Hi all, after much deliberation I made the decision to write this comment. I know that this may ruffell a few feathers ( pardon the pun).
I have breed and shown birds over the last 30 years. My first experience was in NSW showing Red Factor canaries, and at the age of Twelve won my first place at the Sydney Royal Easter show, best heavily variegated. I was consumed by the competitive nature of showing. Now when I was breeding for show level birds lines and genetics were paramount. At no time did I consider that my birds should have some sort of enjoyment, except for feeding high quality foods. I never actually thought about if they were happy, living in such a restricted environment. But breeders know how this goes, out of breeding cabinets into flights. Now after many years, I have been able to critically analyse this somewhat narrow view. Now I love birds, and the joy that they bring, but I never considered how I could enhance their experience.
I have since breed Australian parrots, Finches, and numerous canaries (Lizard, Border, Yorkshire) .
However, what I would like to discuss is Budgies. I know the show scene has an emphasis on type structure, and construction. So, as breeders we play the numbers game. That is, produce as many young as possible without consideration, because the more we breed the greater our chances of success ( unfortunately this is inculturated). Well after 30 years of breeding and showing (I stopped the latter as I felt that it impeded my objectivity), I have come to the realisation that the birds psychological health was the key. Seeing some many English birds that appeared to almost have no instinctual capacity, required that I ask whether as an enthusiasts we were doing the right thing, and whether this was sustainable for the breed. My conclusion was NO to both answers, I then realised that this had occurred purely as a result of self-interest. Therefore this was not about conservation, this was about self. okay, what do I mean, here is the kicker, it was not about breeding and showing, it was about how clever we are at manipulating nature to produce unnatural results.
So what have I done. I love the beauty and size of the English birds, but I do not love its clear lack of intelligence. I see that the sustainable future of these birds lay in its popularity. Therefore I believe that there is a place for large heavily feathered intelligent birds.
These beautiful birds need to be placed in an environment that is conducive to learning.
What you may ask is, what can I do?
Well, this is what I have done. The beautiful (large) English birds now struggle to be effective fliers.
Therefore, I have gone to the expense of buying 1.5m(W) X .9(D) X 1.8(H) metre aviaries for breeding. I have dispensed of cabinets (3 years ago). For the first 12 months I never seen these birds on the ground, it was almost like they did not know that there was a ground. At this point I had six pairs that where averaging 2.35 young per nest . The first year of using the aviary method no young could fly. All on ground , even when eating they could not fly, so I would put them in cabinets until they where fly adequately. This could take many weeks.
okay, now I went from 6 to 9 avaires of the same size in 2008, I used two nice pied hens from the previous year. Both had a good feather in general but a little long in flight feather. These hens both averaged 4.7 reared young ratio, but the real surprise was their chicks ability to be able to fly once leaving the nest. So clearly I was having almost 100% increase in reared chicks. Now, I wondered why, but though initially it was put down to fitter healthier specimans, through the use of larger breeding facilities.
Anyway 2009 breeding season comes the results had improved again. I had gone from 4.7 success ratio to 5.1. this was amazing. But this year had shown a major increase in size, well I say major, but it was clearly noticeable. Why, well I decided to more away from line breeding, not totally but enough to see if hybrid vigour would play a role. I am sure that it has. But I also think that at this point it is import to note that all pairs were matched, and that no double up of faults occurred.
Although, I did get some wonderful throw backs, in particular an green opaline that was tiny (smaller than a pet bird) and I mean tiny but colour was amazing, on the whole the results were outstanding. But the birds seemed to lose their quiet nature, they were much more active.
So I approached a geneticist that I worked with at the University, as asked why. I explained what was occurring, and she suggested that these birds where now able to tap into their historical genetic code of inheritance, and that breeders in the past had been able to diminish previous codes of inheritance (inbreeding), but because this was somewhat recent (have not changed evolutionary structure),that by providing a more conductive environment that I was restoring their mental health/ psychological well being which was also allowing for instinct to become relevent.
So I pose the question on these results, do you breed birds for yourself gratification (which is totally understandable) or do you breed birds because you love them, and find their character interesting.
In conclusion, as humans with human knowledge and understanding we can control many outcomes this is clearly displayed by genetic engineering. For example I bought an avocardo the other day with a seed that was tiny. But we also have the ability to place budgies that are confined to small spaces, feed them and reduce their natural instinst . I think that you could get George Clooney and Elle Mcpherson, place them in a goal cell, I am sure that they would breed because there would not be anything else, it would be a wonderfully beautiful child, i am sure, but would that be a happy child, I think not. So think about the psychological health and how space freedom add to this.
Fortunately budgies have not been exposed to captivity long enough for us humans to destroy their code of inheritance.
Finishing, this is not, and was not designed to create aggression, this is designed to create and simulate sustain thought and consideration. This study was not conducted under a controlled situation, and some limitations will occur, as fresh seed sources (where supplied) would influence chick developmental outcomes and this was not measured . Sunshine Coast climate has been somewhat different, but should not be considered as having any major difference, although humidity levels may.
Space for breeding requirements.
I hope that you look at this analysis within the context that it was delivered, it is not judgemental, but purely a perspective that I as an animal loving person has. Negative feedback is expected and understood, but I will not respond to it. I wish all the best, Cheers.