In the first of three articles, BILLY & PAUL HEATHCOTE reveal how to put together a successful stud of Border canaries, using the tried and test method of creating a related line of birds

THERE is so much to learn that it can only be gained through experience. Before we can talk about pairing Border canaries you have to know what makes a good Border, and that will determine how you pair your birds together to create the ideal. Every detail has to be taken into consideration without doubling up on any faults within the pair. 

Let us look at the novice who has been relatively successful and wants to make the step up to champion status. Our advice is to obtain two unflighted cocks from a champion whose birds you admire – preferably brothers or at least related; one yellow feathered and one buff, as this is a three-year plan. Look at your birds and decide which two points are the most important to improve your stud, and make sure the cocks carry at least one of these features, although both would be better. 

First pairings

You now have the two cocks in your birdroom and you have to stamp these features into your birds by ways of in-breeding. Select the four best-suited hens in your birdroom for each of the two cocks, and then pair the best daughters back to the father for another two generations. These will carry 50 per cent of the father’s genes in the first year, 75 per cent the second year and 87.5 per cent in the third year. 

Only keep the best birds and the number of birds you can comfortably manage. Some birds will drop out of the breeding programme and you will start to notice which are breeding your better birds; the quality should be improving all the time. You also have to keep the best of the original hens that were paired to the original cocks, as you are trying to build a family.

We hear you ask: “So what do we do with all the other birds bred from the cocks?” These birds can be crossed back over each other as they carry the same genes and have the potential to produce good birds; but avoid brother and sister pairings as this is too close.

Creating a family

Also, at this point don’t allow any birds to be paired to the offspring from the other cock, as you are trying to keep these families as pure as you can. What you are trying to achieve is a family of birds from both sides but which, in reality, is only one line, as the two original cocks are related. Now you know why we insisted on the cocks being related – it’s because after three years of inbreeding you have gone as close as you can and then you need to start a line-breeding programme by pairing the birds back across each other to create a one-family line. We will explain this in part two of this series about pairing Border canaries.

Billy & Paul Heathcote are a father and son Border canary partnership from Gateshead. In 2019 their Silverdene Stud recorded its 33rd best-in-show award at all Border events.