My pair of Petz's Conures were bought from a bird farm. I did not know what to expect when I opened the wooden carriage box. The pair spied out of the wire front and looked quite inquisitive. They were a little smaller than I had expected approximately 10 in. high. The colours were more vivid than I had imagined.

Soon the pair were settled into the small flight cage that would be their home. The cage was similar to the ones I provide for our Maroon Belly Conures, and Painted Conures measurements approximately 36 in. x 24 in. x 36 in. high. The nest box was positioned within this space and was a standard cockatiel box.

I started learning about the requirements of the pair of Petz's Conures. I read that they were not commonly bred in the UK, but bred well in the USA. The hand reared pets sounded fun, and was listed as one of the most popular pets in America. I began to look at the pair as a challenge, and I really wanted them to breed.

I did not have success the first breeding season. I became suspicious that I did not have a true pair. Although, they were very friendly towards each other they had not used the nest box, even for roosting. The pair were soon taken one hundred miles for surgical sexing with our experienced avian vet. They were sexed as two cock birds. This resulted in a new problem.

Very Scarce: As I attempted to locate a surgical sexed hen Petz's Conure I found that the hens were very scarce. There are many more cock birds to hens in this species of conure. I was really pleased when I located two surgical sexed hens. The owner had had them together as a pair. I was hoping I had four similar aged birds all ready to breed. I found that if I put fresh willow wood in the entrance hole of the nest box I could generate some interest in the boxes. It was also recommended by a breeder friend that I offer cork tiles as a nesting material.

Soon it looked promising as one hen started using the nest box. Soft ply wood was provided and a 50/50 mix of wood shavings and peat as additional nesting material. The wooden materials were chewed up very rapidly and arranged into a nest.

I was able to inspect the boxes easily. Although, the pair were originally imported birds they had become quite tame. They knew their names and would shout at me indignantly when I talked to them during this period. Soon I was rewarded with an egg and then two more eggs. They were laid at two to three day intervals.

I was very keen to hand rear the baby conures. I decided to candle the eggs after ten days. I found two eggs were fertile, and one showed as a blood ring. One egg had the airspace at the small end of the egg. This fault encouraged us to take the eggs for artificial incubation, so we could monitor this egg carefully. The chick might suffocate at hatch when it internally piped at the large end of the egg. At this stage the chick relies on the supply of air in the air space until the correct hatch time.

The incubation period was a very tense time of waiting. We knew that we would need to offer hatch assistance to the first egg. The chick surprised us when on the twenty-third day of incubation it externally piped at the small end of the egg. This was great news as the chick was upside down in the egg; it had manoeuvred its head to the air. On the next day we started hatch assistance as we were unsure whether the chick would make it on its own. We gave it warm water on a cotton bud every two hours. On the same day the second egg internally piped, starting its hatching process.

Birth Weights: On 6th January 1997, the first Petz's Conure was hatched weighing only 4.17grams. The following day the second Petz's Conure hatched weighing 4.64 grams. Both chicks grew well, and their development was watched with excitement. Meanwhile the pair were incubating a second clutch of chicks. This clutch was left with the hen. She successfully hatched two chicks. She reared one to seven weeks of age, and then we took over with hand rearing.

At about six weeks of age, the first two Petz's Conures weighed 80 to 90 grams each, and they were covered in pin feathers. It was about this time that we noticed a fault with the first of the chicks to hatch. His top mandible was always positioned inside the bottom mandible. It gave him a cute look, but we were worried. This slight beak problem slowed the weaning process.

The beak of the first one, which by this time we had named Jaffa, was a worry to us. I decided to take Jaffa to our avian vet to obtain his opinion. I was told that this fault could be genetic. (We have not had any further chicks with this problem from Jaffa's parents). The only treatment was to clip and file the bottom beak regularly to stop it growing very long and splitting. The vet did it for us the first time.

Wolf-wistles: We decided to keep Jaffa as our own pet. My first impression that the Petz's Conures made excellent pets was reinforced as I enjoyed each day of keeping Jaffa. We were really pleased with the baby conures. At only eleven weeks old they were showing their suitability as pet birds. They both made kissing sounds and said, "hello". They also loved people. They wanted to be with people whenever possible. When they learned to fly they would fly around and then come back to the nearest shoulder or head. The small Petz Conure chicks were huge in character.

Jaffa was always jealous of our baby African Greys and other parrots. Jaffa would also try to attack these other birds - I think he thought he was as big as them. His beak was filed every week at first and then every three weeks. This was a stressful experience for Jaffa, but as time went on he became used to this routine. In fact, he would lie back quiet relaxed with his eyes closed while the procedure was carried out. Amazingly he did not hold a grudge against the person who carried out the beak work.

Family purchase: At one year old, he was bigger and more sure of himself than ever. I wondered if Jaffa was a hen, because he would tap my forehead the way his Mum taps the inside of her nest box after our inspections. The beak had much improved by this time, and Jaffa was sold to a family. They fell in love with him, and bring him back for his beak operations. It was wonderful keeping Jaffa, and I learned that the Petz's Conure is a fantastic little parrot to keep both for breeding and as a pet.

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN AND KINDLY CONTRIBUTED by Liz Lovell and was published in the UK magazine 'Bird Keeper' December 1998

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