Management and Training of Young Birds
By Kelwyn Kakoschke
The young bird’s training for exhibition is a very important part of the bird’s life. A couple of hours of the correct procedure when the bird is ready to leave its parents will save you hours, maybe weeks, later on.
Handle the birds as much as possible. When the birds are in the weaning cage, gather them into groups of two or three and place them in a show cage overnight, then release them the following morning back into the weaning cage or the aviary.
The importance of this is that, at this age, the young bird is ready and adept at leaning and what we are trying to do is teach the birds to go to the perch when they are introduced to the show cage. What you will find is that, with two or three birds in the cage, invariably, one will soon go to the perch and, once one bird is on a perch, it will entice the others to the other perch. This is most important – that birds learn that once placed in a show cage, to readily and quickly go to the perch and stay there.
The reason they are only left overnight is that you don’t want to teach them vices at the same time. Young budgerigars become bored very quickly and, if they are left there for more than a few hours, they will start to play in the cage, learning such tricks as putting their heads in the drinking pot, running around the cage fronts and doing cartwheels on the perches, none of which you want the bird to acquire as a habit when it is placed in a show cage. So, by placing the birds in a cage overnight, they won’t mess about because they will be sleeping on the perch during the hours of darkness and will only have a few hours of daylight before being put out again. It’s a simple thing but very important to an exhibition bird’s training life.
The next important part of an exhibition bird’s training is the night show. It’s one thing to take a bird and place it in a cage in its own environment, but it’s another thing to get the same bird accustomed to travel and other environments without being upset by it. Taking your birds to night shows is always a great thing for the birds which you intend to exhibit later. It becomes used to crowds of people going past; it gets used to being awake during night hours and it becomes used to being judged.
This leads us to the judging stick. The first time the bird will become accustomed to having a stick poked at it and asking it to move will be when it is shown and really you want the bird to be steady to the stick at this stave. So the way to do this is to imprint the judging stick upon the bird. Take a piece of dowel or a twig abvout the same size as the judging stick. Hang it in the weaning cage with a piece of wire and a cup hook close to the perch where the birds can reach out and touch it and play with it. They will become accustomed to having a stick around them and treat it as a toy virtually, after a very short period of time. So, when the judge puts a stick near them, they will be unafraid of it. This is what it is all about – having a bird which is bold, unafraid of the judge and prepared to show what it has got.
This brings us to the next point. At this time of the year, you will have large numbers of young birds coming from the weaning cage. You might be very keen to dispose of birds which you think are not good enough to keep. You have to be very careful here because different families of birds develop at different rates and you need quite a lot of experience with the families in your aviary to find out which are the quick and which are the slow developers.
Very often an inexperienced breeder will sell a medium quality bird when it is very young and be astonished at how it turns out as a two-year-old. So wait until such time as you get to know your birds. Be a little bit careful about choosing the birds your cull at this stage. The birds you don’t worry about persevering with are any with coarse, heavy wings, any long-flighted birds and anything with a mean or narrow head. The head of a bird will not develop to any marked extent after weaning and a bird with coarse, heavy wings will always have coarse, heavy wings, so these birds can be moved out to the Pet Shops. Now you can put the time and effort into the better birds you have retained.
In conclusion, a tip for beginners. If, at the end of the first round, you find you are not having a good season, there may be a chance to stop the cake being burned, so to speak. Look very, very carefully at the youngsters going into the weaning cage. Let any pair that has raised one or two good chicks carry on with a second round, but consider changing pairs where, say, a reasonable pair have produced only smallish, finely-built birds and another pair, also reasonable in themselves, have produced mainly coarse birds, perhaps with heavy wings. This will often give a beginner a better second round when you are dealing with birds you do not know. The way to go about this is to remove both cocks and hens from the breeding cage, fly them in the aviary for a week or so and then bring them back into the breeding cages in their new pairs.
© Kelwyn Kakoschke 1991