Diamond Doves will breed readily if the proper environment is provided (see Care of Diamond Doves). It is very important for the doves to have a fixed routine if they are to breed readily. They learn when to expect the lights to be turned on in the morning, and off in the evening. They learn when to expect their cage to be cleaned and fresh food and water provided. They are capable of breeding by 4 - 5 months old, although sometimes it takes longer (and sometimes shorter).
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It is possible to use washable plastic finch nest boxes (with the tops removed, because Doves prefer "open" nests); but we've found that the experienced Diamond Doves prefer round canary nests. Canary nests can come in a variety of sizes, and I prefer the largest ones (widest and deepest).
Since Diamond Doves have very long tails, I prefer to use the plastic canary nests which fit into a "nest extender." The extender not only keeps the nest very level and secure, but allows the Diamond Doves to nest more comfortably with their long tails. They are not expensive, and can be purchased at Bird Supply of New Hampshire.
I never use the woven or bamboo nests because I've had birds catch their toenails in them, with disastrous results. Also, they become filthy with every clutch and cannot be thoroughly cleaned. Plastic canary nests are easy to clean and sanitize in between clutches.
If you have one breeding pair, it's best to have TWO of the Canary Nests with Extenders - because you can quickly switch babies from a dirty nest to a clean one in seconds (more about that below).
Below, the first picture of a canary nest and metal "extender"; the second picture is of the nest placed in the extender, ready for nesting material.
We give our Diamond Doves a variety of proper (non-absorbent) nesting material such as Sisal, Extra-Long Coconut fiber*, Bermuda Grass and Orchard Grass (the latter two are actually made for rabbits, guinea pigs, etc, and can be found in just about any store with pet supplies). The doves appreciate the variety of material offered. Cut all nesting material in about 4" lengths.
*Diamond Doves like Coconut Fiber, but do not purchase the regular stuff - which comes in a big tangled mess. Purchase the "extra long" Coconut Fiber, which comes in bundles of straight fibers (and cut them to 3 - 4" lengths).
We do NOT use burlap, cotton, string, Canary nesting material etc. for 2 reasons:
- Those materials ABSORB moisture and can encourage bacteria & fungus - which is not something you want to have around eggs or babies.
- Those materials can tangle around the feet of the parents and babies.
Do not use your own hay, grass, pine needles, etc.because they might contain bacteria or mites/lice. Always purchase clean nesting material.
Because the round canary plastic nests are smooth and nesting material might slide around (or even out of the nest completely if caught on a toenail) I modify the round nest a bit. (see the page "Starting a Nest")
After I put the nest in the cage, I add put a variety of nesting material on the cage floor (a small amount). You might have to limit nesting material for some pairs as occasionally a pair will continue to add material to a nest as long as there is material handy - making it much too high and easy for the eggs or babies to roll right out.
The below nest has already been "started" using the extra-long Coco Fiber and Sisal. The materials surrounding the nest are placed inside the cage for the newlyweds to choose from and add to the nest (if they wish). The materials, from left to right, are: Kaytee Orchard Grass, Sisal, extra-long Coco Fiber cut in 3 - 4" lengths, Kaytee Bermuda Grass. The Grasses were purchased at our local Walmart in the Pet Section for rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.
Coco Fiber (aka Coconut Fiber, Coco Fibre, Coconut Fibre)
The "regular" Coco Fiber is on the left, it's a tangled mess and frustrating for Doves to use. The proper Coco Fiber is on the right, it's the "Extra-Long" variety, which comes bundled in smooth, straight lengths of fiber.
Although it looks tangled, it's really not. The Sisal is in small lengths, and is softer and more flexible than Cocofiber.
You can tell when the female is about to lay eggs. Her droppings will become larger than normal. No, not the kind that make you scratch your head and think, "Hmmmmm is that larger than normal?" But the kind that make you exclaim "Holy Toledo! How the heck did she pass something that enormous!"
Two creamy white eggs are laid, usually 1 day apart (sometimes 2 days apart), and are incubated by the parents for about 14 days. It is extremely important not to disturb the parents or make changes to their environment during this incubation period.
You will generally see the shells on the cage floor after the babies hatch. Resist the urge to disturb the parents to look at the babies...they will grow fast, and you will see them in a few days when the parents leave the nest to eat. The babies will usually leave the nest 10 - 14 days of age.
As you become more familiar with breeding Diamond Doves, you will be able to look at a discarded shell and judge whether the baby emerged by itself without difficulty and is probably doing okay, or if the parents had needed to help the baby emerge - in which case the baby could be weak and might be unable to survive.
Typically there will be two pieces of a discarded eggshell, one being slightly smaller than the other, and they will be fairly symmetrical (one fitting like a cap over the other) with little, or no blood.
The photo above shows an eggshell resulting from an excellent hatching.
