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Advice To Beginners



by Terry and Clare Pilkington

Our advice to newcomers to the hobby who are intending to breed budgerigars for exhibition purposes is to apply a system of radical upgrading until all the correct ingredients exist across their studs until a few of their best birds possess a few of their ingredients in a more concentrated form. This manifests itself by the fact that they are starting to do well on the show bench. This procedure has to be the pattern of progress before embarking on a close inbreeding programme and will take a minimum of four years to achieve. Certain key birds will form the basis of an inbreeding programme. By this time, also, he/she will have acquired the knowledge and experience required to take their birds one step nearer to the ultimate championship goal.

Two Studs
Let us explain our background and the way we proceed in this wonderful hobby of ours. From the outset, we visited as many aviaries as possible until we had established the two studs which possessed the type of birds we particularly liked.

Beginners and novices should concentrate their efforts on two, but at the most three, quality aviaries at first. Try and buy the best brothers and sisters that are available which are related to the best birds in those chosen studs. If you can afford two or three pairs from each, so much the better.

With these two groups at home, try to breed with them as separate families for the first two years. You need a bit of luck, such as we had, and with that you should have plenty of birds from each family after say three seasons. You will also be able to spot which features are now dominant in those families and at the same time, the weaknesses will be revealed. Sell off any birds which fall below a standard which you set and be ruthless about it.

So far you have only been reproducing families which are extensions of the original stock. Do remember that, as you can afford it, you can still go back each year and buy some more, perhaps superior, related bloodstock to put into the two families to help each line along, but it is important you establish very clearly that they are related birds to those you purchased originally.

Crossing Together
This point in your progress reached, and the two families established, now is the time to consider crossing them together with particular emphasis on the best birds in each group. The aim is to produce your own identifiable family that will be the envy of the show bench so that fanciers can recognize your stamp of bird immediately. Here is where good luck and quality management combine to take you down that road. You may now be in the Novice Section and the early signs that you bought wisely may already have started to appear because you will have won with birds possessing your own ring.

Tempatation may now beckon. Always keep the best birds you breed. Do not be tempted by a fancy priced offer for any of your top team birds. They are your insurance and shop window for the future and you cannot replace them by buying other outcross birds because they are unrelated to your stock and possess masses of hidden faults.

Inbreeding and Line-breeding
Assuming you are lucky and the two lines blend to form your own marvelous line, you are on your way and the wins start to come regularly. As the years progress and you start to think of outcrosses, always remember your original sources. You will have a vastly greater chance of your 'outcross' blending in to your stud from those aviaries, than you will from any strange bloodline from another winning exhibitor.

By keeping your joint family together you will be inbreeding and line breeding. You will be pairing relatives that are close and distant. This is the only way to build up a stud of birds with all the same characteristics and type and if they are winning on the show bench, so much the better.

We have four important points to make. There is no natural law, or physiological law, against close inbreeding, the results of which, whether they be good or bad, still follow the laws of genetics. For this reason start with good sound vigorous stock of the right show type.

Secondly, inbreeding contributes nothing new to a line. It results in a line becoming pure for the qualities, good-or-bad, that it possesses. It is Homozygous, as it is termed. If the qualities that are there are desirable then there is no point in breeding the stock together even more closely.

Thirdly, outbreeding, or outcrossing as it is more popularly known, tends to hide defects, but it does not eliminate them. Inbreeding reveals the defects as the line becomes more homozygous, but it is not the cause of the defects.

Lastly selection in an inbred line of the most desirable individuals enables the breeder to eliminate defects. Inbreeding brings about an element of certainty into the development of your stud.

The golden rules of inbreeding can be expressed simply with two words - selection and elimination; selection of the correct mates as shown by pedigree and visual appearance and the elimination of any bird that falls below your standard for whatever reason. Close inbreeding must not be undertaken unless the fancier is certain that the birds he is using are themselves in possession of the qualities that are required to be firmly fixed.

There is another analogy. When you mix the ingredients of a cake together to bake the perfect cake, all the qualities and quantities have to be present. If they are correct the 'cake' will be a good one and the proof is in the eating. In birds it is the same, so it could be said 'the proof of the breeding is in the winning'.

We are satisfied that this is the only way to produce family of birds that have similar characteristics and the more winners you have in the background the better will be your chances of reproducing a continual winning line.

A Solid Foundation
One of the most rewarding aspects of breeding quality birds is to breed a top Show winner that breeds birds as good or better than itself, or Prepotent as it is called. One such bird was a 1982 Cinnamon Grey Green cock which won many times. He produced 17 chicks in his first season, many winners among them. Needless to say he was re-mated to the same hen the following year. This ensured we bred a nucleus stock of quality birds in quantity and we thus possessed a solid foundation on which to build our present stock.

New fanciers are always in a big hurry to breed winners and they look to establishing a winning family in two seasons. At least five years is required in our view. To conclude, you may be reading this article with your birds already in the breeding pens. This does not mean you cannot turn your mind to the seasons ahead and purchase from two or three seasons accordingly. If you do, you will find yourself into 'winning ways' far more quickly than by other haphazard techniques. Why not give it a try?

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