Budgerigar Breeder Profile – George Booth UK

George Booth started with Budgerigars in 1950 when he was given a pair as a 7th birthday present. These were initially kept in the porch of the house. Later more birds were added and they were moved into a small flight and cages in a shed in which his father kept Border canaries. He also kept a few pairs in an outside aviary breeding on the colony system. George kept his birds like this for about nine years, showing them on a number of occasions at the Skegness CBS member’s shows. When George left school he lost interest in the feathered variety of birds and sold them all.

Having settled down and married, he moved toScunthorpein 1969 and started to get a collection of birds together again. These were originally housed in a brick out house and then eventually in a wooden birdroom measuring 8 feet by 6 feet. This aviary contained 12 breeding cages and a small indoor flight. This small set-up proving to be very successful, breeding approximately 50 birds per year, and in his first full year as a Beginner in 1970, benching Best Beginner Breeder at about 16 shows.

Personal problems caused him to let a friend have his birds and he move away from Scunthorpe to Stourbridge in 1972. George soon bought another birdroom, originally 15 feet by 10 feet. This was replaced about 12 years ago by a structure that is now “L” shaped, measuring 27 feet along the back wall and 22 feet along the leg of the “L” shape. It contains 40 cages, 2 small flights and 2 larger flights. It is equipped with automatic lighting, heating in the form of oil filled radiators, extractor fan and air filter.

George said, “The hobby has changed during these years, mainly in the quality of birds that are now being shown at our shows. Perhaps the greatest change has come in the amount of additives that we are now being bombarded with. Almost monthly new products are being marketed, advising us that this product is now the answer to all our problems. This I feel is perhaps some of the cause of our present day problems. Possibly we should get back to feeding a good quality diet and leave the “chemicals” where they originated; in the laboratory.”

The fancier that had the greatest influence on George’s early years in the fancy was a little known fancier from near Scunthorpe called Gordon Clowes. Gordon supplied him with all his birds of quality in those early days and gave him many pieces of very good, sound advice. Two of these have been re-counted to many fanciers visiting my aviary during the years. One was that “you will only get out of the fancy what you are prepared to put into it” and the other was “treat every fellow fancier just as you would like to be treated yourself”. He will never forget Gordon’s advice and hopes that his involvement and standing in the fancy today is very much because of that help and advice.

Management

George takes up the story. My daily routine varies very little throughout the year. My first task of the day is to feed and water the birds. Checks are made on the general well being of all the birds, whether they are in cages or flights. Seed is fed in three separate dishes. One contains a plain canary seed, supplied by George Bucktons that is enriched with vitamins; another dish contains mixed millets and the third one tonic seed. A good quality grit, cuttlefish and iodine blocks are also available. Even during the non breeding season the birds are given a limited amount of soft food which consists of groats soaked in a solution of Colloidal Silver mixed with a soft food mixture and any vegetable (finely chopped) that may be available. You will perhaps gather from my earlier remarks that I am not a fan of additives, but recently I have been trying a new product produced by Meriden Animal Health called Orego-Stim Avian Complete. This is a 100% natural product and is added to the drinking water. To date, I am had an excellent breeding season with a better rate of fertility than I have enjoyed for a number of years.

I have two flights, one houses my proper coloured birds (normal greens) and the other my other varieties (pretty ones) which consists mainly of a few other normal colours, and spangles. Cocks and hens are all housed together and although I don’t really worry too much about a set number of birds, I always hope to have at least 50% more hens than cock birds.

I used to have an outside flight that was covered in except for one side but I realised that once the birds were paired up and the weather was cold it was very seldom used. It has now been converted to form the leg of my “L” shape bird room, thus providing another inside flight and a further six cages.

The Breeding Season

I have two kinds of breeding cages; half being the traditional wooden construction with wire fronts and the others being the newer all wire type. After using the all wire cages for a number of years, there appears to be no difference with the breeding results from the two types of cages. The one main advantage of the all wire ones is the ease of cleaning. I have the ones with the removable trays and I find these are very quick and easy to clean.

My nest boxes are all of the outside type, measuring 9inches long by 6inches wide and 8inches high. These all have deep concaves and sterilised sawdust/shavings are used. I do have a number of other styles of box as I find occasionally if a hen doesn’t take to the usual boxes then a change to a different style sometimes does the trick.

My daily routine does not vary much whatever the season. My first task in a morning is to just check around all the birds to make sure all are fit and well. Then in the breeding season I will carefully check the nest boxes and any chicks in them to make sure that they have been fed and if necessary move any chicks to other boxes if possible. I then feed and water the birds and finally clean and tidy up the aviary.

The birds are fed on a similar diet all the year round. The only difference in the breeding season is that they are fed softfood every day, when they are in the flights they get softfood only twice per week.

Any birdroom needs to have plenty of fresh air to ensure a good atmosphere. I have an extractor fan fitted at one end and in the middle of the birdroom a Safari Select Air Cleaning System. I am always amazed at how much dust this takes out of the atmosphere and it is my intention to fit an additional filter in the near future. The door and windows are open every day unless the weather is very extreme.

