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A Quantative Analysis

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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.

 

Key Points.

 

Space for breeding requirements.

 

Psychological Wellbeing

 

Hybrid Vigour.

 

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.

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Interesting observations. I dont know that I agree with the show budgies lacking intelligence nor with the inability to fly. BUT my flights being 6 metres by two metres each ( two of them ) and filled with things they can play on or with seems to show me that they can both fly, enjoy flying and i definitely see signs of intelligence. Nor do I necessarily agree with thoughts of a geneticist who maybe doesnt have an aviary full of these birds to see and observe each day.

 

 

Maybe its a Western Australian budgie thing :P

Our genetic pool here seems to be closer than some elsewhere

 

:D

 

 

PS Please advise how you arrived at the lack of intelligence theory for show budgies ?? What test ??

Edited by KAZ

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Very interesting and will take iut on board, But I have no problem with my birds they all fly from ground to perch. and from perch to ground and I have birds with good feather too.

But then I know there are people complaining about their birds sitting on the floor all the time but mine do not do that.

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Well they definitely do not lack intelligence in comparison to pet shop type budgerigars. I have tamed both and do not find there to be much difference save for normal individual variation. You would understand about population curves I imagine.......? I certainly would not put pet type budgies on one end of that curve and exhibition birds on the other.

 

I agree with somewhat with your observations on non-flight but it is very dependent on the individuals doing the selecting in particular flocks. I for one do not use nor keep non-flying birds. I have to agree with the propensity to increase feather length and change feather texture, purely for visually pleasing characteristics, seems to be causing feather issues and therefore flight problems.

 

The issues we face are more to do with selective pressure on the population as a whole. Look critically at what we are selecting for - it's not fertility, livability or vigour - it's for feather, size and deportment. We only need to look at the poultry industry to see how successful you can be at selecting for specific traits but it certainly appears that little to no focus is placed on this area of the budgie population when it come to exhibition budgies. Looking at pet budgie breeding however, is no different. I certainly would not say that the majority of pet birds are bred in ideal conditions either - often far from it - with many being crammed into dirty, mouse ridden, unstimulating colony breeding set ups. The difference here is that it's the survival of the fittest often in these backyard situations and health and vigour IS being selected for, albiet unintentionally. I can't agree with you that these situations allow for more mental health/ psychological well being in that group of birds but it certainly selects out tough little critters. I guess there is more than one way to skin a cat!

 

In fact it would be no issue to select for fertility, vigour etc and I'm sure we would make huge in roads if that was all we were concentrating on. In fact if the first prize was for the hen that reared the most babies or had the most vigourous babies or had the best survivability post weaning, I'm sure we would make it happen in a very short time but that's not what we select for - KNOWLINGLY.

 

The other issue is what incentive is there to change either what we select for or how we rear our birds. Where people try new things that PROVE successful, these techniques are often shared and taken up by the general breeder population - we all do constantly talk to each other and share ideas so the info flow is pretty good. If suddenly someone was producing birds that won shows AND bred like flies then usually successes are shared and other people try what has worked for one. If there was somehow a miraculous benefit to providing large flight spaces during breeding (which has been tried and documented), we would all be using this technique as the industry standard. In fact large flight areas for each breeding pair was no more successful that the standard breeding cabinets that are most commonly used. But it depends how you look at it really - if it make YOU feel better, even if the results over time are not statistically different, then there is nothing stopping you from providing any sort of breeding environment you choose. If there ARE statistical differences, even numerical improvements and you share this and it's proven by others then over time it's likely to become the standard.

 

I also don't think that breeding for self gratification or breeding for the enjoyment of the bird and it's character need be mutually exclusive. I know many exhibition budgie breeders that provide the best atmosphere that they can for their birds to live, breed and grow in as well as spending many hours enjoying and observing their birds behaviors in a stimulating environment. These same breeders also get self satisfaction for performing well at shows with specific standards that we all select our studs towards. There probably are things we can do to improve different aspects of our setups, many people try many different things (as you have done) and we find what works for us.

 

I think you are simplifying a very very complex situation a bit too much.

