[custom_headline type=”center” style=”margin-top: 0;” level=”h1″ looks_like=”h2″ accent=”true”] Breeding Room to Aviaries[/custom_headline]

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How to set up a Stud/Aviary[/feature_headline]
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[accordion_item parent_id=”faq-1″ title=”Build Your own Stud – Jason Walker”]

Build Your Own Stud

Jason Walker – Jun 01, 2012

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The aim of this article is of help when you contemplate your next cull, buying your next outcross, or when considering your potential breeding pairs for the next breeding season.

It is fair to say that genetics and some terminology associated with breeding budgies is not commonly understood nor practiced by many of us. It has been said that breeding budgies is a combination of Art and Science; the Science being genetics and Art being visual. Some successful breeders achieve success by fully understanding and applying genetics while others will succeed by applying their visual skills, which can unknowingly also aid genetic stabilisation. I am convinced that only a small percentage of fanciers fully understand how genetics work. I envy those who do understand it, but have seen the proof that success can be gained without having to have the privileged knowledge of understanding genetics.

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There has also been confusion over the years as to the difference of In-Breeding, Line-Breeding and Closed Flock Breeding. The fact is that they are the same. It’s just that some have a more ‘Politically Correct’ name. Basically they all mean; the mating together of related specimens with a goal of achieving the desired looking stud of birds.

Applying this method can produce great success in a reasonable time, and is best achieved if the birds used are of very good quality to begin with. If average stock is used then little will be gained quickly because the undesirable traits of an ‘average quality bird’ will also become more stabilised and will be harder to get rid of.

Ready to Upgrade

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For the beginner, or anyone who isn’t entirely satisfied with their progress to date, the following is worth pondering. Retain or purchase a selection of the very best birds possible, based on availability and price. Try to purchase from a known successful breeder/exhibitor or exhibitors. If you are not otherwise advised by the seller, pair up your new birds based on visual quality only and keep good records.

After your second or third breeding season you should be seeing a pattern forming and should have a very good knowledge of what birds, and breeding combinations, have worked better than others. If satisfied with your efforts and if show results are noticeably better, then retain your best stock and sell the rest. The ones you retain can now be more seriously used to establish your Line Bred stud of budgerigars.

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Culling hard (and wisely) is an important ‘must do’ to maintain a desired quality stud. By culling we mean sorting out for sale i.e. not to be used in your own breeding plan but may be ideal for someone else to improve their stud with. There may well be a need, or suggestion, to buy in another bird or two from time to time to improve upon your already now developing stud. This is referred to as an Out-Cross (someone’s Cull), or in other words, a bird brought in to achieve a desired effect.  This can be advantageous but this same bird can also bring in a lot of other ‘hidden’ traits that you may or may not want in your stud.  Choose Out-Crosses very wisely and do not buy birds just for the sake of it.

Have Goals and Stick to Them

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As an International hobby, we would hope that everyone’s goal is to breed birds looking like their pictorial ideal. We must also remember that some breeders do specialise in certain varieties and sometimes focus on the specific characteristics required for that variety, before considering the ideal shape and size specifications.

This has its merits and in time we all hope for an all-round quality bird (regardless of variety) that is in accordance with the written and pictorial standards and requirements..[/accordion_item]

[accordion_item parent_id=”faq-1″ title=”Aviaries & Breeding cages”]

coming soon.[/accordion_item]

[accordion_item parent_id=”faq-1″ title=”Preparation before Breeding Season starts – Larkwood Aviaries”]

Cleaning program before breeding: Larkwood Aviaries

This works for us and have been tried by a number of other fanciers who found it to be extremely helpful.

One key aspect is that we must keep the birds as far as possible of their droppings. It is arguably the biggest transmitter of Megabac and many related troubles.

We try and have all the birds in flights or stock cages. We then handle them as follows:

Phase 1:

  • All the birds receive a drop of Ivomec oral behind the neck and are treated with Carbo dust. We have recently also put it in the water with similar results
  • Clean aviary with F10SC
  • Spray Aviary with Ivomec solution as per specification or another to deal with mite etc.
  • Phase 1 should be done on one day and on the same day kick off with phase 2.

