Choosing and Pairing Budgies:
If you don't yet own a pair of parakeets that you want to breed, buy two young birds of the same age from different pet dealers. This way you can be fairly sure that the birds come from different hatcheries, are therefore genetically different, and inbreeding is unlikely. (Inbreeding has to be avoided at all cost if you raise birds commercially.) Just to be on the safe side, ask for the name of the breeder who supplies each pet store, because sometimes one breeder sells to several stores. Although parakeets are sexually mature after a few months you should not let them breed until they reach the age of ten or twelve months. The advantage of this is that the birds have reached their full size and are strong enough to withstand the physical strain of raising young, which also benefits the brood. (Foiling parakeets eager to mate is not easy, however.) Do not breed any birds with obvious defects, such as deformed feet, a misshapen bill, or imperfect plumage. If you buy a mate for a parakeet you already own you should still choose a young bird, because an older one might no longer be suitable for mating because of previous experiences that affect normal behaviour (for example, human-imprinted birds). Anyone wanting to breed for certain traits, such as color, has to take genetic background into consideration when choosing birds. In my opinion banded birds can be placed right after purchase in an aviary with other birds already in it. But cautious breeders first house newly acquired birds in a separate cage (within sight and hearing of their fellows).

This gives the keeper a better chance to observe if the new bird is really healthy, and it allows the parakeet to get adjusted in peace to its new surroundings. As a long-term friend of parakeets I strongly disfavour the present trend of breeding exceptionally large and heavy parakeets, because this represents a drastic departure from the size and build of wild parakeets. The flying ability of these cage birds is significantly reduced, and they tend more to obesity, which also means that they are more susceptible to disease. The breeding for very specific traits in animals is often harmful to the organism. The goals of parakeet breeding are not determined by economic factors as is the case in animal husbandry and even there controversy is arising) but by aesthetic considerations. It is therefore in order to question whether it makes sense or is even justifiable to deliberately alter by genetic manipulation a creature that is naturally so beautiful and that has achieved optimal adaptation to the environment of its homeland. It seems to me that birds bred in captivity should have all the qualities theoretically needed to survive were they to be released in their native biotope. In any case, I urge any budding parakeet breeder with the goal of achieving specific traits (whether in the coloration or the shape of the birds) not to engage in amateur experimentation but to study genetics. Also make use of the experiences (both good and bad) of conscientious experts.

If we look at wild budgies in Australia, we will find no runts, no french molters, no wry-necks, no drooping wings, no deformed bills. Mother Nature takes care of that. Sweet, kind, gentle, and compassionate she isn't. She is ruthless. Now the ball is in your court, you can produce any grade of bird you desire. I suggest you throw out sympathy and promptly forget any "pet" names these birds may have been given. Give people names, but give birds numbers. Treat them with thoughtful, gentle care. But if you want to breed birds, you should erase any sentimentality. Buy the best birds you can afford. avoid the fancy colors, albinos, Lutinos, even pieds. Settle for common, dark, solid colors such as green or blue. Choose big, robust, broad-chested, large headed, straight tailed, active birds. Try to get either proven breeding pairs or young adults. For starters. I suggest you skip any bargain birds--ask yourself. "Why are they so cheap?" Ask yourself why these off-quality birds are not in breeders aviaries and breeders cages. Why are they available for sale?

Often it is because they will make good pets, but the breeders found that they were no good in the nest box. As a beginner, you don't need that. Find a dealer who has or can get you genuine, active breeders. Be prepared to pay a fair price, probably as much as two or three times the price of ordinary budgies intended for sale as singly caged pets. How do we pick pairs? Begin by getting equal numbers of each sex. Try to get birds of approximately the same age, ideally a year or two old. Colors do not matter so long as you don't go for the rare and expensive varieties while you are learning. Look for birds in breeding condition. A male's cere should be cobalt blue, and a female's a mahogany brown. Budgies which are out of condition don't display well-colored ceres. Look for bright blue on males, rich brown on females. "Pairs" is meaningless, as male budgies are notoriously promiscuous. That last sentence was a profound statement. I hope you didn't skim past it. How do you know how old they are? Simple, but again more costly. Buy only birds with dated, closed bands. The better breeders of the better birds fit every squeaker with a permanent, closed, dated band. You should too. When you choose your first few pairs, you might want to work with crested birds. Don't do it. Crests will be all right later, but they're not for beginners. Although they seem to be fertile and as able to raise their young as non-crested birds, there is some suspicion of a linkage between the crested gene and a lethal gene, so avoid them in the beginning.

But what is this "few pairs"? you ask. Well, that's how it is. Two budgies of opposite sex may be a pair, but if you want to breed this species there should be, ideally at least three pairs within sight and hearing of each other. Three pairs in three separate, closely situated cages, or in one large aviary or flight cage with at least one additional nest box. This is what you need if you want good results, promptly. Adult budgies stimulate each other to nest and breed. A pair of canaries are self-starters, and so are chickens and pigeons. When we get to budgies, one pair is not always a breeding pair right away, but two or three pairs near each other frequently become active breeders promptly. This is something many people don't know, but every experienced breeder knows and capitalises on this fact of nature. Everyone who is the least bit romantic knows what a pair is, but with budgies, I suggest you would do well to read on. The first egg will be laid between the seventh and tenth day after the first mating. Since this mating could have happened at 7 A.M. or some other early hour, it is unlikely that you witnessed it, but no matter, they really didn't need you then or there. It is possible that the one mating will provide sufficient sperm to fertilise all the eggs in the clutch. It is also possible that subsequent matings might be necessary to ensure that all the eggs develop. It is possible too that, after the first mating, the hen in a colony situation might accept courtship from still another cock. This is why it is advisable, in a beginner's colony-breeding establishment, to keep only one homozygous color or bird. Then, even if you are not certain of the parentage, at least you have not mongrelized the color. After a while you will be able to improve some colors by crossbreeding.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca