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...the facts by Roy Stringer


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Prizewinning Green Cock

RAY STEELE lives near Pontefract in Yorkshire, England, He began keeping Budgerigars in 1957 and, at first, enjoyed average success. Then, in 1969 he decided to start again; this time ignoring the advice that came from books – and he never looked back. Encouraged by his wife, Christine, he selected Lutinos as his speciality and before long his name became world famous. Unusual for a Red-eye breeder, his Lutinos took Best-in-Show awards at Championship Shows on several occasions. He has taken five Lutino Challenge Certificates at the Budgerigar Society Club Show; the "World Championships" – benching the best Lutino in 1986 and 1991. He has also taken the trophy for best Lutino at the National Cage & Aviary Birds Exhibition.


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Steele Bred Lutino Cock

By 1998 he had taken 104 Challenge Certificates with Lutinos and 45 with Albinos. For many years, he won 75 per cent of the Lutino classes at Championship Shows where he competed and on numerous occasions benched the first five in a class. The strength in depth of his stud was illustrated by two of his results from the BS Club Show. In 1984, in a class of 38 any age hens, his exhibits came first, second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh. In 1986 there were 48 any age Lutino hens and his entries came first, second, fourth, fifth and seventh.



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Quality Sky Blue Cock

Having achieved so much with Red-eyes he decided that he wanted to widen the scope of his stud to include the majority of the dominant varieties. Accordingly, he built a stud that is unrivalled in its strength in depth, scope and numbers of Normals, Opalines, Cinnamons and Cinnamon Opalines. He still retained some Lutinos and Albinos and has taken best in show awards with both varieties in 1998. His breakthrough with Non-Red-eye varieties was startling. As well as numerous Best-in-Show and Best Young Bird awards, he has won 226 Challenge certificates with 14 of them; Light Green, Grey Green, Grey, Skyblue, Cinnamon, Opaline Cinnamon, Opaline green, Opaline Blue, Dominant Pied, Yellowface, White, Yellow, Greywing and Clearwing. He also keeps a number of less well-known varieties, such as Clearbodies and Slates, in order to improve and study them.


Ray Steele's Birdroom
The Steele Birdroom

As he extended his stud so he provided it with fitting accommodation. He built his 80 ft (24.4m) long, by 9ft (2.7m) wide by 8ft-6in (2.6m) high birdroom from concrete blocks, rendered on the outside and plastered on the inside. The structure houses 92 breeding cages and six inside flights. His two outside flights are each 20ft long by 9ft wide (6.1m x 2.7m).



The strength of the Steele stud is that it does not depend upon one outstanding bird to notch up his successes. Towards the end of 1998, there were no fewer than 44 different Challenge Certificate winners, all owner-bred, in his extensive birdroom. His stud is renowned for its fertility, producing breeding results that are second to none, year after year.

Ray Steele’s contacts outside the United Kingdom are extensive. He regularly judges at major overseas shows, his birdroom is visited regularly by overseas visitors and has sent Budgerigars to all corners of the world. Ray, a much-read author, is a regular contributor of articles to Cage & Aviary Birds, Budgerigar World, The Budgerigar and society magazines throughout the world.

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    Housing Budgerigars  



BUDGERIGARS will thrive and breed in almost any kind of birdroom - as long as certain essentials are provided. Here, Ray Steele spells out what they are.

THE structure of a birdroom must be waterproof, free from damp and draughts, and protected from extremes of coldness and heat. At the same time, it should be well ventilated. Provision must be made to keep out vermin, such as mice and rats. Lighting is important. The room should not be dark but no birds should find themselves in direct sunlight from which they cannot escape. If your garden permits it, the front windows of your birdroom should face east or southeast.
Windows should be large enough to permit adequate light to enter, but not so large as to create a greenhouse effect. Any windows that can be opened need to be fitted with safety frame covered with 1/2in wire mesh, to prevent birds from escaping. Artificial lighting is best provided by using fluorescent tubes for the main lights and a bayonet-fitting bulb for a night light.
The construction of the room can be of timber boarding, exterior plywood, bricks or blocks. If made from wood, the structure should be raised from the ground, on brick pillars or low walls, so that there is at least a 6in gap beneath to help prevent timber from rotting and to deter vermin.
It is surprising how often timber birdrooms are moved from one site to another so it is best to make them sectional structures that can reassembled with the minimum of damage. The walls of timber birdrooms are best lined with hardboard or plywood, with a layer of insulating material placed in the gap created.
Budgerigars love to be in outside flights and so even a small one is better than none at all. Given the choice, healthy budgerigars would rather be outside than inside, particularly during the months of spring and summer. Flights can be constructed cheaply from wooden frames covered with 1 in x ½ in wire mesh. Several companies market aviary panels, ready to be bolted together - though most of these tend to be on lighter timber than the 3in x 2in that I prefer. The frames should be assembled so that the wire mesh is on the inside, to prevent the wooden frame from being gnawed away. Perches (5/8in dowelling is suitable) should be fixed at each end to give the maximum flying space. The floor is best concreted or paved with slabs for easy cleaning and to stop vermin from burrowing in from outside.
An inside flight is very useful - even essential - and one can easily be constructed by building a mesh-covered from across the room to partition off one end. Lighter framing than that used on the outside flights is acceptable (I use 2in x 2in) and ½ in diameter perching is adequate.
It is easier and cheaper to build cages in tiers rather than individual units. Depending upon the height of the room the tiers can be three or four cages high. There is no fixed size for breeding or stock cage but, as an example, 30in long by 16in high and 15in deep is a useful size that provides adequate space for a breeding pair and their chicks.
Building cage blocks that are multiples the lengths of single cages gives plenty of flexibility. Inserting and removing dividers can create different cage sizes. Again, ½ in diameter dowelling is suitable for perches. Budgerigar cage fronts should have large opening doors (unlike canary and small finch fronts that have small, lifting doors). The large aperture gives easy access for feeding and cleaning. Outside nest-boxes can be fixed to the cage fronts, which means that a few wires need to be removed in line with the nest-box entrance hole. To prevent accidents when there are eggs or chicks inside, the nest-boxes need to be very firmly fixed. I prefer to use a nut and bolt to attach each box to the main structure of the cage. The same fixing can be used to fit a blanking plate to cover the hole in the cage front when the box is removed.
Earthenware pots are useful feeders as, unlike plastic dishes, the birds do not tip them over and spill the contents onto the cage floor. 'Flomatic' type drinkers are best for offering water. Small plastic dishes, hooked onto the cage front are suitable for grit and finger drawers are useful for feeding supplements. Larger feeders and trays are better in the flights so that several birds can feed at the same time.

Copyright Ray Steele 2002


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