Myth Busters – As collected by Terry Tuxford – Don’t believe everything you are told!

Have you noticed how the “wisdom” which permeates our hobby is passed down virtually unchallenged through the years? An idea proposed by expert “A” in his “How To Breed Budgerigars Book”, is later picked up and endorsed by expert “B”. Then, ten years later, expert “C” gives it the final stamp of approval with an introduction that begins; “Experienced breeders recommend….”.

In this article I will be exploring these beliefs and exposing those that are little more than unsubstantiated opinion. Should any reader wish to contribute to these I eagerly await your input as we – “Bust the Budgerigar Myths.”

Egg, milk and milk powders are suitable bases for soft food.

Ask any laboratory worker and you will be told that one of the best mediums for culturing bacteria is milk. Remember too, that we are advised to ensure that the eggs are hard boiled. Well, my digestive system is reasonably robust, certainly more versatile than that of any Budgerigar but if you offered me the choice between a hard and a soft boiled egg, I know which one I would choose. We hard boil the eggs so that it crumbles and is easier for the birds to pick up, not because it is intrinsically better for them that way. Try lightly scrambling them next time you want to mix your soft food. You will find them easier to work with and the birds will enjoy them just as much.

Budgerigars are seed eaters, they consume very little else!

budgerigars_eating_mealworms

Budgerigars Eating Mealworms

Not true I am afraid. Budgerigars are cannibals at times. A nesting hen will happily consume a small chick which dies in the nest and have you seen what the flock will do to the corpse of a bird which dies in the flight? They always go for the head first – I wonder why? They will also snap up any insect or spider which is foolhardy enough to come within reach, a habit which can result in the occasional puzzling intestinal upset as the insect’s defenses take effect.

Strict breeding room, cage and nest hygiene are essential for the production of healthy chicks!

The consequence of this is that our birds have lost their natural resistance to disease and/or that the modern day infections and viruses are more virulent than those of yesterday. Both propositions have some validity and I am not going to argue that hygiene is not important but I do suspect that sometimes we get carried away and take our precautions to ridiculous extremes. I have been in birdrooms where the cleaning programmes were so strict that I was tempted to look in the corner of the cages for the miniature bathroom facilities, where the air was pungent with the odour of disinfectants and extractor fans whipped into the great outdoors all feathers and dust particles which the ionisers did not bring tumbling to the floors. I cannot help wondering whether the hygiene routines in such establishments are planned for the benefit of the birds or to satisfy the fastidious tastes of the owners.

I fear that we may well be inadvertently suppressing our bird’s natural resistance to disease. There was a time when our breeding pairs raised large numbers of healthy chicks in cages, nest boxes and bird rooms designed and managed to provide the most natural surroundings. The disturbance associated with cleaning were kept to a minimum – usually a quiet daily once over, followed by a more thorough clean out at the end of each round, when the comfort o the birds was paramount.

We all know the discomfort we feel when a house proud host or hostess straightens and rearranges the cushions as soon as we rise from the chair. Are we sacrificing the comfort, the piece and quiet of our breeding birds, controlling their environment and perhaps stressing them needlessly, to satisfy our concern about diseases which may, or may not, affect their health or our own.

Do not disturb the eggs in the nest!

We are advised that the hen will position her eggs carefully with the oldest towards the outside and the most recently laid towards the centre. Now that is interesting. Clever little creatures are they not? Do we really believe that a hen who will sit for up to 26 days on a clutch of infertile eggs, who will defend these useless products against all perceived threats and who clearly does not know when she is wasting her time, is somehow smart enough to successfully identify each egg in the clutch and rotate it according to some predetermined pattern?

Those of us who number the eggs in sequence as they are laid, can tell you that this apparently logical theory is almost certainly a fiction. I inspect the nest boxes twice a day and I can assure you that I have never seen an identifiable pattern in the way the eggs lie in the nest. Egg number one can be found this morning in the centre of the clutch with number two and five. This evening it may be towards the outer in company with numbers three and four. The egg laid today may be in the centre of the clutch, but it can equally be found at the very outer edges. I suspect that rather than following a well planned rotation routine, the hen simply becomes uncomfortable, rises, shuffles and turns her clutch indiscriminantly and then settles on them again. If we accept the alternative propositions that the shuffling is completely random, then the ultimate effect would be the same as if the hen had followed the suggested imprinted behaviour.

When fostering eggs or chicks, beware of possible rejection by the receiving hen!

healthy_chicks

Healthy Chicks

Another over-stated danger. It has been my impression over many years of successfully transferring both eggs and chicks that Budgerigar hens cannot count. It is clear that most Budgerigars have very little idea of either quantity; the number of eggs in a nest, or capacity; the size and feeding demands of their clutches. Show an incubating hen an egg and she will sit on it. Put a hungry chick in the nest, assuming its age and size are similar to their own, the pair will feed it.

In the days when I took the experts advice and closely supervised all transfers, I experienced the occasional rejection. I suspect that I caused most of the trouble myself by disturbing the foster pairs. Now I leave them well alone and have few failures.

Budgerigar breeding, like all livestock hobbies, is meant to be enjoyed. Of course we should do everything in our power to ensure that our charges are well cared for, kept free of sickness and diseases and given the best possible housing. Let us not forget, however, that they are birds and not humans.

Send your busted myths to the terry@budgerigarworld.com

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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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  1. Usaid Ahmed says:

    Thoroughly informative
    looking forward to see how this article shapes up with more contributions from the fanciers all over the world.

    regars

  2. A very nice article Terry and agree with Usaid fully informative and hobby directly supporting science of entertainment through wisdom and shall try to update about Myth Busters.

    Thank you.

    Habib Ur Rehman,Pakistan

  3. Hil Chapman says:

    A really sensible article which reinforces my own opinions and observations. I hope this is widely read and your sound advice goes on to help many other bird-keepers. Thank you.

  4. Delia Smith says:

    Added to that is that ‘leading selling brands’ of bird supplements are the best so my birds are getting the best.
    Its a wonder they do as good as they do inspite of these. The best supplements for anyones birds are the ones chosen for those particular families of birds, living in their unique birdroom environment, subject to the weather of the country they live in. With time and observation, every budgerigar breeder is capable of making the best choices leading to the the best results for them.

  5. Delia Smith says:

    Added to that is that ‘leading selling brands’ of bird supplements are the best so my birds are getting the best.
    Marketing is a game of perception not of quality. Supplements chosen by a breeder for his particular families of birds, living in their unique birdroom environment, subject to the weather of the country they live in will go much further in getting satisfactory results.

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