A Plan for Beginners in the Fancy – Part I by Pat Norris

As Gren and I have travelled around the country giving talks to various societies and clubs, the fanciers with the most problems seem to be Beginners and Novices who do not get help from their local Champions. In this article I will try to relive my Beginner days and using the experience I have accumulated over the years, advise those about to venture into the world of exhibition budgerigars.

In the first instance it is essential that you get some experience in the breeding and management of budgerigars, as it is pointless rushing out and spending money without the knowledge required to care for them. So, if you are a raw beginner, get a few pairs for experience and use this time to visit shows and other fanciers and learn what makes a good exhibition budgerigar. Do not stay in your local area, but try to get out to shows in other counties, and take note of exhibitors who are winning in young bird classes (not necessarily Champions) at championship level. Your aim is to develop an eye for a good bird, so that when you are ready to acquire your initial exhibition stock, you will know what to look for.

When you are confident in the management, feeding and breeding skills, and have spent some time stewarding at shows to familiarize yourself with good quality birds, you will then want to take the next step and purchase some birds. The raw beginner will usually buy a magazine and look for advertisements in them, but be careful of the professional breeder who mass produces stock for sale. Whilst they may win at shows, the Beginner is unlikely to be offered these birds or any related stock. How many fanciers can offer birds for sale week after week after week? If they do, they are in most instances simply producing numbers just to sell.

If you have done your homework whilst visiting shows, you should have some idea who are the exhibitors with a consistent and competitive winning team (not one or two birds). They may well be Beginners or Novices themselves who have gone to top studs and paid top prices for birds. While you may not buy those, useful brothers and sisters can be obtained for a fraction of the cost of the parents. These have the same genetic makeup of their better brothers and sisters and will do you more good than the “Stormer” that has been bred from average parents and is the only good bird in the nest. When buying your stock always ask to see the parents, and brothers and sisters where possible. It is better to obtain a lesser bird from good stock than a better bird which had been bred from mediocre parents and is what we call “a one off”.

Choose two or three studs for your initial purchases and buy two or three pairs from each if possible. Try to choose studs where the features compliment the others, for example, one stud may have big shouldered birds, the other may have birds that excel in head quality and the third, feather quality in the right place. By breeding these as true lines and eventually crossing the lines over you will build like a jigsaw, all the features of all the lines into one main line which will in time, carry all the features in one bird. You can then start a line of your own on this bird/birds. All this will take a few years and there is no short cut with the exception of an open cheque book.

At first is is important to concentrate on the features that make a good exhibition budgerigar, regardless of colour or variety. On several occasions I have been asked “What is the most difficult feature to achieve?” Well, I would have to say that head quality is the most difficult. A bird with width of face, depth of mask, back skull and a feather quality what when viewed from any direction is round and keyhole in appearance, face on, showing fearlessly. Birds like this are not likely to be overlooked by a judge as they demand attention. To follow through from the head, the shoulders should be wide and show no neck. The size of the bird, whilst important, is not always the winning factor. A large bird without the head qualities to march its size, in my opinion, does not compete with a slightly smaller one with excellent head and balance.

Head quality is for the most part made up of feather density and direction. Try to pair your birds to maximize on these points by matching birds which have lift (feather length on the head) to birds with lateral feathering. Forget colour preference at this stage and concentrate on building a stud of good quality birds; only then can you breed the specialist varieties successfully. Remember, it is not the colour that wins, it is the quality of the exhibit, so pair for quality not colour. So many times, Beginners and Novices have made the fatal mistake of only buying blues or greys of inferior quality and leaving behind the greygreens because they “Don’t like the colour “.

Sometimes, it may be possible to purchase a flecked headed bird with good facial qualities. Flecked birds have their place in all good studs, but a few do’s and don’ts should be practised. Never use a flecked bird unless it shows features that you need to improve your stock, and then be careful how you pair them. Remember that pairing a flecked headed bird to a clean one will produce young that are both clean and flecked. Those young which appear clean will carry the flecking in their makeup and can pass this on to any chicks they themselves produce. For this reason it is advisable to pair any birds from flecked parents to clean mates that have themselves been bred from clean parents, for the next two generations. In my experience most flecked birds are opalines and these should be paired to clean headed normals. Keep good records of all birds bred and possible splits e.g., blue, cinnamon, opaline. Flecked parents can be included as a footnote to remind you at a later date.

The key to becoming a successful breeder and exhibitor is patience, dedication and the ability to recognize the faults in the stud and to pair to rectify them. Remember, only by showing your birds can you compare them with others and assess where improvement is needed. Winning is of secondary importance although it is very nice once it starts to happen. A final tip, don’t become spot blind I.e., learn to recognize good birds even if the spots are small, they can soon be improved; the overall head quality is much more important.

Good luck to all you Beginners; we need new blood in the Fancy and on the show scene.

Original text Copyright 1996, Pat Norris.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

najmul husain November 16, 2011 at 9:18 am

I am a new/beginner budgriger lover,your advise will be a helping/guide
to me , Thanks


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