To go to any of the articles below, Click on the title)
In search of the Opaline !
Opalines -- Are we lowering our standards ?
Whiter than White - notes on Albinos
Fostering -Eggs and Chicks
It's a good bird - but will it breed ?
Terminal decline ? -- or can we save the patient ?
Breeders' Classes - Time for a Re-think ?
At the Other Side of the Camera --or Sparkie Williams meets Bird 'Flu
Support your local society
Questions from "Cage & Aviary Birds"
BS Publicity Officer's Columns
Treatment of Sick & Injured birds
In search of the Opaline
Fishermen of all persuasions are, of course, notorious for their tales of 'the one that got away, so we are always urged to take a pinch of salt with it', if not the vinegar as well . I am neither a fisherman nor an angler myself, so I cannot attest to the accuracy of the claims we hear about. However, if any of these sportsmen are also budgerigar breeders and/or exhibitors and they start talking about their 'Club Show winner (if it had grown a tail)', or that 'brilliant nest feather' ( it moulted out as black as Dick's hat-band ) etc, etc , I will have no difficulty whatsoever in accepting every word they say.
Why ? Simply because my brother and I have experienced just about everything that is, or has been, going in this respect. There was that superb natural showman (a Grey cock) which never looked anything but magnificent in the show cage in the aviary, but changed into a misshapen, panting weakling as soon as he was carried into the show hall - on several occasions. There have also been a number of 'tail-less wonders', the inevitable flecked ones (stars, every one - believe me !), some which dropped spots immediately after winning their class and therefore got no further, and of course many years ago there was that Light Green cock which went lame, literally (so Dick McCreaddie informed us) just as he was about to be marked as Best in Show at Spennymoor show. And of course, two years ago there was that favourite young Cinnamon Hen which did not even reach the show bench before it took some kind of a seizure at our local show. It died a week later .
In 2002, at one of the open monthly meetings of the Northern B.S., one of our members suggested that the society should run a novelty class at one of our inter-club shows; the idea was that it be an "If only " class, at which members would enter those birds which they consider to be potential show winners, were it not for the faults they displayed -- e.g. no tail, heavily flecked, permanently missing flights, etc.--probably an extensive list. I strongly opposed this idea, stating that it would be impossible to make anything resembling a reasoned judgement, especially if someone brought a pet-type bird and claimed it would have been a world-beater if it had a good head and body. Really, my main objection was that I knew we had a heavily-flecked Green Cock which would have beaten the lot --but I was sure it would drop its flecks before judging ,and thus disqualify itself !
This introduces the two problems which have perhaps appeared most often in our aviary ; the flecking has proved to be the most persistent fault. Having said that, as I write we do still have two tail-less wonders (always 'Buff-feathered') in our birdroom at present, two others having died this year - but fortunately after breeding. The two remaining such birds have also produced young and so far, only one of a total of around sixteen young threatens to replicate the lack of tail. This said, there is little doubt in our minds that we should take the precaution of not breeding back too closely into those lines in case the problem has anything of a hereditary element; we rather feel that there is , at the least, a family susceptibility to such feathering defects, in some lines. However we have found (so far ) that it is possible to keep this tendency under control by judicious pairing to the more 'Yellow-feathered' type of bird; we would welcome any other views on this problem and other feathering defects..
Flecking , as I have already implied , has been present in our birdroom in various degrees for very many years. This comes as a surprise to a lot of fanciers who are viewing our stud for the first time because, until very recent years, John and I rarely showed birds which were ticked to any degree. Further, we are well known for our opinion that this and other feather colouring faults should be paid more attention and penalised more heavily on the show bench than is generally the case at present.
Similarly, when we have visited other birdrooms and admired large, flecked birds, our comments have been met with considerable surprise and we are often met with "I was told that you only liked small, pretty birds ! " We reply that, like the vast majority of fanciers, we prefer a good big 'un to a good little 'un, but we still feel that there should be more regard paid to striving to produce those birds which excel in variety content; we should , as a society, aim to maintain (and in most cases, re-establish) the integrity of all varieties; otherwise, what is the point of producing and fixing all these mutations ?
The Opaline is a case in point; a variety which many see to be in great decline, and one which is held to be far away from the original mutation. If you don't know what I mean by this, read the colour standard. Even fanciers who have been in the fancy for a relevantly short number of years are now shaking their heads sadly and saying " There are no good Opalines around now " and " We'll never get the Opaline back". Even though most have probably never seen a well-coloured Opaline on the show bench (you still occasionally spot one in pet shops) they are basically repeating what 'older fanciers', who have even been long enough in the fancy to remember the distinctive iridescence that a properly coloured and marked Opaline possessed, have said.
Similar remarks are already being uttered about another (this time still very popular) variety—the Spangle. Many purists assert that the only true version of this mutation is displayed in its Normal form. Certainly a well-marked Normal of the variety seems best to display the unique markings of the variety.
Those fanciers who are convinced that the Opaline is lost forever may be right, but I don't really believe that it is so. This is one mini-project which John and I have worked on to some extent for a few years; we seem to have made some progress and hope to continue to improve those variety features, while still striving for the more 'popular' exhibition qualities' - as no doubt are many other fanciers. If we are capable of improving the exhibition features of our stock by careful selection, we are equally capable of restoring the true features of any variety by the same process, especially if the B.S actively encourages us to do so. Perhaps the end of a Best in Show award at shows in order to give more emphasis on the Best of Variety that the Challenge certificates represent, would be part of the answer.
As with a great many other fanciers who are striving to breed birds of substance, flecking is one of our main problems and, unfortunately, it is a fault which especially stands out on an Opaline, especially as it is normally accompanied by grizzling over the head and mantle: perhaps that problem and the difficulty of the challenge it offers is part of the reason for its decline in popularity.
The other major fault which mars the Opaline of today is also found in the mantle, and that is of the main body colour suffusing what, ideally, should be an area of clear yellow (in a green) or white (in the blue series). Normals are equally affected by suffusion, but it is not so apparent as it is on the Opaline ; similarly that fault in the Grey and Greygreen does not stand out as much as it does in the Skyblue and Light Green.
As in all other forms of livestock husbandry, it is a question of ensuring careful selection, which at times means making very difficult decisions when it comes to sorting out and, more particularly, pairing up. It is also important to know ones stock through and through . A good memory is of great help, and those of us who are not so strong in that department need to keep very good, detailed, records in order to help make the best possible selection of breeding pairs, by having regard to family qualities and traits as well as the purely visual appearance.
In spite of all such considerations, we still experience setbacks and unexpected results, but are firmly committed to doing a little to restore the Opaline to a more acceptable place on the show bench.
Fishermen aren't the only ones who are still looking for the one that didn't get away !
OPALINES - ARE WE LOWERING OUR STANDARDS ? by JOHN HERRING
One of the advantages of being an insomniac when working night shift is that it gives me an opportunity to catch up on my reading, correspondence and thinking during my slacker moments. It was on one of these occasions that 1 started to read Ernest H Hart's Budgerigar Handbook. When I got to paragraph 2, page 16 I read something which I believe could be misleading to beginners and even to some of the more senior fanciers. I quote, "For general references regardless of what the colour may be, all colour in all varieties should be bright and even. Patchiness is undesirable and should only be exhibited by birds in the moult. The colour of a healthy adult budgerigar should show sheen and bloom."
So far I agree with him, but now for the statement I would question. "Some normal birds, particularly males, through the neck, back and wings, show a brilliant wash of the body colour that tints the white feather edges in a fashion similar to the Opaline, this lustre gives even greater beauty to the bird and is highly desirable."
I agree that some birds, in fact a growing number, do show a wash of body colour in the neck etc., both normals and Opalines but I don't subscribe to his opinion that it is a desirable feature. Look at the Colour Standards laid down by the Budgerigar Society and printed in full in the B S Handbook. The Normal Sky Blue for instance reads, "MARKINGS: on cheeks, back of head, neck and wings, black and well defined on a white ground." Notice it says nothing about having or requiring a wash of body colour in these areas. The standard for Opalines Sky Blues states, "MASK: white, extending over back of head and merging into general body colour at a point level with the butt of wings". That means that the colour spread is a definite fault and being so is completely undesirable.
So now what we have to decide is, is the B S Colour Standards out of keeping with the Modern Budgerigar and therefore should be brought into line with Ernest H. Hart's opinion of desirability? I believe it is becoming more prominent for this spread of colour to be seen among our exhibition birds. Take notice next time you are at a show how many true Opalines you can find on the benches. There may be a few, but they will mainly be found among the smaller birds and so will largely be discarded by the judges in preference to birds that are nearer the Ideal for size. Big is beautiful seems to be the maxim and while I, perhaps, could be criticised at times for falling into that trap, I believe that it is time for judges to recognise this spread of colour as a major fault and penalise them accordingly.
My opinion is that the Opaline which shows the desirable qualities is the bird with the clear head, yellow to the butt of the wings and with a clear mantle, and likewise, the Normal should not have this opalescence showing through their normal markings. We should be aiming for perfection and I am becoming increasingly concerned that the colour standards are being forgotten thereby causing the ruination of a pretty, virile and attractive bird. We should oppose any move to lower our standards to that of birds being commonly produced.
Whiter than White - (notes on Albinos)
Albinos are white budgerigars, with red eyes and an iris, which is free of melanin and masks the colour of the blue series birds. Albinos are a sex-linked variety which means that the visual character is carried on the X gene which is the male. A cock bird is expressed in these terms as XX and a hen is XY. For a cock bird to show in a visual form, the sex linked it must have for the purpose of this article albino on both the main genes (chromosomes ?) XaXa. A visual albino hen is shown as XaY as the albino (gene) is not carried on the Y or female gene (chromosome?). The same formula is true for all sex-linked varieties, Opaline, Lacewing, Slate, Cinnamons and Lutinos. A cock bird with the albino factor on only one of his male (X) genes is known as a split and will visually appear as a blue series bird, i.e. grey or blue in whichever form the mother and the father is masking. As a simple guide the expectations are as follows :-
Albino cock to Albino hen - 100% Albinos
Albino cock to Non-Albino hen - Albino hens Xa-Y
Split Albino cocks X-Xa
Split Albino cock to Albino hen - Albino cocks Xa-Xa
Split Albino cocks X-Xa
Albino hens Xa-Y
Non-Albino hens X-YNon-Albino cock to Albino hen - Split Albino Cocks X-Xa
Non-Albino hens X-Y
Ideally, Albinos should be totally white and free from any suffusion of markings. They should be light as possible in colour and therefore dark factor birds are inappropriate to use as outcrosses. As you see by the chart the best mating theoretically is Albino to Albino but as with any variety a good Albino for exhibition has to be foremostly "A good budgie". That means it has to be big, wide headed and stand upright at an angle of 30 degrees to the vertical, bold of eye and standing with confidence and an arrogance that draws your attention to it. Therefore you may find the need to use outcrosses to build in the missing ingredients I have mentioned as well as quality of feather and vigour.
