Exhibition Budgerigar: Selection and Setting up Breeding Pairs
Author: Rob Marshall – Avian Vet:
The selection process begins well before the first egg is laid when the fancier examines the breeding performance of the parents and grand parents.
The best fanciers then follow the progress of the chicks in the nest, because the vitality and potential breeding quality of a budgerigar is obvious to the observant fancier from a very young age.
Most of this vitality relates directly to the selection of the parents as a breeding pair, but also to the nutrition provided to the growing chicks.
The modern day budgerigar takes 6 weeks to fledge (50% longer than the wild bird).
The feeding parents must be much stronger and given much more energy rich food to cope with this extended breeding cycle and the chicks require a specialized feeding system to expose their full genetic potential as a show bird.
The breeding pairs are selected on:
- Breeding Records
Look to the records for evidence of lethal show faults (dropped tail and “nipped in the neck”). Good fertility and large clutch sizes are also largely genetically determined and passed on from one generation to the next. This heritable characteristic is a most important selection criterion. Look for the percentage of the chicks that fledge with feather problems. French Moult is a most important disease of the budgerigars. Look for this trend in certain family lines in an effort to identify and cull the original “carrier”. Observation
The best fanciers spend many hours observing their birds in the aviary and breeding cabinet. Observant fanciers develop an uncanny understanding of the needs and characteristics of the families they keep. Often they make intuitive decisions regarding the pairing of their birds, but their intuition is an understanding based upon the knowledge gained from years of observation. Vitality
The observant fancier easily identifies the most vigorous and fittest birds in the aviary and it is these birds that are chosen above all for breeding. Exercise, play, good quality food and sunlight are essential ingredients for the fitness required for successful budgerigar breeding. The birds are prepared both mentally and physically prior to breeding by feeding and health programmes. The most vital and energetic birds with breeding experience are paired first and a few weeks later the most vital young birds are selected. Youth
The wild budgerigar has prospered because of its ability to breed quickly and in good conditions they start breeding at a very young age. Their ultimate survival as a species depends on it. In the aviary, the young birds are the most vital and most appropriate for breeding quality exhibition budgerigars, but they need experienced older pairs breeding beforehand to get them started. Strong hens
Strong quality hens are the backbone of a successful breeding season. Just as the wild budgerigar hen is the most important partner in breeding success in the wild, so too does a strong energetic quality hen form the foundation for a successful budgerigar aviary. In the wild, hen birds have been seen mating with more than six cocks at a time.
- Family history (genetics) and desirable physical show features.
As a general rule it is still best to select a bird close to the pictorial model of perfection. There is a much greater chance of breeding the best show bird from a long dynasty of successful show birds. It is important to select the closest bird to perfection that you can get your hands on. This is the starting point for show success.
The simple fact is that the modern day budgerigar is susceptible to illness
The wild budgerigar has adapted and prospered for 4 million years in the deserts of Australia because under the correct conditions (rain) it is a prolific breeder.
The 4 million years of prolific breeding still remains in the blood (genes) of the modern day budgerigar and can be restored by providing it with exactly the same conditions that made the wild bird so successful.
We call this “Good Aviary Management”.
Get back to the basics!
Take time to understand the term “Good Aviary Management”
Good aviary management encompasses:
- The best feeding system provides, more than anything else, ENERGY!
Energy is the reason the wild budgerigar chick grows so quickly playing an even more important role for the modern day aviary budgerigar because of its increased feather and body mass. As well, the parents are feeding the chicks for much longer and the addition of nutritional supplements to balance the food equation has become a necessary part of breeding success. Also refer to Dr. Marshall’s article about feeding practices.
- A clean aviary, water and food.
The wild budgerigar has adapted to the open spaces and sun bleached soils of the dry inland. Like the aviary bird it is highly susceptible to unclean air (dust) and moisture. The most successful health systems incorporate “cleansers” into their health management programmes.
- A sound breeding system promotes a strong natural resistance by using strong vital breeders.
Natural Selection is the basis of the breeding success in the wild budgerigar and it follows that the same principles must apply to the aviary bird.
- The correct aviary design and bird numbers promoting security and proper rest.
Like us, the budgerigar becomes susceptible to illness when it is deprived of proper rest. The aviary environment must also be physically and psychologically stimulating.
- The wise use of medicines
The level of aviary management determines when and how to use medicines correctly. It is far better to rectify poor aviary practices rather than resort to medicines, because in the long run medicines cannot cure management mistakes. In poorly managed aviaries it is often better to avoid all antibiotic medicines and let the laws of nature and survival of the fittest to rule.
- Health programmes are used to improve breeding results and to protect the young birds.
The informed use of medicines as part of a preventative health programme dramatically improves breeding results and enhances the health and natural resistance of the overcrowded young birds. However, the medications must be used wisely, because the inappropriate use of medications can in fact break the good levels of immunity nurtured in the breeding season.