Venturing into Budgerigars

During the past 45 years I have resided at six different abodes where I have established a breeding room, these I hasten to add were for the reproduction of budgerigars. As there is much to take into account when tackling this situation, I decided to write this article for the benefit of the newcomers to the fancy.

The list of points to cover is considerable and they are not raised to deter anyone from starting but rather to make all, well aware of the considerations necessary. As stated it is for those with limited experience in this area but I hope there will be something of interest for most. The four main topics I will be covering come under the following headings:

  1. Housing
  2. Management
  3. Breeding
  4. Show Features

When it comes to accommodating the birds, there are many areas to take into account.

  • * Space available.
  • * Local authorities
  • * Neighbours
  • * Undesirable elements
  • * Birdroom siting
  • * Birdroom features

Housing

Space Available

I, obviously, have no control over the amount of space you have available, but for many with a limited area this will be the deciding factor when it comes to the size of stud you will be able to maintain and remember this does not only apply to the number of stock birds you can house, as a good breeding season can more than treble your stock. If you can only accommodate a small stud, you will have to give careful thought to which of the colours you wish to specialize in. Those with unlimited space are only confined by their financial resources, or the amount of time they have available to tend to the birds. Bear in mind that a good deal of time is required when it comes to breeding and show preparation if we are to do our birds justice in both of these fields. Finally you could be curtailed by the limitations of the next area we need to cover.

Local Authorities

These are the Local Authorities, most of whom have some regulation or other covering location, size and type of outbuilding that can be erected and how far it must be from other peoples property. It will be time well spent if you contact them first and find out what you can and cannot do.

Neighbours

Now we come to neighbours and this can present some problems if you do not give it careful thought. A stud of 50 birds can make quite a noise and not everyone has the same tolerance when it comes to the incessant chatter of budgerigars, so besides keeping within the regulations, try and site the birdroom as far away from people as possible.

On final point here, concerns when you are up and running, if your neighbours have children, encourage them to take an interest in the birds, the time spent showing them the birds can be of great value, as their views can have a big influence on how they react to the presence of your birds, plus it might encourage the youngsters or even the parents to take up budgerigars for themselves.

Undesirable Elements

Now we come to the undesirable elements and here I intend to cover the areas that have been of concern to me over the years. I suggest you make inquires from the established fanciers in your area in case there is anything that is peculiar to your neighbourhood.

Some trees and plants can play havoc at certain times of the year, the notable ones being Yew and Laburnum trees, also rhubarb leaves, so if these are in close proximity you will have to consider covering the flights where trees are concerned and boarding up the base in the case of undesirable plants.

You will also have to take into account whether other livestock is close at hand , as this increases the likelihood of mice and rats. In such cases a visit to the local pest control officer can be a great help. Pigeons and Chickens can also increase the possibility of Red Mite, an obnoxious little creature that can play havoc with the birds if it runs riot, I will have more to say on this when we come to the birdroom itself.

Cats I do not consider to be undesirable as they help to keep down the likelihood of mice and if the flights are double wired, the birds soon get use to the presence of the cats. I have one that lays on top of the Birdroom shed and watches the birds but they just ignore him. I have more problems with the local kestrels as they fly straight at the wiring and the birds go berserk.

Birdroom Siting

We now move on to birdroom siting, its location has already been covered, so we are left with which way it should face. From my experience with siting 6 birdrooms which have faced in a variety of directions, I have come to the conclusion that it does not really matter but it is generally recognized that it is best if it faces South, as you can then make best use of the available light and avoid cold North winds.

The Birdroom

Finally, we come to the birdroom itself. As I stated earlier, the space available, the amount you can afford to spend and lastly how much time you can devote to the hobby, will all be controlling factors in what size of birdroom you have. However, if you have the room and money I strongly advise you to buy or build accommodation bigger than is required for your immediate needs, since later, if you do wish to increase your stock, you will find that cramped working areas can be very frustrating at times, and I speak from current experience.

Being retired now my garden is of a small size and I can only accommodate a 10 x 8 foot birdroom with a 12 x 3 foot outside flight, which I find very cramped, I recently cleared an area at the side of my garage and managed to erect a 7 x 3 foot shed with a 10 x 3 foot outside flight but working in the small shed is very frustrating but needs must. Also remember you need room to store seed, show cages, nest boxes not in use, other sundry items, breeding records and be able to prepare birds for shows.

Management

I do not propose to put forward a birdroom design, as these are adequately covered in many other publications, rather I will suggest certain features which I have found to be of benefit to me. They are not all my ideas, many I have seen in other establishments and decided to incorporate them in my own birdroom.

Well before construction I like to treat the area with a powerful weedkiller and then the flight area is prepared for good drainage. For wooden sheds I like to raise it on concrete or brick pillars, placing 4 x 4 inch wooden runners on top to support the floor evenly, a ground clearance between 9 and12 inches is ideal as it allows for a good air flow under the shed which keeps the floor in good condition, plus allowing cats free access which helps minimize the risk of mice. Before siting the floor fix thick polystyrene sheets underneath and cover with a layer of aluminium foil, this will cut down on the heat loss. I favour fully opening windows either end of the shed, with this I can ensue a good ventilation right through the birdroom in the hot summer months.

