Meet the BS Councillor – Gordon Grist UK

Gordon outside his Birdroom

Gordon Grist started breeding budgerigars as a teenager in Sheffield in 1958. This was initially with two pairs acquired from a breeder in Bristol.  Having reared two rounds, amounting to 20 chicks in two cages housed in his bedroom, his parents recognised that he did have an interest and sanctioned the building of an aviary at the bottom of the garden.  “My mother took a lively interest in the birds, my father tolerated them,” said Gordon.  The aviary was 8’ x 6’ with two internal flights, nine breeding cages and one external flight for the cocks. Cocks and hens were housed separately as they have been in all his aviaries.

Gordon’s parents retired in 1964, which provided an opportunity to move properties to the outskirts of Barnsley.  The aviary was dismantled, and for a period of 4 months the birds were housed in cages in one of the bedrooms of a newly built detached bungalow.  They stayed there until the aviary was re-erected in the spring of 1965.  Colours kept at that period were Clearwings, Lutinos some Normal Greens and Blues; about 40 birds in total and he was rearing 100/120 chicks per season.  “I was only a member of the B.S. at that time and showed around the local area, sending the birds by train from Sheffield station to the “faraway” places such as Gainsborough and Cleethorpes.”

In 1967 Gordon sold up as he moved to the Midlands because of work, his mother had passed away the previous year and as indicated his father had no interest.

Sixteen years later back in Yorkshire, now in Bradford, with his wife Lesley and two young sons he re-commenced in the hobby.  He acquired two pairs of birds from a local breeder in the village where we’ve now lived for over 40 years, high up in the Pennines in the area known as “Bronte Country”.  He housed the birds in two cages within the garden shed again at the bottom of the garden, bred about 20/25 chicks in the first season.  Fast running out of space to keep the increasing numbers Gordon acquired another garden shed 8’ x 6’, kitted out with 16 breeding/stock cages, two inside flights and two external flights.  To accommodate this shed he had to re-locate the soft fruit plants to an allotment in the village and dispense with the rose garden.  Most of this took place in 1984, which coincided with a change of employment, which fortunately was local.  That aviary continued until 2004, when he bought a larger shed, now 10’ x 6’ and comprising of 16 breeding stock cages, 3 inside flights and 2 outside flights and is still in use today.

Yellow and Buff

Gordon takes up his story. “Given the size of my previous and current aviary it won’t surprise anyone that I don’t accommodate a lot of birds. At non breeding time about 40/50, it used to be a higher ratio of cocks to hens, nowadays about equal.  From that number of adult birds I usually breed between 80/100 chicks per season.”

“Looking back to 1958 when I started, to 1982/3 when I re-entered the hobby, the characteristics of the budgie had obviously changed but as I’ve always been more interested in the “Yellow”, rather than “Buff” characteristics of budgie varieties. I found that Clearwings, for example, had not changed too much, they still appeared as they had years before.  Over the last 30 years there have been many changes, not all in my opinion to the best advantage of budgie developments or the progression or attraction of the hobby,” said Gordon

Inside flight

As I mentioned earlier Gordon was a B.S. member during his initial stint in the hobby and a member of Sheffield B.S. for a very brief time in the 1960’s. He has now been a member of the B.S. since 1988 and a General Council member since 2010.  He’s always had an interest in Clearwings and has been a member of the CBBA for over 20 years including it’s President and Chairman during the 2000’s and nowadays a Vice President. Gordon has been Vice Chairman of the Crested Budgerigar Club for the last 3 years; a Club he joined in 1990.  He’s an elected GC member of the Y.B.S., currently one of two Auditors and at local level an Honorary Life Member of Oldham B.S., past President and Chair.  He also represents the B.S. on the Management Committee of the National Council of Aviculture, with other B.S. members.

