Carrigaline & District Budgerigar & Foreign Bird Club...ARTICLES
 
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1....... The Budgerigar.   .........An ideal family pet.
 
2.......
It Takes Two to Tango
Wm. R. Holmes. .....Showing your birds.
       
3...... Bengalese Finch
Questions & Answers
The National Bengalese Fanciers Association ...All you need to know..
 

   
~~ The Budgerigar ~~

An Ideal Family Pet

Budgerigars make cheerful and charming companions and are easy to look after for young and old alike. They are by no means expensive to feed or maintain. They enjoy family life and they can live to a good age, seven is about average, but there have been cases of budgies living to 20 years or more. When selecting a good bird, as with any other pet, it is important to take care to chose a healthy budgerigar that has been well bred. Obviously you should look to a good source when acquiring your new pet -a registered breeder or a good pet shop. If you are in any doubt where to buy your budgie or what sort to choose, your vet should be able to advise you. The Budgerigar Society can also tell you about registered breeders in your area.

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A young learner.

If you want your budgie to talk you should choose a young cock or hen between 6 or 9 weeks old. Up to the age of about 12 weeks, budgies have certain characteristics that you should look for to help determine age.

A young budgie does not have clearly defined throat spots and has striations across the front of his mask (face) and flecking on the bib of the mask. Young cocks have a bold, purplish cere and hens a bluish-white cere. They do not have a white ring around the eyes so the eyes appear large and black.

At around 12 weeks, the baby feathers are moulted to make way for the adult plumage. The cock bird's cere changes to a shiny deep blue and the hen's to a definite brown. Both sexes develop a white outer ring around the eyes. Once a budgie has developed its adult feathers, it is impossible to tell its age unless he is wearing a closed, dated leg ring fitted by the breeder.

Some of the special varieties and breeds of budgerigars cannot be aged in the same way. If you are buying an albino, a lutino or other exotic budgie, you will have to get expert advice on the age.

Having established that the budgie is about the right age, look for a lively bird with bright eyes and all its tail feathers in place. Make sure that the plumage lies tight to the body and that the vent (posterior) is unsoiled. Colouring is a matter of personal choice, unless you want to breed from the bird. Older birds are harder to train.

Be careful not to buy an older budgie if you want it to talk. A few days over 9 weeks is not critical, but a budgie of 9 months or more, that has not been trained, is unlikely ever to talk. Hens that have been kept for some time in an aviary prove particularly reluctant. It need not matter very much -even a non talking budgie provides companionship and makes a good pet.

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A good home for your budgie.

A good pet shop should be able to show a range of cages of different sizes at various prices. Buy the largest cage you can afford and remember that two budgies need more space than one. Do not clutter the cage up with too many toys and budgie paraphernalia. Your pet will be happiest in a cool, well-ventilated environment away from draughts and direct sunlight. Ideally the cage should be on a stand about 4 feet above the floor. Once the cage is in position the budgie will be happier if it is not moved - particularly when it needs to locate it after an outing. At night you can cover the cage with a cloth so that your budgie is not disturbed while roosting.

Cleaning routine.

You need a secure box to keep your bird in while you are cleaning out its cage. Once a week the cage, feeding pots, perches, drinking fountains and toys should be cleaned in a very dilute solution of disinfectant. Rinse them in clean water and dry them before replacing. Disinfect all cleaning utensils used and reserve them solely for this purpose. Renew the sand sheet or lay new sand on the cage floor, daily if possible. Put in fresh water and replenish the seed supply every day.

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Letting your budgie out.

It is quite safe to let your budgie out from time to time, provided that you use your common sense. Close the windows and doors, protect open fireplaces (even if there is no fire), cover up any house plants and draw the curtains or otherwise obscure any clear glass so that your budgie will not fly into it. Do not forget to put the cat out of the room!

At first freedom will be unfamiliar to your budgie or you may have trouble getting it back into its cage. If this occurs try this method as a last resort. Darken the room, drawing the curtains if necessary, and locate your budgie by the light of a torch. Use a soft hat or something similar to capture him. Then carefully take hold of him by enclosing his wings with one hand round his body, with your thumb and forefinger at each side of his head. In time most budgies learn to return to the cage of their own accord.

If you choose to allow your budgie free flight, in the interest of hygiene and cleanliness, collect and dispose of droppings and keep your budgie away from food preparation and eating areas.

Feeding your bird

The basic diet of a budgerigar in the wild comprises a variety of seeds. Trill contains a balanced mix of canary seed and millet and has been especially formulated for cage birds. It also contains 'sunshine' grains with essential iodine to guard against thyroid disturbance - a common complaint amongst budgies fed on unsupplemented seed. These grains also contain other minerals and vitamins required for your budgie's well-being.

Follow the instructions shown on the side of the Trill packet. Keep the seed pots filled regularly and blow off any accumulated husks once a day. In addition to his seed, your budgie should always have a supply of cuttlefish, budgerigar grit for his digestion and fresh drinking water.

If your bird is moulting you can offer him some fresh cow's milk diluted half and half with water. Change this daily, more often in hot weather.

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Titbits and extras

Most budgies like the odd titbit such as spray millet, carrot, spinach, lettuce, chickweed, seeding grass and apple. Green food should be well washed, drained and fed sparingly in the morning two or three times a week. Only offer your bird a small amount and remove the remains at the end of the day. A millet spray is not essential but can be offered once a week, provided the bird is also eating the loose seed.

Gentle training

The first step is to gain the bird's confidence. Allow a couple of days for settling down, then approach the cage quietly repeating a two-word phrase such as 'pretty boy'. When your approach is happily accepted you can start the finger training. Extend the index finger alongside a perch, raising it under the bird's breast until he hops on. Move your hand slowly around the cage transferring you pet from perch to perch, whispering encouraging noises. In a day or two you will be able to withdraw your hand from the cage with your bird perched on a finger. Try stroking down the beak with the index finger of the other hand. It is all good confidence-winning training. Continue repeating the two-word phrase as often as possible and soon your patience will be rewarded. Your pet will have said his first words. Add another phrase and repeat this until perfect and so on, thus building up an extensive vocabulary of which you and your budgie can be rightly proud. A baby budgie can, with patience, be taught to repeat his first words in about 6 weeks. But remember, any bird which has not talked during the first 9 months of his life is unlikely to do so - although this may not be impossible.
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The sociable budgerigar.

Under normal circumstances, one budgie in a cage will be content. However, if the family is out a lot and the bird gets left alone for long periods then it is fairer on your pet to get him a companion. The best choice is to get a young cock - it is inadvisable to keep two hens together in the same cage.
Birds, like humans, need time to get to know one another, and there may well be some squabbling at first. If this persists, you should separate the birds for a few days and then reintroduce them. It often happens that a talking bird stops talking when he gets a mate -though occasionally one budgie will mimic the other.

Your budgerigar's health

Despite their exotic appearance, budgerigars are comparatively hardy creatures and will keep themselves in good condition. A healthy budgie is bright-eyed, alert and smooth-feathered.
The first sign that a budgie is ill may be seen in the fluffing-up of his feathers, and dull and droopy eyes. The bird may sleep longer that usual with his head tucked under his wing or huddled up in a corner. Your vet can diagnose the problem and you should seek hi advice without delay.
Beaks and claws-the beaks and claws of pet budgies sometimes become overgrown. This can cause the bird discomfort so they need to be kept in check. Seek expert advice from your vet.
Hens-a pet hen kept alone may start to lay eggs and sometimes continue to produce an abnormal number. Such eggs will be infertile and will not hatch. Allow the bird to sit on about 5 eggs in the corner of the cage, and remove further eggs as they are laid. To stop the hen laying, change the bird's environment. This can be done by moving the cage to a cooler semi-darkened room such as a bedroom for a couple of weeks, or by asking a friend to take the bird into their home until the laying ceases.
Cocks- Cock birds feed their young and their mates by regurgitating seed. When a cock bird is kept as a pet, and is in high breeding condition, he will sometimes follow his natural instincts by trying to 'feed' a mirror, perches, or a toy in the cage. This will pass in time but can be discouraged by placing the cage in a cooler, partially darkened room for a week or two and removing toys and mirrors for a time. If your bird is vomiting, especially if this is accompanied by a smelly fluid discharged from the nostrils, you should contact your vet without delay.
Chewing-Budgies often chew their sandsheets or other parts of their cages, or attack the fixtures and fittings if let out into the room. This is normal and instinctive, particularly for a hen which is hollowing out a nest, but it can render your home unsightly. It may also result from your failing to provide the budgie with grit for his digestion. The best way to combat chewing is to divert the budgie's gnawing to some harmless object such as a piece of driftwood or a twig from a fruit tree.
Bathing your budgie-Budgies can be encouraged to bathe by floating a lettuce leaf on some tepid water in a bird bath or shallow dish which you place in his cage. Alternatively, obtain a small wire spraying cage designed for this purpose. Always remove the seed pots, grit, cuttlefish and any other food from the cage. Then spray the budgie lightly through the bars with warm water from a plastic hand spray.

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~~ It Takes Two to Tango. ~~
Wm. R. Holmes.

It takes two to tango....By that I mean an exhibitor and an exhibit, -both are of equal importance. If you aim to be in the cards at a show then you have to prepare your birds and present them in their full glory. Without care and attention to detail the ambitions of the exhibitor will soon face reality. Just catching a bird and placing it in the first show cage that comes to hand is a mistake that some fall into. To be a successful showman requires a lot of experienced and careful thought. Having said that there are generous exhibitors who enter birds knowing that they are not up to standard in order to swell the club's funds and provide a few extra birds for the visiting judge. Inexperienced exhibitors should never be downhearted, their day will come if they ask questions and have a word with the judge.

     
 

The Cage.
Budgerigars, canaries and native birds have set colours and dimensions to their standard cages, but due to the many species of foreign birds shown in their section it would almost be impossible to have standard cage sizes. The onus is therefore placed upon the exhibitor to provide a cage that is of suitable dimensions for the bird, which he is showing. It should not be too large or too small, with the inside painted white and the front black. Exceptions are made for the large type of parrots and parakeets, which may be shown in a suitable all-wire cage, but in all cases sufficient headroom and tail space is essential to avoid tail damage. Perches should be of a diameter to allow the bird to sit comfortably and show itself to its best advantage. Finally, a dirty and unkempt cage will destroy a good bird's chances of coming out on top.

The Exhibitor.
He has to know how to catch the judge's eye in the way he presents his birds; -this is an art that can take a long time to learn. Steady birds are always an asset, and those that are very flighty and will not remain still for a moment are a serious debit, as are the birds that will not perch. Much patience and work is needed with birds such as these. Quite often a bird will settle down a lot if it is placed in a position for a few hours a day where a lot of action is taking place, or put near the television that you may be watching; the ever-changing pictures help a lot.
Initially a bird should be in prime condition, that is, in good health and complete in all respects. No overgrown claws, pin feathers, or fouled by its own droppings. However well a bird may look when up against stiff opposition small defects and the condition of the cage will sway the judge's opinion.

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Softbills.
When it comes to showing softbills very few judges appreciate a poorly attempt at cage dressing with a few plastic flowers placed here and there, so it is wiser to show in a plain cage if you are unskilled in the art. A lady flower arranger knows how to handle mosses, ferns and flowers etc., so seek one out for advice on this matter.

