Photo: Sam Wildes. Father (left) and son (right) spangle grey cocks – the son is about as far as Sam wants to go with budgerigars in terms of feather

We only get one start in the birdkeeping hobby, and none of us ever gets everything right. Here  SAM WILDES shares his own ‘I wish’ list of stuff he’d like to have been told as a beginner.

HINDSIGHT is a wonderful thing and we all wish we could see what would and could happen in the future. But if we knew what was to come it would be no fun. Starting out in the world of birds as a young child was hard for me because I was still learning about life in general. Emotions, confidence and indeed hormones, as I hit my teenage years, were all things to contend with. You often wish we could go back in time to correct anything major that went wrong. You can’t; you just have to deal with things as they occur.

Breeding birds can be a strange situation when you are a beginner. You are so excited and full of joy that you want to buy as many birds as possible from here, there and everywhere – but there lies the problem. Now, with more experience I believe it is best to stick to a few breeders who you can get on with and build a friendship with, along with being able to buy birds in which you can see something applicable to your breeding plans. This is especially true if you like the rarer colours, because you need to work with people who have them and are passionate about them.

Another thing to do with your stock is keep a manageable number of birds and make sure you can feed and clean the birds at a sensible time to suit your daily routine. There is no point having a large birdroom and hundreds of budgies if you only have 30 minutes to spare each day. You get out of the birds what you put in to them. The main thing that you should, hopefully, gain from keeping budgies is being able to enjoy them; if it becomes a chore then it will begin to get to you. Many people leave the hobby at this point, whereas really they should have cut down, found a happy medium and stayed involved and enjoying it.

Initially my dad and I had a mixed flight of birds. This looked great but was not really what we were aiming for, so we decided to concentrate just on budgies. By just going down to the one species of bird meant we could put all our energy and time in to it. If you decide to keep lots of different bird species then that is fine, but I strongly recommend that you dedicate a lot more time to them. With budgies, we as breeders are very lucky that they come in so many colours and varieties, which means that just the one species can appeal to so many people.

Some people are desperate to breed a Club Show winner, but realistically each year there is only ever going to be one of them. Maybe your time will come and maybe it won’t – obviously I’d love to win the Budgerigar Society (BS) Club Show one day, but I will wait my turn… if it ever happens. To do this, you must first of all breed a super show bird, which is a lot harder than people realise. Then you need an element of luck and, to top it all, your bird has to sit there on the day of judging saying “look at me”. Without those things you can never win the BS Club Show. But you can enjoy the hobby for what it is and make the most of the wins when they happen.

If I were to start again in today’s world of budgies, I’d find it rather hard, in all honesty. The birds are changing so drastically and every four to five years they get pushed on to a whole new level. The modern birds are nothing like a standard budgerigar. Indeed, it is rather scary that through selective breeding we have changed the appearance of the bird so much.

If I ever let a baby budgie go as a pet the new owners of the bird ask me, “So then, where do you keep your budgies?”, meaning that they don’t consider what I am breeding to be a budgie. Anyone coming back into the hobby does have a rather big shock with how much feather is on the modern-day budgies compared to what they were years ago. I look back at some of my winning birds from the past and we would not consider them to be anything like a wild or pet budgerigar.

Sam continues his “if I knew then…” considerations next month.

Sam Wildes lives in Burton-on-Trent, Staffs. His website is:

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