Learning From Past Experience – Part One

I recently discovered an interview that Gerald made with Fred Sherman sometime in the mid-1980’s.

I would estimate the interview to be some ten to twelve thousand words in length and I thought it would be such a waste to let it sit gathering dust.

So with this in mind I have collated the interview into segments.

This is part one – part two may be read here.

I hope you enjoy it.

The Differences Between Breeding Budgerigars In Africa And The UK

By Fred Sherman (deceased)

Fred ShermanI grew up on a farm in Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe). My father was a tobacco farmer and also a breeder of livestock – he bred pedigree Jersey cows and pedigree Ayrshire cattle. He also kept African love birds and budgerigars and colony bred them. I suppose as a young boy I used to help him with these birds and that started my interest.

I was very interested in genetics – probably from school – and the very first book I bought on budgies was not how to feed, breed or keep them, but “Budgerigar Matings and Colour Expectations”. The second book I bought was “Genetics for Budgerigar Breeders” and so my interest was more in the genetics. I saw in budgies a good opportunity to experiment with genetics and the principles of Mendelism. Consequently for many years I fooled around with colours. In fact I never bred Budgerigars in small boxes, I used to breed them in small flights, similar to Doug Sadler but not as elaborate. I was only interested in colours and in fact, I didn’t even know what a show budgie was.

I joined the Budgerigar Society in South Africa merely to get rings and this was known as the Central African Avicultural Society. I had no interest in exhibition birds and I never went to any meetings. In fact, as mentioned I grew up on a farm and while I was still at school I was a member of the club. So I had joined very young.

Coerced Into Show Birds

In the late sixties I moved to Salisbury which was then the capital of Rhodesia and I was coerced I think, into getting involved with show birds. I still had these pet types, and I got interested in showing birds. I think that was in 1968 or 1969 and so I started breeding for show purposes.

When I decided to go all out to do well as a breeder of exhibition budgerigars, I was then spending a lot of time in the United Kingdom. Those of you who remember history, it was at the time that sanctions were applied against Rhodesia and I was running around a lot trying to find products and selling things, so my business travels brought me to England. I realised if I wanted to improve my birds I would have to buy birds in England and strangely enough the first pair of birds I bought were a pair of clearwings from Tom North.

I think it was the colour that interested me, and the fact that I was breeding colours. I saw a Whitewing mauve and I couldn’t believe there was anything like it could exist. So I bought a pair and took them back to Rhodesia and I bred with them and showed them. I did that for a few years and then I finally I met Brian Byles and he was good enough to let me have some birds which was the foundation of my budgerigars. I bought five birds from Brian, two of them were brothers, and the other two were related to the two brothers – they were all cocks.

I then went to South Africa and Dr Robertson, with whom I had got quite friendly. He put me on to a fellow by the name of John van Niekerk who had some birds from Alf Ormerod. I managed to get some hens from John Anitas. One hen was bred from an Ormerod pair which, having become friendly with Brian and looking at the records I discovered I had a hen that was related to one of the birds I had from Brian. This got my mind thinking about in-breeding and breeding closely together, and I took the decision then, having had a chat with my Dad, who was a stockman breeding cattle.

I decided with him that we would apply the in-breeding technique. I will be quite honest with you since then and that was 1972 or 1973, other than those five birds from Brian and a few hens from South Africa, I have had another cock bird from Brian, a Yellowface hen from Ernie Sigston, a Skyblue from Reg Crossman and some birds from Gerald Binks and those are the only birds I have bought in and all my birds today are totally inbred.

I Had No Option

I started with those five cocks and I have had a few from Gerald – maybe six – but that is it over all these years. I had to inbreed, I had no option and I found it interesting to listen to fanciers in the UK during my visits, who would say: “I don’t like to go too close” or “I wonder if it’s practical to line breed with budgies?”