Phase 2:

  • Remove grit from the aviary.
  • No soft food or greens
  • 5 ml per 5 litre of F10SC in the drinking water. It keeps well and do not go off like normal medicine. One can also use other medicine like 4 in 1 available from Medpet for example. However we found the advice from Onderstepoort of using F10SC to be excellent. It works and it is far cheaper when compared with other costs.
  • 14 days continuous treatment
  • Once a week clean aviary with F10SC solution
  • Once a week spray Aviary with Ivomec solution as per specification or another to deal with mite etc.

(Phases 1 and 2 take two weeks)

Phase 3 (days 15 to 21):

  • Once a week clean aviary with F10SC
  • Once a week spray Aviary with Ivomec solution as per specification or another to deal with mite etc.
  • Replace grit the aviary.
  • Soft food but no greens other than herbs like fennel, rosemary and mint
  • Probiotic in the soft food.
  • 7 days

Phase 4:

  • Once a week clean aviary with F10SC
  • Once a week spray Aviary with Ivomec solution as per specification or another to deal with mite etc.
  • Introduce more protein to the diet as well as fertility booster
  • Greens and fruit as per normal
  • Probiotic in soft food
  • Apple Cider vinegar 3 times a week. 5ml to litre of water or continue with F10SC
  • 7 days

Phase 5:

Birds should now be ready to be paired up.

We do this twice a year.[/accordion_item]

[accordion_item parent_id=”faq-1″ title=”Pairing Skills – Terry Tuxford”]

Pairing Skills

Terry Tuxford Jun 01, 2012

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Selecting pairs of budgies, which breed youngsters of quality, is a skill which makes the difference between success and failure for the exhibitor. Occasionally luck occurs and produces a winner from an apparently poorly matched pair. However, producing winners year after year suggests that something more than luck is at work. Even so, when a carefully chosen pair breeds a top quality youngster it often also produces brothers and sisters which are not so visually appealing.

It is important to make a distinction between show birds and stock birds. Most show birds are well balanced and attractive to the eye and portray as many of the positive features of an exhibition budgerigars as is possible.

A good stock bird however, has a surplus of some feature such as height above the perch, browiness and thickness through the neck. Unfortunately, countering the excess of a desirable feature there is usually a fault such as bad wing carriage, so giving the impression of imbalance.

Chicks of Less Quality

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Nature has the habit of regressing from an excess and the outstanding features of any Budgerigar tend to be diluted in its young. Even two well-balanced show birds usually produce chicks of less quality than themselves when paired together. Loss of size is the problem most often encountered in the young of such matings.

Spreading desirable qualities through a stud dilutes them. If we could find a way of increasing a desirable quality we would have solved the problem of consistently breeding top quality livestock, but nature is not so obliging.

When selecting breeding pairs today we must take into account flecking, which was not so much of a concern when I first came into the fancy and we cannot afford to ignore it in the breeding room. Intelligence needs to be employed when using flecked budgerigars in breeding programmes or else we could lose the beautiful clean caps that the best exhibition birds possess. Many breeders believe there is a link between flecking and quality, and this is much stronger in hens than it is in cocks. Hens with grizzled caps are often far ahead of their clean counterparts in respect to overall head qualities and size.

This is far less true of cocks. Grizzled males are seldom ahead of clean ones in quality. For this reason it makes sense to limit the flecked Budgerigars in the breeding team to hens, which also ensures that flecking is limited to one side of each pairing only. Even this is not completely fool proof as some Budgerigars carry the fault of flecking recessively in hidden form.

No Place in Any Stud

Quality budgerigars that are flecked can bring benefits to a stud but flecked individuals of only average quality have no place in any stud at all. Some fanciers buy in a flecked budgerigar in the belief that quality is always allied with the fault as they believe that their studs will be improved. In most cases they may increase the size of their budgerigars’ throat spots but the problems they introduce completely outweigh the benefits. A flecked headed hen will often produce clean headed cocks but which in turn breed dirty-headed daughters.

It would be best if all pairings consisted of two clean headed partners but unfortunately such individuals capable of breeding winners are few and far between. If they can be obtained they are priceless and should never be put with flecked partners.

When selecting pairings, my considerations are influenced mainly by what I can see followed by what I know about the family from where they came from. When an outcross is brought in, more account must be taken of visual properties due to your lack of knowledge of its pedigree than that of one of your own birds. Some breeders will bring in an outcross but then use it with the lesser quality birds in the stud. This is just crazy because if a budgerigar is worth obtaining then it is worth the best partner you can find.

