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Breeding Costs

   Many people think that breeding birds is either easy money or will make you rich. It's most definitely neither. Breeding birds isn't easy, and many times, you end up in the hole or break even. This is a tabulation of expenses for breeding one pair of cockatiels twice in one year. You cannot cut any corners on this, it is the bare minimum of what they need to be happy, and produce healthy, happy chicks.

  • The chicks are handfed. Usually, the first clutch is unsuccessful, and you have to pull to handfeed anyway. However, I am assuming handfeeding because parent raised chicks sell for less than half of a parent raised, and no one wants a parent raised bird.
  • The initial investment of the parent birds is ignored. That is, whatever you paid for them.
  • You have never bred birds before.

Well bird checkups for the parents at a qualified avian vet. Will include checkup, gram stains, mounts, and bloodwork. $150 x 2$300
Brooder (aquarium) and equipment (pine shavings, heating pad)$30
Handfeeding formula (for two clutches), syringes$40
A flight cage for the babies$100
Variety of perches - dowel, rope, manzanita, other hard woods$30
Toys, enough to rotate and replace$60
Bands for banding the birds$7
Extra bird food (pellets, veggies, seeds, etc)$40
A Nestbox$15

  • Handfeeding formula must be replaced every few months as it spoils extremely quickly. You use approximately 2 cans of formula for every clutch of 3-4 chicks.
  • The cost of the flight cage is only $100 because you can pick up a nice, large flight cage at a bird show, used, for $100. It must be a flight cage, otherwise your four babies from each clutch are not going to be happy, they will be cramped.
  • Extra bird food is obviously necessary. You'll need to prepare soft foods daily, both while the parents are brooding, and when the chicks are ready to try new foods. You should also give at least a week's supply of your brand of pellet to the new owner.

   Doesn't seem so "cheap" anymore! Now, let's figure out how much you could sell babies for. It really depends on where you live. In Florida, cockatiels are extremely inexpensive. You can buy a handfed grey for $40. But we'll assume that you're in Ohio, where I am. Cockatiels usually have 3-5 babies per clutch, we'll assume 4. We'll assume all 8 (two clutches, remember?) survive and are able to be sold. We'll also assume you aren't attached to any of them and will sell them all (that doesn't always happen!).
   So, 8 babies. We will assume half are normal greys, half some other mutation that sells for a few dollars more. We will assign the greys the cost of $70 (what I charge), and the "others" $75.

4 normal greys (4 x $70)$280
4 "other" mutations (4 x $75)$300

   Well, you're in the hole. I did warn you. Now, to even further set you back - suppose one of the birds becomes ill or dies. Since you did offer a health guarantee (we're making you a good breeder in this assumption) you have to either refund the price of the bird, or pay for the treatment.

   Now obviously, breeders do make a small profit here and there. That's because some items listed in the intial set-up costs aren't replaced every time the birds breed, like the cage, some of the toys, and some of the perches (usually only the manzanita). The brooder and heating pad are reused each season until they wear out, only pine shavings need to be bought each clutch (about $8 give or take. Sometimes nestboxes can be reused depending on their condition, but it is generally recommended you buy a new one each year.

   Now I'd like to address the "easy money" issue. Let's figure out how much time a good breeder puts into each clutch. This is for two clutches. I took the time it takes me for one clutch and multiplied it by two. I include time for taking care of the parents only up until the babies are pulled for handfeeding, in order to accurately assess how much time it takes to take care of the two clutches.

TaskTime in hours
Preparing foods - soft foods, veggies, treats, pellets...20
Cleaning out cages, keeping area clean38
Handfeeding and socializing150
Advertising, interviews, phone conversations16
TOTAL TIME:224 hours

  • Cleaning out cages - every other day, 30 minutes to clean, scrub, vacuum. Includes 5 weeks with the parents (3 weeks to brood, 2 weeks to raise chicks). Does not include the actual courting period and time until they lay.
  • Handfeeding - this was trickier to calculate. It takes about 15 minutes each feeding, and there are progressively less and less feedings a day. We assumed you stopped handfeeding at around 8 weeks. You should also spend, at the bare minimum, one hour a day outside of feedings just playing with the babies. (6 weeks = 42 days = 42 hours of socializing epr clutch)
  • Now, you have to advertise if you'd like to sell your birds. An interview with me generally takes an hour, but some take a lot shorter, especially if I've been corresponding with the person via e-mail or the telephone. I get asked a lot of questions in a day, and I also get a lot of calls from people who want a male (which are always the first ones sold). So I spend a lot of time talking to people.
  • If you have a website like me, that takes an additional ten hours of time each week to update. I have mercifully assumed you do not have one. :)

   Egads! 224 hours! Now, let's figure out how much money that is each hour. $580 for eight babies, divided by the 224 hours it took to make them.
   Congratulations! You're earning $2.59 an hour! Better stick to your day job.

   The whole point of this page was to awaken some people to how much it actually costs to raise cockatiels, versus how much you make. A lot of people tell me how they want to "get rich" or "take it easy" (breeding for the wrong reasons)... I think I've shown how false these statements really are. You're not going to get rich, or even close to it. It's hard work. It's very rewarding hard work, but a lot of people miss that point. I hope I have accomplished my goal for you, the reader, to obtain a real sense of economics in bird breeding.