Mating new Birds:
With many birds, large parrots, for example, matching a male and female is something of a gamble because of individual antipathies. Luckily this is not true of parakeets: Generally a pair will get along well after a certain period of adjustment. If it should happen that two birds fail to make friends, either because the female refuses to accept the male or because the male shows no interest in the intended mate, replace one of the partners with a new bird--assuming you have more than just one pair. You can also introduce a second male that may get along better with the female. But not vice versa! Adding another female is usually disastrous, because females tend to fight each other. Conflicts between two males, on the other hand are rare. The female simply chooses one of them as a mate, which the other accepts without grudge. Difficulties can also arise if a bird was exposed exclusively to humans during a specific phase of development in which sexual imprinting takes place. Imprinting happens only during a very limited sensitive period in an animal's life, the timing of which differs for each species. We do not know yet exactly when sexual imprinting occurs in parakeets. The days immediately after the eyes open, i.e., about after the tenth day, seem to be of importance in imprinting. This is what Professor Roger Stamm and the biologist U. Blum concluded in a study they published. They observed that a blue male that had lived with green parents until it was seventeen days old and then moved in with blue stepparents and blue siblings later chose green birds as mates. The famous writer on animal behaviour, Konrad Lorenz first wrote about this special form of learning, imprinting. In this process animals can "learn" the most absurd things: Male turkeys have been sexually imprinted to cardboard boxes and females to humans, and later the animals would address their courtship displays to these inappropriate "partners" and try to mate with them. I have heard many tales of male parakeets that refused to take the slightest notice of a female partner and would even chase her around in the cage and hack at her. Whenever I inquired into the details it turned out that these birds had been exceptionally tame and friendly and that they would quite often regurgitate some undigested kernels from the crop into the keeper's hand. Spitting up kernels this way is a sign that the bird is courting the owner. This unnatural behaviour thus indicates that the parakeet was probably wrongly imprinted and now regards humans as sexual partners. If a male parakeet really is imprinted to humans, in most cases it makes little sense to try to use him for breeding.

As soon as you have a good idea how the young birds are developing, you can start thinking about how you want to mate them. Making up breeding pairs from young stock is an important matter and it must not be done thoughtlessly. If you had a good season, you must decide first of all which birds you want to sell and which you want to keep. It would be foolish not to keep your best birds for further breeding. Look for the best ones among the first broods hatched. These were raised at a time that the parents still were in top condition, and they had the longest and most favorable time to develop. During the winter, look over your birds carefully to find a partner for each male. In selecting mates, consider the preference of the birds, if you can. You will notice that young birds form couples spontaneously meaning that every male will select his own mate. If possible, leave these spontaneously formed couples together, as they will give you the best breeding results. Often you can't just let nature take its course because you have special goals in your breeding program. An albino bird may select a green partner, and you may want to mate two albinos. You then, of course, have no choice but to separate the couple and to more or less force a new combination on each. Be sure, however, that you keep the laws of genetics in mind. If you rematch couples, give them extra time to get used to each other before putting them into the breeding cage. You want to foster the greatest harmony possible before your birds start reproducing. Once your selections have been made, band both birds with the same color. That way, you will be able to reconstitute the desired pairs properly and without trouble the following spring. (This is not really necessary if you know your birds.)

Make sure you establish a good reputation based on the birds you sell. You can sell birds with minor deviations as pets if they are otherwise healthy but you shouldn't sell them to anyone who has any thoughts about breeding Budgies. Don't slide into deceptions, especially not if any of your birds have serious defects or are in poor health. To avoid temptation, humanely destroy young birds that you wouldn't buy for your own use under any circumstance. You not only save your own reputation, you also encourage newcomers to the hobby who don't have enough experience to know faulty birds from quality. One day, they will be wiser and will remember who cheated and who helped them. Good birds that remain after you have made selections for your own future breeding can be sold to other breeders or to dealers. Wait for the proper moment. Consider whether any higher price you might get for your birds in the spring would be offset by the food they eat during the winter. If so, sell in fall. If not, sell in spring. Remember, prices often also depend on the export market.

To a degree, Budgerigars are subject to fads. A certain color variation can fall into disfavor for a while, and prices drop because there is no demand for the birds. At the same time, the star of another color variation may be on the rise. If you want to stay on top of this change in fads, you must be on your toes. You may switch over to a new color and have a bunch of birds to sell just after the demand for that color has peaked. The smart breeder who wants to make some money from his hobby lowers risks to the minimum literally by not putting all his eggs in one basket. If you do not see a chance to latch onto something that is popular or to develop it yourself than stay ahead and raise the quality of your birds. Fortunatley there are always breeders looking for quality and not color and will pay a good price for the quality bird first.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca