Learning From Past Experience – Part Two

I recently discovered an interview that Gerald made with Fred Sherman sometime in the mid-1980’s.

I would estimate the interview to be some ten to twelve thousand words in length and I thought it would be such a waste to let it sit gathering dust.

So with this in mind I have collated the interview into segments.

This is part two – part one may be read here.

I hope you enjoy it.

Feeding, Cod Liver Oil and Showing

By Fred Sherman (deceased)

Cod liver oil - Click to enlargeThe next thing I would like to talk about is feeding, and this is really relative to my coming to the UK in 1986, I want to talk about cod liver oil.

I have a very good friend in Johannesburg, Peter Needham. I used to visit Peter often in the early days when I was a novice, really because we were novices together and I have never seen so many French Moulters in my life.

He had cages and cages of French Moulters and when Gerald Binks came out to Rhodesia and South Africa for the first time in 1979 he put Peter on to a feed containing cod liver oil. The ratio was half a teaspoon per 12 pounds of seed and most of Peter’s troubles went away. He bred very few French Moulters and I did the same thing and I didn’t breed many French Moulters either.

I went along with Gerald’s suggestion and fed, exactly that ratio. Then I went on leave, and I never used to go on leave, especially during the breeding season, but my daughter graduated from the University in South Africa so I had to go down leaving the birds with my chap who looked after the birds when I was away.

This guy was totally illiterate, he could not read nor write, but he was a hell of a good worker, so he could never do anything with the birds except feed them. He could change the seed but unfortunately I left him to mix the cod liver oil. When I came back from a week down in South Africa, I noticed that the levels of cod liver oil in the bottle had gone right down, and I have never seen so much French Moult in my life. So that was overdosing and I have never used it since.

I tried to save the youngsters, pulled their flights out, and put them in Dettol, but eventually I got rid of about 56 youngsters.

As an interesting little aside to that, there was a very good breeder in Harare. He bred some very good birds, and there is a lake up there known as Lake Kariba. It is a big man-made lake and they stock it with little sardines (which are similar to the whitebait you get in the UK) created as a protein filler for the black people in the country. This chap fed fish meal to his birds and he never got French Moult.

So what does it tell us? He is filling his birds full of fish meal and we give them cod liver oil and get French Moult. I think it is just a personal thing but it gave me such a fright I stopped using it.

The other thing about feeding in southern Africa is it is not easy to get hold of bird seed. We used to grow canary seed in Rhodesia but they don’t any more, they grow it in South Africa. Seed is not easy to get hold of, so when you hear about seed you buy it and sometimes you have to buy a whole lot of seed you don’t really need.

Basically, we feed a mixture of millet and canary seed, usually two thirds canary seed and one third millet. Some chaps go 50-50 but it is a matter of individual preference. The nice thing about living in the UK is that you can get whatever seed you want. You just phone up somebody and they deliver it.

Nest Box Talk

I had an experience in Rhodesia many years ago. I sold some birds to a chap who could never get the hens to breed, so there was a story going round that: “I sold him hens that wouldn’t breed and when I catch them up I do something to them.”

What that was supposed to be I do not know! He just couldn’t breed with the hens and then one day he was visiting and I had just bought some new breeding boxes and the old ones were lying on the floor. He was busy building a new aviary and said do you want these? I said if you want them take them – I think there were about ten.

He took them to Bulawayo put them up and my hens bred in those boxes. He had had the hens for two years and I believe it is something to do with the environment and I think if you are buying hens from somebody and they won’t breed, try using the same type of nest box. It certainly worked for this chap. The nest boxes I use are the double boxes, a box within a box about 8″ by 5″ (20 by 13cm) about 8″ (20cm) high.

A little bit about the Fancy in South Africa and Zimbabwe. It is not strong in terms of members but I think people are quite dedicated there. They work very hard and all put their shoulders to the wheel when there is a show.

We have meetings on Sunday mornings rather than the evening and these are at various fanciers’ houses where we have sandwiches and snacks and a bit of a get together. They bring their wives and we have a guest speaker or a lecture and also little table shows. We have the opportunity of seeing the chap’s aviary and looking at his birds.

I think the spirit that is created is good, and of course we have different weather there, but often we have a barbeque and make a day of it. Maybe we have lectures in the morning and a barbeque, then a small table show in the afternoon. We also use that as an opportunity to train judges, and put up classes of birds and get the young chaps in and get them to judge. Even the beginners and novice – we get them judging and get them going right from the beginning. It comes in very useful.


