Alongside or instead of an exhibition stud, it’s a great idea to keep a mixed breeding colony of budgerigars just for sheer pleasure. Fancy trying it? FRED WRIGHT offers his advice

IF WE are going to get people interested in breeding for fun and colour, we need to first look at the set-up required and what’s needed to get started. The birds can come a bit later on.

You can either breed in a colony system where a group of budgies all breed in one flight or aviary, or you can select the pairs for breeding and breed birds in separate cages. Let’s consider the colony system here.

You need a space. It can be an inside flight or an outside aviary, but the latter will require some shelter from the rain, sun and wind. I always like an inside flight of some sort with access to an outside aviary or flight. Then, in really bad weather, the birds can be kept inside if they are not breeding in outside nest-boxes.

It’s a good idea to think about setting up a colony with roughly five pairs, so the spaces involved don’t have to be too large. To make a successful start you need to keep things well under control.

You’ll need perches and something near a 1.2cm (12mm) and 1.5cm (15mm) dowel rod size is good. However, I like to include some square section timbers, cut the sharp edges off and maybe use some natural branching as perches, too. Different sized perching is good for the birds and it’s more pleasing on the eye.

Then, you need to think where you will place food and water – and both should be protected from the outside elements. Never forget that food and water containers should not be placed under perches – it’s amazing how many fanciers forget and allow bird droppings to fall into the dishes.

I have always liked to feed birds on the inside if possible, because feeding stock outside will always attract mice into the aviary. Mice are best kept away, because they are unpleasant, bring disease and are likely to get into the nest-boxes and disturb the budgies while they are breeding.

I suggest you think about covering the outside aviary with rigid plastic sheeting to give the birds some protection. It also keeps wild bird droppings from entering the aviary, as well as disease and worms from native species out.

Budgies breed in nest-boxes and you need to think carefully about where you will place these, how they will be secured and how you will inspect what’s going on inside them. That’s all personal preference, but whatever you do make sure all these issues are catered for.

The best solution is placing the boxes on a shelf. This needs to be at a reasonable height for inspection and at a suitable position for you to see from the outside what’s going on with birds entering and leaving these. Shoulder height would be ideal. It’s best to have almost double the number of nest-boxes for the number of pairs, and make sure all of the boxes are placed at the same height. Otherwise, the hens will fight for the top boxes and you don’t want any challenging behaviour in this set-up.

When I have had a colony in an outside aviary, I have always boarded up the whole side where the nest-boxes are. It gives some protection from the wind and offers more security. My advice is to use the outside flight for breeding only in the better weather. Take the boxes down during October and maybe put them back or even set up a new colony in the spring. Easter is a good time for a start. Breeding during the winter is not such a good idea for the birds or us.

If you release all of the budgerigars at the same time and they are allowed to find their own partners, you will see some aggravation while they select their own mates. It can be a distressing time and will need a lot of observation and intervention, at times, from the breeder.

Years ago, I kept a couple of colonies of breeding birds and I found the best way to introduce the birds to the flight was to select the pairs, and cage them in their pairs for a week without a nest-box. After this time they will have “pair bonded” and when all of the pairs are released into the aviary, they will usually stay with their partners. Initially, the cocks might like to take a look at other hens but usually they will keep with the partners you have selected for them.

Within hours the hens will be jumping in and out of the boxes and you should expect eggs to appear within a week. But you must get everything ready for the birds before you rush into purchasing your breeding stock.

•Fred Wright runs a champion stud and a seed business in Wallington, Surrey.