Give Yourself a Chance…

Many new fanciers fail to give themselves a real chance of success. We believe that by following a number of simple guidelines they will be able to maximize their chances.

In the first instance you must go to as many of the major shows as you possibly can to help develop an eye for the birds; the bigger the show the better. You are unlikely to learn much at a small local show. There, you can compare the winning birds with those that came second, third and so on and see if you can see how the judge arrived at his decision. It may well be that at some shows you cannot understand some of the awards; don’t worry, that happens many a time. It does not mean that the judge didn’t know what he was doing, it means that he does not see the birds in the same way as you are doing. We all see budgerigars differently and only time will tell who is the better judge.

Learn to think for yourself and don’t be brow beaten by other people. Listen to what they have to say, think about it and then make up your own mind.

As you make mistakes, and you certainly will, be sure that these are your mistakes and not someone else’s. Study the Ideal Standard and see how the birds at shows compare with it. Despite a lot of criticism there are very few birds that come anywhere near it. Keep an eye on those exhibitors who win regularly with their own bred birds, and those who may not win major awards but whose birds appeal to you and who are always thereabouts.

After you have been to a few shows, try and pay a visit to those fanciers whose birds appeal to you. Most fanciers are only too willing to show you around and give you advice. Don’t tell them how much you know about budgerigars and where they are going wrong or they might suddenly remember they have other engagements. Ask questions; study the overall quality of the stud: look in every cage; look at how many ill birds they have; study their methods and above all listen to what they say and then go away and have a really good think about it.

It is vital that you purchase birds from a stud that has real depth of quality. You can only reasonably expect to breed birds equal to the average quality of the stud from where you bought your birds. It is better to buy the worst bird from a good stud than the best bird from a mediocre stud; in the long term, blood and genes will out.

After a while you will have formed an idea of what you want and, more to the point, who has it: in short, it’s decision time. If you like the type of bird; if you like the overall quality; if the stud is healthy,and finally, if you feel that the fancier is someone you can trust.

If you are a complete beginner, you would be well advised to buy young birds that are not old enough to have bred, this was the birds will be able to settle down before you set them to work. If they were very young they will mature and improve and will, in all probability, be much better than you thought they were when you bought them. They will also have a much greater life expectancy.

Now for the crunch how much to pay. Our advice is to buy as many as you can for the money you intend to spend. Don’t expect to get birds at pet prices from a top stud – the owner have spent a lot of time and money to build his stud to the standard that you admire so much. Show quality birds from such studs are sought by fanciers world-wide and can fetch very high prices. Hopefully, the birds you acquire will carry the same genes and be related to the best birds in the stud.

Nowadays most fanciers are able to supply pedigrees for the birds they supply. It should also be remembered that budgerigars are gregarious birds and enjoy plenty of company so don’t be tempted to spend all your money on one super pair; they may not breed without other birds in close proximity and should one “fall off the perch” as better birds tend to, they certainly won’t breed. Never put all your eggs in one basket!

It may well be that your purchases are nowhere near the elusive ideal, but at this stage its not that important. Once you’ve got started your aim must be to breed as many as you can as quickly as you can, this will give you plenty of choice in selecting the birds you retain for future breeding.

Despite what has been written many times we feel that budgerigars may be successfully bred from seven months old providing, of course, that they appear to be in breeding condition. Given the choice, we actually prefer to use hens of that age.

Do not pair up birds when both partners have the same faults. This may be a little difficult if your purchases were at the cheap end, but a little time spent in balancing the pairs will be well spent. Later on this will become even more important for, in the long term, you will only get out what YOU put in. If you double up on faults you will surely pay for it in the long run.

Until you gain experience, never sell any youngsters unless fully moulted. That super youngster in the nest box often becomes very ordinary before it fully moults out and many good birds are disposed off at this time. If you liked it as a baby you will probably like it as an adult. Then there are the late developers; some that look quite ordinary in the nest box can really come on when they mature, so be patient.

Should anyone offer you good money for one of your youngsters, don’t sell it. If they think it will do them a bit of good you can be sure that it will do you a lot of good. Don’t forget you want to build a winning stud. It is far easier to sell a good bird than it is to buy one.

Having bred a reasonable number of youngsters, you can cull quite ruthlessly once they have moulted out. If you bought cheaper birds from a good stud, a number of their youngsters should be much better than their parents, and it is these birds that you must work with, together with the adults that bred the better quality youngsters.

Depending on numbers bred and the number of birds you want to retain, you should dispose of those that do not measure up. It is no use keeping inferior birds bred from inferior birds if you want to progress. Bloodlines are fine but even the best ones can be quickly bred out. Poor birds bred from good birds can produce good birds but rubbish bred from rubbish is more than likely to breed more rubbish.

A word of warning, whenever you sort out birds for disposal. Place all the birds that are to go in a separate cage or flight and leave them there for a day or two, casting your eyes on them whenever you pass them. Some birds can “go to pieces” during the selection process and if you missed such a bird, you have a further chance to spot it. The same can apply at a show and sometimes accounts for inconsistent judging.

Once you have sorted out your birds, you must go over them and see if there is a feature that is obviously lacking. If there is, go back and ask your breeder if he can find you a bird or two that excel in that particular feature. It may be that you will be asked to pay a higher price if the bird is better than the ones you had before, but this time you only want the odd bird and not a complete start. Where is no need to take out a second mortgage and buy a show bird, we would prefer to buy two or three birds carrying the required feature instead of one “cracker””. Better to have two or three chances than one, and who knows one might just “fall off the perch”.

We do not buy show-type birds – we still buy blood. The only advantage of a really good bird is that it’s easier to pair up because it has less faults. Do not be tempted to buy good birds to show, by doing so you are only advertising for the breeder and it may cause you to have to move up a status before your stud is ready. If you paid a lot of money for a bird the best way to recoup it is to make it work hard in the breeding cage and breed your own winners.

Always be on the lookout for prepotent birds; those are birds who consistently produce birds of high quality. You may even be lucky enough to buy one with your original stock if you went for young birds, for no breeder knows which they are until bred from. They are not common, but used properly can be worth more than their weight in gold.

Do not be afraid to keep inferior hens when their brothers or sisters are “top class” show birds as they will often produce more winners than their illustrious relations.

If your original choice of breeder was sound, then you should see an overall improvement in your stock each year, and it will probably be a good idea to go back for a bit of fresh blood each year. If you progress really well you may find your breeder unable to help you further, fearing that you may be able to compete with him on equal terms. This is of course a compliment to your skills as a breeder, and you will have to go back to square one in your search for a fresh supplier. However, now you will have a good deal of experience behind you and will know who has what you want. If no improvement is seen then you either chose the wrong breeder in the first place or you have not played your part correctly.

The final ingredient in creating a stud of winning budgerigars is to have the determination to succeed whatever the setbacks. No world class athlete ever succeeded without the will to win and the same applies to all things. You must want to succeed.

Success is not necessarily measured by how many Best-in-Shows you win, but by what you have built with the means at your disposal.

Original text Copyright 1999, Gordon and Sylvia Hallam.

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