It has been a frustrating week, which I'm sure a lot of fanciers can relate to at this time of year.
Due to a combination of factors, the majority of the birds have come into peak breeding condition. In particular, given the weather conditions in Cumbria at this time of year (heavy rain!) the birds seem to naturally want to breed. Richard placed two of the best young hens into show cages last week and as he did so, they went down to tread in his hand. This is certainly not an isolated case with all of our best birds (the selected breeding pairs) showing tell tell signs that they need to be paired up. 

The dilemma is that if these pairs were allowed to breed now, all of the first round of youngsters would be rung on 2011 rings and potentially, a significant number of the second round, which of course would have an impact on the young bird show team for next year. In recent years, Richard and Michael have put the pairs together in the weeks following their return from the BS World Show. This has meant only 30 or so birds being rung on old rings prior to the current year rings being issued.

Therefore, the big decision is whether to allow the birds to breed now or try to hold them back long enough for the usual pairing date. However, if the birds are held back too long, they could fall into a moult thus losing their breeding condition until December/January (given that temperatures in Cumbria plunged to -20 in these months over the last 2 years, this is hardly the optimum time of year to expect budgerigars to naturally want to breed).

I know that a lot of the books and magazines talk about budgerigars having an annual moult, but from what I have seen, our birds usually have two moults per year. Whether this is down to the climate in this area or the aviary conditions, I do not know.
The compromise that we have tried achieve is that the nest boxes have been placed on the stock cages where the breeding pairs have been caged up in order to build them up prior to being paired up (the birds are caged in groups of young cocks, young hens, adult cocks and adult hens). The hope is that this will convince the birds that they will shortly be allowed to breed. We have blanked off the entrance to each nest box, as we normally would when first introducing a pair to the breeding cages. Hopefully this will give us the extra breathing space that we need. The majority of pairs will the be paired up week commencing 19 September with the remainder after the BS World Show.

It is also a tense time in the aviary with getting the show birds ready for the World Show. With weather conditions including, ground frost at night, torrential rain in a morning and 21 degree temperatures with glorious sunshine in the afternoon, it is fair to say that getting birds into peak show condition and keeping them that way is more than a challenge. If any of the selected birds 
dive into a moult with only a couple of weeks left before the show, they will be dropped from the team and returned to the stock cages with the rest of the breeding pairs. Birds will only be shown in immaculate condition.