Developing A System For Breeding ‘Rats’ – Gerald Binks UK

Over the years I have written articles on obtaining quantity as well as quality, from exhibition Budgerigars.  I also know that some breeders just do not believe it to be possible with the large exhibition birds we breed today, but I still beg to differ when one takes a stud of birds as a whole.  I am not talking about individual birds which just do not want to breed at any price.  I am discussing the season’s total at the end of a year when related to the number of pairings that have taken place.

Note, I say pairings.  It is not good enough to breed say, 100 chicks, and then divide by the ten cages you have available, if during the season some 16 different pairings take place.  To get an accurate guide as to your seasonal average, you must take the total pairings and divide that into the total number of chicks bred.

Since I wrote those earlier articles, I would say that the pattern hasn’t changed very much when it comes down to the final average.  Basically one has to evolve a successful system which can breed big birds.  It is easy to breed ‘mice’, but the ‘rats’ are more difficult.  How does one go about evolving that system?

A Complete Package

We have to remember that we all live in different parts of the globe and what may suit one country, may not suit another.  Obviously, was I to state our technique is a complete package; those by and large living in the Northern Hemisphere could follow it and do reasonably well.  In practice, very few breeders do follow any one technique in its entirety.  They prefer to develop their own methods believing their way is ‘secret’ and perhaps the best.

Selective breeding has brought about the size of the massive Championship Show specimens which are seen on the bench today.

To achieve such size there are two contributory factors, the size of the parents and the quality of your feed.  There is no way one can produce massive birds from pet quality sized stock in one season, however well you feed them.  Conversely, a pair of the very biggest and best, poorly fed, will result in their progeny being two-thirds the size of their parents when fully grown at fifteen months.

So let me now level my remarks at the Beginners and the Novices.  Go out, after you’ve spent the first year just visiting aviaries and building your own establishment, and select two champions.  Buy the biggest birds you can get, preferably youngsters, and this applies especially to the hens.  Then return home with them and make a full note of their pedigrees.  Pedigrees should always be available from any breeder worth his salt, but do remember that in most cases you’ll have to ask for them.  They are a bind to make out especially if any number are involved, so the majority of breeders will keep quiet, rather than offer them to you.  So, having got your records straight from the beginning, turn your attention to feeding the new stock well.

Feeding Records Book

What is more important than anything is again a record of what items you are going to feed the stud on for the next year.  Unless you make a note in a “Feeding Records” book, you’ll never be able to cross check when trouble appears.  You will not be able to remember in two years how you ‘by chance’ had such a superb season.  I’ll guarantee you won’t be feeding the birds in the same way in two years, when you do strike trouble.  You will have added something extra or forgotten to add some vitamin or other.  So, any feeding change must be booked in, if you are methodically minded.

Obviously you have to start some form of system based on an experienced Champion’s method.  Try and obtain that method in full, but remember he may not want to tell you everything and may conveniently leave one item out.  Nevertheless, you have a basis on which to work and you can probably improve on it given time and experience.  Remember budgerigars like a routine that can be maintained.  They rebel when items are forgotten or overlooked.  Develop a system and get into that full routine, every day of the year.  You’ll read many articles to the effect of “you only get out what you put in”, and it is a very apt and true remark.

Having selected that system of feeding, turn your attention to the birdroom itself.  Ask yourself questions, from the point of view of your bird’s attention to their own reproduction cycle.

  • Are they keen to nest?
  • Do the hens, as a whole, relax and incubate well?
  • Do the hens scream their heads off when you appear?
  • Is there an abundance of feather plucking?
  • Do the hens come out of the nest box when slightly disturbed, or not?
  • Is the fertility good, if not why not; is it your fault or your birds?
  • Are the hens feeding their chicks superbly well or have the chicks already got that ‘scrawny look’ about their flesh?

What is it that I am doing wrong?

The questions are limitless, but all basically geared to one fact. What is it that i am doing wrong?  In 99% of cases of trouble, it is something the breeder is unwittingly doing wrong and remember there are two ways to interpret that statement.  It could be some direct action on behalf of the breeder that has caused the problems or it could be something he hasn’t even thought of and consequently hasn’t implemented the action.  I’ve always blamed myself when the results are poor and I’ve never been wrong to do this.  Every time, over the past years, it has been my fault not the fault of my stock.  Each time, one learns a little more, but do I get mad when I make the same mistake twice!  When it comes to breeding budgerigars most fanciers are like children in that until they find out for themselves having made the mistake, they will not accept advice.  That may be a sweeping statement, but I believe it to be true – certainly I was in the first fifteen years or so in the hobby.

One of the biggest and best tips I can give you is to think about the temperature of your aviary while the birds are breeding.  At 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) the temperature, in the colder climates, is still too low.  50 degree F (10 degrees C) is about right, to allow the hens to come off the eggs for a period to feed and mate when they so choose.  They can also fill up their crops, not relying wholly on the cocks to supply them, and in that way bigger and better chicks materialise.

Remember also that when birds go down to breed for their first round, the condition of their crop linings are not as productive in the crop milk, as they are later in the breeding season.  Any help you can give them, has to be good.  Some breeders give a 50/50 milk/water solution every day.  Others give bread/milk softfood mixes and so on.  It’s all hard work but you’ll enjoy the results of your efforts, when you see those big massive chicks which are a real handful looking at you from under their long feathered massive heads.  There is nothing more satisfying to a budgie man.


Filed Under: BeginnersBreedingFeatured



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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