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Assessment Time

by Terry Pilkington

 By now most budgerigar breeders are well through their breeding season. This is the time to stand back and assess the progress made so far, i.e., regarding pairings and quality of chicks produced.

It is not too late to have a re-think and do something about trying to achieve better results.

For example, we bred the 1982 World Winner in the month of April. This pairing was where both of the original pairings had produced nothing outstanding earlier in the breeding season. So after two months back in the flights, they were paired up to new partners and produced some of the best birds that year. So you can see it is never too late to change your mind and have a re-think.

It is of course a great advantage if one's birds are more or less all related to one another in the first place. You will have a better chance of the birds blending together to produce the right type of bird especially if they are carrying all the vital characteristics needed in the "Ideal Budgerigar."

Assessing Quality .....

How do we go about assessing the quality of the chicks produced so far? I like to think that I can spot a good bird from about 3 weeks old, by the sheer size in the first place, width of skull between the eyes, big bone structure (especially the feet) and plenty of length in the hand.

When the bird starts feathering up you can tell the type of feather, whether it is buff, intermediate or yellow. I like to see birds with the intermediate feather leaning towards buff; you can tell them at this stage with experience. You can see over the weeks the extent of the browyness and the depth of mask. The longer the feather suggests that it could be buff, with a short feather being a yellow. I also like to see plenty of spot flecking, but having said that I have had some of my biggest spotted birds when as barheads they showed hardly any spot flecking at all. It all depends again what type of birds they are bred from in past generations. So get to know what your birds are capable of producing before making any rash decisions in culling them out as barheads.

A Real Handful .....

A very good barhead at 5-6 weeks old should be a real handful. Looking from the back of the bird, it should be very wide across the shoulders. This gives the bird a strong look of power. The width should then continue through the neck to the back-skull. When viewed from the front, the thickness of the head should follow through to the back skull and give what I call a 'key hole' effect, i.e., a round dome and a deep mask. The bird should also blow its head and be very browy between the eyes and you should not be able to see the eyes of the bird.

Faults in Barheads .....

The worst thing in a barhead is a very narrow head and pinched face. Any birds showing these faults, and also if they are very small compared to your other barheads, you can safely sell as pets. It is obvious they will never make the grade as top class show birds. On any breeding system you use, always cull ruthlessly the birds with the bad faults. Each year try to upgrade your overall stock. It is, I know, easier said than done as we are always fighting against nature in what we are trying to produce. But we have to draw a line somewhere if we are to attain success on the show bench.

At about 5 1/2-6 weeks old the chicks can be weaned from their parents. By this time the hen will be laying the second round of eggs. This is the time to watch the parents as they can get aggressive. The barheads when placed together in the stock cage can be assessed as to their future show potential. As they get stronger and start to perch you should really be able to see the ones with that built-in showmanship. The birds that stand well are nine times out of ten the best and eventually moult out showing the good show points. These are the birds that later in the year make your best show birds.

Note that when they are first separated from their parents they can tend to lose weight as they start to fend for themselves, but this is only a temporary setback.

Weighing Up Results .....

Once you have weighed up the results of your present breeding season to date and are still experiencing difficulties, have a re-think. Change some of your pairings, but leave well enough alone any pairs that are producing good birds until they have finished their second round. Do not split them up thinking that you can improve on them, it never works. Only re-pair the birds that are producing mediocre barheads. It is the overall quality of the barheads that ensures success in future years.

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