by Deamonn A Mullee

The first recording of a slate was back in 1933. A Mr Watson bought a slate hen in August 1933 from a bird dealer. This bird bred but did not produce any slates and neither did any of its offspring. This hen died and it was another two years before the mutation appeared again, this time in Carlisle and was bred by Mr T S Bowman. From records it shows that the parents were a cobalt cock and a skyblue hen.

Although slates have been with us for many years, they have never proved popular, one reason may be that the Australian dominant grey appeared at about the same time and was preferred by exhibition breeders because it was bolder and easier to improve. After the war period, slates became even rarer, and in the 1950s and '60s a few colour breeders tried to revive interest in them; although these breeders did meet with some success, slates again slipped into obscurity. In this period they were mainly opaline slates. In the early 1970s Cyril Rogers exported a pair to a young couple in Holland and the mutation was kept going for a few years; in 1992 Cyril Rogers imported two slate cocks back into the UK from Holland.

One of these cocks was paired to a light green hen and the other to a clearflight cobalt. Only the latter pairing was successful and the first cock never did fill an egg. Unfortunately, Cyril became ill and his close friend Ken Gray assumed responsibility for the budgerigars.

A breeding programme was set up in an attempt to re-establish the slate in the UK once more, as they were thought to be extinct in this country until Cyril brought in the two cocks in 1992. It was decided that five members of the Rare Variety and Colour Budgerigar Society should start the programme - these were Ken Gray, Margaret Young, Joan Denton, Ken Brock and myself. The programme proved to be a great success and the slate is now in many fanciers' birdrooms. Although they are still very rare I think they are here to stay this time.

At the budgerigar shows, slates go in the Any Other Colour class, but at specialist and rare variety shows and at the BS Club Show they usually have a class provided for them alone.

Slates are a sex-linked variety, so if anyone should want to start breeding slates it would be better to start with a visual, but do not rule out a split cock to a normal non-slate hen. This is how I started and in the first nest were three slates.

It is generally agreed that using skyblues produces the more desirable slate, as the lighter the colour, the better the slate factor shows itself. Cobalt and mauve slates have been bred, but the dark factor does little for slates. I have also bred light green slates and they look like greygreens with a violet cheekpatch. The grey factor, greys and greygreens should be avoided as it masks the slate overlay. The slate factor can vary in depth of colour, the first three slate skyblues I bred, varied considerably in the shade of blue.

Sex Linkage Chart for Slates
Pairing   Expectations
Adult Cock Adult Hen   Young Cocks Young Hens
Normal Normal   Normal Normal
Normal/slate Normal   Normal/slates Normals Slates Normals
Normal/slate Slate   Normal/slates, slates Normals, slates
Normal Slate   Normal/slates Normals
Slate Normal   Normal/slates Slates
Slate Slate   Slates Slates