfed vs. Parent Raised
I, personally, allow my Abyssinian Lovebirds to raise their own babies. I've had this species in my aviary since 1994 and I've talked to a number of fellow breeders who used pairs that had been handfed from day 1, and many of those birds had no parenting instincts whatsoever. I currently have 2 young hens that I've raised from hatch so I'm about to find this out first hand for myself. I actually own 1 pair that will not feed their young, although this information comes to me by word of mouth rather than first hand experience.
When I handfeed, temperature of the formula is between 106F-108F, just like my other lovebirds. However, Abyssinians have a higher fat requirement so I use Kaytee Handfeeding Formula for Macaws. Per conversations with my avian vet, Abyssinians are lovebirds but they are a species about which not much is known. To say that their dietary requirements are the same as other lovebird species is risky so I don't add anything at all to the handfeeding formula other than the liquid necessary to mix it. This past spring, I tried Zupreem Embrace Plus with my 2 handfed hatchlings and almost lost my youngest one due to failure to thrive. Something is missing from their formula that Abyssinians need and Zupreem openly admitted to me that they did not test their formulas on every single species of bird, Abyssinian Lovebirds being one of the untested species. While it may be great for my other lovebirds, I will never use it again for my Abbys.
When handfeeding Abyssinians, schedule is critical. Abyssinians are high stress birds and their feathering will reflect the amount of stress they have with their handfeeding schedule. While parent raised babies have perfect, beautiful feathering, most handfed Abyssinians that are under stress while being handfed will develop stress barring on their baby feathers. Slight variations in timing are not acceptable with this species. Baby Abyssinians are aggressive eaters. When they are hungry, they want their food now! Whatever touches their beaks first is considered fair game and that includes fingers. A 4 week old Abyssinian has a powerful enough beak when hungry to draw blood when biting. I learned that you offer the syringe first and pick up the baby second.
When parent raised, baby Abyssinians don't come out of the nestbox until they are almost 7 1/2 weeks old. They grow/mature much slower than Peachface, Fischer's and Masks. They generally are not parent weaned until they are almost 9 weeks old. Weaning handfed babies can take up to 2 weeks longer.
Number of Eggs/Gestation Period
A usual clutch of Abyssinian eggs is 4-6. From day laid to day hatched is about 28 days, longer than Peachface, Fischer's and Masks. Their eyes usually open between 12-14 days.
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