Edited by nubbly5

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Well they definitely do not lack intelligence in comparison to pet shop type budgerigars. I have tamed both and do not find there to be much difference save for normal individual variation. You would understand about population curves I imagine.......? I certainly would not put pet type budgies on one end of that curve and exhibition birds on the other.I agree with somewhat with your observations on non-flight but it is very dependent on the individuals doing the selecting in particular flocks. I for one do not use nor keep non-flying birds. I have to agree with the propensity to increase feather length and change feather texture, purely for visually pleasing characteristics, seems to be causing feather issues and therefore flight problems.The issues we face are more to do with selective pressure on the population as a whole. Look critically at what we are selecting for - it's not fertility, livability or vigour - it's for feather, size and deportment. We only need to look at the poultry industry to see how successful you can be at selecting for specific traits but it certainly appears that little to no focus is placed on this area of the budgie population when it come to exhibition budgies. Looking at pet budgie breeding however, is no different. I certainly would not say that the majority of pet birds are bred in ideal conditions either - often far from it - with many being crammed into dirty, mouse ridden, unstimulating colony breeding set ups. The difference here is that it's the survival of the fittest often in these backyard situations and health and vigour IS being selected for, albiet unintentionally. I can't agree with you that these situations allow for more mental health/ psychological well being in that group of birds but it certainly selects out tough little critters. I guess there is more than one way to skin a cat! In fact it would be no issue to select for fertility, vigour etc and I'm sure we would make huge in roads if that was all we were concentrating on. In fact if the first prize was for the hen that reared the most babies or had the most vigourous babies or had the best survivability post weaning, I'm sure we would make it happen in a very short time but that's not what we select for - KNOWLINGLY.The other issue is what incentive is there to change either what we select for or how we rear our birds. Where people try new things that PROVE successful, these techniques are often shared and taken up by the general breeder population - we all do constantly talk to each other and share ideas so the info flow is pretty good. If suddenly someone was producing birds that won shows AND bred like flies then usually successes are shared and other people try what has worked for one. If there was somehow a miraculous benefit to providing large flight spaces during breeding (which has been tried and documented), we would all be using this technique as the industry standard. In fact large flight areas for each breeding pair was no more successful that the standard breeding cabinets that are most commonly used. But it depends how you look at it really - if it make YOU feel better, even if the results over time are not statistically different, then there is nothing stopping you from providing any sort of breeding environment you choose. If there ARE statistical differences, even numerical improvements and you share this and it's proven by others then over time it's likely to become the standard.I also don't think that breeding for self gratification or breeding for the enjoyment of the bird and it's character need be mutually exclusive. I know many exhibition budgie breeders that provide the best atmosphere that they can for their birds to live, breed and grow in as well as spending many hours enjoying and observing their birds behaviors in a stimulating environment. These same breeders also get self satisfaction for performing well at shows with specific standards that we all select our studs towards. There probably are things we can do to improve different aspects of our setups, many people try many different things (as you have done) and we find what works for us. I think you are simplifying a very very complex situation a bit too much.
This is a well considered and constructed reply. You clearly have understood the point, and responded appropiately. I thank you for your participantion, and will definately use your imput to improve the current research. The fertility aspect is something that we are continuing to record, as effeciency is important in this process. CheersFurther, Nubby5 I think that your critque has not really considered the impact of psychological health, in part I agree with your overall analysis, but I feel that psychological satisfaction has been given any legitimacy. This could be a major key to many facets of sucessful breeding. In relation to breeding for fertility, disease etc, I totally agree with your understanding of cosmetic pleasure, not resilience. cheers

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Not to be super critical here but......

 

I don't think your 9 pairs over 3 years constitutes enough of a sample size for me to put any weight in your "quantitative" measurement of psychological health and further more without seeing a materials and methods, trial design and results both numerical and statistical, I think the jury is out as to whether providing large aviaries for breeding improves psychological health enough to improve breeding results. AND IF by chance you do see a numerical increase, remembering that other people providing large size breeding aviaries (as you have done) did not see any notable benefits, I would love to see how you would argue that it is due to improvements in psychological health and not due to any number of other factors (assuming you are not running a number of control pairs or are you?).

 

And not trying to be bitchy here (and I certainly have given psychological health due consideration in regards to your first post), I think that unless one can really pinpoint measures or behaviors aligning with psychological health (and WHAT ARE the indicators of that according to budgerigars - I know attempts have been made to link behavior with stress indicators in other animals but I bet the work has not been done in budgies!) your actual measures are probably not great indicators of psychological health. I think your ideas, although sound theories with merit for further exploration, lack finesse if you want to talk "quantitative measurement" and not just anecdotal evidence. Also how does a lay person measure the psychological health of their birds if there are no current guidelines that link bird behavior with measurable stress levels? Really you need a much bigger sample size, a properly designed trial, control pairs run side by side with your "psychologically improved" pairs plus to start with data that determines what the indicators or behaviors determining psychological health might be aside from better breeding results.

 

That was my point with pet shop type birds bred in dirty backyard colony situations where they are often overcrowded, fight to the death for nest boxes and have health problems due to mice and any number of different issues - these guys too often have great fertility, are good mothers (as they have to be) and are generally very hardy, but you would be hard pushed to say that their psychological welfare is in any way being taken into account! So breeding success is not a great measure of psychological health evidently. Like I said, I think you have over simplified the issue.

 

The other thing you need to take into account is that for the majority of people that I know, their birds would spend a substantial amount of their time in well designed, large airy flights (mine are 6m (l) x 1.5m (w) x 2.3m (h) - a fair bit bigger than your aviaries - and I have 6 of these, plus smaller holding flights for youngsters), we provide natural fresh branches regularly, fresh fruit and vegetables, natural foraging systems, toys etc etc etc. So for the vast part of their lives (and understanding that I have no way of MEASURING psychological health) I would think that their lives would be reasonably fulfilled. AND as I have already mentioned, past attempts at improving breeding rates using larger aviary style breeding facilities did not prove to be any more effective, if you use breeding results as a measure of psychological health.

 

As I also mentioned it then becomes an emotive issue as to whether YOU the breeder FEELS better about breeding birds in small cabinets or large aviaries as there is little reason to choose one over the other.

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