The Judge.
Some are good and some are not so good, -typical in all walks of life but you can be sure they will attempt to carry out their duties without predilection and to the best of their ability.
One must remember that they travel long distances to adjudicate just for the love of it and can win no prizes, only criticism in many cases.
Unlike other sections, a foreign judge will not wrong class an entry. He will ask for it to be reclassed; if this is refused he will have no other option than to mark the cage to this effect and sadly place it to one side.
The question of marked cages keeps raising its ugly head but is of no bother to a foreign judge because one could say all his entries are marked cages due to the fact that they all have a difference in style and design. Marked cages are an innovation of the exhibitors suggesting they are not upstanding and are unable to adjudicate with fear or favour. I often think of the man who died and was a keen bird fancier. When he reached The Pearly Gates he asked Saint Peter if there were any fanciers there. Saint Peter replied "Yes"...."Well do you hold Bird shows?" " No" was the reply "we never have any judges"...!
Although judges enjoy such humour, no judge of esteem allows his good name to be tainted by showing a favour to a name rather than a bird placed before him
We in the 'Foreign' section are a breed, -frequently misunderstood by other sections of the hobby, but live in harmony and friendship with them all.

Wm. R. Holmes.

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THE NATIONAL BENGALESE FANCIERS ASSOCIATION
~ QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ~
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What is a Bengalese Finch and where does it come from?
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It is a seed-eating finch and is not found wild anywhere in the world. It is believed to have been created in China many years ago.
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What is its basic diet?
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  Mixed millets, fine grit and water.
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  What other seeds and foods should be provided?
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  Canary seed, niger, millet sprays, paddy rice and cuttlefish bone.
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  Is it necessary to provide soft food?
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  Soft food may be given all year round but mainly in the breeding season as a rearing food. Canary rearing food is most popular but soaked seed and soaked oats are also acceptable.
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  How should Bengalese be housed?
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  Outside flights with dry sleeping quarters or inside flights or cages. Bengalese appear to be much happier in cages rather than open flights.
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  Is the Bengalese hardy and do they require heat?
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  Yes, the Bengalese Finch is hardy and will stand the coldest weather. Most fanciers do provide some sort of heat to keep the birdroom just above freezing - mostly for their own comfort. Light must be provided if one wishes to breed early to compensate for the long hours of darkness.
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  Does the Bengalese Finch like to bathe?
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  Yes, very much so. Fresh water should be provided daily where possible.
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  What are the best perches for Bengalese Finches?
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  Natural, twiggy perches of varying diameter are best.
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  Which is the best cage floor covering for Bengalese Finches?
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  There are many kinds - clean sawdust, wood shavings and fine sand. One of the most popular materials today is newspaper, where many sheets can be placed in the cage and the top one removed every other day.
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  Will Bengalese Finches breed in flights?
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  Yes - but in order to be sure of colouring and exhibition standards, most Bengalese Finches are now bred in cages.
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  What size cage is suitable for breeding?
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  24" x 16" x 12" deep is the recommended size.
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  What size nest box is required?
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  The best size nest box for Bengalese Finches is 5" x 5" x 5" with a hinged lid for inspection. The front should be made so that the birds can get in and out and have a small perch at the opening.
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  What is the best nesting material and where should it be put?
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  The nest box should be half filled with hay, soft grasses. Some nesting material should be placed in the cage for the birds to complete building the nest.
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  How many eggs does a Bengalese Finch lay?
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  The average clutch is 5 eggs - but they can lay as many as 8.
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  How long do Bengalese Finch eggs take to hatch?
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  Normally 14 days from the last egg laid.
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  When is the best time to close ring Bengalese?
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  Between 8 -10 days after hatching. It's quite easy, just place the front 3 toes in the ring and then gently slide the ring over the back one.
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  When should young Bengalese Finches be taken away from their parents?
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  Between 35 - 45 days, if they are definitely self-feeding.
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  How old should Bengalese Finches be for breeding?
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  Cocks at least 10 months, but it is better if the hens are at least 12 months.
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  Should cocks and hens be parted when not breeding?
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  It is not necessary. You can split ring cocks for easy identification if housed in large cages or flights.
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  Are Bengalis Finches a popular cage bird and if so, why?
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  Yes, they are very popular at Open Shows. They are also used by fanciers as foster parents for other species of cage birds.
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These Questions and Answers are reproduced with the permission of The National Bengalese Fancier Association.
Hon. Secretary: E.J. Hounslow, 2, Bridge Street, Griffithstown, Gwent, NP4 ss
       

 

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