Getting Down To Basics

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Whatever methodology you use in selecting pairings in the bird room you need to get down to basics. Each of my breeding cages is fully prepared with sufficient food and water to minimise disturbance of the pairs for their first few days together.

The cocks in my breeding team will have been selected as a matter of course in the months prior to breeding through daily observation. My first consideration is overall quality and only the top cocks are used for breeding. Some pairings select themselves because they were very successful the previous year. I have heard it said that little progress will be made if pairings are repeated from year to year. My view is why change a good thing when you’ve got one.

The cocks are placed into their breeding cages and the most suitable hens are selected from the flights. Of course fitness does govern the timing of this activity. It is usual that the best cock is paired with the best hen but even so, this does not often produce the top quality youngsters. Top quality budgerigars are paired and produce chicks which are useful but not outstanding. The best youngsters come from the young of the top quality parents from the following year. So the budgerigars retained and used for breeding are not always the best looking ones. Very often it is the brothers and sisters of the most striking individuals who breed the specials winners. This situation has been confirmed by breeders for many years.

A Change in Partner

Once paired and seen to be getting on together, the budgerigars are left. To get full eggs followed by chicks requires the cooperation of both the cock and the hen and if a pairing fails it can be either bird that is at fault. There are times when a change in partner is needed. Some cocks just do not have the libido to stimulate the hen into successful mating. I am never too quick to return a hen to the flight as a failure. I try another cock as a partner first.

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Introducing a new partner to any budgerigar calls for vigilance in case there is fighting and this is even more important when one partner has already reared a nest of chicks. In my experience a hen which has reared accepts a new partner more readily than a cock in the same situation. To minimise the risk of problems it is best to put the pair into a cage which is new to both the cock and the hen. However, make sure the nest box is in the same location.

Many of the problems encountered during the course of the breeding season are caused by imposing your selection of a cock to a particular hen. Of course doing this is essential to any pedigree livestock breeding program and so the difficulties have to be accepted and attempts made to overcome them.[/accordion_item]

[accordion_item parent_id=”faq-1″ title=”Breeding Problems – Gerald Binks”]

gerald-binks-321-black     Gerald S Binks | May 25, 2012

We often hear about “Cabinet Reshuffles” in connection with Governments in order to bring about, one always hopes, a distinct improvement.  On the other hand it’s an admittance that “we got it wrong the first time – nobody is much good at what they are doing”.  To some extent this analogy applies to the aviary.  Very often we find pairs sitting there and being totally uncooperative when it comes to doing any work, which come to think of it, could be cause at the Ministers as well!  There is nothing else for it – we have to have a re-pairing session and do a similar cabinet reshuffle if matters are to improve.

Gerald Binks Bird Room

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Why are such pairs inactive?  The causes are fairly numerous.  There is the obvious assumption that one or both of the parents are out of condition or too young.  That may be true, but look further than that.  What exactly happens when a bird comes into breeding condition or otherwise and what are the stimuli which cause it?

Chemical messages or ‘hormones’ as we know them, are liberated into the blood stream, from what are known as the ductless glands, which as a group, form the “endocrine system”.  The science of endocrinology is of great value to both human and veterinary science.  Some of you will be familiar with the fact that iodine is a necessary factor which has to be included in the diet for budgerigars in order to assist the thyroid gland.  This gland is one of those which form the endocrine system.  However, it is not the thyroid gland with which I am concerned in this article.  The two main ductless glands that cause our birds to stay out or come into condition are the pituitary, gland and the gonads which form the sex organs.  The pituitary which is sited in the mid brain area, controls the complete functions of all the other endocrine glands.  It is in fact the conductor of the orchestra.

Pituitary Gland

The effect of light, specifically the increase in its duration and intensity, has a great effect on the reproductive cycle.  This triggers the pituitary gland.  The hormones from many of the other endocrine organs entering into the blood stream, and the subsequent displaying, mating and the production of crop milk are the result.  Under our usual ‘artificial conditions’ where we house our budgerigars, the nutritional factors are involved in the health and reproductive ability of our stock.  Interestingly enough, latitude plays a part in determining laying and such related activities.  In poultry, peak production is in April, whereas in Australia and New Zealand it is in October.  These months both correspond to the ‘springtime’ in both latitudes and coincide with an increase to a point where the longest daylight occurs.

