Breeding & Care Notes



 If you have any questions please email so I can type the answers about breeding here.

We don't believe in keeping back any so called secrets about breeding these wonderful birds!

Anything and everything will be shared!


Breeding Toucans by Chris Estep's brain as in spills out slowly.


Biggest trick to breeding: Forget your life; you have none anymore if you are breeding toucans. The birds will take up 23 hours every day!


 Picking a pair:

Unfortunately the biggest problem buying toucans to breed is people lying about the age of the bird in question. Sometimes buying two Babies is the safest way to ensure you will end up with a suitable pair for breeding. Most hens will start producing best at 4-5 years and males start at 3-4 years old. Best breeding birds are 5 – 9 years old but older birds can still breed. Due to aggressive behaviors of the male or female its best if both birds have no flaws such as wing or leg problems. Each pair must be figured out as a unit.

The best breeders we have found are birds that grew up together and have built up a very tight bond. Even if kept in separate cages for the first 3-4 years they will still know each other when put together later.

Putting a very active aggressive hormonal driven adult bird with a young not sexual mature bird can be a disaster. The birds breed best when on the same page. Little differences can be works out. Trying to put a very people related ex-et or ex-bird show bird with a parent raised non tame bird doesn’t usually work either. Super tame birds if set up for breeding should be ignored by people or it will cause internal bonding problems between the two birds. You must read your birds behaviors and constantly be aware of little problems stirring during different times of the year. Some males may get too aggressive during courting behaviors in the spring causing the hen to panic which in turn can cause the male to get even more aggressive. Very bonded pairs need very little tweaking during breeding season. Some pairs might need a cooling off period for an over aggressive excited bird male or hen but usually the male. Taking the male or hen out of the same cage for a couple days will sometimes work. As a last resort a small amount of wing feathers can be trimmed to slow an over aggressive bird down a little giving the recessive bird a fighting chance. I have seen many people sell males thinking they had a bird that was too aggressive. Those are usually the best birds for breeding once you figure out how to calm the bird down to the mate’s level. 


 Cage Size

Best cage is what ever works but the bigger the better.

We use:

 25’ x 12’ x 9’ cages and bigger.

1” x 1” galvanized after welded wire   (rat proof although to keep mice out ½’ x ½” is needed)

Smooth cement floors with with drains for easy weekly cleaning.

We have one low wattage florescent light hanging in the middle of the 100' long breeding area to give a calming night light to 7 flights of birds.



Always have clean water available at all times. Use a big enough container so the water stays reasonably cool even if the sun hits it.

Water or food bowls should not be positioned under perches where fecal material could drop into it.. We use drippers so the water is always full.

We use dry softbilled pellets in a bowl in the shade near the water.

Most of our cages but not all have feeding doors so we can avoid bugging the parents while sitting on eggs.

We cut up fresh fruits twice a day for all the toucans.

I use ceramic type bowls so they can easily be thoughly cleaned every morning before being refilled.

The wife chews me out every morning for bowls all over "her" kitchen.

I try to feed just as the sun is coming up..

Every bowl is marked for a specific pair of birds. I never mix up bowls & never stack to cut down on cross contamination.



2 bowls full all the time, one low iron pellets dry and the other depends on what’s ripe and cheap at the local produce market.

Here in southern California we get very good quality Mexican grown Papaya for 30 - 75 cents a pound so about 30% of our diet is papaya, 

I always taste the papaya myself. It should taste very sweet and tasty.  Buying papaya is an art. After buying it for weeks you will get what I mean. Don’t feed out yucky tasting papaya!  Then followed by what ever is on the chopping block that day:  cantaloupe, Honeydew melon  apple, blueberries, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, and occasional corn, peas,& carrots Mixture, maybe 2 grapes a day at the most per bird.

We feed banana only when super sweet once a week.  Everything is cut into toucan bite sized pieces for easy eating.  

Tea bag anyone?