The best outcross would be a double factor Light Grey hen and preferably opaline. Paired to an Albino cock all hens produced would be Albino with no blue suffusion. it is especially important if your Albino cock shows blue suffusion as this mating would kill the suffusion in the Albino hens produced as Grey is Dominant over Blue.
If your albino shows blue suffusion it means that it is masking Sky Blue or Cobalt and so if paired to a double factor Light Grey hen all the young would be single factor Grey split Albino cocks and Albino hens masking single factor Grey, which means Grey split Blue. This single factor Grey progeny would be better used if paired to Albinos bred through Greys as if Blue comes together on both sides of the mating blue birds will be produced which means any Albinos could be suffused.
The only sex-linked variety which should be used as an outcross is the Opaline because if you use a Cinnamon or Lacewing hen the male progeny will be complete waste for Albino production as they will be split for these factors. The only exception to that rule that I would make is that if you could breed good quality Albino hens, which would not carry Cinnamon or Lacewing in any form. It would be safer to discard the split cocks for Albino production as they would be split cinnamon as well as split Albino and the use of these would produce a lot of wastage.
Ticking has to be eradicated in Normal and Opaline exhibition budgerigars and as badly ticked birds should be used sparingly. They can be used with Albinos to great advantage, I believe, to increase the size, width of head, etc in the short term but should not be over-used as we wish to keep the melanin out of the systems of the Albino.
Once your aims are achieved in using outcrosses you are ready to return to the ideal pairing for producing pure Albinos and that, of course, is albino to Albino.
I hope I have been able to detail my thoughts on the breeding of this attractive variety and perhaps persuade you to increase your interest in them. If I have left any matters unanswered and you wish to know more or if you disagree with anything I have written, please write to me to exchange views and to discuss the topic.
FOSTERING -EGGS AND CHICKS
One of the questions which I and other experienced fanciers are often asked is "What are your methods in fostering eggs, chicks etc. Eggs usually are the easier proposition, always providing, of course, that there is another nest to which to move them.
Like many fanciers, my partner (brother) and I like to mark all our eggs, at least at the beginning of the breeding season.
Unlike many fanciers, we do not write a lot of information on each egg ; we merely number them consecutively, using a water-based marker, rather than an indelible one. We keep a separate, computer-produced, written record of the date each clutch starts, and later can transfer the information on to the original computer form, so that eventually, and time permitting, we can analyse the results/records later.
We find that the somewhat time-consuming task of marking the eggs is often well rewarded, because it means that clear eggs can be identified at a very early date and removed, thus encouraging the hen to lay further eggs within the round. A majority of hens seem capable of continuing to lay until they have a certain number of eggs to sit. It has been our experience that by taking away all clear eggs at seven days old, we can often eventually secure a nest containing some fertile eggs. Last year, one of our hens laid seven clear eggs before producing a further four which were fertile - had we left those clear eggs with her it is highly unlikely that she would have laid eleven eggs - she would probably have laid only those first five or six which proved to be infertile !
This was not the only hen which followed this pattern. Quite a few displayed similar, if not quite so dramatic traits and our system thus encouraged the laying of fertile eggs which we would not have had otherwise.This year, after a sluggish start we are pleased to note that one of our most promising pairs has now had its fourth egg prove fertile - hopefully the first of many !
Marking eggs in this way also serves a useful purpose when an emergency arises - such as a hen falling sick and deserting her eggs, or more happily, when a hen is unable ( or unwilling ) to count, and continues to lay more eggs than comprises the normally accepted manageable clutch - one such hen, through our fostering system, ultimately provided us with ten chicks in one round last year
. In either situation, and many more, it helps greatly to have accurate records at your disposal, because :-
a) if all the eggs are numbered we can be sure that we foster them to the most suitable nests, and
b) the most suitable fostering sites are more readily identifiable - in other words, it works both ways..
If there is a suitable nest of clear eggs, of course, there is no danger of confusion of chicks, but where it is necessary to foster eggs amongst other fertile eggs, there can be a problem of identification. My partner and I are helped by the fact that we breed Albinos and Lutinos, as well as many of the normal varieties, and because of this we have the flexibility of often being able to place "ino" eggs in normal nests and vice-versa.This means that if two eggs hatch in the same nest, we can more or less immediately identify parentage by the fact that it either has, or has not, a red eye...
Similarly, it is often necessary to hurriedly find a home for chicks, and the strict maintenance of records helps speed up this process. There is no danger of permanently "losing" the whereabouts of chicks if they are already rung, but if they need to be fostered out when very young and as yet unrung, it helps to be able to place them with birds which will be of a different colour - again, it is useful to have pairs of "inos" etc, but it can also be safely applied to various other birds - for example, Greens which have bred well but never produced a Blue, Normals which have bred copious numbers of normals, but no Opalines, Cinnamons or other sex-linked varieties . None of these latter-quoted examples are certain, but sometimes we have to take the best option.
I don't know whether this makes any difference, but when fostering chicks, we try to smear them with debris from their new home before tucking them in amongst their foster-siblings - it makes us feel a little more confident, at least. We prefer the foster-chick to be, if possible, of an average size and age in its new home, so that there is less of the "odd man out" in terms of size about the situation (colour does not seem to have any bearing !) , but this said, we have fostered chicks of all ages, in desperation, in to what appeared to be very unpromising looking sites. Even birds which have to be moved because they have been attacked by one or both of its/their parents are usually readily accepted and quickly fed.
This said, in fostering chicks, there is always some feeling of trepidation, because while the vast majority of hens will accept additions to their nests, there are some which are of a more highly strung nature and who will react badly to any change in their own domestic arrangements. With any form of livestock, or indeed any form of life, there is never a complete answer. What works in one situation, or with one bird or pair of birds, will not necessarily be effective with another.
All I can advise is that keeping detailed records to provide a close knowledge of the traits and temperaments of individual birds and, eventually, the families from which they spring can sometimes provide some indication as to how they will behave in a given situation, and allow us to act accordingly.
In the end, it is another aspect, in budgerigar breeding, which supplies one of those situations which makes our fancy so challenging, and therefore so fascinating..
IT'S A GOOD BIRD - BUT WILL IT BREED ?
should I sell it?
Anyone who has been in the fancy for any length of time has had to face this question on more or one occasion, and my brother and I are by no means an exception. It is particularly easy for our partnership inasmuch as the selling of our surplus birds is left almost entirely to my brother, whose methods in selling birds tends more towards listing a bird's bad points (i.e. why we are selling it) rather than its good features. This makes good sense in itself because such is our nature that if we dwelt upon every bird's good points, we would end up in not selling any of them ! I am particularly at fault in this respect because I pay more attention to the likes of pedigree, and if a bird is the only product of a particularly good (visually) pair, I am very reluctant to part with it.
Usually. however, at our annual "sort-out" we have no real trouble; in fact it is an event I look forward to because this is the time that my partner and I really get down to discussing our stock - although, really we should be doing it throughout the year - and I ,at least, find this very productive. A difficulty always arises, however, when we come across those birds which we had retained with such enthusiasm "last year" - those young .large, cocks which seemed to have most of the physical attributes we were looking for, but which, nonetheless, have proved so gentle in nature that they seemed to display no inclination to reproduce their like, and which spent most of last year fussing around their hens and smiling benevolently on succeeding rounds of clear eggs. On the other side, there are those hens, again usually rather large and buff which, when paired up last year, took to the nest box as does a fish to water and either produced repeated rounds of clear eggs or, rather more ominously, went through a season of various re-pairings and produced nothing of an ovoid nature, greeting the nest box with all the joy and dedication which a young girl shows to her first wendy house !
As I say, we have all had similar problems, and the time comes when we have to make the decision encapsulated in the title of this piece. The more commercially minded, who are conscious of having a 'clientelle' to satisfy year by year, will no doubt write off such birds and clear them out as quickly as possible. This is easily accomplished because such birds look so good and are always the first to catch the eye. This is probably also the best course for those who either have similar ambitions, or who only have a very limited amount of room - and thus breeding cages - at their disposal, and have to look at the best chances of maintaining productivity and thus ensure continuity in their stock.
On the other hand, there is the semi-eternal optimist who feels sure that these potential foundation birds will 'come up trumps this time', and who therefore continue to use them as priority pairs in succeeding years. Unfortunately, the majority of such fanciers end up recording year upon year of poor breeding seasons until they 'cut their losses',and too often this means selling up and leaving the fancy! A real tragedy because had they taken a 'middle course', perhaps by relying more on the visually poorer brothers and sisters of these 'star birds' their results year upon year may well have been more encouraging, and they would not have felt the need to pack up - a very expensive business and the more so when they come back yto the hobby, as so many do. "Once the bud bites.....""
My partner and I are, of course, very lucky. We have now been in the fancy for some forty five years and if we, therefore, have not 'seen it all', we have experienced a good percentage of what can and does go wrong ! Fortunately, we now have quite a large birdroom and are therefore able to keep some of those birds whose breeding capacity is in doubt. It has to be said that in the majority of cases where we have kept birds which were so much bigger than their siblings, we have not managed to breed from them. There have, however, been exceptions and occasionally such birds have bred after a number of pairings over a period of time. One such bird which comes to mind is a Normal Grey Dominant Pied hen which finally bred for us late in the 2002 breeding season. She finally produced three chicks for us, when she had reached an age by which she might have been a great-grandmother. Being pleased with the quality of the youngsters, although by then she had been only paired to a bird which, though genetically sound was not one of our 'first-line' birds, we retained all three to use but made a point of pairing them all to birds from robust lines - a strategy which proved successful.
Whether or not to sell these large hens which have not bred for us is always a difficult decision. At one time, many years ago, we had reached a stage where we could not recall having bred successfully from any Normal Light Green hen , and in this particular year we were reviewing two sisters which had not bred for us in the full preceding breeding season, and which had become more substantial in girth than we would have liked. We therefore decided to part with one of them: a friend, who was a beginner whose wife had just been given a lutino cock (another "non-breeder") by another of our friends visited us and asked about this normal hen. In view of its failure to breed for us we sold it to him for either £1 or £2, but warned him of its 'track record'. He took it home, subsequently paired it to the lutino cock and in the first nest, bred six hens - all, of course, lutinos. Two of those birds went on to win Best Breeder in section awards for him that year. In the second round, he bred all visual normals , that is Cocks/ ino). I would add that we did not breed from the sister which we retained!
