Overhauling your stud? Be sparing with outcrosses, advises CLIVE WAKEMAN – and make sure that you don’t dispose of birds that might actually have improved one of your lines
FOR some budgerigar enthusiasts a yearly ritual is going out to buy outcrosses to bring fresh blood to their stock. This usually comes after assessing the previous year’s youngsters, selling the excess stock that is no longer required for breeding purposes, and looking to improve on certain features within the stud.
This is certainly my format, although, I do not buy in new birds as a regular exercise. I only do this when I have a particular feature or features that I am trying to improve. If you overdo this exercise and buy in new stock all the time, you are not building a stud, but putting together a collection of birds and breeding from them.
Don’t aim too high
Every breeder should try to put his own stamp on his birds and build a stud that contains certain family lines. How many birds and varieties is up to the breeder.
When you undergo the search for new birds, never make the mistake of trying to improve too many or all the features that you require in one go, because that type of bird will have a “not for sale” tag on it. Other breeders will rarely sell their best birds unless they are leaving the fancy, but even then be prepared to pay the best price.
Give spots a chance
Coming back to our own studs, ask yourself this question, have you got the best from those birds before you let them go? If you think maybe not, could any of those particular birds provide what you are looking for? For instance, take a multi-spotted bird, the type that has a huge swathe of black feathers on its mask and may even be flecked. Take the time to clean the bird by either plucking or cutting excess spot feathers as if you were going to show it. If nothing else, it will be good practice for show time, but you may well be surprised at the result.
I speak from personal experience when I say how surprised I have been at the outcome at times. On more than one occasion I have wished that a bird that I had just cleaned up was not flecked. It may not be a perfect specimen, but certainly usable with objective and good purpose.
What you have to do is stand back and look at that bird’s assets – the deep mask, the big round spots (that may be left there after pulling out what appears to be a multitude of feathers) and possibly that wide, but dirty head. I have found this to be case with a lot of opaline hens. The clever part is transferring that face, head, mask and spots onto a clean-headed youngster by pairing to the right mate
Look at the advantages of keeping the flecked bird. This bird is used to you and your feeding regime, and what’s more, you may be able to find a partner that maybe distantly or closely related, and still be clean. You may decide that it is safer or more prudent to pair to a completely different family line, but whichever choice you make at this stage it has cost you nothing – you are having a go at capitalising on your own resources. It may not always work, but it is a great feeling when it does, because you used your own judgement and made advances with your birds
The birds that you need to look at closely are the ones that caused you to seriously think, should I keep that one or should I let it go? First impressions count. The birds that first caught your attention are usually the ones to keep.
The bird that may have qualities that you are trying to pass on to your own birds, won’t necessarily turn out the youngsters you are looking for. Many a time an outcross does not produce what we are hoping to breed – the new blood for some reason may not mix well with yours.
I have heard and read about people having bought birds, getting home and then realising that their purchases have not been what they thought they were, and probably won’t make the improvements they are looking for. You need to be sure what your stud needs to upgrade it and then hold on to that picture – and stick to it. However, checking at home is always an excellent place to start.
ALL budgerigar mutations have their strong points, and most of these can be combined with other mutations to improve a line as required. Cinnamon and opaline outcrosses, for example, are frequently used to improve visual colour in practically all the other mutations. Another favourite combination is to pair blue with lutino, fallow or dilute – the former being a mutation that affects the yellow feather pigment, and the latter ones governing the dark melanin pigment. Grey factor budgerigars can come in useful for adjusting colour quality in other mutations. Such breeding tactics aren’t confined to exhibition studs – if your aim is simply a balance of colours and patterns in your mixed budgerigar aviary, these are techniques to master.
Clive Wakeman began birdkeeping with budgerigars in the 1960s, and in recent years has tried his hand at Gouldians.