My interpretation of in-breeding and line breeding I liken to what my Dad did with cattle. He had a foundation sire and he put lots of cows to that bull and he developed a strain. With birds of course that is difficult and I really doubt whether it is practical to line breed in a true sense with budgerigars, but I stand to be corrected. Also with line breeding you can go close, very often, the good thing with cattle is you have records that you work on, not like with budgies that somebody judges you have two judges and they don’t both see the bird alike, but with cattle there is the butter fat content of the milk, the quantity of the milk, all these things are recorded and they are all facts that you can work on.

I remember on the farm where we had a particularly good cow and the bull would be put back to the cows calves and granddaughters and so to say “Don’t go too close in line breeding”, don’t believe it. You go father to daughter, father to granddaughter in line breeding the same as you do with in-breeding. Really it is a little controversial, but that is the way I see it. So I have been inbreeding very closely. I do admit that some pairings are better than others. I don’t think it is anything to do with being close, or not being close. I was talking to Jeff Attwood and he was concerned about fertility when you inbreed, but I don’t believe I could have bred all those birds if fertility is a problem.

I can tell you a little story about a grey hen I bred. I have never seen such a big hen, she really was magnificent. It wasn’t a show bird, just a great big stock hen but one, almost from the time she moulted out, you think is going to be a problem. A big buff hen and I paired her to a cock – I don’t even remember how close it was related, and I have a habit of marking my eggs with a felt pen, because I think you get better results, you throw out the clear ones and make them keep laying, and on the first round the eighth eggs was fertile and she laid ten eggs in total. The eighth egg hatched – I was actually at the time breeding some Lacewings, so I put some fertile lacewing eggs with them, so I could identify the chicks, the chick finally hatched and survived, and fortunately for me it was a cock.

Paired To His Mother

The second round, the same thing, the eighth egg was fertile, she laid ten eggs, but that chick died, so I had one chick out of that hen which was a cock and I only had one option which was to pair the cock to his mother. She laid ten eggs, every egg was full. The second round she laid another ten eggs, and I put five of those eggs under the Yellowface Skyblue and she smashed them so there it was I got twenty full eggs out of that hen when I paired her back to her son. I don’t think that fertility is only a problem. I believe that our fertility problems are with the buff birds, the big ones.

If you take pet budgerigars and put father to daughter and inbreed them continually they would all be fertile. I have actually seen that happen where these fellows breed with these little birds, and they just keep on being fertile. I don’t think anybody can prove or disprove it, but I believe that fertility is a fault that you should breed out with inbreeding. I think with inbreeding you can only put together the good things, you can’t breed good budgies out of rubbish. So if you start with good stock and you inbreed and you weed out the bad features then you must weed out infertility as a bad feature, just like you weed out a bird that has some other physical feature you don’t like.

I was forced into inbreeding because I didn’t have access to birds. I would go on record as saying that the only way you can improve your stock is by in-breeding – unless you have a bit of money and access to good birds so that you can buy outcrosses. Now in a country like Rhodesia or South Africa, even if you have money, it doesn’t matter because you can’t find the birds, but if you are in a country like England where there are a lot of birds available, I believe you could be very successful outcrossing all the time if you can buy the right bird.

There was a very famous fancier in England who said he never inbred but also admitted that he bought birds. He said to me once if you see a good one, buy it, no matter what it costs, so if you have that policy you must breed good birds. If you are skilful, and he was very skilful, and you can buy a cock bird and pair it to a good hen, you will breed good birds, but if you are isolated and you haven’t got that ability there is no way you can improve your stock without in-breeding.

Fred Sherman passed away recently, as all readers will know from his obituary on this website.

My appreciation to Terry Tuxford for passing this article from Fred Sherman to myself for your pleasure.



Filed Under: BreedingProfiles



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.

RSSComments (2)

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  1. James Smith says:

    Great article.

    Looking forward to the next part!

    Thanks Terry & Gerald!

    Best Regards,
    James Smith, Australia

  2. Pierre Swart says:

    Cannot wait to read the next part.

    Pierre Swart, South Africa

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