Your can do it with feathers. You can do it with bits of eggshell. And you can certainly do it with a drop or two of blood. I'm talking, of course, about determining the gender of your birds by getting their DNA tested. This is one area where developing technology is helping more and more bird breeders every year. When DNA sexing first arrived on the scene, it was too complicated and expensive to use for any but the most valuable stock. Now the cost of testing has come way down and so (I'm told) has the cost of the testing kit. Maybe, one day soon, DIY DNA tests will be just an everyday matter in our hobby.
If they do, wonderful... up to a point. Because, as David Lugo describes vividly on page 11, there is still much to be said for sexing the "natural" way, by quietly sitting and watching what your birds do; by detecting cocks through scraps of song, or either sex by subtle but characteristic behaviour; in short, by what David terms "the technique of patience". (A cup of tea can come in handy.)
And this "behavioural" study can teach you so much more than what's a cock and what's a hen. David describes the other benefits in his article – and I'd guess that, however cheap DNA sexing becomes, many true birdkeepers will continue to perfect their patience. What's your opinion?
●For Sale Advert of the Week: "House for sale with bird shed" – or should that be "bird shed for sale with attached house"? Details on page 29. Sounds perfect, I'd say.
● "Ringing changes – by May 30". Remember that news headline? It was in the May 16 issue: DEFRA minister Jim Paice referred to "changes expected to be made before 30 May 2012 regarding the requirements for UK authorised rings and documentary evidence." Right, well, May 30 has come and gone, but it seems June 1 may in fact have been the big day (see News, page 5). Watch this space!