If you see eggshells that are irregular and in pieces (like the photo above), particularly if there is a lot of blood on them, that could indicate that something was wrong. Several days later when the parents leave the nest to feed, you might find a dead baby. Remove it. Do not force the parents to leave the nest to check on the babies - ever. With a tiny baby that small (about the size of your thumbnail), there is nothing you can do anyway. It's best chance for survival is in the nest with the parents. If it doesn't survive, then it wasn't meant to be. However, Diamond Dove babies grow exceptionally fast and after a baby is a few days old, it is large enough to handfeed, if necessary.
Noticing those pieces of shell on the cage floor (in the above photo) and seeing both parents off the nest - I knew something was terribly wrong. The babies were long overdue and the parents either sensed something was wrong or heard the tapping stop; and probably took the eggshell off themselves. There was a little yellowish color from the baby's yolksac, but no blood in the shell, which probably means that the baby had died in-shell after he failed to pip. The baby was fully formed, but stillborn. I removed the little body and the remaining egg which I put up to my ear. The tapping was extremely faint and from the bumps along the shell, it looked like the baby could not rotate to break the shell. Very carefully, I removed the tiniest piece of shell, and saw the baby breathing, fully formed, but dry - he was stuck and would never emerge by himself. Gently I removed the shell tiny bit by tiny bit, and helped the little one out. He was very weak. I put him back in the nest - there is no syringe tiny enough in the world to cropfeed a baby which was only as big as my thumbnail. His experienced mother immediately hopped in the nest and nestled over him. 5 days later as I was cleaning cages, she left the nest to eat and I immediately peered in through the cage bars. Little "Han Solo" was comfortably sitting in the nest and turned his head to look at me. His little crop was stuffed full. :-)
Once in a while, you will see one (or both) eggs that have "pipped" (the baby poking a hole in the shell) but unable to go further. They will probably have died in-shell.
Thankfully, neither is common, though I HAVE noticed that those type of unhappy hatchings usually happen to very young and inexperienced birds particularly if they have been disturbed during the incubation period. Sometimes frightened young parents will fly off the nest and the eggs will "chill", which could delay or prevent hatching or cause the fertile egg to stop developing. Warmth and humidity normally have to be increased during the last days of incubation, and birds accomplish this by "double nesting" - when BOTH parents incubate together instead of alternating. When you see the parents "double nesting", chances are hatching will take place in a few days.
Doves have less problems incubating and hatching eggs than many other birds, and it's almost always a wonderful and joyful experience. If, by chance, something goes wrong, the parent Doves recover quickly and set about courting and breeding again very soon and before you know it, 2 more eggs will be laid. :-)
A few days after the babies are born, I always put a little extra sisal in the bottom of the cage because the babies will have soiled the nest and many parents will cover the soiled area with clean nesting material. It makes it MUCH more comfortable and sanitary for both the parents and the babies to be on clean nesting material.
After about a week, it will probably be necessary to exchange the soiled nest for a clean one (as described below).
Since babies will poop and mess the nest, I keep track of how dirty a nest is, and usually about a week after the babies are born, I simply move the babies to a clean nest and remove the dirty one for cleaning. Although the parents might be nervous, Diamond Doves are devoted to their babies. I do it quickly and smoothly right inside the cage, so the babies are always within sight of their parents. The parents usually settle down with the babies in the clean nest immediately afterward. Far better to keep the babies in a clean nest than have them surrounded by fecal matter which grows bacteria, fungus, smells and is unhealthy for both the parents and the little ones.
Remember, if the babies are younger than 7 days old, simply add Sisal to the cage and allow the parents to re-line the nest. If the babies are 7 days or older, switch them completely to a clean nest. Details of how to create the nest is on the "Starting a Nest" page.
If you plan on breeding, I do suggest that you purchase a minimum of 2 plastic canary nests with extenders, so you can switch the babies quickly from the dirty nest to a clean one.
By the time the babies are 3 weeks old, they are usually eating seed on their own and supposedly can be removed from the cage. I usually leave them with the parents at least until 4 weeks of age, unless I see a parent (usually the father) becoming aggressive toward them, or if I think they are interfering with the mother while she is trying to incubate another clutch.
If you plan on breeding, be sure to have on hand an extra cage for the babies.
When the babies are 2 - 5 months old (occasionally younger), you can often sex the males by their bow-cooing. Some folks say you can sex them by the size of their eye rings (generally the males have a deeper color eye ring of 2 - 3 mm thickness, while the eye ring of the female is generally paler and about 1mm in thickness); however, that's generally not a reliable indicator until the birds are adults. Likewise palpating the pelvic bones might not always be reliable.
The best way to sex the young are to wait for the males to start bow-cooing, and the females' droppings to enlarge (indicating that they are getting ready to lay eggs), or, of course, the females actually laying.
If you have a pair of Diamond Doves (of breeding age) who have been together for some time and show no interest in cuddling, bonding or making a nest; don't jump to the conclusion that they are not compatible. The problem is likely to be their cage or environment - they feel that something is unsuitable to raise babies. Make sure you have a male and female. Two males, especially if they are over 3 - 4 months will almost always fight (though there are exceptions to that - once in a while you'll have a very layback male who will not fight); however two females can also be mistaken for a pair. Be SURE one of the "pair" is making male vocalizations and bow-cooing.
It's not uncommon for young birds or newly paired birds to have several clutches that are infertile, dead in shell or abandoned. On the whole, Diamond Doves are marvelous parents, but the skills sometimes need to be acquired. Give them time and the correct environment, and they will settle down and raise babies properly.
If you do NOT want your pair to raise babies, simply replace their eggs with dummy (fake) eggs as soon as the second one is laid. The parents will attempt to incubate and eventually will abandon them.
Do not just keep taking the eggs out (without replacing them with fake eggs), the hen will keep laying eggs until she is exhausted and physically drained. Laying eggs takes a LOT of calcium and protein from the hen's body.
Many breeders speak of parent birds "tossing babies from the nest."
Doves are DOTING parents. Worst case scenario is that they are so gung-ho to start another clutch that they might neglect the current babies in the nest; or (a more likely reason for them neglecting their babies) they've been disturbed. However dove parents that (rarely) do that are usually young and inexperienced.
If you see dove babies out of the nest before 10 days of age, put them back - especially before bedtime.
If you see tiny newborns on the floor of the cage, check the level of bedding in the nest. If it is too high, the babies might have rolled off, and you'll have to remove some of the nesting material.
However, there is also another reason that little babies might be on the floor of the cage. Many breeders claim that the parents "toss the babies out of the nest" - and yet I've never EVER read or spoken to anyone who actually SAW it happen. I guess they think that is the only reason for the babies to be on the cage floor. But there is a very reasonable alternative explanation - and I've seen it happen with my own eyes.
Little babies, even newborns, can move around; not a lot, but they CAN wriggle and move. Newborns are very sensitive to cold, they need warmth, so they snuggle. (Chilling is life-threatening. If a tiny chick gets chilled he becomes very weak and dies.) Although it looks like it, the parents don't sit directly on top of the babies, they cuddle them, and many (if not all) babies will wriggle their way between the parents' bodies and their wings, not really touching the nest at all. With larger birds, such as chickens, you can actually see the parents spreading their wings out over the babies and cuddling them between their body and wings.
IF the parent is startled out of the nest, unfortunately the little baby is carried with the parent when it leaves the nest and then drops to the ground. This doesn't happen every time the parent leaves the nest - the parent will wiggle and make sure the baby is out from beneath it's wing and is in the nest before leaving it, UNLESS it is startled and flies out suddenly with the baby still snuggled between the wing and body.
Breeders see a weak chick on a cage floor and erroneously assume that the chick was kicked out "because it was weak." I believe that the chick is weak BECAUSE it had fallen out (or been carried out) of the nest and become chilled - not vice versa. In support of my belief is the story of little Han Solo (above). He had been trying to hatch, unsuccessfully, for so long that his parents had abandoned the nest. After being helped from his shell, he was so chilled and weak he was limp, but I put him back in the nest. His parents coaxed him back to life and now he is a happy and healthy chick. Surely he would have been a prime candidate for throwing out of the nest if doves actually did that to weak chicks.
Another reason I seriously doubt that MOST babies on the cage floor were tossed out is because they don't have any beak marks on them. A parent isn't going to just up and pick up a baby and toss it out of the nest. A parent determined to get a baby out of the nest is going to peck and savage the baby first (as is, unfortunately, common with many cockatiel fathers who want the babies OUT so they can breed with the females again) and the cockatiel babies will be scratched and bleeding - particularly on the head area). Even a tiny baby finch or dove would have beak marks on it's little wings, feet or head if a parent grabbed it up to toss it out.
It's been my experience that if a baby is stillborn or dies shortly after birth, the parents continue to keep it in the nest along with the live sibling; they do NOT toss it out - at least for days after. And often you don't even know there is a dead chick in the nest until the parents both leave it together to eat several days later. If only one chick is born and it dies, then the parents abandon the nest - again they do NOT usually toss the baby onto the floor.
THE most common cause of tiny birds being on the cage floor is because they had snuggled up under a parent's wing and the parent took off suddenly from the nest. So it's very important to move slowly and talk quietly when around a cage that contains newborn baby birds, and take care NOT to startle the parents. And also an additional reason to leave a nightlight on to prevent the sudden "nightfrights" - as described on the page "Care of Diamond Doves."