Sheppard & Flanagan – Part 2 of 2

Acknowledgements

This original version, now edited for international appreciation, was written by Rod Skivington and is reproduced with his kind permission and acknowledgement to the The Budgerigar Council of Victoria Inc.

GSB

Introduction by GSB

This is the second of a two part profile of the Sheppard & Flanagan partnership – one of a group of important studs that now exist in Australia. Part one introducd Bruce Sheppard and Colin Flanagan and described how the partnership was formed. Part two gives an insight into the breeding methods employed by this highly successful duo, and asks them for their comments on the Australian show scene.

Well-designed Birdroom and Aviaries are essential

There are literally a hundred matters to consider when constructing a birdroom and aviary.

Bruce and Colin have gone down different paths here – Bruce has changed little of the birdroom over the last thirty years, whilst Colin has relocated many times due to work commitments and has been continually building new birdrooms and aviaries every time he relocated.

They both said the key considerations are:

    The Flanagan breeding room
  • Face aviaries eastwards, so that birds can capture the morning sun daily
  • Insulate the birdroom against both the summer heat and the winter cold
  • Clear roof panels can be painted white to reflect the heat and still allow light in, this has significantly reduced the sun from heating up the birdroom
  • It is essential that a birdroom has good ventilation
  • Aviary floors must never be permitted to get wet, they must remain dry
  • Aviary lofts are a great way to feed vegetable and citrus foods that are damp and will be discarded and fall outside and not mix with droppings, this is now a common design feature for all of their aviaries
  • Take care in the birdroom layout to enure efficient daily routines, otherwise the routine will take time away from your birds and desire to improve the stud
  • Fresh and clean drinking water must be convenient
  • Cages and breeding boxes must be large and well ventilated
  • Extending daylight utilising timers is essential for both the birds and the carer
  • Provide a 24 hour night light (15W pilot lamp) allowing birds to find the breeding box if disturbed at night
  • A radio that provides a constant background of noise so that other bumps in the night are less of a threat
  • A well sealed birdroom will prevent mice from disrupting the breeding season and seed storage must be kept clear of fouling from mice etc.
  • Hawks need to be kept from the outside wire, this can be easily achieved with shade cloth
  • Vacuum aviaries weekly and clean birdroom floors daily to keep the dust down
  • Water and seed daily

Feeding and Maintaining our Birds is critical

Feeding of quality budgerigars is a science according to Bruce and Colin, they both have a strong ethic in this area which has been developed over decades, and they expect that their programs will continue to develop as more is understood.

  • Seed – Golden Cob Premium Budgie, daily
  • A large variety of other seeds are provided on a regular basis
  • Multi vitamins are a regular additive
  • Softfood is not fed
  • A wide range of vegetables and fruits are fed on a regular basis, offering something daily
  • Clean water daily or more often in the summer months, Bruce prefers large drinkers in the loft, while Colin prefers large glass bowls on the floor

The Breeding Season

Management of the pairs during breeding season is very important if you are to maximise your opportunities and in turn produce more and more each season.

  • Bruce and Colin refer to themselves as traditional breeders, that is they pair up on the Queens Birthday weekend in June, take two rounds, and in turn empty and clean out the birdroom by the Christmas break
  • Checking pairs twice a day is a minimum during the Breeding season
  • Establishing foster pairs early, when you recognise some pairs are not feeding well enough, or too many chicks in the same nest the same age, or more than 4 chicks per pair, you need to start moving chicks to save them don’t hesitate
  • A strong culture of accurate record keeping is essential
  • You must repeat the same pairing each year if they continue to breed you great chicks or even a National winner each time, it may seem simple enough, but many breeders feel they can do better and change the pair!
  • Trim feathers from both the Cock and Hen and if need be then in between rounds is equally important
  • One difference between the two establishments is that Colin does not wean his youngsters from the parents “until the babies are almost ready to breed”, but Bruce takes the babies away “almost before they can fly” as he believes that this assists in a reduction of possible scalping incidents in the breeding cage and rarely loses a chick because it has been weaned too young

The Real Priorities in Building a Competitive Budgerigar

    Sheppard & Flanagan - Best Clearwing ANBC 2009
  • Right back from the days of importation it was clear that the main feature of this stud was going to be strength of shoulder, and this key feature remains the highest priority for the partnership today
  • The bird must fill the cage and literally be a hand full
  • Mask and spot are very important and again need to be presented on the wide shoulders to catch their eye
  • Birds must be truly representative of their respective variety
  • If you want to improve your specialist variety, always put your best Normals into this line to breed splits. Only use a split to recessive when the split is better than the recessive. Never use inferior normals to breed splits
  • Bruce & Colin consider that flecking has it’s place in the stud, and ticked birds are often shown when birds of the same quality but clean are not available, so flecking is very acceptable and can in fact be an advantage if managed well
  • It is important to be ruthless with hens that do not perform, the hen is so important for the number of and size of eggs, fertility and feeding, you need to be able to trust the hen that you are about to put with your best Cock Bird. You also need to trust her with fledgling chicks while you are at work during the day

The Australian National Budgerigar Council Inc. (A.N.B.C) National Show

Q: Why has Victoria dominated the Nationals for many years?

