We are all in a challenge, those of us who are serious about breeding show quality budgies. So what features do you think are the most important? Many features dominate on the show bench, like length, spot size shoulder. We want all of these features in one bird don’t we? More then anything the head features are what dominate the show bench. So in my view the place to start is the head. Andy planted this idea in my head a few years ago once we started talking about our birds. Is it possible to recognize early on if a bird is going to carry the feather direction we are looking for.
I thought it would be interesting to compare babies that Andy bred and at the same time be able to tell the difference. I wanted to see if I could recognize the quality early on. Another feature drummed into me last year was backskull by my friend Dave Collier. When I arrived home after my trip to England last year I felt overwhelmed by the quality I had seen. It helped me immensely however giving me ideas of what I wanted to strive for and so as I walked through my bird room I began to pick out the pieces I could find in my flights. Sure enough they were there. Not through out the stud but enough to give me motivation to keep trying. Its funny, you walk through the room and instantly see what isn’t going to help.
Andy has 28 cages for breeding and when you ask him he will tell you that he is interested in breeding quality and not numbers. If there is one important lesson that I have learned from Andy it is that you have to be ruthless in what you decide to keep. The quality of the cocks are most important to him, but the hens are the back bone to carrying that quality across the entire stud. Line breeding will take you to the places you want to go. The features we talked about are brought out here using related birds carrying a dominance.
If I was to buy from a breeder this is what I look for. Consistency across the stud but also the greater chance of carrying those features. I’ve decided that if you buy, why just obtain 2 super birds. What guarantee is that? However knowing the families to what you are getting will give you a better chance of getting those features.
Andy tells me that his original stock was 100 percent Mannes and he has used Huxley and Marchant blood for the length of feather and super backskull. The Luetolf blood has given him softer feather along with the quality of direction in the head. His focus is establishing the quality of feather direction in his cocks across the entire stud. One of Andys favorite breeds in the dilutes which he has been introducing into his normals and cinnamon's. In 2005 Andy sold all of his birds except 7. In 2007 he introduced the 11 Mannes birds 4 cocks and 7 hens all of which were siblings. As I have followed Andy through the year on Facebook he has posted pictures of his birds from time to time. The quality is evident.
As we visited this year I wanted to get to know Ruth, Andys wife a little better. One of the things I learned about Andy is that he and Ruth celebrate their wedding vows every 10 years. I sat down with her and looked at pictures of the family. Ruth enjoys her Italian Spinone dogs and occasionally show them. I wanted to get pictures but we had 2 hours of driving to do and it was getting late. I feel often our wives are easily set aside if they have no interest in the birds. This I understand completely as my wife has no interest. How can one be so passionate about something yet a partner simply have no interest? Its just the way it is. I find it hard but must say that I have a wife who recognizes my passion. Such a trip would not take place without her blessing. She mentioned that the next time I come I was to bring my wife and the 2 of them would go shopping.
Ruth made the most delicious chocolate cake that we washed down with some English tea. I think I could have finished the entire cake all by myself. It was still warm, fresh from the oven. It made me home sick as my wife is a great cook. Ian my traveling companion this trip, was sure to advise me that there is no tea like the English tea. To which I asked “Isn’t tea grown in China or India”? Doesn’t it just take hot water? I smiled because I knew he was making a point about a tradition of culture in England. I loved every last drop.
As I was sitting enjoying my cake and tea I made a comment about using our connections as an advantage to the way forward in the hobby. It didn’t come out right and as I though about it I realized it sounded selfish. I didn’t come here to take advantage of Andys good will. What I was thinking is that if we take our time and get to know those who are successful in the hobby it can work in our favor. Why, because we earn trust and loyalty which is a rare thing these days. So many are trying to take advantage withholding information and sometimes telling half truths.
We walked out to the bird room again and as we entered the room I noticed a yellow canary in a training cage up on the shelf. I’m surprised I hadn’t seen the bird the first time we were out. I focused my attention down the flight and realized that this year Andy had opened up the entire flight which was about 16 feet long. His flight reaches down below ground and is approximately 6 foot high. It is a walk in flight. He has since added automatic watering to his breeding cages and loves the time saving ability it gives. It requires weekly cleaning and water changing.
Andy begun to bring birds up to a photo cage he has set up. I really wanted to get quality pictures because I feel like I missed the chance last year. It was clearly evident that the quality was there. I’m totally amazed at the feather direction Andy has developed.
We walked out of the bird room where we could get one last picture and a cup of hot tea before we were on our way to home base. I always enjoy my time with Andy. He is considerate and helpful, and a great example for the hobby.