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When Is The Right Time To Breed Budgerigars?


“We’ve let the breeding season stretch across too much of the year”.. Eric Peake believes.

Eric Peake

After the success of the 2007 BS Club Show the fancy can surely look forward to the new breeding season.

Birds in the past have all been geared to the show calendar, to be bred to coincide with the January 1st ring-issue date. But have we really looked at the behavior pattern attributed to the delightful bird we keep? I think not.

Most breeders pair up in November to ring their babies with the forthcoming year’s coded rings. Is that wise? Yes, most will say. But if a record were made across the UK of successful fertility in the first round, you would find a large percentage of loss in fertility and an increase in chick mortality in the first round.

Breeding Room

Most pair up in November... But is that the best time?

Why? The budgerigar is a southern hemisphere bird that breeds in the bush during the rainy season, under intense heat during the day and cool nights. Yet in captivity we try to breed just for the ring issue date, forgetting that night – and day – temperatures can drop rapidly. The birds must maintain heat to incubate the eggs and keep the babies alive. No matter what heat you can provide, the November to March climate is not satisfactory for this southern-bred bird.

The “annual moult” is sometimes mentioned, but there is no such thing. All of a budgerigar’s feathers will be replaced throughout the calendar year. Only the main flight and tail feathers will fall out at a set time of the year – usually October to December. These new feathers will be essential to strengthen the bird’s flight in the breeding season, to equipe it to fly long distances to find food for its family.

Research has shown that birds bred at about the same time will also moult at about the same time. To balance the bird in flight, the feathers in the primary group will fall out equally left to right, whereas the main tail feathers will fall out consecutively. With their larger feathers, modern birds can struggle in flight when they are trying to manoeuvre in a tight space. We should watch the feather size and quality, otherwise nature will take its course and eradicate all birds that are seen to deviate from the norm.

Common sense in breeding feather qualities is a must. We still have fanciers who look at feather only, and forget that progress with the species is more important. Recent years have seen a huge rise in cysts, feather lumps, feather deformities and feather diseases all created by people, not nature.

Experience has taught me to breed in the Spring-time in the UK. Our budgerigars still maintain the pattern of behavior of the wild cousins in Australia. I’ve always bred from March onwards, to give the breeding birds rest periods in the Winter. This lets them replace their feathers, get into next year’s breeding condition and – since they don’t have to rear babies – incubate eggs during our cold, damp seasons.


Breeding in better weather ... results in better production..

When they are breeding the weather is better, and during June and July the hens can safely stay off their eggs or babies without the risk of chill. Last year, for the first time, I paired up in April, a bit nearer the ideal weather conditions – and my breeding season was an outstanding success. My young birds were not ready for the early shows, but I don’t want to risk my birds simply to get an accolade. My reward was a good breeding season without the problems that come with early breeding. The birds have a five-month rest-period from November to March. So I didn’t have any worry about chilled eggs, dark evenings, or cold conditions.

During my study of the budgerigar, at Keele University in the 1960s, I found that UK fanciers bred mainly for time-slots dictated by ring issues, rather than what the birds really wanted. Some birds will continually breed without a rest-period, others will not. Some birds will be wonderful parents, others won’t. Birds differ in their pattern of behavior, yet we dictate when they breed, forgetting that it may go against their instinct to complete a family.

Budgerigars  Ready for Breeding

Birds differ in their pattern of behavior. If we dictate when they breed are we forgetting it may go against their natural instincts?

So most birds in the UK breed during November to June. Look at the number of chick fatalities, clear eggs and so on, and you will find that April to June produces the fewest problems.

One of the biggest difficulties occurs if a fancier buys a hen in November or December. If that hen was hatched in May or June, it’s still only five months old. Many birds bought at shows, where there is no record of their date of birth, fall into this category.

It is always safe practice to breed from a one-year old hen or cock. While cocks are sometimes ready to breed at 10 months, I pair up after a bird is a year old. The pairs I favor are an old cock to a young hen, or a young cock to an old hen, This seems to work better than two birds in their first year of breeding.

Why Spring is the best time to find your partners?:

 Bullet Days and nights are warmer.

 Bullet Wild birds in the UK always breed in Spring.

 Bullet The days are longer, allowing you to attend to the stock.

 Bullet Hens are happier in warm conditions.

 Bullet Non-breeding birds can rest at the worst time of the year in weather pattern

 Bullet Bullet Bullet  It works for me!

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