Gordon told me, “I sought election to the B.S. General Council to give something back to a hobby I had enjoyed for more than half my life.  I semi-retired in 1999, after 44 years in various administrative functions in a number of different industries, culminating in a senior executive position within the direct mail/retail sector.  I thought I could be influential in the culmination of the Colour Standards procedure, I wanted to drive forward recruitment and appeal, and with the new structure of the BS GC thought it provided an opportunity to participate directly in the further development of the Budgerigar Society.”

Budgerigar Management

Breeding Cages

Daily management during the non breeding season is no longer than 30 minutes.  That was the time he allocated when he was working, it hasn’t changed now he’s retired.  Versele-Laga premium seed is fed together with the same brand of canary seed. Groats are provided sparingly plus millet sprays, cuttlefish, iodine blocks and mineralised grit.  Once a week flights are cleaned and washed inside, outside flights less frequently.  Gordon has always had outside flights, “I know the risks, yes we do get Sparrow hawks, our neighbours have 5 cats, but as I am preparing for this article for The Budgerigar in mid March with snow falling outside (global warming?) the bird’s love being out in it and I’ve never washed a bird for years prior to showing,” he said.

Gordon’s breeding for the last two years has commenced in mid February because of holiday arrangements; the sunshine of Tenerife in January being quite appealing. Breeding cages are 24”x 12”x 15” deep, nest boxes with top entry holes, are placed within the cages, two perches are provided at equal height.  Sawdust is placed in the nest boxes, hens are usually introduced first, followed shortly afterwards by the chosen cock.  At this time of year he will spend a little more time in the aviary to see how pairs are progressing.  Feeding regime is as non breeding time, the only addition being the feeding of egg food together with grated carrot and pin head oatmeal.

Eggs are usually checked for fertility after 10 days and if all clear they will be dispose of and further laying allowed.  Gordon will foster eggs if an excess is apparent in a nest, usually more than 6 and he does mark them and notate movement.  Gordon added, “I will also foster chicks for a number of reasons, non maternal hens or again as with eggs if a large number of chicks of unequal size are within nests.”

Chicks from around 4/5 days of age will be handled, to check cleanliness, food intake, general condition. Record keeping is manual, details by cage of cock/hen, date egg laid, due to hatch date, number of eggs, then at chick level, date hatched, ring number, colour and finally sex.

Showing has always been a main reason for Gordon keeping birds – it’s the culmination of all the elements of the hobby.  He shows at local member shows, Open Shows in the North and the YBS Area Show well as the B.S. World Shows atDoncasterand judges in theYorkshireandLancashireareas.

“I’ve been fortunate to win CC’s, usually for Crests and Clearwings, for most years in the last 20.  Both varieties need more support and on many occasions I’m the only exhibitor, it doesn’t however stop me from showing them.  If you don’t put them up there, they can’t win,” said Gordon,

The Grist show team will usually comprise of 8 to 12 birds dependent upon condition.  They are housed separately in stock cages, sexes separated as well and prepared usually two days prior to the event.  Chicks are steadied by being handled initially and then introduced to show cages once they’ve been weaned and whilst in nursery flight.

The 2012 World Show results were encouraging, best Champion Whitewing cock A/A and best Champion Op Sky Blue cock Y/B.  2004 signified his status change to Champion and he won the Harry Bryant and Bill Read memorial trophies for Best First Year Champion Young Bird, with a Yellow-wing hen.

After showing the birds are returned they go back into the same stock cages, spray millet being offered in addition to normal feed.

Gordon really enjoys aviary visits, not just to view birds, but also to see how and what other fanciers use within their birdroom which may be beneficial.  “One thing I picked up years ago was from the late Vic Smiths aviary at Worral on the outskirts of Sheffield, Vic utilised clear plastic dividers in his breeding cages, an idea I’ve employed not just in my breeding cages but also to divide my internal flights.  They are easily cleaned, provide visual contact between pairs and do not preclude daylight.”

Now in his 70th year and having been a budgie hobbyist for nearly 40 of those years Gordon’s personal message is that you don’t need to spend all your time in the aviary and in these austere days you don’t need a fortune to enjoy this most absorbing hobby.



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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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