Preparation for Breeding
Although the ultimate aim for the majority of exhibition budgerigar breeders is lasting success on the show bench, for me no aspect of the hobby can surpass the thrill of seeing a number of top class youngsters appearing in the nestbox and progressing into the stock cage.
I never cease to find this the most rewarding and satisfying part of our hobby. All too frequently however, hopes are dashed, and the promise of success indicated by top class breeding stock remains unfulfilled. There is no doubt, that many failures can be put down to misfortune or accident. However, I am convinced that many poor breeding results emanate from poor preparation.
As with any hobby, one only gets as much return as the effort put into it, and there is no doubt that budgerigars are no exception. The correct preparation, not only in the organisation of the breeding room, but also in the preparation of the birds, in respect of their general management and diet, can substantially increase the chance of success. For the purpose of this article, I intend to relate primarily to the preparation of the birds. One problem to be overcome, is ensuring that the birds are in prime breeding condition at the appropriate time. The biggest and best shows usually occur in November or December and this unfortunately, does not coincide with the ideal time for the birds to successfully breed, the ideal time is following the annual moult which occurs during September or October. The German Society realise this and make provision for an early delivery of rings.
Although budgerigars have been domesticated for over one hundred years, they still demonstrate their natural instincts, which include the prominent desire to reproduce, in what would be the Australian Spring, namely our Autumn. Therefore, they must be artificially stimulated to maintain, or retain, breeding condition slightly later in the year to coincide with the issuing of the rings. This can be achieved by the artificial use of lighting to extend the daylight hours, heating, and of course, diet.
Let us first off all consider the diet. It is surprising how many fanciers are frequently feeding their stock with a dry seed diet throughout the year. Although most birds will exist reasonably happily and healthily on this diet, an improvement in their general well-being and overall breeding results can be achieved by a more interesting and varied feeding plan.
Although there is no doubt that a varied diet throughout the budgerigars life, from nest-box to adulthood and breeding cage, is highly desirable, stimulation can be achieved by supplementing the diet immediately prior to the breeding season.
I offer a general seed mixture of Canary seed, part English and part Australian. The millet seed is fed separately, and consists of a mixture of all available millet with a predominance of Japanese, this I find, is a satisfactory method, and avoids any waste. Twice a week they benefit from a small quantity of tonic seed, this consists of various types of seed, such as linseed, niger, sunflower, hemp. groats, etc. During late August, and throughout preparations to, and during the breeding season, I add two teaspoons of a cod-liver oil and wheat-germ oil to approx 5 kilos of seed. The oil is worked well into the seed mixture and left for 24 hours to impregnate the seed. Before feeding to the birds, two tablespoons of kelp (powdered sea-weed) is thoroughly mixed with the seed. Kelp is readily available from any health food stores, and is an outstanding source of minerals and trace elements essential to the overall health of the birds. With regard to the drinking water, I use only rain water, which I collect in a large plastic container. For those that cannot collect rain water, it is a good idea to feed bottled spring water. The mains water supplied by the Authorities is full of additives for water purification. This maybe entirely suitable for humans, but does not favour the birds. Over the years I have met many fanciers who claim their stock benefits from the use of non-mains water.
Then during the lead-up to the breeding season, I add one teaspoon of a multi-vitamin mixture to a .5 of a litre of water, also a teaspoon of Cider Vinegar is also added. I find this enhances the general well-being of the birds, and the cider vinegar ensures the cleanliness of the water drinkers, and stops any build up of a slimy film.
A good grit mixture is recommended. Recently, my birds have been given the mineral-menu blocks as supplied by Alfred Merkle. This, I find, takes the place of grit and cuttlefish. At this time, it is well worth introducing a soft food mixture. There are many different soft foods on the market; choose one that suits you best, and once started, should continue throughout the season. It takes a little time for the birds to get used to the soft food, and by introducing it early in the season, by the time you have chicks, your pairs will have been used to it and look forward to it being fed to them.
Having discussed the methods of feeding used in the preparation to breeding, it would be remiss of me not to mention other factors which I consider most essential in the general build-up to the breeding season. I refer of course to exercise, lighting and to a certain degree, heating. It must be remembered that we are attempting to induce our birds to breed at what is a most unnatural time, and every effort must be made. I remain convinced that exercise in flights, preferably partially in the open air, if not essential, will definitely improve the well-being of budgerigars. This also affords the opportunity of offering bunches of twigs, seeding grasses, if available, and green food to the bird.
I find the practice of chewing, particularly by the hens, makes them most eager to breed. I am certain the hens benefit from the contents of bark and leaves. Passing on to lighting, I make use of as low-voltage level of lighting during the hours of darkness at all times of the year. I find this helps to avoid injuries and deaths caused by night frights. It also reduces the problems in the breeding cage, when hens are incubating or feeding young chicks. I gradually increase the amount of artificial light from the end of August to the time of pairing up. This will artificially stimulate the birds metabolism into believing that spring has arrived, and breeding time is imminent. It must be remembered, however, that not every bird will be ready for pairing at the same time. More success is likely, by waiting a few days before pairing birds, so as to ensure both partners are in the peak of condition, both physically and mentally for breeding
Original text: Copyright 1997 Jim Hutton
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