A subject written about at great length is fertility, or the lack of it, in the modern exhibition budgerigar. Without doubt over the last thirty five years of breeding budgerigars I have seen changes in every direction; size, length and weight, head size and proportions with reference to back skull and top skull above the eye and indeed the position of the eye. Also, the width of face on the bird, the depth of mask, the size and shape of the spots, the width of shoulder to be able to carry this large head and face. The sweeping back line to give the correct angle for the required style and of courses enough of the bird below the perch to complete the picture. If all this were not enough, we have even changed the feathers on the birds, ranging from yellow to super buff and the occasional freak feather duster. We have widened the feather, lengthened the feather and changed its texture and in the final analysis we conclude our bird of today does not reproduce as prolifically as the bird of yesteryear or the birds in the wilds of Australia.
Fertility if of course a most important factor that should be at the top of the list but it does not score points at shows and is quite often overlooked. As we have progressed with the exhibition budgerigar its reproduction has become harder, so we need to take advantage of anything that will give us an extra edge to produce more youngsters. How often have you read that the average clutch of eggs laid by budgerigars to 4 to 6 but could be increased by taking eggs away? There is nothing new about this piece of information but I have never before applied it in the way that I did last season. The following details my methods
EGGS AND CLUTCHES
By 11 March 1997, 26 pairs had laid a total of 229 eggs in 32 clutches, 9 of which were second rounds. By this date 36 chicks were rung with previous year rings and 57 with current year rings plus there were various clutches with unrung chicks and eggs waiting to hatch. Of course, only sustained results over a number of seasons will be fully conclusive but I believe that I have been instrumental in increasing the clutch size in 18 of those 32 clutches.
By systematically removing infertile eggs I believe that the hens were encouraged to lay extra eggs and this was the result: 1 round - 7 eggs, 8 rounds - 8 eggs, 3 rounds - 9 eggs, 1 round - 10 eggs, 2 rounds - 11 eggs, 3 rounds - 12 eggs. One of the hens that laid 12 eggs did not produce a fertile egg until the sixth was laid, with the next 3 fertile and the last 2 clear. Now if she had only laid 5 eggs she would not have reared the young that she did. Also with quite a few pairs, the first 3 or 4 eggs were infertile and if the total clutch had only been 5 eggs they would have produced only the odd youngster.
As a general rule I like 3 or 4 chicks to a nest but the situation in my birdroom was only 1 with 3 chicks all the rest had 4 with the exception of a few pairs that reared 5 chicks. Mind you, for the first time I am feeding Sluis egg food every other day where previously I only provided bread and milk and in my opinion this is making a substantial contribution towards healthy strong youngsters.
THE SYSTEM USED
Returning to the removal of clear eggs and the system I use, I always wait until the day after the third egg is laid before removing the first egg if it is clear. However, a warning, only if the hen sits properly from the first day of laying! Before now, I have the first 3 chicks all hatch on the 22nd day because the hen did not sit until the 3rd egg was laid. This is the exception to the rule but serves as a good illustration to show how careful we should be about discarding clear eggs. When the 4th egg is laid, I will wait a day, then, if the 2nd egg is clear, I will throw it out. Five days is enough to tell if an egg is fertile providing that the hen is sitting properly. If in doubt wait another day or two.
The method described leaves the hen sitting on a maximum of 3 eggs until the first fertile egg is laid. On most occasions I believe the hen will try to make up the shortfall and lay extra eggs even up to doubling the number of the clutch she would have originally laid. This method can also be used to encourage those special pairs to lay extra eggs for fostering to increase the amount of youngsters sired by but not raised by those birds which carry our highest hopes for the next show season. As for the safety and health of our hens laying large clutches of eggs, I do not think it is possible to fool, coax or bribe a hen to lay more eggs that she can comfortably cope with, providing you only let her lay 2 or perhaps sometimes 3 rounds. It is after all the raising of a brood of chicks that depletes the resources of our birds and it is that function that we need to keep tighter control on.