Pairing Up Techniques

I would like to draw attention to the techniques that experienced fanciers associate with the introduction of the individual partners to one another.

There are variations applied to this process by the fancier.

In some way one technique is better than the other, but it has to be admitted that both should work to a degree, but which method is likely to give you better fertility is the big question?

It is not for me to sway opinion, but for the reader to choose which technique he or she prefers.

Change of Partners

Let us look at what happens when a pair is selected and both are put into the cage with the nest box open.

We hope for the best, but frequently the birds know one another within the flight beforehand and they could easily have “lost” the partners they chose themselves and have now been thrust together with a “stranger”, like it or not!

The likely outcome, more often than not, is that they both sit there and nothing happens. The cocks themselves are not so disturbed by this sudden change, but usually the hens are distressed even though it may not be obvious.

If they are cocks that have mated already in the flight that day, they will not be too anxious to mate again having ejected their sperm. As Napoleon said to his wife, “Not tonight Josephine”!

On the other hand our active male bird may well be very fit and wish to pair but the female may have other ideas.

Box-Bound Hens

Our hen will see this active male cavorting up and down and flying between perches, but she is affected by, to her, a disturbing new situation suddenly thrust upon her and is nervous, on top of which she is a maiden hen who has not a clue what mating is all about.

She may also be very young – by which I mean 7-8 months of age – and all she can see is this “mad” idiot flying all the place and she doesn’t want to know.

Such things can easily result in infertility even if the stud as a whole has been perfectly attended to nutritionally since the last season.

I should mention here that experienced hens that have previously bred, know the ropes and quickly spot the box and are interested very fast at exploring the site again. That also can allow her to be indifferent to the cock bird and she becomes what we call “box-bound” and she stays in the box for long periods. The cock, even if fit, is ignored and another clutch of clear eggs appears.

In The Wild

We, as fanciers, tend to forget what our budgerigars do in the wild and the conditions that have to be present before breeding will commence.

Let me enlighten you.

The two factors that are essential are water and seed and their being available simultaneously. When these are not present, budgerigar flocks will miss a complete season and not breed.

The other fact is, and few realise this in our hobby, that the wild budgerigar females fly ahead of the males and find the nesting sites they prefer. They thus get used to their breeding nests and all that is missing are the potential mates.

Several days will pass and only then will the cocks come swarming in to choose their mates which emerge from the nests like crazy birds, dying to be mated.

A Better Technique

So, is there a better technique than the one first described above, that simulates the natural wild procedures within our birdrooms?

This is the big question, but we have to copy the wild hens’ approach first of all by reproducing their habits and this made sense to me so many years ago.

By putting the hens into the cages first of all, they are given time to settle into a strange area which will eventually become the territorial area. Such hens now have time to explore, find the nest boxes without being stressed by a sexual male crazy bird and see where the water and seeds are situated.

How long should the period be before the cocks go in? I used to allow three full days, but in recent years I now allow 48 hours to pass.

I have the selected cocks – around 60 in my case – situated in the middle row of the stock cages which are surrounded by the breeding cages. Thus the hens can hear them, the nests have been explored and their hormones are racing round fast in their systems until they are bodily screaming for sex. Our male readership will be smiling at this thought!

Seriously though, the separated cocks will also be without females around them, with whom they mate with in the early mornings. Note: if you have dark mornings, such as we have in the northern hemisphere, make sure that your lights are on for two hours from approximately 07.30 hours.

After 48 hours, you will be able to drop in the cocks that you have selected for the hens and once done go off to work and leave matters alone.

The hens will emerge like rockets, tails up and eyes dilated, and you are off to the best possible start.

Yes, there may well be some infertile nests, but you have played your part and simulated what happens in the wild to the best of your ability.

A Variation

Some breeders apply a variation of the above “Binks technique” and close off the nest boxes when the pairs are both put in the cage together.

Others place a piece of thin cardboard across the nest entrance forcing the hens to chew through to gain access.

Both good practices, but they miss allowing the hens to be on their own for 48 hours and you now know what happens when you are patient and follow that practice.

Be Patient and have a Mental Marker

Fanciers tend to rush things when pairing up.

They should be trying to be pairing every pair with a purpose. “Best to Best” is fine to a degree, but you should have in your mind exactly what sort of bird are you trying to breed that can rival the best birds ever seen.

Les Martin’s Grey Green is a marker, as but one example to work to.

Budgerigars in the past 8 years have changed drastically and some would say to an alarming degree.

A few have, with the desire for length of feather, gone over the top resulting in an ugly appearance far removed from what Jo Mannes (pronounced Man-ess) describes as “charming budgerigars”.

Happily, there are very few like that but the danger is there, so the skilled breeders will be treading carefully with width of face, length of feather and a watchful eye on type and shoulder at the same time.

Not easy at all – so we all face another “Challenge”.

Square Perches – Not Round

Finally, I must mention that square perches are essential in the breeding cages, not narrow, round perches.

Budgerigars select their favourite places on the perches to mate and, with the big birds we have today, hens given round perches are unable to grip firmly, especially if the perches are slippery with constant use.

So square perches, including the perch on the nest box, are the order of the day.


Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, let me leave you with this thought – one I cannot answer!

I have been breeding budgerigars now for 70 years and I have see them change from immediate post-war pets to the qualities we have today.

In all those years, I have noticed that it is the lesser quality birds one has, that are the ones that breed more easily than the top pairs.

That said, think about it.

The birds that are our lesser quality birds today, are far ahead of our best birds years ago, yet the same pattern applies. The lesser ones still breed more easily in 2011 than our best ones.

I don’t know why myself and that is why I frequently say: “I know nothing about budgerigars”.

Enjoy your breeding and have full eggs, perhaps with a different technique and patience!

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About the Author: Gerald Binks began breeding budgerigars when he was 12 years old and is now arguably the most knowledgeable budgerigar fancier in the world. He has bred his fair share of Best in Show birds, judged in no less than 20 countries, founded the World Budgerigar Association, and has published two of the three classic books on the hobby. His stud in the UK attracts fanciers from near and far and is always high on the list for those wishing to purchase BA23 quality budgerigars.

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  1. Dear Gerald,

    Beautiful article providing not only techniques but beyond!

    Thank you.

    Habib Ur Rehman, Pakistan

  2. Mazahir says:

    Wonderful article Gerald.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with everyone – there are not many who would do that.

    I would like to share something as well. I believe breeding and keeping birds has a lot to do with observing your birds as well. You honestly never know what might work. Some of my pairs that I was forced to stop breeding did not breed for a long time until they came into better condition.

    Simple things like just changing their location worked instantly. There is so much that you can do.

    Thank you again for sharing your knowledge.
    Regards,
    Mazahir

  3. Ninu Chandy says:

    Dear Gerald,

    Thank you so much. I had difficulty with my pair.

    I will definitely take your comments seriously and try my best to get success.

    Your experience and wisdom is something great!

    Hats off to you, Sir.

    Thanks again,
    Ninu Chandy, India

  4. David Church says:

    Hi Gerald,

    Just to say thanks – I have been having problems with some of my pairings and, after using some of your tips, everything is working perfectly!

    Regards,
    David Church, Ireland

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