Budgie Breeding Calendar
Chickweed, like all the greenfoods that we give to our birds should be free from any pollutants and not been affected by frost. Thoroughly wash it in clean cold water and give it a small handful at a time while it is still crisp and fresh. Remove it after a few hours when or before it becomes limp. It is unusual for budgerigars to gorge themselves on greenfoods but, to avoid the possibility and the probable resulting problems with diarrhoea, provide only small amounts at a time - just enough to loosely fill a tea cup is adequate. To avoid contamination with droppings on the cage floor, either hang greenstuff in bunches or use a dish for items such as cut-fruit or vegetables.
Throughout the year, grit should be available to assist digestion through grinding of the food in the bird’s gizzard. Budgerigars will habitually spend time at the grit containers, even grinding at times up what is there into a fine dust. A mixture containing varieties of mineral grit, oystershell and even pigeon grit is suitable.
Millet Sprays suspended from the cage or aviary roof should be offered occasionally. Budgerigars, especially young birds, will spend hours foraging through the stalks until they are stripped bare, a useful activity to overcome boredom.
Generally, within the UK, budgerigars can withstand very cold winters and many birds having access to outside flights venture outside and seem to come to no harm. However, care is needed in freezing conditions, especially to ensure drinking water is not frozen and also that breeding birds and their young are well protected from cold winds. In such conditions some form of artificial heating is advised in the birdroom but ensure that it is completely free from fumes; modern electrical tubular or oil-filled heaters or radiators are ideal to keep the room temperature around 10 degrees C (50 degree F). Ensuring birds stay in peak breeding condition can be helped by feeding Haith’s Budgie Breeder’s Mixture at this time.
For those UK budgerigar keepers interested in breeding for competition, their calendar is synchronised to the 1st of January when the new season’s rings are issued; an important factor to ensure as many as possible young birds are bred, ringed and selected to participate in the following show season. Getting young birds in the nest ready for ringing at this time requires pairing up of birds in late November but then the birdroom needs artificial lighting and some heating to improve the chances of success.
Take into account that the normal incubation time for budgerigar eggs is eighteen days but also consider that eggs are laid on alternate days and similarly hatch at the same rate and order. On occasions hens do not commence incubation immediately and wait until two or three eggs are present before starting to incubate. Do not be surprised that some eggs from large clutches fail to hatch as they may not all be covered by the sitting hen. So breeding of show birds is fairly dependent on timing and understandably, close recording of all events and details associated with each bird becomes essential to ensure the highest chance of breeding success. The aim is for young birds born early in the year to be fully developed before the next show season begins and second clutches should be clear of the nest and independent by early summer.
Pairing up of birds is quite a challenge to the breeder, testing his knowledge of genetics, the quality of his stock and its fitness to breed. It is on this choice that any success or failure on the show bench depends so it is worth spending time to get it right.
Many find it very convenient to separate cocks and hens into separate flights around the second week of November, some couple of weeks before the pairing actually takes place. This allows time to clean and prepare the breeding cages, while leaving the seed and fresh water to be put in place just prior to introducing the birds.
Breeding pet budgerigars follows a similar schedule but is not tied to the exact dates imposed by ringing birds for competition. It is also not governed by the constraints dictated by competition rules and show standards and the thrill of breeding colourful pet birds is the main attraction. Nevertheless, the management of the breeding programme remains the same, undergoing all the joys and failures that any breeder will inevitably encounter.
During the breeding season, oats are a very useful supplement to the normal diet and can be given in small quantities in their raw state. Hen birds feeding young, however, will benefit from the oats being washed well and soaked for 24 hours to allow the starch in the seed to be converted in to sugars. As a guide, offer only about one teaspoon a day per bird to avoid over indulgence and inevitable obesity.
January / June
At this time of the year breeding birds will have young on the perch and being weaned on to seed but wait until they are at least six weeks old, independent and feeding themselves before removing them to a separate flight. Continue feeding a high protein diet, alongside their staple diet, to enable youngsters a better chance of developing into healthy and fit birds. Haith’s own special staple mixtures are Special Budgie Mixture, Bravo Budgie Mix, Global Budgie Mix and 50/50 Budgie Mix and they also supply CeDe Budgie Mix.
Late July, August and into September
July and August is the time when breeders are beginning to assess their stock and deciding on those they wish to keep and those they will dispose of. Coincidentally, it is a good time to be obtaining fresh stock for the next breeding season. New birds need time to settle into their new home and get established into a new routine well before the stresses of the annual moult and the approaching breeding season are imposed upon them.
The main annual moult is triggered by changes in the amount of daylight and the drop in ambient temperature and can occur in the UK any time from late July, in the north of the country, to September, in the south. The complete process normally takes six to eight weeks and can be a very stressful time for the birds. At this time diet plays a very important part in ensuring that the health of the bird is maintained and that new feathers are well-formed and strong. Greater protein intake necessary at this time can be provided by a higher proportion of canary seed in the diet. It is normal to provide this in a separate container and many breeders will mix in cod liver oil emulsion at the rate of half a teaspoon to a 4 litre scoop of seed. This ensures a good supplement of vitamins A and D as well as fat. Haith’ s Mixed Millets should be offered separately at this time to provide the essential vitamins and minerals not present in plain canary seed. During the early stages of moult it will be seen that a preference is given to the millets but this is soon surpassed as the growth of strong new feathers takes over.
Like any other bird, the budgerigar is susceptible to climatic changes, primarily seasonal but also to local conditions imposed on them by sudden variation of the weather or maybe a different environment such as a show hall or moving to a new aviary. Such changes may trigger a partial (soft) moult where a few soft feathers are dropped but seldom are primary wing and tail feathers lost. These physical changes generally only occur in collections of birds where they must be moved around to suit the breeder’s needs and are seldom seen in birds kept in the home as pets. The condition is only temporary and the feathers are soon replaced.
September / November
September and November are usually quiet months for most but with the show season starting soon birds need to be fully fit and in their best condition. It is not too early to return birds to their staple seed diet with occasional supplements of Budgie Tonic Seed to ensure they are receiving as broad a spectrum of vitamins and minerals as possible.