Some zoos and breeders use tea bags in the water bowls to release possible beneficial tannins to combat the intake of Iron. They go treated water for a month & untreated water for the next month and so on.

Toucans will die from Hemochromatosis, or Iron Storage Disease if diet is watched closely.

Some zoos and breeders use tea bags in the water bowls to release possible beneficial tannins to combat the intake of Iron. They go treated water for a month & untreated water for the next month and so on.



Every flight has a White Tarp over 12' x 9' of the cage so rain doesn’t penetrate where the nesting site is and to offer higher Humidity and shelter from wind. Our Misters mist about 25% of the cage under the area that has the tarp to trap humidity. Shade cloth is over 40% of the roof which during a hot day is where the birds hang out. They can also fell safe from owls at night or hawks during the day due to the shaded end of the cage. We use fruit producing mulberry trees in our cages giving the birds a visual barrier and as a source of shade.



We use wooden boxes with palm log inserts with egg divots & natural palm logs.

The males will pretty much want to make a nest in anything where the hens might not accept the first nesting box so a 2nd and different type of nesting area should be supplied.



Kookaburra will kill any mice that happen to enter their cage and the toucans accept them fine as neighbors.

Turacos, thrushes, Kingfishers, Mynas, ground birds anything that they don’t consider competion is fine in a nearby flight.

We don’t house any two pairs of toucans separated by wire. Every pair of toucans is spaced between turacos or other.

I would not recommend any species that can hand on the wire. That would just stimulate the toucan to try to peak them which could hurt the toucan’s beak or ego.


#1) an over abundance of food

#2) pea sized pieces of clean cuttlebone on the floor of the cage (dry)

#3) Calcium added to fruit treats in early afternoon feeding if pea sized calcium is not offered)



Keep cement clean of droppings once a week.

Keep rodent population down to zero. (Look for rodent droppings constantly)

Trim any trees in cage so not to punch through the cage wire.

Check wire overlaps to make sure birds can not escape.



We now pull most eggs due to watching too many babies being eaten after hatching by the parent birds. I have a pair of swainsons that just refuse to incubate 3 eggs. The hen has layed 18 eggs two year in a row now. I pull the first egg the morning after she lays.

 This will allow us to leave the # 2 & #3 egg of the clutch with them for another 7-10 days increasing my hatch rate rather then pulling all 3 eggs as they are layed. I always make sure the parent birds are out of the nest by their own dings before checking or pulling eggs. Caution must be taken while pulling out out of a nest. Some adult toucans can give you a very strong hit to the head protecting their eggs from being stolen. Yes, Of course I feel terrible taking eggs but we try to leave the last clutch with them every year.

Birds live for the moment. When eggs are taken they don’t think too much about it. It just triggers them to try again. The hen must be in very good physical shape to nest 6 times in one year. You must feed them like crazy! Heck you should feed your toucans properly no matter what time of year it is.  I almost lost an egg after pulling it walking though a kookaburra flight on my way out, the kookaburra took a shot at it. That would have been a costly meal.



37.2 C will hatch eggs hopefully   

I have tried everything, Toucan eggs can be frustrating.

 We put the big side of the egg up and stop turning the eggs as soon as the baby starts chirping or piping.

You must have an incubator that is low vibration and turns smoothly.

We use multiple Grumbachs but we are still not happy with our hatch rate.

Turning eggs 180 degrees 8 times a day seems to work fine.

Humidity at 55% untill 14 days old then 75% till hatching.


At 14 days old the eggs dont need to be turned

Make sure the incubators rollers are always free of any sticky substance. We did have an egg stick to a roller and peel a piece of egg shell off causing the egg to die.  Toucan eggs hatch from 15 - 20 days. Its best to turn the self turner off at 13 days old and self turn or put the eggs big air pocket side tilted up so baby doesn’t drown while hatching. Babies can take up to 30 hours hatching although most of ofs hatch within 10 hours of piping and some within the first couple hours. Sometime eggs will stick to the babies causing problem with separation from the egg. Most incubators will not turn toucan eggs enough. Every 30 minutes to 1 hour 180 degree turn will increase hatch rate. Caution: many baby birds have been killed by automatic turners not turned off just before hatching.


