Hints for Beginners

  • When pairing up your birds, ensure you have sufficient seed to last the breeding season, it is not good to change the seed mix part way through a breeding season. The change could have a detrimental effect on the growth of the chicks, and in extreme circumstances could be possible for the loss of feathers in your chicks.
  • Ensure there is sufficient seed in your cages at all times, especially when you have chicks in the nest. I usually blow the husks from the seed pots every day, every second day I sieve all the pots so as to remove all dust which accumulates in the bottom of the pots.
  • Give as wide a variety of seed as possible, you find that the pairs appear to like different seeds and even that a pair will eat different seed during the rearing of their chicks. In a study carried out, the pairs feeding their chicks on plain canary seed for the first three weeks of rearing, then millet thereafter, produce the largest chicks.
  • Vitamins and supplements are generally very good, especially two months before pairing up, however, never ever give supplements in the water whilst your pairs are breeding. The hen consumes large amounts of water whilst breeding, because of this she would also consume additional amounts of vitamins if it were to be added to the water. The consequence being, she would suffer from vitamin poisoning, in addition the chicks would also suffer from too many vitamins for their body to absorb. If you wish to give vitamins at breeding time, add a little to the soft food.
  • It is not expected to have the same standard of cleanliness during the breeding season. Some fanciers believe in a deep litter system during breeding, others clean their cages more often. What ever system you adopt, ensure the copious droppings underneath the perches are cleaned frequently, they look unsightly, smell terrible and cause diseases to spread.
  • Occasionally young hens can be rather erratic in laying, if this occurs, transfer the eggs to another established pair, replacing them with clear eggs. I use small glass marbles. When the hen settles and is laying normally, you can transfer the eggs back. However, I only take away the dummy eggs, in this way if you are lucky, she will go on laying more eggs and you will have gained more eggs than you previously transferred, thus gaining a few extra chicks you would otherwise have not had.
  • Some hens, or even the cocks at times, are prone to breaking the eggs. When this occurs I find the best way to deal with it is simply to fit a concave with a hole drilled in the middle, large enough to ensure the egg will drop through the hole, the egg is then transferred to another pair. Make sure there is a bed of sawdust below the hole for the egg to drop on to.
  • On the Continent the breeders place a plastic egg into the nest-box when the hen lays her first egg. This plastic egg tends to be larger than the normal budgerigar egg. It has two purposes
    • It retains the heat longer when the hen leaves the nest, so tends to keep the eggs warm.
    • When the hen hatches, it stops them from sitting too tight and crushing the chicks, especially the first hatched.
  • When your eggs are nearing the date of hatching, I have found if you soak them in a small bowl of warm water for a couple of minutes, this does assist them to hatch.
  • If young hens fail to feed their first chick when hatched, I find that by giving them an older chick, say 3 or 4 days old, is sufficient to start them feeding normally. If you haven’t got a suitable chick, try a little warm milk in a teaspoon, hold the spoon level, holding the chick gently in the other hand, bring it’s beak to the spoon and just touch its beak to the edge, very gently tilt the spoon, you will see the crop gradually filling with milk, do not over feed, do not try to force-feed it, it will flow itself. You may require to feed it a couple of times before the hen does feed.
  • Feather plucking can be a curse, there is no cure for it, and it can strike at any time. If it does occur try transferring the chicks to another pair. If there is no pair suitable, there are one or two tips to try.
    • If they are old enough, place an open top box in the cage, a little smaller than the nest-box, the parents usually keep on feeding them without plucking them any further.
    • The other way I have found to work, is by fitting a glass top on the nest-box, the hen usually stops out and only enters to feed the chicks
  • Don’t be too quick in removing the chicks from the parents, providing the parents (Cock) is accepting them, leave them as long as possible, they certainly thrive better than when removed. Another good idea is when the chicks are about 4 weeks old, place a small portion of millet-spray in the nest-box every evening, the chicks will soon copy the hen in picking at the spray. The result is they have a good idea of how to crack seed when they leave the nest. Another thing is to place a small shallow dish of water in the bottom of the cage when the chicks leave the nest, this stops them from dehydrating, which is the factor of them dropping their tails and flights. This is commonly seen in some aviaries and is often mistaken for French Moult.
  • Before pairing it is better to trim the vents and flank feathers from both cocks and hens. The modern budgerigars with the very dense down and long feathering, have great difficulty in mating successfully. This is the major factor in the amount of clear eggs we have all suffered from in recent years.
  • When you are a Beginner you tend to think you must pair as many pairs as you can. The old saying was, you only get about one good chick in every ten, this quite frankly is not true, it all depends on the quality of the original stock, simply pair your best birds, after all there is no point in breeding stock you are unable to sell.
  • Never be too hasty in pairing your birds, just because Joe Bloggs down the road has paired his, there is no necessity to pair yours as well. Wait until they are in tip-top breeding condition before pairing. It is always difficult to decide when they are ready. Even Champions have difficulty. The best way to decide whether they are ready is simply hang an old nest-box in the hen flight, the hens that show a lot of interest in the box you will find are the ones that are ready. Cocks are different, if the hen is fit, you will find the cocks generally follow suit.
  • Never let your young birds go until they are through the moult, we are sometimes tempted to dispose of a young bird because we think it is not good enough. This applies to all fanciers, not just Beginners. It is surprising how some birds tend to be late developers and do not show their full potential until after their moult. You often find that it is a family that has this trait, so until you gain much more experience, do not be too hasty in disposing of could be your future winner.

Original text: Copyright 1997 Jim Hutton

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