by Clive Wakeman (2001)

Much has been written and many reasons given as to why so many start and leave the hobby in the space of a few years. Commercialisation, high prices of stock and equipment, birds that will not breed, lack of wins at shows, unable to progress quickly enough in their new found hobby are only some of the reasons put forward and debated at length. While a lot of well-meaning advice is given I believe a lot of what is said is too grand and aimed too high for the raw beginner. It's all very well to say you can scale down to a size to suit the individual's needs and means but why should initial advice be given on such a grand scale anyway.

Whatever happened to converting the garden shed into a bird room and making half a dozen or so breeding cages? Good sound advice at this stage would be, if funds permit, line the shed, the addition of an outside flight and laying on some electricity. When I started breeding budgerigars 32 years ago as a schoolboy I could not afford these luxuries and had to put up with de-icing drinkers and tending the birds' needs before I went to school. However, I was successful in breeding budgerigars. In those early years I gained practical experience in breeding and looking after budgerigars with a minimum outlay supported only by my paper round and money earned by working on Saturdays in a pet show and the sale of young budgerigars in the breeding season. The other important ingredient, apart from undying enthusiasm, was my mentor and friend right up until the time of his death in 1987, Tom North, a champion breeder who lived in my home town of Ilford, Essex.

In between leaving school and getting married, my birds had to go, but as soon as the opportunity came 4 years later I was keen and ready to take up the hobby again and to this day I am still breeding budgerigars despite 3 moves, 3 bird rooms and the contemplation of the 4th on a much grander scale. After getting married I went back to tom North and founded my stud on his birds and when he died in 1987 I bought the remainder of the stud and the line is still breeding well today, particularly the violets.


The point is that many breeders may have a break in their hobby, for various reasons, marriage, children, house move, or maybe the novelty just wore off. But the bug can bite again as we all well know. Now if this rekindled interest holds bad memories of large amounts of money wasted it probably will not be attempted again. However, if after a modest outlay a deep rooted interest is breeding and exhibiting birds was found to be the case in a stable situation a comeback to the hobby may be made with thoughts and designs to take it much further this time. I know I did in 1971.

Before I moved to Somerset in 1985 I went to Ernie Sigsten for some new blood to inject some size into my birds. In fact I have been back to Ernie for outcrosses 5 times in the past 11 years. In this period I read everything I could about Jo Mannes and his mutation feather that he had bred on his birds. I saw this as the feather to put on the bird of the future. By coincidence so did Ernie Sigsten who bought birds from Jo and I, in turn, bought birds from Ernie with Mannes blood and feather.


Now I will bring up the question of price, what to pay and value for money. Having never been a man of means I have always worked on the principle of selling perhaps 10 of my birds to raise the money for an outcross. When it comes to the new purchase of an outcross you must have a clear picture of what you want. I wanted Mannes blood, feather and size, but not necessarily on the same bird. I purchased 2 light green cocks, one that was 75% Mannes blood and the other, a huge bird, that was a real handful and measured 10 inches for 100 each and bless Ernie's generosity a third light green cock that he gave me.

Naturally, they were not perfect, no bird is, but I have achieved what I had set out to do and the birds I came away with were terrific valued for money! Yes all three bred but there was a setback. The Mannes blood cock produced 13 youngsters from 4 different hens. Great, the problem was they were all cocks. I rang Ernie to ask if he could let me have 2 or 3 hens of the appropriate bloodline. Well not only did he do that he also gave me another 2 hens to help out, what more could one ask. Fertility has been exceptional, producing both cocks and hens, opening up the way for continued progress.

Now going back to the original point, if I had started with the birds of this quality in the beginning no matter how successful or otherwise the breeding was, they would have been paid for directly from my pocket and not from the sale of birds. I would not have been able to use them to the extent that I have now and get the best out of them. The bird room and the equipment I have now may be a far cry from the converted shed and half a dozen cages I started with at my parents' house but it has all come with time and experience. I did not try to run before I could walk, or build a palatial bird room with all mod cons before I was certain that the hobby would be a life-long pursuit. There is absolutely no substitute for practical experience but it does not have to be gained at a huge expense which a lot of articles directed at beginners seem to indicate these days.