Terry Tuxford Jun 01, 2012
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
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
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.
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 programme and so the difficulties have to be accepted and attempts made to overcome them.
AWEBSA comments by Johan Lucas:
Terry Tuxford is in the article above providing very solid advice in 2012 and in my view still very important for us all to consider. My invitation to you is to take heed of it and perhaps also my experience below when deciding our pairs for the 2015 breeding season.
Many years ago the late Doc Alf Robertson gave me the following advice when I was rather apprehensive of the pair of birds he was about to sell me: “There are breeding birds and show birds my boy. Don’t buy show birds they are a waste of time. Look for brothers and sisters off good lines from good breeders and you will not go wrong.”
He drew me a mating map and said if I stick to that and with no fatalities I should be able to produce offspring capable of winning a show in four years’ time! Well having not much else I could do (my dream Grey Green still sitting in the aviary) I stuck to the plan and 4 years later had best Intermediate Young Bird on the National Show with a Cinnamon Opaline Grey Cock bred from this line.
This system is normally is bit slower but the rewards longer lasting. Establishing a solid foundation later provides the backbone of greater heights in exhibition and quality.
His views on flecking are perhaps even more relevant today. Many flecked birds are doing the rounds and are often marketed as essential to improve studs.
In my view avoidance of using flecked birds is better than using them in a breeding program of in and or line breeding.
A very popular practise these days are to use Cinnamons to “clean up” flecking in exhibition budgies.
I watched a rather lengthy video of budgies in the wild a few days ago. I could not identify a single individual bird with flecking on the cap. Thousands of budgies were on display in a majestic fly by and later roosting in trees and shrubs.
I again then questioned why the wild budgies do not display the flecking characteristics? Surely they have been breeding and in-breeding over many decades?
On the show bench many Societies have now developed guidelines to establish what percentage of flecking would be allowed to win awards or not and in the process deviating or compromising from the standard. The argument has been that if these birds are barred then we will have a massive reduction in numbers of birds exhibited on shows.
There are many arguing for the use of these flecked birds and perhaps creating a market and some beginners paying the school fees associated with this practise.
Photos courtecy of Reinhard Molkentin
My experience is that flecked normals should not be used and agrees that many good quality cocks are available that there would hardly be a need to use a flecked cock bird. Opaline hens with moderate flecking and deep mask and huge spots could be useful as a once off mating.
Line and in breeding with such a bird would just entrench the flecking even though some of the offspring may appear to be clean. I have mated together birds totally clean which has produced offspring with severe flecking. This flecking was introduced via a similarly clean outcross.
Whatever your view, my recommendation is that you should consider the above next time you decide on your top mating’s.
I would also be keen to hear your views on the matter. Let’s share more, engage more and consider what is good for the enhancement of our wonderful little bird, the budgie!