Helping Newcomers Stay

Fanciers young and old enter our hobby with great expectations of breeding and showing their birds, and aiming to achieve similar results to those achieved by the top successful fanciers one reads about. However, before tasks such as erecting birdrooms are undertaken, the newcomer should visit as many experienced fanciers as possible to discuss all aspects of bird keeping, from acquiring breeding stock and feeding, right through to aviary design and construction. Next would be to visit as many shows as possible, so as to view the many varieties of budgerigar. These visits can help to establish, not only the variety you wish to keep, but also the style of the bird you consider to your liking, and eventually wish to reproduce.

Even after all this advice and help is taken, there will be disappointments and frustrations which will test your perseverance in the hobby, as you progress from a raw Beginner through to an experienced Champion. The modern day budgerigar has to have extra care, as they have outgrown some of their original hardiness and virility. This is the case with many modern day pedigree animals, which have been selectively bred for certain features. As a direct result, there are many reasons why newcomers leave the hobby after just a short while. Some of these we have listed and given our advice as to how we believe they should be dealt with.

Sick Birds

Finding sick birds in the flight which then die.

Remove any sick birds immediately from the flight to a hospital cage, where heat is applied, but also making sure they do not become dehydrated. Find the cause of the illness if possible, and seek advice if you are not sure. One of the main reasons of sudden illness is draughts, which penetrate through unsecured doors and windows. Birds perching in direct line with draughts will soon chill, fluff up, and develop green droppings. If birds are left in outside flights in wet weather, after which they are unable to dry out before nightfall, they may also develop the same symptoms. Illness can also be caused through poor management and hygiene, resulting from contaminated food and water. we recommend giving fresh food and water on a daily basis.

Nest Problems

Unfortunate breeding results such as hens becoming ill resulting in eggs chilling or newly hatched chicks dying through not being fed.

It is important to pair up at least four pairs of birds at the same time, so if anything unforeseen happens fertile eggs or newly hatched chicks can be moved to another nest box. If the identification of a chick is lost, this is the least of your worries as each chick saved could be a Best in Show.

Low Numbers

Disastrous breeding season with hardly any fertile eggs, leading to very few chicks or even a barren year.

Check before the breeding season that adults are firstly, not too old to be able to reproduce and secondly, that pairs are in breeding condition. Breeding pairs should be sited in their breeding cages in a position enabling them to see one another and hear spare birds in the flights. Being gregarious, budgerigars need this stimulation from others, to breed successfully. Ample light of sufficient length, will also stimulate selected pairs into breeding. I always have a subdued night-light burning when the main lights are off at night, so that any unsettled individuals can find their way back to a nest box or perch. Without this, other pairs may be caused to panic due to one frightened bird. It does not take much disturbance to throw the entire aviary into panic and this night fright can cause severe damage to the breeding season in just one evening.

Attacked chicks

Finding a young chick 4 to 5 weeks old, having been attackedby one of its parents.

As a matter of routine, when chicks are being raised, a small table or cover should be placed in the corner of the breeding cage, so if a chick is threatened by either parent, or has emerged from the nest box too early, a place to retreat and security can be found. When chicks are ready to leave the nest box at between four to five weeks old, keep a watch to see if any individual causes irritation to its parents. The usual sign of this is when you find a scatty chick scampering and flapping about the cage. Try to separate it from the rest as the parents will eventually attack and kill it. They will feel threatened, as their maternal instincts will have waned and their concentration will be firmly on the next round of eggs. If attacks continue, and more chicks are threatened, remove the parent responsible from the cage, and take down the nest box thus allowing the remaining parent to complete the rearing.

No Showability

Lack of success at shows.

Make sure that birds have been well prepared and trained prior to showing, and that they are all in “Show Condition” Never expect a bird caught straight from the flight, thrust immediately into a show cage and taken to a show, to achieve results. Only show “complete” birds, missing feathers can mean missing first placing in a class. The main lack of success is having substandard breeding stock which produce mediocre show birds.

Poor Stock

Inferior stock, as birds retained are far below average quality.

Try and buy related pairs from a successful fancier, whether they are seasoned Beginners or experienced Champions. A good pedigree with all the right attributes is essential. If the seller is successful on the show bench with young birds, then they obviously have the desired features and pedigree in their stock. If at the end of the day, breeding and showing exhibition budgerigars does not fulfil your needs and desires, why not choose a budgerigar from the rare variety category? Whether you breed them to exhibition standard or not, is of no concern, as for the benefit and need of future generations of budgerigar fanciers, your hard work in keeping a variety “pure”, and from becoming extinct, will be of paramount importance historically. More and more fanciers today are taking up the challenge of the Rares, so there will always be a demand for pure bred stock, not only from breeders in the UK, but from the entire world.

Original text Copyright 1995, Bill and Christine Heale

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