Build a Quality Stud

There are many factors to be taken into account when the time comes to separate a stud of budgerigars into two groups – those that are being retained and those that are to be discarded. Visual qualities, pedigree, age, sex and, even variety, must all be considered. Anyone who spends a great deal of time in the birdroom will, inevitably, assess their stock on a regular basis. Among the current year’s crop of youngsters there will be those that display their qualities so clearly that their provisional mates for the following season are noted down while they are still in nest feather.

Even in the best studs there are those that at first sight, seem to have little to offer. It is with this last group that mistakes are most often made.

Features

Listing the features required for a budgerigar to be visually an exhibition bird, risks being a repetition of the standard for the “Ideal budgerigar. but in practice, an experienced breeder takes in all of the points. both positive and negative at a glance. Obviously, excellent width of head and depth of mask are two of the factors that can be useful when determining if a budgerigar is useful, or outstanding. Both of these features depend upon the feathers being large. A short feathered budgerigar will never have a deep face, so feather is extremely important.

In our breeding rooms there must be a coarse-feathered partner in each pairing. For preference, it will be the cock. When you breed a super, coarse feathered hen you must try to breed from it, yet our experience shows that eight out of ten are a waste of time in the breeding cage. On the other hand, we find that eight out of ten coarse-feathered cocks fertilize at least a few eggs.

Hinged Tails

So feather type must come into assessment of which budgerigars to keep. Anyone who has owned large budgerigars has to accept that some of them slump over the perch for much of the time. Nevertheless, we are fortunate not to have any hinged tails. This affliction destroys the outline of a budgerigar completely, is not acceptable, not matter what other qualities are possessed.

Feathering

It could be thought that a shed full of buffs was a target to be aimed at, but once achieved, the following seasons would not see very many youngsters being produced. Although most buff-to-buff pairings are a waste of cage space, if one did produce, it could provide excellent future stock birds.

In my early days, I became frustrated because I could not get the type of budgerigar, with the type of feather, I was looking for. Because of this, I paired together two of the best examples of buff budgerigars I could find. I was very fortunate, they bred well and my stud took a gigantic step forward. Novices and Beginners should not think that buying budgerigars possessing many ready-made features is the only way of progressing forward.

Blood-line

Once the decision is made to retain a budgerigar because of its visual qualities, it is time to look at all of its brothers and sisters. If a youngster is outstanding, the rest of the family should be retained, even if some have faults, such as small spots and short masks. A few years ago I bred an outstanding Grey Green cock. It was one of twelve. Of the other eleven, ten were very good and the worst one was a grey cock which displayed none of the good qualities of the illustrious brother. I let a good friend have it, he paired it to a hen from the same line, and in the first round produced birds of similar quality as the very good brother. So it proves that the runt of nest can often reproduce as good as the best. There appears to be a cycle which involves exhibition quality lying dormant for a while, and then reappearing in a year or two, as long as the blood-line is kept together. Being too hasty to get rid of the worst specimens from a family can be a mistake.

Age

It is up to the breeder to make up his or her mind about the ages of the budgerigars to be used for breeding, but when a policy has been decided, it will influence the balance of which are to be retained and which will go. I prefer to use young hens for breeding, so if a three year hen is retained, it means it is a particular favourite. Any cock bird that is not a show bird is disposed of at the age of three and the prices charged for surplus birds reflect their age. For example, an adult hen that was unsuccessful in the breeding cage the previous year, is not sold, it is usually given to a Beginner to try.

Sex

The sex of a bird must also be taken into account when deciding whether to keep it. It is much safer to retain twice as many hens than cooks.

Colour and Variety

Although a minor consideration, colour and variety come into the reckoning. You require a balance, ensuring that you keep sufficient birds that are compatible, such as the fact that Normals will pair to any other variety, such as Spangles, Dominant Pieds etc.

Stand by your Decision

Once the decision has been reached to retain a budgerigar, it is not for sale no matter what offers are received. Always remember, it is easier to sell a good bird than it is to buy one of a similar quality.

Selecting which budgerigars to retain is one of a breeder’s major tasks and one in which it is so easy to make a mistake. There is little point in working hard to breed good budgerigars and then sell them, so that someone else achieves the benefits while you own stud stands still, or even goes backwards.

Building up an exhibition stud is a long-term task and selling the major components is a recipe for failure – as so many fanciers have discovered over the years.

A word of advice. If in doubt, keep it.

Original text Copyright 1997 Jim Hutton

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