My Life With Budgerigars

I began working with budgerigars in 1970, when I was thirteen years old. Like many breeders, I began with a few of pet birds from a local breeder who collaborated with my mother. Seeking exhibition-quality stock was a logical development, and I was fortunate to get four pairs from Warwickshire breeders Bob and Malcolm Rathbone. Before joining the Budgerigar Society in 1972, I raised these birds for a few years. I went to the Rathbones shop around twice a week, assisting them and learning the fundamentals of caring for my budgies. My initial Rathbone stock came from the extremely successful Trigg partnership, which was one of the finest studs in the Midlands at the time.

Early Success

As a junior, I fared quite well, culminating in third place for best junior breeder at the 1972 BS Club show in Leicester. It’s a shame that there are so few youngsters coming through and becoming active these days. I advanced to novice in 1973 and started college about the same time. My father stepped in to take care of the birds. Unfortunately, I was unable to continue, and I sold my shares in 1975.
It is the one thing I regret most about my time with budgerigars. My birds would be much better today if I had persisted. My experience is not unusual, since many beginners and amateurs now have maintained budgerigars in the past. I really feel that once you have budgies in your blood, they will always be there. If you are a novice considering quitting, I would advise you to persevere. It will pay off in the long term.

I married in 1981 and was laid off barely two weeks later! During this time, I spotted an advertisement in the local paper selling zebra finches for sale. I had some spare time, so I created an aviary and eventually added cockatiels, red rumps, and rosellas to the zebra finches. I added a pair of budgerigars in 1982.

Original Shed Returns

My relative acquired my first shed when I gave up early. It was returned to me since it was no longer required. In 1984, I rejoined the BS and also became a member of my local organization, Nuneaton CBS. Unfortunately, the Rathbone partnership had abandoned the hobby, so I was unable to get supplies there. Colin Putt lived near me and advised that I contact Mick Payne if I was searching tor some “Trigg blood”. I went seeking for one couple and came back with four, all of which had bred. I visited many times until, tragically, he, too, abandoned the pastime.
I relocated to my current address in Kidderminster in 1987. My present birdroom is 10 feet by 8 feet. I could need a larger birdroom, but there isn’t much room in my yard to expand. I just have sixteen breeding cages and keep around twenty-five cocks and thirty-five hens.

Actually, the limitations imposed by my garden’s size are not wholly negative. Starting with a little stud and working your way up has a lot to offer. It encourages a much more selective approach. Starting too large might result in inferior birds being kept just to fill extra cages. A compact setup also ensures that taking care of your stock isn’t a burden. Most working folks cannot devote more than two hours every day to their birds. When you have a huge stud, it’s much simpler to miss a sick bird.

My illumination is fluorescent, but you may be surprised to find that I don’t have a dimmer or a nightlight. Heating, I feel, is frequently done for the benefit of the fancier rather than the birds. I had more dead-in-shell and addled eggs than usual the year I gave heat. If the winter is harsh, I’ve discovered that breeding outcomes improve. Do the hens clutch the eggs more tightly? Despite the lack of heating, the shed is well insulated, and the temperature never drops below 45 degrees.

Get Involved

I’ve always been willing to do administrative work. I was a founding member of Atherstone CBS and served on the committee when I was a junior. Nuneaton CBS hired me as patronage secretary in 1984. Anyone who believes there are too many rosettes at a budgie show should apply for that position. I joined the Worcester BS in January 1989. I was on the committee one month later!
I am now the Chairman, General Secretary, and Show Secretary. I’ve gotten a lot out of my engagement in administration and would encourage other individuals to try it. Jobs are seldom as tough as they seem. There are many knowledgeable individuals prepared to assist. One task is not difficult, and your club meetings are just another opportunity to discuss and learn about budgerigars.

I’ve been feeding Trill since our club purchased ten bags to fulfill Trill patronage requirements four or five years ago. Mv birds appeared to like it, and breeding outcomes increased as a consequence. My sixteen pairings produced one hundred and twenty chicks on average.

A bowl of Turners tonic seed is also fed. On alternating weekends, groats and oats are fed. I soak the oats for 24 hours before draining them. I add a teaspoon of cod liver oil to the groats. This is an excellent opportunity to include cod liver oil in your diet without overdoing it. Take caution not to overdo it on vitamins. Excess vitamins may be equally harmful to birds as a lack of vitamins. All year, grit, cuttlefish, and iodine blocks are available.

Reluctance To Take Softfood

I’ve fought for years to persuade my birds to eat soft food. I’ve experimented with EMP, bread and milk, and Trill’s breeding diet. Some birds have picked at the plates, while others have entirely disregarded them. Hunibrite provided a tub of their product to all National class winners last year. I carried three tubs home and, by accident, all of my pairs liked it when it was served in finger drawers. I’m not sure whether it helps, but my birds seem to like it. Groats and milk have had some success as a softfood, but you must change it everyday to keep the milk from spoiling. Hunibrite has the extra benefit of not needing to be mixed.

Keep Costs Down

It is wise to not run before you can walk. Also, strive to be economical with your money. To that purpose, I created a separate bank account on the advise of my wife (who works in a bank!). All proceeds from bird sales are placed into this account. I would suggest everyone to do this; otherwise, the money you get from sales will be squandered! When you need to buy an outcross, it damages your wallet needlessly.