We have also persisted with some of those large, gentle, cocks and found that some of them do breed in the second year, but tend not to fill many eggs. Again, what we have tried to do with the progeny of such birds is to pair them to birds from vigorous lines, and this has borne fruit for us once we have made the initial break-through; I would stress however, that we do have the additional space in which to 'chance our arm' on these hunch pairings, and usually we have nhad our success from them later in the season - too latefor the current year's shows, but still OK for stock for the next year..
So, what are my conclusions on this. Accepting that this is a question on which there can be no firm "Right" or "Wrong", I think that one needs a lot of luck to breed from even a percentage of these larger usually "Buff -type" birds, unless one is born with the skill and instinct of a natural stockman - a gift which few of us possess (I wish that I was one of them !) If you have the room, try them but do not waste too much time on them early in the breeding season, especially if you have brothers and sisters of thses birds which may well have the same genetic make up and be therefore capable of breeding that "stormer" which we all aspire to. If ,however, your efforts with such "carthorses" meet with success, look for more vigorous, "yellow-type" ; stock to pair them to and always keep in mind the need to retain the vigour of your stock, because it is that vigour which will ultimately provide the continuity to enable you to see your breeding plans through..
If, on the other hand, you decide that it is too much of a risk, sell them but PLEASE DO be honest with the buyer and explain exactly why you have made your decision to sell. This is a wonderful fancy, as I keep saying, and we want as many people as possible to enjoy it and succeed in their aims, so the general rules of "let the buyer beware" should not be the motto of the budgerigar fancy in selling stock. Apart from the moral consideration, our reputations as fanciers are enhanced more by the birds we sell and which breed for other fanciers, but may well be damaged by those birds sold which prove to be "duds".
Terminal decline -- or can we save the patient ?
What a year we have had, so far, and I am talking about a period of nine months , since the B.S. decided (and I was one of those decision makers) to virtually cancel the show season, by withdrawing patronage to all shows (Yes, even "the National" - who more or less gave the B.S the 'Thumbs down' when it came to the crunch). It has been a time of trial and tribulation, especially for we in the N.B.S area who have had two cases in the South of our area; our sympathy obviously goes out to those fanciers, and it is, as I write, wonderful to hear that at least one of those fanciers has re-stocked and made a very promising start to the breeding season - life goes on!
So, how do the rest of us come out of it ? As I write this, in January, it is only about a month since the last outbreak, in South Yorkshire, was confirmed, but we are all hoping that few, if any, further cases will come to light. Having said that, it may well be that this virus is indeed something which we will have to try to live with, by applying the same restrictions as held good in recent 'Foot and Mouth' outbreaks and to other viral attacks. Another of life's little challenges !
I feel that at this present time while we are facing this, however, we are additionally hampered by being advised by some of our luminaries including some of the speakers at the N.B.S meetings, that the fancy is and has been in decline for a number of years. If you listen to them seriously, you might well get the impression that there is no point in planning for a future in budgerigars, except one of increasingly diminishing participation.
I feel that, especially now, it is necessary to admit that we have possibly reached a crossroads in our journey in the fancy, but if we look on the bright side, we will affirm that our life in the fancy can and will go on ! However, with the best will in the world, this is not a decision which will , in the long run, be taken by committees, either at national or at local level.
For years now, the fancy has been run by basically the same fanciers year in and year out, while the rest of us (including me until recent times) have either declared themselves to have "retired" from administration work (in my case to give time to other long-neglected interests) or to be academically incapable of taking on any official duties. Both are, perhaps, legitimate reasons: 'not having time' , I feel, is not a good excuse for doing nothing to help the fancy.
Having said that, I am probably being far too judgemental, so can I approach the problem another way by listing some of the things which we can ALL do to raise the profile of the fancy and make it far more attractive to those within the fancy and perhaps even attract some folk who have the opportunity to get a glimpse of our activities :-
AT AREA SOCIETY LEVEL.
1. Do you ever attend the Open Meetings ?
a) If not, why not give it a try ? We ,of the Northern B.S. meet on the first Sunday in each month at the Bowburn Community centre, Bowburn, Durham [just off the A1(M)] commencing at 2:30. Business discussions are kept to a minimum, although we always read minutes of committee meetings, letters etc in order to let our members know what is happening. The main highlight of the meeting, however is our speaker who invariably comes from outside our area , giving us a fresh insight into our hobby
b) If you come 'sometimes', can you try to come a bit more often and thus boost the attendance at all our meetings. "The more we are together, the merrier we shall be"
2 (a). Have you been to one of the Special events, e.g., the Beginners Day, Conventions or the Judges' Training Schemes held in the last year or two ago ? If not, would you be interested in any such event ? If so, please let the Secretary, Chairman, Publicity Secretary or one of the other officials know your thoughts - NOW, if possible !
2 (b). If you live in the western part of the N.B.S. area, have you attended the meetings that are held in this region yearly? If so, and you are a regular attender, try to persuade someone else to join you. If not, please come to the next one that you can, if only to support those Officials who make the journey every year. And if you do come, PLEASE do not hesitate to let your feelings about the running of the fancy be known.
3 . Have you considered taking on one of the 'jobs' in the your area society ? If not, please do so now and if you have any thoughts about it, why not speak to one of the present officers or committee members ?
4. Are you an exhibitor? If so, do you always show at your Area Society's Club show - If so, can you give a slightly increased (benched) entry ? If you have not shown at this show before,or only occasionally, please do think about making this show one of your regular events. When you think about it, this should be the best show, by some way, in the area and our Show Committee work hard to ensure that a very attractive schedule is on offer to all fanciers. 'Goodies' on offer include a more extensive classification so that breeders of rarer coloured birds, including dark factors have a better chance, a higher level of Budgerigar Society patronage. Please bear in mind that the workers at this show are also involved heavily in other events, so please give them all the encouragement that you can . Our Club Show is our "Shop-window" -please help to make it more attractive !
AT LOCAL SOCIETY LEVEL
1. As above, do you attend your local meeting regularly ( or at all) ? If not, please consider this very carefuly, because so many clubs nowadays are really struggling for membership. Unfortunately, what many of those clubs are short of is experienced office bearers, but so many of the experienced (usually 'successful') fanciers do not attend . The impression is that many of them feel that they have nothing to learn at such meetings, but in fact they have so much knowledge to impart. If you are one of these fanciers please give it some thought.
2. If you are an exhibitor, do you always support your local show ? If so. can you bench one or two more birds at this show than last time ? If you do not always support that show, please consider doing so in future.
3. As a natural progression to this, what about other shows in our area. Do you support as many as you can ? Could you possibly show at more shows this year than in 2002 ? Bear in mind that supporting there shows may also encourage other fanciers to enter birds at your show. Again, "the more, the merrier" - the atmosphere at any show is always considerably enhanced by a higher entry.
To conclude on the subject of shows, I know that many fanciers are reluctant to exhibit birds which they feel have no chance of winning or that are not up to their normal standard, but I would urge all exhibitors, until we have ad a chance to 'turn things around' to put aside their personal preferences in this matter and show as many birds as possible at as many shows as they can for the good of the fancy
PUBLICITY AT ALL LEVELS
This is very much one of my "pet theories". I strongly feel that the fancy at all levels does not use the media, both inside and outside of the fancy, sufficiently, but will at this point only highlight the work of "The Budgerigar", the Budgerigar Society's official magazine. In recent years, it has been felt that this magazine does not wish to receive any "old news" or information about the fancy at Grass-root level.
I would stress that if it was ever so, it is not the case now . I know that over the last couple of years, our Publicity Officer has found it very difficult to find subjects for his regular columns, so may I appeal to all local society Publicity Officers or secretaries to send our Publicity Officer any interesting snippets about the proress of their society, unusual breeding results etc, on a regular basis , to ensure that the 'Northern' column remains attractive to all readers.
Finally, another "hobby-horse" of mine; I refer to the fact that so much of our thoughts and planning is geared to the exhibition side, and we hear little about those of our members who are interested in colour breeding, whether it be to supply the pet market, or whatever. Can I suggest that such fanciers let themselves be better known, and tell the rest of us about their interest by writing an article on the subject? If anyone needs any help with the preparation of such an article for either the N.B.S or B.S. publications,, I would be happy to assist.
(Article submitted to "This England" magazine Nov 2003)
For a number of years now, and especially as I became somewhat arthritic, I have looked forward to a good, long, hot, soak in the bath at the weekend, always accompanied by a steaming hot cup of tea, and at several times of the year, including mid-November- a generous glass of whisky. All that is then required to settle me into a totyally blissful state is some enjoyable literature, and every thirteen or so weeks "This England" comes as a particular treat.
So it was with the Winter edition; I always wallow in those reminscinces in which I am able to share and I feel increasingly at one with the majority of the magazine's contributors, but nothing has come quite so near to home as the page of illustrations published on Page 39 - I refer to the "Faggies". As boys in the late 40's and early 50's,my brother and I, like our schoolfellows collected cigarette cards, albeit in a rather desultory and haphazard manner - we were seriously hampered by the fact that none of our close relatives were smokers, so we had to collect them wherever we could. Even in those days there were litter louts who threw their cigarette packets to the ground; sometimes, to our great delight, they contained cards.
At that time, we were largely interested in those series which depicted film stars, footballers and the railways - but beggars can't be choosers, so all contributions were gratefully received. However, I am not sure that we would have greeted a series about cage birds with anything other than mild interest.
How we change! I found page 39 fascinating, because it depicted birds which I am still accustomed to seeing. In partnership with my brother, I am a breeder of budgerigars, but over the years we have also visited many Cage Birds shows, which usually include a strong "foreign birds" section at which most of the birds portrayed in your illustration regularly appear. There are, in fact, still many hobbyist breeders who keep these birds - they are not confined to professional aviaries. If any readers were attracted by any of these birds, I can assure them that they will be able to find some of them at a show fairly near to their own home, usually shown alongside strong classes of various types of canaries (there is a wide range of distinctly different breeds - in the same way as breeds of dogs, cats, etc vary). Anyone at all interested in birds will find these shows well worth a visit.
Most of the "foreign birds" illustrated are judged on the feather condition of the bird itself, its rarity, and the expertise with which it is presented . Like other livestock bred for exhibition and to form good pedigree lines (for example, rabbits dogs, canaries, and cats, guinea pigs, ornamental fowl etc), the budgerigar has changed considerably in comparison to the original (Melopsitticus undulatus) as it is found in the wild. By all accounts, the illustrations you published, although probably not produced by a budgerigar fancier, are not too far removed from the type of birds being bred by fanciers at that time; there is no doubt that great changes have been made by careful selection over the years, and these were well recorded in the 40's and, I believe, early fifties by the artist, R.A.Vowles. The exhibition budgerigar as we first new it was similar to those illustrations of Mr Vowles, which were based on The Budgerigar Society's official Ideal bird. Just how much it has changed can be observed by comparison with photographs of recently bred budgerigars,
Wild budgerigars are, in the main, green in colour. Occasionally mutations do appear but only when such appear in aviary/birdroom conditions can breeding programmes be carried through to fix these mutations. The work of Gregor Mendel in establishing laws of inheritance have proved to be of great benefit to the serious breeder of the various colours of budgerigars as well as all the other small and large forms of livestock.
This fascinating hobby can be pursued under many conditions, in housing as small as 6' x 4' , and of course, the majority of fanciers have just an outhouse, a small shed at the bottom of the garden, or an ornamental aviary in which they keep a collection of mixed colours. This allows them to breed birds of myriad colours and markings which are particularly attractive to people who wish to have a pet bird in the house. There are not so many budgerigars kept as pets nowadays, because more people find them too tying at times of holidays etc, but those who do decide to keep one of these delightful little birds, famous for their gift of mimicry, rarely regret the decision.
My brother and I took up this hobby in October of 1958, only a few weeks or so after we had acquired our first pet budgie. We started off with a tea-chest, a piece of chicken-wire, some seed , grit and, one pair of birds, which we proposed to keep in our bedroom. Our father decided that our new-found enthusiasm should be encouraged and he quickly converted his workshed, in the backyard, into an aviary for us. Some forty five years later we are keener than ever.
The budgerigar fancy continues to thrive, although we do have our problems; the fancy is only now recovering from an outbreak of a virus, which scientists are still endeavouring to identify, but we seem to be over the worst. It is unfortunate that we have had to cancel all our shows in Britain this year, but we are already planning to enjoy a full show season in 2004. All the signs are that the fighting spirit that has stood us in good stead as a nation in the past are rising to help us in this time of comparatively minor trouble. The main problem, as is being found by many other hobbyists, such as flower and vegetable growers, model makers,etc is that there are nowadays so many other pastimes and pursuits available to people of all ages. We do find, however, that there is still a fairly steady influx of new fanciers, many of whom become established. I know that I am not alone in feeling that in due course attitudes will change again and there will again grow an urge to work the land and keep livestock - things that our fathers and forefathers have done for many years, if not centuries.
If there is any general anxiety, it is about the kind of people that This England has encountered over the years. I refer to those who are loosely ( but totally inaccurately) referred to as "do-gooders". It is people of this ilk who seem to be doing their best to do away with the small livestock fancy in general; I regret to say that the R.S.P.C.A appears to be among their number and are asking Parliament to grant them powers which would completely go against our countrymen's instinct that his home should be his castle, except, of course where there is very strong evidence that intervention is necessary. Birds are particularly sensitive creatures, which require careful and dedicated husbandry. They will not breed and prosper unless they are properly managed and this fact is sufficient to ensure that the vast majority of fanciers care for their flocks as they should; those who fail to do so do not last long in the fancy!. Keepers of caged birds everywhere seek all the support we can get in helping us preserve our hobby, which to us is a vital part of life in our green and pleasant land.
Any reader who has access to the internet can visit the Budgerigar Society website at http://www.budgerigarsociety.com
BREEDERS CLASSES - TIME FOR A RE-THINK ?
Throughout my life as a budgerigar fancier, including over thirty years of show administration, I have been opposed to any moves to change the definition and scope of Breeders classes, but there have grown over the last couple of years two very unpleasant traits, each to do with the ringing of older birds with current year rings: the one hand, we appear to have a small, ultra-ambitious set who will ring older youngsters at all costs, and thus gain an advantage over their competitors. At the other side of the coin is a more vocal and extremely vindictive group who are inclined to accuse all successful fanciers of such malpractice.
We all know of fanciers who at the start of each year have problems ringing the oldest of their chicks, and there has always been talk of some breeders using special lubricants and other substances to facilitate the ringing of these older youngsters. Certain breeders almost boast that there are always some chicks whose feet become skinned during ringing - not a pleasant thought! However, this `one-upmanship appears to be going on to a further stage.
I do not know how bad the problem is in other areas, but in my part of the country, talk of "dirty tricks" with people ringing adult birds with current year rings is at present rife. I have even heard of birds winning at our Club Show at Doncaster two year running with the same `Breeder' bird. In my own area this year, one local Novice exhibitor, who is highly successful with both Breeder and Any Age birds, has been the subject of a particularly vicious campaign of smears, so much so that certain judges from outside our area have been telephoning each other to warn them of certain birds when adjudicating in our area.
Unfortunately, none of these judges have had the courage or simple decency to impound the `suspect' birds for further investigation, but have merely marked them down in the class, while making rather snide remarks to their stewards. This goes down very well with the more envious of those unsuccessful fanciers, while others of a more sportsmanlike attitude resent the `dog in the manger' attitude that such remarks encourage.
The first point which occurs to me is that,although the advice to fanciers in the B.S. Official rules publications is to ring chicks between the age of five and ten days, the only rule we have to abide by pertaining to rings at present is that "All birds competing in these classes must wear the official current year closed coded ring of the actual exhibitor"; we do not actually have a rule that insists that only current year bred chicks shall be ringed with current year rings! It will,of course,be fairly argued that there is no way that such a rule can be enforced without a very strict and detailed registration scheme such as is in place in other fancies, but I do feel that although a law which cannot be enforced is not ideal, at least it will leave no doubts as to what all fanciers SHOULD be doing; the basic morality of such an issue should always be preached,even if it is
felt that such `sermons' will fall on stony ground!.
If such people (I find it difficult to think of them as fanciers) will persist in this gamesmanship, which is causing great resentment and will continue to do so,perhaps the time has come to look at a more positive solution. I am of the opinion that the time has come to give consideration to extending breeders classes to cover two years. This will,at a stroke, remove the greatest reason for ringing birds other than within the first two weeks of their life.
This move has been suggested on a number of occasions for a variety of reasons, but has mostly been rejected as being too radical and a danger to the show scene as we know it, but perhaps we should look again at the arguments for and against :
Firstly, it has been said that to extend the Breeders season to two years would give an unfair advantage to birds of,say eighteen months age to those which are only eight or nine months old. I have always accepted this argument as it stands, but on reconsideration, the difference between a bird shown at five to six months old and one of nine months of age or more (improperly rung) is greater still; the early months of maturation and growth are the most dramatic.
Secondly,show promoters (and I was one of their number) were concerned that to extend the Breeders section to two years would have too great an effect on entries in the Any Age section. On reflection, I feel that the opposite is the case; at present,the Breeders section is much the smaller one because there are comparatively few young birds ready for showing at any one given time. Allowing owner-bred birds to be shown for two years will at once ensure an increase in Breeders classes, because fanciers will continue to send out their younger,promising youngsters as well as,where possible, an older bird from their team as a back-up in the same class. That older bird would normally have taken a place in the Any Age team and this place will often be taken by a bird which is,perhaps, older again, or would only have acted as reserve in the Any Age team.The options to the exhibitor will thus be increased,rather than diminished by this change,and the average entry per exhibitor will probably increase.
In addition to this, the change would also at least partially provide an answer to a subject which has attracted a high profile for a couple of years or so: I refer to the matter of bought birds. I have made no secret, again largely as a show administrator, of my unequivocal support of the right of fanciers to show any bird that they own. As a fancier, I seek the right to be able to see the best birds in the country,at OPEN shows. I am still of the opinion that the loudest noise against this option comes from people who find the competition too hard and are not prepared to rely on their own husbandry to overcome the opposition which they find so trying.
By extending the range of the Breeders classes, more emphasis can be placed on these classes in a number of ways. For example there are some fanciers who are unable to show many breeder birds at present because they habitually do not breed youngsters early enough in the season and their owner-bred birds are currently only shown as Any Age. They would welcome the opportunity to demonstrate their support of breeder classes, by showing their `under-two year olds' in these classes.
There are many other arguments in support of the change, but as well as addressing this latest problem which I have raised, I think it will also greatly help us in our breeding programme, and this may well be the
greatest service that the Budgerigar Society can do for the fancy, because it must be accepted that breeding problems is probably the greatest single reason for people giving up this hobby.
I well remember that in our early days in the fancy, that is the late 1950's, we were constantly advised by speakers at our meetings that we should pair up our birds only when they become fit and not just because we have heard that "so and so" down the road has been paired up for a week!.
This was wise counsel, but how many of us took it fully to heart ? I believe that the reason we all ignored the advice pertains today; we pair up our birds as early as possible in order that we may be able to show . breeder birds as old as possible at the earliest show in the calendar. As a consequence, so many of us persist in pairing up our birds when that have not yet achieved breeding fitness and the result is clear eggs, or worse. The stress and disappointment that this causes is probably unquantifiable, but is certainly recognized as a reason why so many people leave the fancy at an early stage.
It is my contention that if we were allowed to show our birds as breeders for two years :
1) The B.S. could issue the current-year rings on or after 1st January of each year and thus give some credence to the years shown on the ring.
2) There would be much less reason for people to place current year rings on anything other than nestlings.
3) There would be a much greater chance of fanciers pairing up their birds only when they were in good breeding condition, thus achieving much greater breeding success, leading to ...
4) Fewer people giving up the fancy.
What do you think ?
Footnote: This article was written quite a few years ago, for "Cage & Aviary Birds" and happily there seems to be far fewer accusations of "gamesmanship" nowadays, than there was then. However, more people are now expressing problems with the rings ; they complain that they have to cut more rings on adult birds than previously. It is therefore desirable that the ring sizes be increased to try to greatly reduce the incidence of this potential damage to birds and a two year breeder class, as stated, would reduce further the 'need' to take these risks.
--- Later. Hooray! the ring size has been increased, effective from 2009! DH
At the Other side of the Camera
At the beginning of April, John received a telephone call from the Chairman of the Northern Budgerigar Society, Norma Phillips. Norma had apparently been contacted by BBC Television, who wanted to interview her, for their programme "Look North", about the Budgerigar Fancy’s thoughts on the Avian Influenza threat. Norma had felt unsure about this project and contacted John.
Thus it was that he and I were interviewed at our aviary. We had prepared beforehand for this visit, by downloading the details/advice from the BS website link to DEFRA, as well as papers that we already had. Adrian, the interviewer was very interested about the Budgerigar Society’s earlier experience with viruses, via the "Reovirus Experience" that we went through in 2003/2004. We were able to tell him about all the precautions that the BS advises all of us to take in the day-to-day management of our studs as fanciers, as well as the Guidelines on which the society insists in order to enable shows to be allowed to carry on under the banner of the BS.