The shows here are not frequent. There are about four a year in Zimbabwe, six or eight in South Africa.

I tend to go to the South African shows, but we can’t show in Zimbabwe because of the political situation. It is unfortunate because I think it would be good for both countries if we were to show. There are some very good birds in South Africa and there are also some very good ones in Zimbabwe.

We have four sections of exhibitor in South Africa – Junior, Novice, Intermediate and Champion.

The junior section is for under 16’s. If you are over 16 you go into the Novice and then have to score points with your breeder birds in exhibition for promotion through the sections. You have to score 400 points to move from Novice to Intermediate – and remember, only breeder birds score points for you.

The points are 5 for a first, 3 for the second, 2 for the third in class plus so many for a colour award and others for best breeder in section.

It is reckoned it takes four years, although some guys do it in two. So you have to score 400 points even if it takes you forever. Then you become an Intermediate and you have to score 200 points in these classes for promotion to champion.

I think it is quite a good system because it means fanciers have to show and show breeder birds. Records of each fancier’s points are made and are published in every monthly newsletter and after each show so everybody’s points are there to be seen.

In terms of maintaining status, you only go down if you stop showing; you don’t go out because you don’t win, you stay a Champion. However, if you don’t show for two years, you go back to Intermediate and have to score the points again.

Dr Alf Robertson

When overseas, I am often asked about my experiences with Dr. Robertson.

Dr. Robertson became a bit of a legend and was a very good person. What I liked most about Alf Robertson, apart from his birds, was talking to him because he had the ability of applying his medical knowledge to budgerigars – and that to me was very fascinating.

As far as his birds were concerned, he was another man who inbred extensively and almost exclusively. His light greens and grey-greens were really superb. At one time I thought they were a little bit short in the body, but he got hold of some long flights and these were true long flights. I saw one cock, I didn’t see the other one. It had three long tail feathers, nine primary flights, and was overall about 10-inches (25cm) and tremendously long feathers. I saw an opaline grey that he bred out of this and really it was quite an outstanding bird, one of the nicest birds I had ever seen.

These long flights sorted out the shortness of the body. Alf Robertson was clever because some guy didn’t know what he had when he had these long flights, Alf saw them and used them.

I told Alf that I thought he ought to go to England, and I told him to go and the see other birds. However he was very parochial, very much the king in South Africa, in fact, he was undisputed budgerigar king.

I don’t think he was quite as fanatical as Harry Bryan was, but almost. He did not have the drive to win, he just waited to breed good birds and did not care about showing – he got switched off by shows.

Respecting Fred’s point of view about cod liver oil and its application, it is easy to overdose this fish oil and cause French Moult, so that is why a minimal amount works really well and produces a season virtually free from French Moult, with perhaps only one or two nests, out of 60 pairs, when the hens get tired, getting French Moult.

Also, if you feed without cold liver oil for most of the year that is fine, BUT should you start giving it just before you begin to breed, the change of the seed causes the birds to reject it and their internal metabolism nutritionally goes down instead of up. This allows the French Moult virus, which behaves like a normal human cold, to get started and French Moult comes out in droves.

A little all year round is safe.



Filed Under: BreedingProfiles



Terry Tuxford About the Author:

Terry Tuxford first began breeding budgerigars in 1979 and joined the BS in 1980. He was elevated to Champion in 1985 when he went into partnership with Brian Poole. This partnership is probably one of the longest existing partnerships in the UK hobby today having lasted some 27 years so far and is still going strong. Terry and Brian are also partnered by Yvonne Tuxford who joined the BS in 1990.

Terry demonstrated his penmanship early in his budgerigar career and wrote in the second edition of Budgerigar World. Little did he realise then that in just over 8 year’s time he would become editor following a 20 month apprenticeship with founding editor, Gerald Binks. Terry went on to edit a total of 245 editions up to May 2011.

In 1993 Terry took his Budgerigar Society Judges final examination and was awarded Subsidiary Judge of the Year and has gone on to judge the Budgerigar Society World Show on three occasions as well as many top shows at home and abroad. He is also an accomplished speaker and has been a guest at societies throughout the UK as well as Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and many other European countries.

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