We decided to start keeping exhibition budgerigars again in 1991, after a few years out of the hobby due to business commitments. I first joined ‘The Budgerigar Society’ in 1976 and have been a fully paid up member ever since. We are a father and son partnership and try to make decisions jointly, although Andrew now works at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in Surrey at present. As previously mentioned decisions are made jointly especially when it comes to selecting pairing, outcrosses and sales birds. If one partner wants to keep a particular bird then it always stays.
Our original stock came from the partnership of K&D Whaites. Ken on completion of our bird room in 1991 gave us over seventy birds. Yes he gave us the birds to which we will always be grateful. We were also fortunate enough to buy the stud of Harry Smithies when he left the hobby. This stud had a similar bloodline to the birds we got from K&D Whaites and consisted of mainly Opalines and Opaline Cinnamons. Around the same time we also bought a few birds from Peter Johnston in particular a opaline cinnamon grey cock and a dominant pied sky blue hen. On numerous visits to the stud of Doug Sadler in Hampshire a few birds were bought including Australian Goldenface’s, Greywings and Spangles. One of these a spangle grey cock bred very good birds for us, three of which were spangle grey cocks all brothers and all with special features (all our spangles plus many normals can be traced back to the original spangle from Doug). Two birds with a Joe Mannes pedigree were obtained indirectly via another breeder in 2003. Birds have been introduced from the very famous stud of Gerald Binks in Surrey, as were a few birds from Neil Harvey prior to him packing up the hobby. Some top quality birds were added in winter 2007 from the father & son partnership of Reinhard & Holger Molkentin (South Africa), these included a few lacewings. At presant there are only a handfull of birds in our breeding team with other breeders rings on, the rest are home bred.
Our birds today have the above bloodlines in various combinations but are two main families firstly the Opalines and Opaline Cinnamons, the second family is the Normals, Cinnamons, Spangles, Dominant Pieds and Yellow Faces. In recent times the two main families have been crossed with very positive results in terms of the quality produced.
Today’s stud consists of the following varieties in various colours Normals, Cinnamons, Opalines, Opaline Cinnamons, Spangles, Yellow Faces, Lacewings and Dominant Pieds. Preference in on quality never colour as we feel it more important to keep and breed off only the better birds.
Our birds are housed in two large flights in the none breeding season, the birds are mixed ages and sexes as budgerigars are very social the younger birds learn from the older birds. This helps keep the birds active and prevents them getting bored. In the past the adult birds were kept in a separate flight and then a few weeks before pairing up the sexes were split up. We always keep twice as many hens as cocks, this is a back up.
As with all live stock observation is a major key to success, the sooner you spot a possible problem the sooner it can be solved. Every bird must be looked at several times a day, if any look slightly fluffed up or of colour they must be caught up for a closer inspection. Medication is not always necessary usually separating the bird from the main flock for a few days giving it lots of soaked millet sprays and the usual food helps. Once the birds looks fine again it can be returned to the main flock, but a watchful eye must be kept for a few days. Breeding pairs with eggs/chicks should be carefully monitored, a good tip is to place the back of your hand on the eggs to check they are warm enough. Any cold eggs should be moved under another pair straight away, but carefully warm the cold eggs in your hand for a few minutes before moving them, as hens may notice a cold egg being placed under her.
Routine aviary management is very important, the birds get used to your routine. At the entrance to the bird room there is a disinfectant mat that must be used prior to entry. On entering the bird room each day the nest boxes are inspected then the rest of the birds are observed looking for sick birds or something that is not quite right. The bird room floor is hovered as are all the work surfaces, the inside of breeding cages are never hovered during the breeding season. The corners of each flight are hovered using a battery operated hand held Hoover, this removes the moulted feathers and husk preventing then being blown around. A fresh lot of seed and vegetables are prepared and then fed to the birds, all the previous days left over feed is thrown away. The water is changed daily and replaced with fresh purified water. All work surfaces are cleaned daily. Cleanliness and hygiene are very important but remember it’s not a hospital we can go over the top. A stud which is feed a good balanced diet with bio security measures in place with good ventilation usually contains birds with an adequate immune system to keep them healthy.
Another part of the hobby we both very much enjoy is visiting other fanciers bird rooms. We learn allot from this and look in great detail at everything from there set up, feeding regime, pairings to overall stock quality. For me a sigh of a top quality stud is imagining the stud without its top twenty birds, are the birds left good quality with the desired features there to be seen or does the standard drop away. unfortunately there are not many of these top quality studs around, but if you find one in my opinion these are the studs to buy outcrosses from because there birds have quality in the background and these breeders do not breed from poor quality birds. In effect you are getting a bird with generations of quality in its bloodline. You may have to sell alot of birds to be able to buy in a quality outcross or as your birds get better you will have birds that other fanciers want, then swaps can be made. Sometime you have to be prepared to let a good bird go inorder to get the special bird you want.