Meet The Breeder – An Interview with Daniel Lutolf – Switzerland

Daniel Lutolf is one of the top budgerigar breeders in Europe today with his interest in birds stemming back to his childhood. As a small boy he was fascinated in anything to do with flight and had aspirations of becoming a pilot. Initially he showed interest in larger type birds but around the time he was 12 years old he was given a pair of budgerigars by his relatives. From these birds he soon had youngsters and this was due in part to buying a new pair of shoes. He took the new shoes from the box and placed the box in the bird cage. The hen laid eggs, hatched and reared the young in the shoe box. This lead to Daniel purchasing more birds; mainly in “nice colours” like Violet and Lutino.

Daniel takes up the story……………………

When I was 15 years old I met Heinrich Ott for the first time and I got my first real show birds from him. After some years we became good friends as we still are today. Budgerigars from the studs of Emil Schweizer and Janos Pece followed. Janos won the prize for the Best Bird inSwitzerlandtwice and I had the lucky chance to get two brothers of this bird. Janos Pece birds originated from Hans Ruosh and he in turn got his from Joseph Speck who very well known in those times. The birds from Joseph Speck were based on the famous studs of Sadler, Ormerod, Finney, Moffat, Lane & Son and Mrs. Moss. The combination of Ott birds, which had very large feathers and the very fine and elegant Pece birds took me a big step forward.

Are your present birds from these same bloodlines and if not, what bloodlines have impacted most within your stud?

Yes, I still have these bloodlines. Until 1996 I only had birds fromSwitzerland. After 1996 I got birds from Ralph Jenne, Richard Kuhr, Joseph Mannes. Kurt Vogt, Bernd Stegemann, and in the last few years from Reihhard Molketin. In 2005 I brought in birds from Pat de Beer that did really good for me. In the last two years I brought in birds from theUKwith background of John Wilson bloodlines. These birds are rather small, but have a wonderful blow to the head.  I also work with Kurt Vogt and Bruno Steffen ofSwitzerland. Mike Ball, Willie Dokter and Andreas Conrades also became breeder friends and they work with my bloodline and we regularly exchange birds.

How do you prepare for the breeding season?

All of my birds fly in the main flights together; barheads, young birds, adult cocks and hens. The reason for this is that the young birds see the entire behavior of the adults, like mating and soon learn what to do. If the sexes are kept separate, then when the young birds go into the breeding cages they have much more to learn. This wastes time and is the cause of many infertile eggs.

I feed the same diet all year round, so there are no changes in the diet. I cut the vent feathers; I do not pull them out but just cut them short, not back to skin level.


Pedigree or Visual

When pairing up do you go by pedigree or visual appearances, or both?

When pairing up I like to let the birds select their own partners whenever possible. When I see two birds paired up in the aviary, I place them in show cages to assess them for compatibility. If all appears fine I have a look at their pedigrees and if they are not too closely related I put them down to breed. Where possible I don’t put best to best otherwise the result could be feather dusters or often clear eggs and even disappointing youngsters.

How closely do you mate your birds and what related matings have been the most successful?

The closest I mate my birds are cousins – you don’t marry your sister! It is the same with Budgerigars. I don’t use line breeding as I feel this brings with it too many problems and in particular feather problems. It may work for a few years, but eventually you will have problems. I like breeding with older birds at the age of 3 to 4 years old, or even 5 years old. I prefer to pair an old partner with a young one.

What variety mixes do you use for improvement, if any, or is it best to best?

I breed normals, opalines, spangles, recessive pieds, dilutes, clearbody, cinnamon and this year I have started with clearwings. At different times I have put spangle to everything; I still do, it doesn’t matter what the colours are as long as the birds are super birds. The hen doesn’t have to be a super bird, these hens usually breed far better and you can make a choice at the end of the breeding season when you are getting 10 or 15 chicks from one pair.

Pair selection is probably the most important aspect of the hobby. I see many breeders that sell the wrong birds. They just look at the phenotype (visual quality) and not the genotype (pedigree) and so they lose exactly what they need. I always bring in new blood so as not to get too closely related birds. If I can buy a super bird I do, but they don’t have to be because I outcross and then cross back again. If there is no quality they go unless they are from a super pair.

How many chicks and rounds do you allow your birds to have?

Show hens have two rounds of eggs and raise 3 to 4 chicks, if they lay again the eggs are transferred. The cocks breed from October till May or June, if they stay in condition.

What features are the hardest to put on a bird and how does one go about establishing and retaining it?

I have found that it is usual to have small birds with good head qualities or big birds with small heads. Many times if the birds have good length they don’t have the head qualities. The best way to fix this is to put these two types of budgerigar together and slowly improve both length and head. I think in the future the most important feature will be directional feather.


Exceptional Depth

You have got an exceptional depth in your stud, quality of directional feather abounds. Please give a summary of how you have got the birds to where they are today, and can fanciers go too far?

This question has been mostly answered in the previous questions but five years ago I used mostly Cinnamons and Dilutes with good results, then it all changed when I bought in a particular bird; an opaline grey green hen. She was a grand daughter from the old opaline grey green cock born August 1997. He was the very best bird I ever bred, but he was a french moulter and so I could never show him. From this bird I produced 47 chicks in 3 years and with different hens. Generally I bred some outstanding birds in the nineties and got these birds to breed well.