Watch your babies! We put each freshly hatched baby in its own 3" diameter ceramic crocks with and uneven bottom paper towel and cover then with a damp cloth and leave them in the incubator for the first two days. They should hatch with lots of reserve in their belly. First feeding is usually done 18 - 24 hours after hatching. The baby should poop before the first feeding. Some breeder put betadine on the belly button after hatching, we don’t. But maybe we should.



Handfeeding newly hatched baby Toucans

Nutrition is not the problem with newly hatched toucans it's HYDRATION.  Baby Toucans have egg yolks inside of them that they feed off for a long time. De-hydration is by far the biggest killer of baby toucans.  Babies left with the parent birds for at least the first ten days get natural immunities from the parents.

 The standard Kaytee/papaya type formula can work just fine if babies don’t get dehydrated. We use hints from Amado Summers formula & handfeeding procedures with great success!   Thank you Amado!  

We are using Kaytee Hand rearing formula and or Mazzori softbill handfeeding formula, and Pedialyte. Slowing cooking the two together forming a goop that is stored up to 24 hours in the frig. Mix up a small amount of this goop 50/50 with more Pedialyte before feeding. Drawing it into smooth tip feeding syringes cold then achieved the proper feeding temperature by submersing the feeding syringes into tall glasses filled with warm water just before feeding. This goop is very easy to digest for the newly hatched babies. The cooking process may kill off fungus & bacteria that newly hatched chicks are susceptible to.


"10%  of the babies body weight every two hours" works but newly hatched baby Toucans will do better and MORE survive, if you take this 10%, and divide it by 8, and feed every 15 minutes! Mommy Toucans live to feed chicks often and small amounts not large amounts at one time like a pigeon with its expanded crop. You must make the commitment to feed 1-4 day old baby toucans through the night at least every 2 hours or they will die or you will cause perminate damage to the organs and limbs of the baby.

You will learn to read the baby. If after a certain amount of food the bay does the sit down and stop begging routine it is telling you "stop I am ok for now, see in one hour"

You can email pictures of your baby with the age and I can tell you what I think as far as condition and growth rate.

After the first 7 days its usually clear sailing and the babies become very easy to feed.

I use 1 CC syringes for the first 7 days and depending on the bird move up to a 3 cc size... that doesn’t mean you have to unload the whole 3cc's at one time.

Baby toucan move up into bigger bowls as they grow. Caution is taken while handling the baby. You must support the legs very gently while moving them. We use plastic flower pots of varying sizes as the baby grows.

Don't try to save ten dollars, buy a bunch of the pots. You can buy feeding syringes as low as 35 cents each buying them 100 at a time.

Spend the money; it pays off in the long run. You will need 1CC, 3CC, 6CC & 10CC (smooth tip feeding syringes)

Using too big a diameter syringe can cause problems with proper feeding.


 You are past the hard part of handfeeding toucan chicks at 10 days old.

At ten days old we mail in the egg case to find out what sex the bird is.

At ten days old they are just eating machines. Make sure you are never in a rush while handfeeding.

Just a little too much food when the baby is not ready for it can cause aspiration of the food and you will never forgive yourself.

When the food goes down the wrong pipe death happens quickly and without mercy. It will break your heart in two. I have bought many pairs of toucans from people who aspirated a baby toucan while handfeeding and just gave up. BE PATIENT & FOCUSED while handfeeding!

Temperature of baby toucans is important to proper food digestion and general health. If the bird gapes its mouth constantly even when full of food it’s most likely too hot. If the baby shakes or doesn’t want to beg for food it may be too cold. I had a baby toucan at ten degrees to cold by accident last year (hate myself) due to an improper reading stupid cheapo thermometer. The beak and the bird didn’t develop properly and died slowly.... Bummer... Pay attention. Some people call toucans "birds waiting to die" prove them wrong