If the birds are in breeding condition the flights are full of noise and activity. I keep the sexes mixed together and I am sure this helps with their condition, especially the hens as they are kept moving about by the cock birds “chasing” them about. If a bird is in breeding condition, it will be very active, very bright eyed and can often be seen “sparking up” to birds of the opposite sex. Hens especially will also be chewing anything that they can find.

Trying to keep a good line of normal greens, I pay quite a lot of attention to the pedigree of birds when I pair up, but irrespective of pedigree, birds must be visually suitable for each other. It is no good pairing up two birds with the same fault even if they are suitable in other ways including their pedigree.

I prepare the cages and then put in my selected cock birds, after the cocks have been in the cages for about a week to ten days I introduce the hens, leave them together for about five or six days and then place the nest box in position.

I never mark eggs unless I have to move them for any reason. A very good friend told me years ago that whatever you do to an egg will not help it become fertile or hatch, but certainly by handling it you could cause all sorts of problems, especially if you are careless enough to drop it! I don’t put up pairs especially as fosters but I do move chicks around if necessary and I always try to “even up” the nests by moving chicks about after they are rung to leave birds of similar sizes in each nest and also if possible similar numbers in each nest.

If a pair produces a complete clutch of clear eggs I leave them until they would be due to hatch, then I clear the nest box out and leave them to lay another round. If the next round proves to be clear I will either change one or both of the pair.

I handle the chicks as often as possible in the nest, and if possible they are checked both morning and evening. I like to check that they are well fed and that their beaks and feet are not fouled up with either food or droppings. I like to see a youngster that is well fed and has plenty of size when it is just a couple of weeks old. Then as it develops I watch for a good width of head and plenty of feather developing. Usually if a chick shows plenty of width, size and feather at about three to four weeks old then it should develop into a useful bird. Any promising looking chick I mark on the nest card and any chick so marked would never be disposed of until it had fully moulted and matured.

I like to leave the chicks with their parents as long as possible, and sometimes, if there are no problems, this may be until the next round is due to hatch. The chicks are moved to a small flight for a few weeks and then into a larger flight when they appear to be feeding and growing well. When they leave the nest boxes they are given millet sprays to eat in addition to all the normal diet and these are also made available in the flights for some time.

I use nest box cards during the breeding season then the records are all transferred into a breeding register that lists ring numbers of birds, their colour, sex, date of hatching and parents. I can trace quite easily every bird I have bred since staring to keeps birds seriously in 1969. However progress is starting to catch up with me and I have recently purchased a computer program to keep my records on.

Exhibiting

I have had numerous successes on the show bench (later ones listed on the copy of my website http://www.championbudgerigars.co.uk). Those giving me most satisfaction being the ones won with normal greens. I like to support most of my local shows and would normally look to enter about 16 to 20 birds.

Sadly I am not the best at preparing my birds. But I do try to cage up a number of birds a few weeks prior to the shows in order for them to put a bit of extra weight on. I spray the birds with cold water two or three times a week and if I am really into getting them ready, I will shampoo their heads a couple of days before a show to make sure their feathers around their heads and faces are nice and clean. I trim the masks with scissors which I find is better than pulling the spots as pulled spots grow quite quickly whereas cutting the feathers will last until the bird moults again.

I don’t employ any specific training method. I think by handling the birds as often as possible in the nests will help them become steady later on and more importantly. I am sure good show qualities can be bred into our birds just the same as any other desirable quality. I do have a set of three training cages which I utilise by putting some of the promising youngsters into for a short while whilst I am working in the aviary.

On return from a show the birds are put back into the same cages they were in prior to the show, and these cages would have already been supplied with plenty of all the seed mixtures usually fed to the birds along with a fresh supply of water. The birds are then left to settle back down into their familiar surroundings and routines.

Never Make The Grade

There are always a few youngsters that you feel will never make the grade and these are disposed of as soon as and when possible. Other birds are kept until they fully moult and then the decision is made as to which are kept and which are to be sold. Any birds that were marked up as being promising in the nest box are always kept until I can be sure of their quality. I would rather keep these birds a little longer than usual rather than risk making a mistake. You can always sell them later, it takes a very good friend or a lot of money to get one back if you’ve made a mistake!

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About the Author:

George Booth started with Budgerigars in 1950 when he was given a pair as a 7th birthday present.


He has been a member of the Budgerigar Society since 1970 and became society Chairman in 2008.


In recent years, George has been involved in many aspects of the running of the Budgerigar Society. His efforts to rejuvenate The Budgerigar magazine have been appreciated by many and his constant appearance behind the Budgerigar Society stand at all Budgerigar Society events demonstrates his devotion to duty.

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  1. Very interesting profile of George Booth and thank you for sharing.

    Habib Ur Rehman,Pakistan

  2. syed asim ali says:

    very interesting profile of George booth.your birds are very healthy

    Syed Asim Ali,pakistan

  3. Hendrickx Dominique says:

    George thank you for this advice.
    very beautiful birds full health

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