John insisted that I stand as ‘Spokesman’ for the interview, as BS Publicity Officer, but he had me well primed with what I should say! It duly took place outside our birdroom, but before that, Adrian and Darren, the Cameraman, had a good look around the inside of the aviary and took a number of film sequences to illustrate the interview – and I took one or two pictures of them to add to my record of the event.Our ‘chat’ concluded, Adrian advised us that the item would be televised on the following Wednesday the day before Maundy Thursday, and so it was. John was disappointed that the rather lengthy interview had been considerably cut – of five questions asked and answered, only excepts from one were shown, but I pointed out that it is said that a picture paints a thousand words, and there was a good sequence of pictures shown.
By the time that the broadcast was made, I had e-mailed a number of newspapers, advising them of the BBC’s interest in our fancy and inviting them to take a look. As a result of this, my local newspaper made arrangements to come to our birdroom to conduct their own interview and this they did.
This was not the end of it all. In the course of the pre-amble, a number of salient facts concerning the keeping of budgerigars was covered, and among matters raised was the tale of "Sparkie the budgie!" Older fanciers will remember that "Sparkie Williams" of Forest Hall, North Tyneside was, in his own words, a "Clever Bird" who won a national speaking contest for pet birds and subsequently increased his fame by securing a presumably lucrative television advertising contract with a well-known pet budgerigar seed supplier. His fame spread nationally as a result of this.
Sadly, like all budgerigars, his life-span was brief. It transpired that, on his death he found his way into the Hancock Museum in Newcastle (free of charge), duly stuffed by a taxidermist who apparently did not know much about budgerigars, because its glass eyes were set so that they were looking forward!! ------or so it appeared from the recently-published photograph. In the course of time, the story of Sparkie was resurrected and ‘he’ has become quite a celebrity again, albeit "post-mortem.
This was not the most important matter, however. John had noticed that the bird had a brown cere!! He therefore told Adrian that if the bird in the museum was indeed Sparkie, ‘it’:-
had developed a disease which had turned its blue cere to brown
had received inappropriate cosmetic treatment from the taxidermist, or
Sparkie the Clever Boy, was in fact a Girl
It so happens that Adrian is married to a fellow journalist and he couldn’t help passing on the tit-bit of information. Thus it was that John received a telephone call from Pauline Holt, of the Sunday Sun, the North-East region’s weekend paper; she was very disturbed because seemingly John’s comments as to Sparkie’s gender had totally ruined a very promising story that she was in the process of writing. She therefore interviewed him on the matter over the phone and on the afternoon of Good Friday, a Sunday Sun photographer called and took a number of photographs with a view to publication. I was able also to give him, on disk, a couple of my own pictures confirming the difference between a cock and a hen. In the event, the latter pictures were not used by the newspaper, but John’s story was given a decent "spread" in the next edition, on Page 3!!
Subsequently, whether because of an arrangement between local papers (or was the writer freelance?) the same story also appeared in a regional daily paper, based in Darlington – the Northern Echo. This is a newspaper with as good a pedigree as our birds – a former editor is Sir Harold Evans, who has achieved lorry in his trade in the USA as well as the UK which gave him his ‘gong’.
What of our local paper, the Sunderland Echo. Just when we had begun to think that the story had ended up on the ‘cutting room floor’, it appeared in the Wednesday, 19 April 2006 edition, with my mug-shot (with a three-week old chick, and a further picture. This article was a treble-whammy as it met our three purposes:-
To put pet-owners’ minds at rest
To tell the wider public that budgerigar breeding thrives as a hobby
To tell fanciers and potential fanciers where Sunderland BS meets and how they can contact us.
Only time will tell whether this helps Sunderland BS, but I had three telephone calls about pet birds on that evening, and was able to give some advice.
So, has this story been of benefit to the fancy generally? I hope so, because I firmly believe, as I have stated on a number of occasions, that very few people outside our fancy know anything our hobby. If we can have stories about budgerigars published, in whatever form, it may well help us gain members – so we should try to seize the opportunities that we are given.
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SOCIETY
Believe it or not, I don’t manage to find a lot of time to read full novels, or other literary works, because of my various duties in connection with the fancy ( and elsewhere), but I do like to read articles and ‘snippets’, on all sorts of subjects, but largely about people and their contribution to society. This includes a subject that I have recently put to one side for another year – Christmas customs – but I also have a never-ending interest in things about travel around the British Isles. I am a Church of England member, by conviction, and the old traditions and standards of that church colour much of my opinion (with a touch of good, old, Scottish Presbyterianism thrown in, from days of my early upbringing), but my hero above all has to be John Wesley , “The Father of Methodism” who, while an Anglican priest, founded a movement which in its time and for at least a hundred years afterwards, brought a revival in religious observance, which had its effect not only in the new Methodist churches/chapels, but revived an interest in Christian religious observance in its many denominations for the next one hundred years and more. In establishing his movement, John Wesley did not have things easy. In fact, in his long ministry he was verbally attacked and even assaulted by many folk, from the hierarchy of the Established church (the Church of England) to the lowliest of manual workers (and unemployed) who reviled him for preaching “Good News” when they were in the depths of despair. The fact that he, even into his 80’s, often travelled in winter on foot – leading his horse through snowdrifts for many miles to reach these lowly habitations did not always stand him in good stead: but still he persisted almost to his dying day, and ultimately achieved a wonderful success in establishing the Methodist movement and seeing it grow.
I have also read about Sir Joseph Paxton, who designed and built the original Crystal Palace for the |Great Exhibition of 1851 following his experiences in designing a greenhouse/ orangery for (if I remember rightly) Harewood House, transferring the knowledge in designing this relatively simple construction into what was, in it’s day, a great wonder!
This extremely successful development came about because one man, Sir Henry Cole, was employed to plan the development of the Great Exhibition, inspired by Prince Albert, the dedicated consort of Queen Victoria. Sir Henry, with Paxton, (after seeing the designs of Paxton declined the concept of the exhibition being sited in a Dome and accepted Paxton’s designs. The exhibition thus went ahead – and a spectacular success it was: in fact, it was so successful that the profits from the venture enabled that Prince Albert’s other dreams, for Museums and buildings to further our education, could go ahead without the need to raise money to finance this ambitious project. If you are ever in London and have not already done so, look at those wonderful buildings in Kensington -- and enjoy the contents of the Natural History Museum, etc. While you do so, you may also reflect, as I have, on the many government ventures since then which have, rather than making money for the advance of public knowledge, resulted in another burden on the taxpayer!!
So, of these worthy folk, my heroes are Sir Henry Cole and Sir Joseph Paxton ? Not so. My vote still goes firmly with John Wesley! Not purely for his work in bringing about a religious revival – although I thank him constantly for that – but because of the man’s sheer determination in doing what he thought was right and his duty to bring his convictions (his “fancy” if you want to be totally detached from his subject), to the forefront of public opinion and thought. John Wesley started to spread his message at a time when church-going was in its most serious decline – an age when folk thought that they knew better than to believe all that the churches had been telling them – that it was all irrelevant to the present age (after all, this was the ‘modern’ 18th century and ‘the old days’ would never return). How wrong they were - the rest is history, but indeed is history which is continually re-lived around the world).
But, what has this to do with budgerigars? Well, think about it! For the last few years – and it is a mere 2-7 years, our fancy (in common with other such interests), has seemingly been in severe decline, for a number of reasons. These have been largely increased by one or two headline-grabbing headlines including the onslaught of the Reovirus in 2003 (it did not, in the end, amount to much). Much more, we have seen the recent threat of ‘Bird Flu’ which has caused even more mayhem, encouraging folk who don’t know one end of a bird of any kind from another (unless it is presented to them on the dinner table at Easter or Christmas) Again (so far) this threat has amounted to even less. After all, no budgerigars or any other cage bird breeders have been hit by it!
By this time, if you have been patient enough to trawl your way through this ‘preamble’, you will probably be wondering what I am driving at. Quite simply, that (in common with the church) the budgerigar fancy needs folk who are as stalwart as John Wesley and diligent in living by their convictions enough to get out and ‘spread the word’. I am old enough to have lived through many low points, in terms of active participation by fanciers, in budgerigar shows and meetings, and still feel that we need not accept that our wonderful hobby is in ‘terminal decline’ – why should it be??. What we do need, however is folk who are members and who get a lot out of the fancy, especially Exhibitors, to consider what they are currently putting back into fancy to repay at least some part of the pleasure that they get out of it. Yes, showing their birds is a help to show organisers and expresses some degree of support, but is this really enough ?? NO, IT AIN’T !! !
As time goes by, more and more shows (and even societies) are closing down. Sadly, this is not because the shows are totally unsuccessful – entries are still, on average, considerably higher than they were when I came into the fancy in 1958, but there are simply fewer and fewer people who refuse to make the basic – and it is basic -commitment to attend their local society meetings on a regular basis, to give members the support and encouragement that they need to continue in the fancy, and to convince officials that they are not complete mugs for continuing to do their work for the fancy. (Most official do not (contrary to comfortable opinion, do the work for the love of it, but to keep things going !!))
In my more idle moments, I have listed active exhibitors (some of them extremely successful in their own sections) in my area and tried to identify the local societies which they attend! It is surprising how many of them live in an area where the local society has actually closed down - simply because no one would take on the very basic tasks connected with the running of such societies. And yet, if even half of those active exhibitors had taken the time and trouble to become, or continued as, active members of that society, the fancy in that place would still be thriving. Perhaps they should consider that while they may not need specific societies, those societies need them.
It is still not too late, and YOU identify yourself as one such fancier , please wake up and start thinking about what YOU should be doing to make the fancy more attractive to ‘those outside’ who we slavish society officers are trying to attract into our ranks. Are YOU one who should be doing so ??
10. Questions from "Cage & Aviary Birds
How will I know when my budgies are ready to begin breeding? (2009)
My brother and I have kept budgerigars since 1958, and after the first couple of years, we decided that we should try breeding for showing. Since about 1960/61, our breeding programme has always been geared to the show season and therefore we always pair our birds up early enough to use the new year's rings as soon as they were delivered, and pair them up in mid-November.
It is, of course, important that the birds be fit for breeding, and they tend to come into breeding condition a few weeks after they complete the main annual moult, in October. It is interesting that, after a few years in which the ‘October Moult’ appeared to have dispersed somewhat, our birds appear to have reverted to the old, ‘set’ times for moulting and have come through this moult well.
Normally, as cock birds come into fitness, they become noisier and much more excited in their behaviour. The eye becomes brighter – especially in the iris, and they ‘chat up’ anything within range, be it cocks, hens, perches, drinkers or any such object. The hens often become more broody in nature (although not always) and often give an impression that they seek nesting locations/materials. This often shows in increased chewing of wood, and at this time of the years, their droppings also become a little more effusive
Another possible sign is the deepening of the colour of the cere in both sexes, but this in not, necessarily, a reliable sign. For example, some hens retain a whitish cere and go on to breed successfully.
