The show is now a week away. If you're like me, you are getting excited to be on the road! You are probably expecting to see many old friends and make a few new ones! But it's time to really sit down and take a close look at the birds you think you'd like to show.
One week before is when I make my final selections. At this point, there isn't much more I can do to prepare my birds for show. Feathers will not grow back in one week, birds that haven't been trained and are still skittish will probably remain skittish, and there shouldn't be much more to do but select the best birds I have. BUT - I also want to show birds at the National. The National is the biggest show of the year, and usually has the best of the best birds. Since not all of my birds will go, I will leave the BEST birds home - crossing my fingers that they stay nice until late November when the National is held. The point is that I always try to balance the best birds with the show they'll be attending. I don't always show every bird at every show - it all depends on which show is coming up next! Of course there is no guarantee that the birds I leave home will stay in show condition, so I have to choose wisely based on the bird's cycle; how soon it will begin to molt, where it is in a breeding cycle, whether new feathers will be complete by the show, etc. These all play a role in my selection.
REVIEWING YOUR CAGE SELECTIONS & LABELING EACH CAGE WITH THE BIRD THAT WILL GO IN IT -
I've watched my birds over the entire course of the last year. I've recorded birds that meet the standard for each species, and have consistently handled them, conditioned them, cage trained any young birds, and watched as feathers are slowly replaced. It's down to the wire, so I need to make my final selections and label the show cages I expect to place each bird in.
Finches do not have a specifically required show cage. