Photo: Tony Edwards. As part of his new venture into other colours, Tony plans to pair this young crested dilute chocolate & white cock, which is split for albino, with an albino hen

Starting out with a new colour or variety of your chosen species can be a bit of a minefield, explains TONY EDWARDS. Yet all it takes is planning, patience and a bit of good fortune.

SOMETIMES we all have to make fundamental decisions on the direction we want to go with our birdkeeping hobby. I have now reached retirement age, but plan to continue working part-time for as long as possible. It also seems the right time to consider my long-term birdkeeping objectives.

Since the late 1990s, I have focused primarily on variegated Bengalese finches, plus a few pink-eyed whites (albinos) and with an occasional spell keeping other estrildid species that require a similar diet and housing. I now have more time available to spend with my birds, but I don’t want to increase my workload other than using the extra time to improve the state of my birdroom. I have a million and one jobs that I previously put off due to time restrictions. I have now decided to introduce other colours of Bengalese back into my stud, but at the same time reduce the numbers I keep in my current main colours (chocolate & whites, fawn & whites and dilute fawn & whites).

In recent articles, I have described my progress with breeding self chocolates and crested, in particular, crested albinos. I believe that anyone should be capable of breeding any Bengalese variety, but I will measure my own success by how my Bengalese compare to the best birds being shown in the UK. They don’t need to be big winners, but should be capable of being placed highly in their classes at the major shows. Decent stock in the main varieties of Bengalese can usually be found with a little bit of effort.

Quality birds may be bred in the first year but, realistically, it is best to allow three or four years to develop the quality required to be successful on the show bench. For less-common varieties, once stock is found (usually of a lower show quality), similar timescales can be anticipated, because the level at shows
is also often lower. At the moment, I am going to work with relatively common varieties, the two mentioned above, and recent additions of dark-eyed whites and self fawns. Some less-common colours might be added next year.

For my final show of 2017 at Stratford upon Avon CBS,
I exhibited two pairs in the crested class; this was only the second time I had shown crested (birds are shown as
a crested and a non-crested). My albino pair looked promising and I am hoping
to show even better birds in 2018. At the same show,
for the first time in about 15 years, I exhibited a pair of self chocolates. Unfortunately, some of the tail feathers on one of the pair were not fully developed. Although only fourth in their class, I was pleased with these birds. I closely watched them on the staging throughout the afternoon and, although only just over three months old, they exhibited decent type, colour and size. It was a valuable exercise, because I now believe I am heading in the right direction with them.

My recent addition of four dark-eyed whites are yet to be sexed; I think one may be a hen and the other three are cocks, but it doesn’t matter because they will be paired to my chocolate & whites. The resultant chicks – probably chocolate & whites – will be paired with dark-eyed whites the following year and will hopefully provide me with some good dark-eyed whites.

I am starting with six young self fawns. I have already identified that the main feature I want to improve is the head shape. (I should keep budgies!) To do this I will use some of my self chocolates and pair the resultant self chocolate split fawns back to self fawns the following year. I may also pair two self chocolate split for fawn together if the type is good, but the expectancy for self fawn chicks with this is only 25 per cent. I would also like to obtain some self chestnuts soon, so these chocolate split for fawn could help in their development (chocolate is dominant to chestnut and chestnut is dominant to fawn).

My biggest challenge while I am developing all these extra colours will be to retain and improve on the quality of the colours I have already established in my stud, because I will be breeding with fewer pairs of them. Fingers crossed!    

Tony Edwards is vice chairman of the National Bengalese Fanciers’ Association.

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