What should I feed my budgies during the breeding season?
Additional feeding in our aviary starts in October, when we introduce occasional supplies of a proprietary softfood with an additional of Tonic seed and groats. This would also be the time for folk to introduce additives to the diet, if they so wish, to build up the birds – and particularly the hens- for the breeding season. We do add a calcium supplement and another proprietary additive to the seed at this time
How do I clean a nest-box that contains eggs or chicks?
We do not normally find it necessary to clean a nest box at the egg stage, as the hen usually keeps the eggs clean herself. If, exceptionally, we have a hen which soils the eggs greatly, we look for a suitable foster pair to transfer those eggs to. As we keep a mixed collection of birds, including red-eyes (Lutinos and Albinos), we will normally try to transfer the eggs of red-eyes to pairs of the non-red-eye variety, so that the fostered eggs can be recognised on hatching -- and vice-versa.
This done, we transfer our attention to the ‘dirty’ hen, and examine her closely to make sure that she is otherwise in good health, as this soiling may be due to an intestinal irregularity. If all appears well, we leave the pair to settle for another round, and hope that all will be well then. Normally, however, unless they are maiden birds, these hens are trouble and will not change.
Where there are chicks, we try to allow things to proceed as closely to nature as possible, and mindful that there is no third party around to clean out the nests of budgerigars in the wild, we opt not to clean out the nest boxes except where there is excessive soiling due to heavy, wet droppings in the nest box: even in the latter case we try to avoid drastic cleaning, by introducing further supplies of sawdust/shavings to mop- up the excess moisture, before embarking on a wholesale cleaning job. If the latter is necessary, we transfer the chicks to a warm place – usually our catch-net, situated near a heater, while we work quickly to do the necessary work. It is worth stressing at this point, that our daily nest box routine includes checking the beak and feet of chicks to make sure that they are kept clear of droppings etc, as otherwise these can rapidly harden and lead to malformations in the beak, legs and feet. If a chicks feet are becoming quickly re-covered, a little Vaseline, or similar massaged into the feet and legs may prevent the problem becoming too persistent.
Is there any way to check whether the eggs are fertile?
Quite a simple one, initially which has been improved upon over the years thanks to progress. Nowadays, we can use purpose built torches/lights which can be placed and lighted behind the eggs while still lying in the nest box, and in the early stage the red lines of the growing embryo will become apparent. After a few day, of course, the eggs will be solid white as the embryo grows inside the egg. This process is still called ‘candling’ eggs because the original, centuries-old, method used by farmers to determine the fertility of eggs was to hold the egg in front of a lighted candle.
It is, of course, equally possible to take the egg from the nest box and hold it up to the light – or better still against a light at the same level. Many fanciers feel that the less we have to interfere with eggs the better, so always try to replace eggs exactly as they were in the box. Finally, wash or disinfect your hands before and after handling eggs, to ensure that eggs do not become contaminated.
What is the best time of year for breeding budgerigars?
Many fanciers feel that the best time is, as normal practise now, in November because it is after the main moult for budgerigars and this would be the time when the birds would naturally look for a mate -- when they are equipped with all their new finery. However, other say that the budgerigar is a different bird from that which lives wild in Australia, even though it has retained some of its habits, and that the best time would be, like our native varieties, in late February/early March. When my brother and I first joined the Budgerigar Society, the issue date of the Official Close Coded Rings had just been brought forward, in response to demands from fanciers, from March 10th to January. This move was driven, as the current moves now are, by the supposed needs of the exhibition fancy, and many of the ‘Old-Timers’ of the day denigrated the move as being in compliance with the needs of fanciers rather than what was best for the birds.
Certainly, the arguments persist and will continue to do so. There is, however, no getting away from the fact that year by year we hear fanciers reporting “Rotten first- round, much better second and third”. Whether this is because it takes some birds longer to ‘warm-up’ or that fertility is better early in the year is open to conjecture
Certainly this year, our breeding season got off to a poor start, despite our having spent more time in repairing and preparing the birdroom for the new season. We were not able to address the problems until mid January and beyond because of a series of illnesses/bereavements and associated duties, but having re-paired some of the birds then, we seem to have considerably more promise, at present (2009). Fingers crossed !!
11. BS Publicity Officer's column - or "Herring's Tales"
July 2009 - written May 09
A few weeks ago, The Editor was kind enough to suggest that I may like to have a regular ‘spot’ in the magazine, over and above any other specific duties. I was happy to accept the invitation -- then came the time to consider what I could possibly have to say that has not been expressed better by better folk?
So -- this is a pilot run and I hope what will probably be a collection of “Bits and Pieces” ( or “Herring’s Tales”, perhaps) will at least be deemed readable.
A few things have occurred to me lately, some of them giving hope for the future of our fancy. The first that I would share with you is something that I read only a couple of weeks or so ago, about an issue which has affected us, as a fancy, for some time. It concerns Avian ‘flu, and apparently a team of boffins have now discovered that there is little chance of that dreaded virus getting any kind of a hold in this country! Why? Apparently because that despite all the loose talk of Global warming, this country is just too cold for the poor little bugs to thrive ! Perhaps we should export some of our climate to Asia?
( Incidentally, am I the only one who remembers the hot drought-threatening summers of a few years ago, which the experts told us would persist and grow worse because of Global warming. Since then, of course, we have had all those floods which have been deemed to have the same cause! Funny !?)
It’s not all that funny really though. I don’t know about other parts of the country (and perhaps you will let me know), but my own experience and that of others in the North East is that the doors of our traditional venues such as church and school halls are being increasingly found closed to us. The Sunderland school hall that our show, The North East National, tried to book last year was refused us because “ parents would be very worried” – even though the show was at the beginning of the long Summer school break – and the church hall which we tried to book for a meeting (no mention of birds being taken to the meetings ) was refused us because ‘they had other plans’. When I suggested it was from fear of bird ‘flu, the vicar strongly denied it and said that they were planning for community works from the centre. So, perhaps we budgie breeders have been expelled from the community? Curiouser and curiouser! (as Alice said in Wonderland).
But we battle on, and it is pleasing to see that despite all negative talk, there are still folk coming forward to take up our wonderful fancy and hopefully that tide will continue to strengthen, as the usage of that very useful tool, Information technology, moderates and folk realise that there are other activities still open to us all -- and some of them involves mixing with people other than over the airwaves.
Then, hopefully, we might get to the stage when fanciers turn to their local societies as an ideal place to share their experiences in the hobby, and realise that people on their own doorstep may be, in many ways, just as interesting as those at the other end of the country! At present, of course, many of our societies are still continuing to attract and thrive on, the very welcome company of Beginners to the fancy, but in order to be a true representation of the fancy, such local societies MUST get the support of the more experienced breeders. Unfortunately, it seems that many fanciers, once they start showing their birds and perhaps start to achieve some success on the show bench, get the impression that they have nothing to learn from visiting speakers (and their fellow members) so that there is nothing that their local club can offer them. Even if this assumption were correct, the opposite does not appear to occur to them; that perhaps they have something to give to their local meeting from their own experiences – pearls of wisdom from which newer members can benefit. Our time is surely something that we can all contribute to keeping our hobby in good heart ?
It is almost funny listening to some of the excuses fanciers give for not supporting their local club. One of the regular ones I’ve had is that “I’m hoping to start work soon so won’t be able to get to many meetings” and another “We’re moving in a few months time so I have to get ready for that”. What would have been the response if I’d asked him to do a job? I do not know! …… but the shortage of officials at all levels is, perhaps, something for next time !
So – moan over, and back to more happy thoughts! As you may have heard, my area society the Northern BS now has taken delivery of a new set of staging, thanks to a grant from Awards for All to provide this equipment plus laptops and printers to aid the show work. I might even get a sniff of these for my own local Publicity work, and a wider campaign to get information about our hobby into the public domain – but this will also need volunteers to deal with this aspect, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed!
Hopefully this stroke of fortune, which is the result of the committee’s perseverance in seeking this award, will also lead to more activity as members flock in to enjoy the fruits of these labours, by benching even more of their birds at local shows than they did last year.
“Not Dr Livingstone, I presume?”
It is a mere 40 hours since my wife, Pat, and I returned from our annual May visit to Cornwall. We stay in the Mount Haven Hotel, Marazion and have a room with a balcony overlooking Mounts Bay, including St Michael’s Mount, which is one of the views in the old TV detective series, Wycliffe. A wonderful place from which to explore this celtic land.
We’ve been doing this for years and happily always find better weather than the forecast. Consequently, we enjoy getting out and about as much as possible visiting new places each year.
One of the places that we visited this year was Redruth, which some think of as being mainly Industrial landscape, but it had been recommended to us by our guidebooks. On the advice of the local Tourist Information Office, we took a copy of the Church town trail, which took us to a lovely old church (famous for, among other things, a very long coffin rest in the Lych gate) and we very much enjoyed the remainder of our walk which took us past the site of the Annual Whitsun fair which has been held there for centuries – sadly, we now find that it will not take place there this year – following a ‘pitch inspection’.
As we approached this site, we noticed a chap polishing a beautiful pair of stainless steel gates guarding the wide entrance into the field. These gates were such a delight that I felt compelled to speak to him and asked them whether they were his work. He said they were – though not designed by him - and I congratulated him on a job well done.
He told us about the work and about his connection with the area. We also discussed the way things are in society general –as older people do - and I spoke of the problems of getting folk to devote time to local societies, such as horticulture and livestock. In the course of the conversation, he asked us where we were from and we told him Sunderland. He then said that he breeds exhibition budgerigars and I looked very much like a chap he know from thereabouts, by the name of Herring. I told him he must mean my brother and introduced myself and he did likewise - Rodney Harris, who I had not met before, but told him that I had still hoped to. It was, indeed, a joyful experience for me and was one of a long line of coincidences which occurred on that holiday, memorable as all our Cornwall visits are . The only regret was that we were unable to accept his invitation to visit him at home because of the short duration of our stay.
……. And when we got home, the birds were still doing well under the careful husbandry of my partner, John. Now we look forward to the show season, which should provide tales of its own!
September 09 - written July
Where was I ?? Oh yes, I’d just come back from Marazion, Cornwall. And now? In less than 72 hours time my wife and I will set off again for our annual holiday in …….Cornwall ! Well, overnight in Cornwall then off for a full week in the Isles of Scilly, before returning home after one night in Marazion (Mount Haven Hotel, as usual). Then back to ‘budgie-work’ !
