Especially for fanciers who breed multiple varieties, stud plans will develop steadily from year to year, and it’s essential to have your objectives clearly in mind at the outset. Here DAVE BROWN explains his priorities for improving his show finches and canaries
ONE of the great advantages of choosing to breed birds that will compete at the shows is that the hobby very rarely goes stale.
There are always features that can be improved upon, and that entails the challenge of selecting the right pairings among your established lines and, perhaps, sourcing an outcross that possesses the right qualities to move your stud forward. At the same time, you need to try and maintain the level of quality you have already achieved.
As this level of quality increases, I find it becomes harder than it once was to reduce numbers so drastically. The features in a line of birds become more consistent and deciding which individuals should be moved on is a tougher task. I have found that inviting a fellow fancier round to offer a valued second opinion has proved most useful when carrying out the final sort-out.
However, I have learned the hard way that exhibition birds also need time to mature and fully develop before any rash decisions are made. The pressure of space has sometimes meant that this has not been possible if overcrowding is to be avoided. Therefore, in 2017 I plan to increase the flights I have available to allow both finches and canaries plenty of room to grow before I make the final assessments.
My garden already contains a varied collection of sheds, so the chance of getting another one put up without my better half noticing is slim. For that reason I have come to the tough decision to allow my small group of fancy pigeons to go off to new homes. This will mean the small pigeon loft can be converted to house a roomy flight, a couple of stock cages and a small storage area. Ideally, this area will only be required during the warmer months, so I will not have to worry about installing heat or light.
A second shed that has become a bit of a junkyard will be emptied, if all goes to plan, and then kitted out with some cages. The idea here is that birds identified as “non-keepers” can be housed comfortably away from those staying. This gives both groups of birds more space and more cage space for me to start show preparations earlier. Again, the shed has not got an electricity supply so it will be a spring and summer operation only. I will be strong and resist the temptation to fill extra cages with new birds that catch the eye!
Of course, if I am to adapt buildings to house young stock I need to ensure I do everything possible to breed some birds. In the canary shed, the main objective is to get more youngsters out of the best birds. I’m lucky to have a few north Dutch frills that have performed well at specialist shows over the past two seasons. One cock, in particular, has performed well on every outing but I only managed to get two youngsters out of him last season.
This time I hope to get a few more from him when paired to a few different hens. This will hopefully mean that in 2018 there will be a few birds available to make up half siblings and cousin x cousin pairings to try and maximise his blood in the line. Another bird – a clear white hen – took the award for best frill and best old variety at the Old Varieties Canary Association south show hosted at the South Bucks Canary Breeders Association show. It will again also be paired to several partners to try and establish the material for a good line of whites.
In the finch shed, the aim is to maintain the head quality that has been fairly well established, but to try and ensure that more birds with good straight backs and no sign of a nip in the neck are produced. Pairings will be selected so that birds are not paired with others that show the same undesirable traits, while also ensuring both feather and colour is considered.
Surrey-based Dave Brown currently keeps zebra and Bengalese finches, north Dutch and Fiorino frill canaries and Malaysian Serama bantams.
A DREAM IS PLANTED
EVER since I was lucky enough to view some amazing private collections in Holland, I’ve kept daydreaming about the notion of constructing a planted flight in the garden. If I were to get away with this, it would have to be built in the “birdy” end of the garden. The only feasible site is where there is currently a small greenhouse. Removing this is probably a bit rash – I’m a keen gardener, as well as birdkeeper – and greenhouses also double up as handy places to place birdroom equipment to dry after a thorough cleaning and show cage paint shop. But who knows? An aviary with established plants and a water feature could really set the garden off.