So light, whether it is artificial or daylight has a big bearing on matters.  This in fact has raised a point in my own mind.  We have one block of 12 breeding cages, which relative to the other four ‘blocks’, does not breed so many chicks as the others.  I should think we have more “cabinet reshuffles” in that block, certainly over 50% per annum, than elsewhere.  Why this is so eludes me, but it is certainly in the darkest section of the aviary from first light until the artificial lights come on at 1600 hours.  What is important is the gradual lengthening and shortening of the daylight in the reproductive process.

Nearly Dark Nesting Box

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Gerald Binks Nest Box

There has never been any doubt in my mind that budgerigars, while needing the stimulation of lengthening hours of light, also need a dark or nearly dark nesting box.  Many hens are totally disinterested in those nest boxes which are facing the light.  The interior is too well lit, the hens do not feel secure and the knock-on effect is they have no desire to lay.

Next we must consider each of the sexes.  It may be that you have a line of cocks or hopefully only the odd one that is sexually indifferent to any hen, preferring the company of his own sex.  It is an established fact that homosexuality in birds does occur, but happily they are in the minority.  Similarly there are cocks which are just plain lethargic.  If they are like that, no amount of displaying from the hen will achieve any response from such a bird and the end product is both birds sitting there doing nothing except look at each other.  This situation can easily be the other way round; the hen being the guilty partner.  She may be young, may not have associated with the males since she was 4 months old and may be thoroughly ‘put off’ by the whole experience.  This is why I have stressed before that the hens have to be left alone with the nest boxes accessible for three days, before the cocks are introduced.  It greatly helps to avoid the problem just mentioned, if they have had 3 days of ‘nesting stimulation’ before their mates arrive.  At least you have a much better chance if one of the partners is ‘on the boil’ to start with.

We then have those hens which appear to go to nest, swell up in the abdominal region, their droppings being loose in the normal way, but at the end of the two weeks following pairing, there is no sign of an egg.  These, the fanciers call ‘internal layers’.  If you feel the abdomens, all you feel is the increase in the size of the ovaries etc. but no signs of anything firm like an egg.  Is there an answer?  In a word – no.  You may as well get the cock working with a more reliable hen and press on.  Such hens are very irritating, but in my experience they are best left in the flight for a few months and are then tried again with what I call the ‘problem group’ at the end of the breeding season.

Infertile Eggs

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Checking Eggs For Fertility

Of course we have those pairs which produce infertile eggs.  Very often one will find the first egg infertile, unless one adopts the procedure I do with the hens prior to pairing.  However this is not to say I do not have pairs with completely infertile clutches – far from it.  One of the reasons of course is that some hens become ‘box bound’.  The hens remain in the nest boxes and deprive the cocks from the opportunity to mate.  Some fanciers have been known to close off the nesting holes for five minutes each day to allow the cocks to fertilise such hens.

Round, smooth perches are another cause.  Years ago when our pedigree birds were much small than they are today, such smaller, light weighted stock could easily mate on a round perch.  However, big, massive show birds, in particular the hens, are unable to grip on such a perch when mating.  A square perch is a must for all breeding stock today enabling the hens to grip easily and feel secure.  Another reason for infertility is the number of ‘buff’ or coarse feathered birds we possess today.  Such birds have great length of feather and this can preclude successful mating, if this feather around the vents is especially dense.  Some fanciers, knowing this, deplume the offending feathers in the areas prior to pairing.

Infertility can of course be caused by a vitamin deficiency, namely that of Vitamin E.  However it should not be a problem because grain contains Vitamin E in its fatty part.  Sometimes Vitamin E is called the anti-sterility vitamin and it is found in abundance in wheat germ oil.

So these are a few of the problems which may occur during any season.  Do finally remember some birds do not like the colours of their partners.  Birds can see colour beyond doubt and there have been innumerable cases of hens not liking their partners because their body colour is not suited to them, or vice versa.

With all these problems you have to take some form of action and try the offenders with different partners.  ‘Cabinet re-shuffles’ are a necessary evil, but the sooner you affect them, the better chances you will have of success.[/accordion_item]