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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nigel Darley

Sheila Darley checking on things

I have been friends with Nigel on Facebook for a few years but I never expected I would get the chance to visit him when I was in England. Nigel has been in the hobby off and on since the late 50s and when we met in person I didn't know what to expect. Don’t be fooled for 1 second about Nigels reserved demeanor. He has plenty to say but with wisdom of a seasoned breeder, Nigel is slow to speak yet strong in his desire and passion. Known for helping numerous beginners, he has strong words for those who have taken advantage of his good will. Nigel easily can take the lead by demonstrating leadership that demand experience. Although he has not shown a great deal in the recent years he expressed his utter frustration with some of the direction the hobby has turned, yet deep inside he continues to breed carrying the drive he has for the Exhibition Budgerigar.

Outside the bird room

He started at the age of 10, when a friend from school gave him 2 Albino hens and a light green cock bird, with a double breeder cage and 2 nest boxes. “My brother fitted them up on the wall of my dad’s shed, and I was hooked for life”. “Both hens killed each others chicks so I thought I would join our local club called Club Basingstoke & District CBS.

I looked into his backyard and it was like a beautiful garden that fit neatly into the landscape filled with different bird rooms. This reminded me of the old style of days past. The kind you see in magazines, pleasing to the eye and inviting.
Nigel made me feel right at home as we sat down for a cup of tea and some warm conversation. We spoke of the hobby its friends and foes, its future and the direction we wanted to go. I didn't know it but seeing that Nigel was close to my temporary home I was able to meet him a couple of times over the course of my visit to England.

Looking longways into the bird room
Inside the front door is a baby flight

Nigel's winnower


As you enter Nigel's bird room you pass a long window. Inside the door he has a medium size young bird flight, breeding cages cover the entire length of the room, and at the end there is a large walk in flight that also has access to an outside flight. Next to it there is another large window which bring in a tremendous amount of light helpful for breeding. I have to say that I was totally impressed with the ingenuity that Nigel has in his bird room. You can definitely see his construction background by the quality of cabinets that adorn the bird room. I don't know if this is old-school but Nigel has the ability to use simple ideas to make his bird room extremely efficient. I'm talking about the seed winnower he designed which is an efficient way of saving the cost of bird seed by recycling the chaff from the good seed. Another common problem in bird rooms today is the level of humidity that the birds need for proper egg incubating. It should be maintained between 50 and 70 percent. Once I saw Nigel's Ionized humidifier it totally made sense I had not seen anything like it in the bird rooms I visited to date. He pointed out that the cost for such an instrument was not expensive.

A simple humidifier/ionizer
Determining if a young bird will have good backskull
One of my goals in visiting the top bird rooms in England was to ask specific questions on certain topics of interest for the average breeder like myself. One of the things we discussed was whether you could determine in the nest if a bird was going to have good back skull or good width in the head. Nigel thought that you could tell if the bird had good back skull by the length and flatness at the top of the head. He held up two birds that were nest mates. It appeared that you could see a flatness in the head of the one bird.

Nigel began to put some of his better birds into show cages for me to view and take pictures of. You could see consistency in his birds and I especially liked his Clearbody’s and Lutino’s that he is working on. I thought the Lutino’s were impressive with good length and color. I truly feel like Nigel had all the pieces for a top shelf bird. He placed a stock hen into the cage with super spots and depth of mask. I saw birds that had incredible feather direction and length of feather in the head. Nigel pointed out that he had not shown in a while and we were trying to convince him that he really needs to, with the quality we were seeing. After a while someone noted a bird that had a feather cyst which Nigel had missed. This is a common problem in the modern bird today. With the amount feather we are putting on these birds it's no wonder that you have the amount of problems from time to time.

Checking nest box

Nigel squeezes out the impacted substance

Here Nigel removes the impacted feather

How big are your spots?
Nigel uses a simple LED light to read band numbers

This gave me an opportunity to see how Nigel handles the problem. He took hold of the bird to take a closer look at it. The cyst was not large but it needed attention. Opening the end of the cyst he carefully squeezed out the substance from the inside of the cyst. At this point he carefully used a tweezers to pull the affected feather which was compacted inside the cyst. After discussing feather cyst problems on Facebook forums someone posted an antiseptic spray with a nozzle, available on the market that is used with a great deal of success with feather cyst problems. Using the nozzle you spray inside of the affected area which will help in the healing process and dry it out.

We stepped outside for a break and I began to get more pictures. Nigel has beautiful pigeons and society finches, but I was especially interested in his very large Turkeys. We sat down for some sandwiches and more banter on a perfect day. I felt like I made a friend.