Both New South Wales (NSW) and South Queensland have been within a class of winning on many occasions, it would not take much for either of these two states to have won in recent years.

At his point, however, it is worth mentioning that the introduction of the “champion” status in Victoria some 10 years ago has stimulated many exhibitors to strive for the highest membership status. To remain in the champion section you win 30 points each year to maintain a presence otherwise you drop back into the open section.

Getting into the champion section is a bit like improving your golf handicap, while staying there becomes very personal indeed. Consequently there are many more birds on the bench, the birds have improved and less people have exited the fancy because of these new challenges.

Q: Are there too many varieties at the Nationals?

Victoria expanded the shield competition for a number of reasons but one of these reasons is not well understood.

By increasing the number of specialist variety classes, so too, you increase the number of first places on offer. Winners are grinners, more people have more opportunity, more membership points and more people are happy!

So, increase the fancy, increase the number of winners and increase the number of grinners. Therefore, increasing the number of classes at the Nationals would follow the same philosophy.

Q: Do overseas judges add to the National competition?

Spangle cinnamon grey - C Flanagan 2009Overseas judges are good for the fancy in Australia, particularly when they add value through feedback whilst visiting and judging at our shows.

By commenting on the comparison of the quality of birds benched in the UK versus Australia, we can get good feedback on where we are deficient to the UK birds or where we compare favourably.

For example at a recent National, comments were made about some of our lesser varieties (i.e. Blackeye and Clearwing) being “true to the standard” for these varieties. Where the actual variety was almost lost to the UK.

Also, the winning Fallow at the WA National was stated as being “the best Fallow I have ever judged” from a UK judge.

Q: What benefit do you see in having an optional third bird benched per zone at the National competition?

This would increase the spectacle but most importantly allow exhibitors, who often manage to get a bird into the zone team only to see it left as the reserve bird on the day, to feel a sense of achievement.

Points, like at the Victorian Shield competition, would only be allocated to the first two birds from each zone, but, instead of having the bird left in the holding cage, you may still be the 3rd best bird in Australia for your particular variety.

Even with the smaller zones, imagine the boost in confidence and pleasure one would get when just having a bird in the National.

Regardless of which zone, often this extra bird is from a beginner or intermediate exhibitor and this would enhance their profile and assist in generating further interest from their fellow club members to strive for success in future years.

The Victoria Scene

Q: The Adult Shield

The Sheppard & Flanagan Partnership does not show in the Budgerigar Council of Victoria Inc. (BCV) Adult Bird Shield to enable other Mountain District members the opportunity to get more birds into the Shield competition.

This allows them to obtain Exhibitor Points where they may not be able to do so when the Partnership has 3 birds in the team.

Another reason is that showing should be a focus for your “current breeding stock” and past seasons’ birds (i.e. Young birds and Unbroken Caps).

Q: Exhibitor Points?

Sheppard and FlanaganCurrent points to enter and retain Champion status should be increased to reduce the ease of obtaining Champion status through one or two birds.

Points required should be increased to 100 or 120 points per three year period as the number of points available now compared to when Exhibitor Points were introduced is substantially higher.

One option may be to also increase the number of points available by giving points down to 6th place at the Shield competitions and / or giving points for Best Opposite Sex at Diploma Shows.

Other Comments

Q: 1st September Ring Issue

The Sheppard & Flanagan Partnership sees no reason to change their “traditional” approach and will continue to pair birds up on the Queen’s Birthday weekend, even with the change to the ring issue.

Just because the rings arrive on 1st September, does not mean you have to put a ring onto a chick on that day!

Remember, you don’t have to change anything if you don’t want to.

A whispered comment was heard that the ANBC almost got the ring issue right … it should have been two months earlier … i.e. 1st July! Then the full circle would be complete (for those that are too young to remember, many, many years ago our rings were issued on 1st July each year.)

Q: Judging

It is often difficult for judges to judge certain varieties when they have never bred the particular variety, particularly when it comes to some of the lesser varieties.

If you have not experienced the results of breeding certain features or varietal characteristics then it is difficult to comment on these factors on the exhibition specimen.

Q: Dwindling Membership Numbers

Sheppard & Flanagan 3rd green 2009It was interesting that some experiences from their early days in the fancy, that have vanished in more recent years, may have attributed to our falling membership numbers.

There is no real formal education programme to learn varieties, husbandry or how to improve quality through breeding programs (i.e. Line breeding, etc).

Many new members also want “instant successes” without doing “the hard yards” and achieving success through a number of years of work.

Mentor programs or aviary visits incorporating some sort of training programs may be of assistance.

Also, the target “new member” is no longer the teenager or youngster – due to modern electronic and technological completion – but should be the young family or older generation who no longer have kids to look after but yearn for a hobby to keep them occupied.

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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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