I wrote last time of my sense of the turning of a corner for the fancy, and this hope has been confirmed to some extent by the early reports on the show season results so far, at least in my native North-East England location. To date, we have had three shows here, in successive weeks and they have each recorded a very promising increase in entries, and more importantly in the number of exhibitors. This followed a perhaps more modest increase for those same shows last year, so ‘hope springs eternal’. I am now anxious to know how the rest of the shows in the Budgerigar Society’s bailiwick are doing.
It is still a concern to me that the number of societies appear still to be dwindling, something that I have previously written about in other columns. It is, to me, rather puzzling that many of these societies have closed down immediately after making a decision that they do not have the resources to run an open show in the immediate future. The appointment of a Show Secretary is often the main stumbling block, as those duties are, of course rather strenuous, and this is especially so if he/she has all the Patronage duties, booking of Judges, accommodation and other tasks to do, as well as the compilation, printing and mailing of schedules and catalogues. Fortunately, I have not had it all to do for a number of years.
However, there are still some local clubs closing down because they can not find anyone who will volunteer for the relatively straightforward job of General Secretary, a job which can be as straightforward or as involved as the office-bearer cares to make it. In some cases, there have still been a good half dozen folk turning up for meetings immediately before the decision was taken to close the club down. It seems such a shame to me that these societies do not continue to meet in order to discuss, budgies, budgie fanciers, the weather, the state of British football, cricket or whatever ---- as a band of folk with a common interest in the breeding and keeping of budgerigars. It is obviously far easier to close a society down than to start one up completely from scratch, and I think that it is important that we maintain as many points of contact for folk who may wish to take up the fancy, and the easier it is for such a person to become a member of a local club, with all the contacts that such meetings offer, the better the chance of our fancy expanding once again, until such time as there is communal confidence and resolve enough to hold another show.
As a committed exhibitor, I continue to maintain that our societies are not there purely for the showing side of the fancy. If we ignore all the other aspects of the fancy, we miss much that could broaden our interest.
Is it too easy for me to talk? Do I know what I am talking about? Perhaps not, but how’s this for a ‘tale’ - but a completely true one:-
Some may think that the slump in membership that we have seen is something completely new. Perhaps nationally this is so, but not for Sunderland BS. My brother and I joined this society of 20 or so regularly attending members in October 1958, but by 1962, lifestyles had changed and folk did not wish to go to Saturday evening meetings. Consequently, by late 1963, there was only my brother (the Secretary) and myself attending these meetings for three months, then joined by another member who had been working for the previous three meetings. At the end of a further three months, we three decided to write to all members asking them if they wanted to change the meeting night, and received some coverage in the local evening paper. The response was sufficient to allow us to call a meeting for a Wednesday, and the society ultimately grew from there, with support from our near neighbours, the South Shields Budgerigar Society, and by the end of 1964 we were fully on our feet and, with South Shields BS and other neighbours Hetton le Hole, BS were able to launch the North East National show in 1965.
There have been other such troughs in membership levels, and perhaps will be again, but there are peaks in between! Currently the society is ‘on the up’ (now that John and I have retired largely to argue in the kitchen and to provide the refreshments). Change is always worth trying, and we have gained members who would have been lost to the Budgerigar Society and fancy had we given up, allowed the club to fold, and lost this point of contact.
In writing about meeting places and means of contact, what about that very popular, and rapidly growing medium, the Internet? It is, indeed a very interesting tool, and an excellent way of attracting new members. For quite a while now, I have been pleased received emails from Tony Cash, Secretary of the Northdowns B.S, publicising the activities of their meetings and other events. Unfortunately, they are a long way away from me, in County Durham, but I am no less interested to receive his emails and attachments and hope that I continue to do so.
I have adopted a similar policy to Tony’s with Sunderland BS (as its Publicity Officer), but my mailing list is rather small at present. However, the society’s website is also expanding in it scope, and we give full details of meetings, future and past, show schedules and the report of last week’s open show the North East National. So, where am I going? Simply it is that it occurs to me that in future months and years, there will be more and more fanciers visiting the website, and coming into our fancy through ‘surfing the net’. This is something which societies can use more and more, but would it not be a very useful thing if we were to have a facility, either through the Budgerigar Society’s website, or even by individual or area societies covering their area, which local show organisers could tap to contact exhibitors from near and far, drawing attention to the details of their open shows and events..
….. or would it mean that some fanciers would receive too many such missives and regard them as SPAM. What do you think?
November 09 - written September
........ and moving on! Yes, before you ask, Pat and I have had another short holiday since our return from the Scillies. This time, it was a three-day jaunt to London, but I hasten to explain that this (as in all our trips to the capital) was courtesy of a special offer - a '3 nights for the price of One' - very inexpensive opportunity from Thistle hotels. I commend such to anyone who is not enslaved by the prospects of holidays in the sun, as, although the sun is not a prerequisite we are always particularly fortunate in our weather. We are, of course, lucky to be retired and my other excuse (if we need it) is that it is the only way that I can get away from my computer and 'budgie work' to spend all my time with my wife. Unlike our Chairman ( who, I believe, holds even more jobs in the fancy than Ghalib or myself) I do not take my laptop on holiday with me, even to download the many pictures that I take.
But, as always, I’m rambling, because I am once again back to accept the many challenges that our fancy offers and am looking forward to reporting on another great BS Club Show. Great, yes - as I write, I learn that almost 7% more of our membership have entered birds at Doncaster this year, although the total entry is less than 100 up in the competitive classes - but with everyone pulling together it will, over the years, become greater yet with the support of our exhibiting membership.......
Again, this is sounding like something of a 'closed shop' - as if the Budgerigar Society had been put into place solely for the exhibition side of our fancy. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially when we consider that much of the work that has been done in producing new mutations, and fixing them as new varieties has been accomplished by the diligence and fortitude of fanciers who are interested in the budgerigar as a species rather than a specimen developed for competitive comparison. (Please tell me if you believe that this statement is incorrect!)
I have always believed, and regularly stated, that the Budgerigar Society IS its members, and that means both collectively and individually, although its strength lies in our diversity – all having different views as to what the hobby of budgerigar keeping is all about. John and I were always aware of the need to regard and treat all our fellow fanciers equally; this also applied to the potentially divisive ‘exhibition status’. Many years ago, when the fancy was enjoying one of its peaks in membership and it seemed that exhibitors of budgerigars were almost ‘as numerous as flies on a cowpat’, there sprung up in certain areas a movement to form separate groups.
These mini-organisations took names like ‘Sociable Groups of Champion Breeders’, membership of which was open only to those having achieved that status and being by invitation only. There aim was to organise small gatherings of its members centred around a meal and an invited speaker over every few months or so . A similar group was founded in our area –we did not have so many Champions, so Intermediates were also admitted, and we received an invitation to join. We declined the offer because, while the concept of the meal and speaker was good, we hold to ‘One nation’ principles, and can not support elitism in any form.
So, it slightly irritates me when I hear, or read (often by email) of fanciers indiscriminately attacking officers of societies as elitist: as being in office to take what they can get out of it, and having no regard to the views of, or even respect for the ‘grass-root membership’. In fact, those who do the administrative work are becoming fewer (and older) at all levels of the fancy. (I know that I keep returning to this theme, but the problem does not go away) There are no ‘perks’ to such jobs apart from the pleasure of being of some service, and in fact the volume of work for the fancy often tends to take away their chance of getting out and about to visit other fanciers and to spend vital time in developing their own studs. So, most of my heroes in the fancy are such workers.
Who else are my heroes? Outside the fancy they are many, spanning the centuries, but there is another group who are inside the fancy by ‘affiliation’ – those ‘related by marriage’. I refer, of course, to the consorts of fanciers, mostly wives because most fanciers are men, but as a fancy we owe much to all those partners who do so much from the sidelines to enrich our hobby, whether it be the ladies who organise catering at shows and special events, and often do so much of the necessary fund-raising to support we fanciers in our hobby, or the husbands who often do much with their skills to support their partner. (Should they be installed as Honorary Members of those societies?)
My wife is one such, and as well as raising funds by running the Tombola stall at my local show for many years, she funded the purchase of IT equipment used to produce our schedules and catalogues over that time –indeed since 1991, insisting that this was an item of ‘household expenditure’. She has supported all aspects of my life in the fancy and I fully realise that she could well insist (as have others) on our life taking a different path - but she has not done so. Where would the fancy be without such supporters?
Therefore, amidst all the excitement of the forthcoming breeding season and the extra birdroom work that this entails, with the Festive Season coming up, let us raise that extra glass to the ladies (and men) who help their partners to keep the fancy going.
Merry Christmas to All, - and to the birds, A Productive New Year.
January 2010 - written November 09
In his postscript to my last column, the editor related the one of our experiences at the last BS Club Show, when Grant Findlay (looking rather like one of those Scottish undertakers who like to see the funny side of life) approached my brother and me to tell us that one of our sales birds had died. John enquired whether it had been sold before it died – it had not !!
This was the first part of the tale. The follow up was that he asked where the deceased was lying - he said that he hoped it was not with the sick birds, because he wouldn’t like it to catch anything !
This was one bitter-sweet episode in a very enjoyable two-day event, which seemed packed with folk who had gone along with the full intention of enjoying themselves and thus achieved that aim, some of them doing so while working in their various roles to ensure the success of the event. Most of this work was there for all, even the most casual observer, to see but the ‘engine room’ – the office- was out of site processing
Ronnie Simpson has been our Show secretary for a number of years now, and runs the results processing part of the show with a small team of dedicated helpers, culminating in the production of the Awards Sheets – a mammoth task which takes far longer to print than many fanciers realise. In fact, at a recent meeting which I attended one fancier asserted that the printing should be speeded up by using a photo copier – I don’t think he realised just how many copies of each page are printed.
Thankfully, interested fanciers now have the chance to find out for themselves, thanks to Ronnie Simpson, because he has adapted the technology that he has developed in running the BS Club Show so that his program can be used to run ANY budgerigar show, by fanciers who have Microsoft Office on their computers. He has made copies of his program available, free of charge, to any club who wish to take up this opportunity. He will even tailor it to meet specific needs, if necessary.
In addition, he is prepared to travel to societies who so wish to give a presentation to groups of interested fanciers who are considering ‘biting the bullet’ by taking on the responsibilities of running the show secretary side of the show. Having already acquired and used this program to run the North East National (with only a couple of weeks to learn it) I can confirm that this is a very straightforward and effective tool. I strongly urge folk who are keen to ensure that we do not lose any more shows to take on the task with confidence.
Ronnie Simpson, true to his word, attended a specially arranged Seminar at the Northern B.S. headquarters at Bowburn in November and I am pleased to say that this event was attended by a goodly number of interested fanciers, including some from my own local society, Sunderland BS. This was an extremely successful presentation, which has hopefully inspired local fanciers to expand the show scene in our area.