Find a breeder or two that are willing to take a chance on you. Participate with them to acquire reasonable breeding birds. Be prepared to persist with it for a few years, since your finest benefits may not be seen in the first year. Aim for a better outcross from the same source next year. I battled for a few years after Mick Payne quit the activity, and the birds did not perform well. Previously, I had only dealt with linked stock. A full outcross may be fortuitous, but in my experience, the quality can take a time to make its way through. Once your own stud has improved, you may only need to import one trait, such as spot size. Except for the Recessive variations, such as Recessive Pieds and Clearwings, I preserve them all. If you’re just starting off, I recommend starting with Normals, Opalines, and Cinnamons. These go well with Blue, Pied, and Spangle. Surplus birds of certain colors and sorts will be simple to dispose of, lowering your costs once further. I would not specialize in any one color, but I do feel that some of the rarest types need some knowledge because to the difficulties in developing decent ones.

Judging – Another Experience

When I eventually achieved champion rank a few years ago, another facet of our pastime became available to me. As you can see, I like being engaged, so it was natural for me to want to try my hand at judging. I sat on the subsidiary panel for two years and was assessed by six different judges. Even if you have no plans to become a judge, the experience is invaluable. It provides useful insight into the finer topics that the judges consider. Many individuals are unaware of how little time they have in front of the court to impress. A first glimpse at a bird at a show may not often reveal the missing flying or opalescence that the judge notices upon closer inspection. I’ve learnt a lot, but I think I got fortunate with my evaluators.

If I had one little issue, it would be the height difference between the main panel judge and the trainee. I will always suffer till we have adjustable tables since the height is properly adjusted for the assessor. I trained with a judge who was considerably smaller than me. I had a terrible back towards the end of the day! In fact, I’ve always found it simpler to appraise a group of birds that are all the same color. A class of six Cinnamon Light Greens, for example, would be simpler than one of Cinnamon Greys and Cinnamon Blues. I’m curious if other judges feel the same way. I judged a cage-bird show over the club show weekend in 1994 and have another appointment this year. I had the notion that they couldn’t possibly locate anybody else who wasn’t coming to Doncaster!

Give Your Birds A Chance

When it comes to show preparation, I am a bit of a perfectionist. My baby birds are placed in a very tiny flight after they leave the nest. It is really three feet by two feet by two feet. They remain there until their first moult. A display cage is mounted to the flight. I know that’s an old technique, but it works. I sprinkle the display cage with millet spray twice a week to entice the juveniles. I don’t undertake any additional specialized training, although I’m a big fan of young stock and nest feather exhibitions. The finest training is provided by them. The birds are loaded into a vehicle, driven to the show, taught what a judging stick is, forced to stay in the cage for an extended amount of time, and subjected to a lot of noise. They are anticipated to perform much like the major shows later in the season towards the finale.

You cannot expect a bird to perform well in its first open exhibition if it has never shown before.

As the show approaches, I capture the young birds and put them in stock cages, which are four breeding cages lined up in a row. I’ve been spraying them with warm water every day for four weeks, starting four weeks before the performance. I start spraying the adults a few weeks before the performance, maybe two to three weeks. The water I use in the spray is quite hot since it will be a fine mist when it lands on the bird, and it will only be lukewarm at that time. Warm water helps remove the oil from the feather as well as any debris. Cooler water near the exhibit lets the oil to return, giving the feathers a shine. I cease spraying two days before the performance.

Hairdressing Scissors

I’ve adjusted my way of cutting my show team’s masks throughout the previous two years. I’ve started clipping the feathers instead of removing them since it looks nicer. Pulling too many areas might result in an almost bald region. Furthermore, the feathers grow back so rapidly that you risk blood splashed masks if you remove them again, and messy masks if you leave them alone. I cut my hair with extremely delicate hairdresser scissors. After a proper trim, the mask may not need any more maintenance for the rest of the show season. I wash the bird’s head and face with Johnson’s baby shampoo the day before the event. This brings out a wonderful texture on the head, particularly red-eyes, in my opinion. Depending on the bird, I may additionally clean the tail and wings.

I devote a significant amount of effort to prepare my birds for shows. I like to see things in pristine condition. Otherwise, there’s no purpose in bringing them to a concert. If one of the team members loses a slot or has pin feathers, it is simply not taken. I’d rather accept a subpar bird of the same color than a top-tier bird.

The same is true for my cages, which are cleaned after each exhibition. After drying, the cage is filled with new seed and the label is applied. The cages are then polished with furniture polish. Otherwise, the label will not stick. Finally, the bird is put in the cage. Returning to my prior concept of keeping things cheap, all of my cages were purchased secondhand and hand-painted. Texas eggshell white was used to paint the inside. Not a gloss, which might bother the bird with its reflection, and not an emulsion, which has a propensity to wash off over time. None of my twenty cages cost more than ten dollars, and none were painted within the previous four years. Unfortunately, there are always individuals selling, thus there are always possibilities to buy used cages.

If feasible, I like to take my birds to exhibits the night before, but for longer distance events, it is more easy to drive in the morning. I try not to exhibit any one bird more than four times, particularly hens, but I usually average around ten shows every season, including the local cage birds club events, which I like to support.

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