Access to the inside flights is by way of sliding doors, using these gives me a clearer floor area . However if you do use this arrangement and you want to construct shelves on flight framing, the doors will have to slide inside the flight, and here you encounter a serious problem, it is very easy to behead a bird , so make sure the birds are well clear before opening.

Having only small flights I like seed dishes in the floor so the birds get extra exercise by flying upwards. I board up the bottom two feet of the inside flights as this helps to keep the working area of the birdroom reasonably free of seed husks and feathers. Curtain expanding wire is use to retain cuttlefish on the outside of cage fronts, the birds having adequate access through the wires, by doing this you ensure the cuttlefish does not get fouled, especially by hens when breeding, the minimal extra cost of doing this is recouped by the saving on cuttlefish.

Before lining the shed, treat it with a good anti mite solution, then put in fibre glass insulation, lining materials comes down to cost again, the best is melamine faced as this does not need painting and is easily cleaned.

If you have earthen floor sites, use second-hand concrete or breeze blocks 14 x 9 inches. I sink the blocks 6 inches into the ground, leaving 3 inches above the surface, on top of these fix 2 x 2 inch wooden runners and the flights can be secured to this. I cover the floor with 4 inches of chippings and with good drainage it is easy hosed down and turned over.

Breeding

Now we turn our attention to the subject of breeding birds.

When it comes to the beginner obtaining initial stock, the advice given is conflicting, some say, start with pet birds first and get experience with these, also there is usually an outlet for the young produced, others will say why waste time breeding pet birds, obtain the best you can and learn as you go accepting any setbacks. Both points of view have their advantages and disadvantages.

However to add to the confusion I have another point of view to put forward. If you are just starting out you must first learn the husbandry that goes with any form of livestock breeding. Rather than using pet birds or expensive stock, I suggest you find a local novice exhibitor who is getting reasonable show results (especially if his stock is from a notable Champion breeder), and purchase several pairs of his second string young bred from his good stock, the ones not showing all the desirable show features but can carry them in their background, these birds can usually be obtained quite reasonably.

If you do get luck when breeding you can then go back to the source to upgrade your stock, or if you have the finances you could possibly go to the person who supplied him. At the worst you can dispose of the young as pets and you will have gained experience.

Exhibition Bird Features

Before closing I feel I should finish by covering some of the terms used when describing the good and bad points of the birds on show. Many newcomers hear these terms expressed but in the main do not appreciate what is being discussed and most are too embarrassed to ask for clarification.

“Width between the eyes”

This relates to the skull width and is nothing to do with feather – difficult for most beginners to recognize as the difference of tenths of a millimetre can be a lot.

“Browiness”

Feather structure which makes the feather hang over the eyes, giving the eyes a Chinese appearance (i.e.. Making the eyes appear elongated and small).

“The bird shows a lot of Face”

This denotes that the bird has a good width between the eyes, a punched in beak, browiness over the eyes, a wide and deep mask with an even spread of spots which are of uniform size (5 to 6 mm).

“Cap Length”

Distance the yellow or white feathers on top of the head extend beyond the eye the eye. (Very desirable feature).

“Trousers on”

The bird doesn’t have the strength to stand up clear of the perch, tends to drop down and because it is usually a buff feathered bird, the feathers hide its feet.

“Heavy Flue”

No taper between the legs back to the tail, once again usually a buff bird.

“Pulling”

The bird is unsettled and its feathers are pulled in tight to the body, masking its good features which arise mainly from feather structure.

“Substance”

The framework of the bird, it needs to be substantial. A lot of buff birds seem to have this property but when they pull you can see that it is all feather.

“Shoulder or Neck”

This is relates to the area from the top of the head to the wing butts. When viewed from the front, this area should be filled in no indication of a shoulder outline, very full viewed from the back.

“Flecking”

Dark markings in the feathers on top of the head. (Very undesirable feature).

“Smokey”

This relates to dark markings on the underlying feathers on top of the head giving a distinct smokey appearance.

“Grizzled” (Opalines)

This applies to the black striations at the back of the neck. In the Opaline varieties these striations are broken and of a paler colour than in normals, giving the bird a grizzled appearance.

“Opalescence in Normals”

Body colour spilling over into the normal yellow or white areas at the side of the neck. Quite common but undesirable and arises because of excessive use of opalines.

“Thumb Print”

This is a term used to describe a feature that is undesirable in the wings of Opalines, it is a reduction of the black markings in the butt of the wing, covering an area the size of a thumb print. This area is the same as the body colour but usual diluted.

Well I have come to the end, I expect there will be those whose views differ from mine, but that is the nature of views on livestock breeding.

Original text Copyright 1983 Revised 1998, S B Richardson

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