After many years as a Show Secretary, since 1965, I have now ‘retired’ from this office, leaving the post to a successful Sunderland fancier who approached the task with the aim to restore to the show the former level of entries, as numbers have declined since the late eighties and early nineties. We will all get behind Kevin to help him to realise this laudable ambition.
So now, onward and upward. I am happy to say that this year John and I have managed to re-decorate most of the inside of our birdroom as well as (hopefully) successfully repairing its roof, so that we no longer need to wear Wellington boots in the birdroom in inclement weather. We have also changed our feeding methods slightly, by adding Cod Liver Oil to the softfood and have introduced another, popular commercial additive. In addition to this, we have finally managed to bring in five new cocks to bolster our breeding team and are feeling quite hopeful for the future.
By the time this column is published, we will have some idea whether or not all our introductions are working. Hopefully, the news will be good by then – and I hope that, indeed, we will all be well on the way to filling more classes at our 2010 shows
Treatment of sick and injured birds
(first published in the Budgerigar Bulletin March 1972)
There is little doubt that mortality in young birds after hatching is largely attributable to either lack of feeding or inadequate feeding on the art of the hen. all have experience of cases where chicks die shortly after hatching and usually there is nothing that can be done for them, but often inspection of the nestbox will reveal signs that all is not well.
The most apparent indication is in the colour of the affected chicks which will show a 'hot' red-purple skin colour instead of the light pink that is so desirable, This is usually accompanied by an under-filled crop or one which obviously contained whole seed kernels’ which are not only indigestible to a bird at that stage of growth, but tends to impede the ingress of the more suitable, broken-down, “crop milk”.
To another nest
A very young chick is unable to cope with unmasticated seed and relies on being fed pre-digested food. It is therefore necessary to take immediate action to ensure that it is correctly fed or its future growth could be severely retarded. The safest and most beneficial action in such cases is to foster it to a nest where correct feeding is being carried out on chicks which are of a similar age.
Many fanciers find it advantageous at this time to foster, to the hen who is feeding badly an older, larger chick which will cry incessantly until its needs are supplied. This usually sets off a chain reaction and any other chicks in the nest learn to shout for proper feeding. By the time the brood is red, the hen has mastered the art and invariably the next clutch is red without incident.
We are great believers in helping breeding birds by offering them additional food which is easily converted into such suitable for feeding very young chicks. There are many forms which this can take. Among the most popular are oats, naked oats, groats and wheat, fed either dry or soaked. My brother and I offer our stock brown bread and milk and conditioning and rearing food, dampened to a crumbly texture and mixed in equal quantity with tonic seed. Such soft food is of particular value when it is impossible to foster out poorly-fed young. In certain such cases erring hens will ignore the supplements offered and continue to give their young whole seed. In such cases one should take the gamble of removing all hard seed from the cage and substitute a larger variety of soft food and slops. This leaves the parents with no choice but to fee d soft food to their young and in a large percentage of cases achieves a seemingly remarkable improvement in the condition of the youngsters. In cases where this rather drastic treatment has been applied, however, regular checks of the nestbox must be made because in a small minority of cases the hen, in the absence of hard will fail to feed the chicks at all. In such cases the hard seed must be restored; it is worth while soaking and offering a portion of this seed, alongside or mixed with the dry form to encourage her further.
A tube into the crop
For some time now, we have wondered whether it is possible to introduce into the crop of badly fed youngsters by means of a hvpodermic needle a suitable solution of milk and glucose, or proprietary supplements. lt occurred to me that this could be accomplished by fitting a fine tube and entering the crop via the mouth. We have not had the need this year to try this. I wonder if any other fancier has tried it? The mention of a hypodermic brings us to the subject of administering medicines generally but before the fancier considers the treatment of ailing stock he must first know how to recognise the early signs, because early detection holds the key to a speedy and complete recovery. It should become a matter of routine every time he enters his birdroom to cast an appraising eye over each of his birds, looking for the tell-tale sign which is a soft appearance with the feathers raised away from the body to retain as much warmth as possible. The affected bird will also be seen to be standing on both legs instead of, as is usual, one.
(N.B. In the 38 years since this article was published, their have come on to the market a goodly range of aids and products to enable the fancier to feed his failing or ailing young by hand. These are well worth the cost, as one chick saved to vibrant health will more than cover the modest financial outlay involved)
Isolation and warmth
Having established that have a sick bird, we must try to find the cause. The first step is to catch it up. This should be done as gently as possible in order to minimize shock. The bird should then be examined, Obvious signs to look for are an unnatural discharge from the mouth, nostrils and vent. In such cases the bird should be isolated in a warm place such as a hospital cage or close to a fire in the house. If the discharge is from the nostrils only, the crop should be inspected with the finger and thumb. It may be found that, though at first sight it appears wholly or partially filled, it is not possible to detect many seeds. It can then be assumed that this is fluid which the bird is incessantly vomiting away and we should attempt to evacuate this by holding the bird upside down, face down-wards, and exerting pressure on the crop. The fluid should be thus released. The bird cant hen be given a dose of gripe water and returned to the heat. In most cases a cure will be speedily effected. When it is noted that the bird is sneezing heavily and there is no unnatural discharge from the vent, the main treatment is heat, but it is a good idea to give the patient a dose of whisky and glycerine mixed in the proportion of one drop to four. The cure normally takes a day or two to complete.
A bird found to be suffering discomfort, but showing no symptoms other than wheezing, is possibly suffering from bronchitis. Again, it can be given a booster of whisky and glycerine and then heat. A drop or two of tincture of iodine added to the drinking water is found to be greatly beneficial in such cases.
Symptom of enteritis
By far the most dangerous and common complaint is enteritis which is a severe inflammation of the stomach and intestine. The trouble is contagious, and when it is diagnosed the bird should be immediately isolated in a warm place and the cage or flight to which it has had access thoroughly scrubbed out, using a strong disinfectant. The symptoms include the usual signs of distress and a green or green-black discharge from the vent. In such cases it is advisable to seek the aid of a veterinary surgeon, who has the drugs necessary to effect a cure, but if this is not possible home treatment can be administered successfully. If caught at the early stage, or if the trouble is in a mild form, gripe water (or, for that matter inger ale or diluted ginger cordial) can clear it up, but in more severe cases a drug is required. The one most commonly used, with a high degree of success, is Acromycin/Tetracycline, a drop of which, administered direct via the beak, is usually sufficient.
How are such medicines given? Most fanciers use eye-droppers but these usually extremely bulbous at the tip and really a little too big to administer medicine with complete efficiency. One or two fanciers We have met use a hypodermic needle in which the needle has been replaced by a fine rubber tube which can be passed easily over the back of the bird's tongue, thus allowing the medicine to be fed directly into the bird with-out wastage. This We feel is by far the most efficient method and one which We intend to use in the future. Hitherto, We have used another weell-tried method which is almost as efficient, if causing a little more discomfort to the patient. It is by the use of a spoon fashioned from a split-ring ringing tool, all corners and sharp edges having been removed. The advantage of this in comparison to the eye-dropper lies in the fact that here again the medicine can be passed over the bird's tongue and directly into its body.
The reaction of most birds after receiving a dose of medicine is to attempt to vomit it away. It is therefore a good idea to hold it for a time afterwards to give time so that the medicine can pass well down its throat. Again we would stress that, in all cases where illness is noted, the best chance of a cure lies in immediate treatment.
Setting broken bones
Though have not had any experience of a broken wing, will outline the method usually adopted for dealing with it. Obviously the first step is to locate the site of the break. The next object is to set the wing in a position from which it will not be disturbed thus giving time for nature to take its course. Where possible, some form of splint should be applied to minimize any movement from the correctly set position and it is usually possible to wrap apiece of stiff card underneath the affected part. This done. the wing should then be strapped to the bird's body in the desired position with knitting wool, medicinal sticking tape or any such suitable material, packing with cotton wool any natural gap beten the wing and the body. Eighteen to twenty-one days will see a cure when treatment is properly carried out.
(Since this article was written, we have had the need to put this into practice, on a number of occasions, with mainly very good results. DH)
Held with a quill
Broken legs occur far more frequently in our experience and have dealt with numerous cases, with failures in only one or two cases where both legs are broken on two to three -week-old chicks. Most of the cases have had involved the lower leg and these are fairly easily dealt with. Many people have used the covering of a piece of electrical flex. Even more successful is a piece of the quill from a larger bird. eg a goose, tied round the affected limb with cotton. Until last year(1971), the method used was to split a piece of matchstick down the centre and bind it into place with Elastoplast or a similar product, but last year replaced the Elastoplast with Sellotape and found that by wrapping it round the leg three or four times a much more rigid casing was formed; easily removed the casing after two weeks by holding the leg in warm water for two or three minutes, subsequently repeated the treatment with three other cases, all of which re completely successful.
(Nowaday-2010-, in this age of plastic, another material can replace the goose feather. This is the plastic drinking straw, obtainable gratis at many public bars. It can be cut to size and the pieces cit lengthways to overlap and support the broken limb. DH)
An injured pet
Setting a fracture in the upper leg is more difficult but in the few cases have had, have been fortunate enough to effect a complete cure. ln the first instance some years ago strengthened the upper limb with Elastoplast , using long, narrow strips for easy application. The most recent case was when the friend of a fellow fancier called with his pet bird aged about nine eks. located a clean break almost at the top of the upper leg. After giving the problem some thought decided to apply a splint bound with Sellotape and found to our surprise that re able to draw the leg sufficiently away from the body in order to apply the casing. returned the bird to its owner and re informed three weeks later that he/she had removed the plaster six days earlier and the leg was restored to full use.
The need for observation
We would, at this stage, point our that it is not necessarily sufficient to apply the casing and forget about the bird for two weeks. The patient must be kept under observation to ensure the treatment is proving successful. This will reveal itself in a return to movement in the toes of the injured leg after a period of between two to four days have elapsed. if there is no such sign after a ek, the casing should be removed and the treatment repeated.
It is, of course, to most people a traumatic experience to discover ones first case of a broken leg. Our reaction was to panic but when we considered that without treatment the leg was useless re forced to 'have a go'. Since then have realised that there is no particular art involved once the position has been rationalized. As long as the site of the injury is located, the bone restored to its natural place and the support applied, time and nature will do the rest. Many people have asked us why we bother to go to the trouble and is it worth it? Our reply has been that it is certainly worth it if a useful bird is restored to its full vigour, and that we regard it as our duty to do what we can for an ailing bird. The birds in our care are not toys or machines but living, breathing beings. have a moral duty to look after them to the full. To those who say that once a bird has been ill it is of no use in the breeding stock, we say fair enough; cure the bird then retire it or find a good home for it. Your local social services committee will possibly be pleased to place your write-offs in a good home (or certainly, this was so when we first penned this article!)