Breeders definitely go too far if their birds get feather problems and cysts or can’t fly anymore; always remember we are breeding Budgerigars and not chickens!

What is your feeding programme during the breeding season and does it differ during the non breeding season?

I have my own seed mix sponsored by Melior of Switzerland; you can find the exact contents on my web site. Every second day the birds are provided with soft food and soaked oats. My soft food contains eight boiled eggs (shells included in mix), as many organically grown vegetables as are available (cut up small), olive oil, Weizen oil (wheat), honey (for pollen content), and Algan (seaweed). This is fed to all birds breeding and non breeding.

Please describe your aviary design, size, flights, breeding cage design and number of cages etc?

I have 2 flights, a big and a small one plus one big breeding room with 70 cages, all located in the cellar of our lovely house.

Do you use preventative medication during and pre breeding season and if so what and why?

Yes, I treat with tetracycline pasta and baytril.


What do you see as the greatest asset of being in the hobby and where do you see the hobby heading with so many breeders leaving today?

As everybody can see, many of our breeders are getting older and only very few people are starting with the hobby. We need young breeders and we need to give them as much assistance as they require, we also must ensure that they get it. More publicity could do well for our wonderful hobby also.

What is the benefit of having a national show?

These are the best shows for me. We get international judges at these shows. It gives you a better idea of how you are going. Also I enjoy the competition. I take part in the three biggest shows inSwitzerlandand the European Championship inKarlsruhe.

Advice To A Novice Breeder

How would you go about pointing a novice breeder in the right direction to enable them to reach the top bench in around five years?

I suggest it would take a lot longer than 5 years to reach the top bench. New breeders should buy cheap birds first and work with them, handle them and learn the ropes. Read everything available and ask questions of the experienced breeders. Experience and knowledge is the key. Then buy expensive birds. If they buy expensive birds first and things go wrong, they get frustrated and leave the hobby. Always remember it is a hobby, not a business.

What do you do with birds with feather disorders?

French moulters can be used, one of my best birds ever was an opaline green cock with French moult but a magnificent bird otherwise. He bred a lot of excellent chicks with no feather faults. If you do use them, they must be of the best quality. And if you get chicks from them with French moult, stop breeding with the parents, clean out the nesting quarters thoroughly, wait four months and start again. If feather problems continue, it is genetic so don’t use them again!

Who has inspired you the most in the fancy?

Definitely Heinrich Ott but I have met many other great personalities all over the world.


Last but not least, given all of the above, do you have any other tips or hints on how to improve and sustain an exhibition budgerigar stud?

Keep the best chicks, especially many hens and sell the rest. Mix the colours, mix the factors. Example opaline grey green/blue and cinnamon cock with a cobalt cinnamon spangle hen, dark green or grey green or olive x lutino, violet x albino. All birds should fly well and have all feathers for showing. Show birds must be in proportion. It is better to have a small bird in proportion than a large one that is not. Keep all the babies from your best birds even if they look like rubbish. Let the birds choose their partners; you‘ll get many more fertile eggs. Try to create your own style of bird that everybody will recognise immediately. Keep the birds clean, change the water at least once a day. Buy birds with good backgrounds. It makes no sense at all to sell your best birds.


Filed Under: BeginnersBreedingExhibitingFeaturedFeedingHealthProfiles



About the Author:

Daniel Lütolf is a teacher for students between the age 14 and 17 years.

His introduction to budgerigars began in 1980, “It is a very intense hobby that became a very important part of my life.” The rest of his free time is devoted to his family; Daniela and two daughters, Rubina and Neve.

He started budgerigar breeding at the age of 11, which was more a coincidence than planned. A classmate showed him his budgerigars which caught his interest. Some months later, relatives of his mother gave him a pair of budgerigars as a present – against the will of his parents. From this pair he was able to breed youngsters, in an old shoe box.

That early success intensified his interest even more. In 1986 Daniel met Heinrich Ott, who was one of the top Swiss budgerigar breeders at that time. From him he purchased his first really good show budgerigars. The Ott birds had an excellent background and came from the very best English bloodlines, mainly from Ormerod and Sadler.

Since those early days quality birds from other UK, European and South African breeders have been introduced to develop today’s superb stud.

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  1. Truly a Master!

    Motivational and very inspiring article by Daniel.

    Habib Ur Rehman,Pakistan

  2. khurram Iqbal, Pakistan says:

    Great Advice from Great Breeder !
    Very informative and encouraging for new fanciers.

  3. jos reijnders says:

    I visited Daniel this month nov.2012, and again was strucken by the quality he produces year afther year and the progress he makes again and again.
    Defenatly one of the best studs in the world.
    I also want to thank him for helping me to restart a second time, due to circumstances.
    Not only a great breeder but also a tru friend, thanks.


  4. Arif Raza says:

    Fabulous information which Daniel has shared in this article.

  5. Ninu Chandy says:

    Very informative personally to keep my interest from a great person. Thanks for the posting.

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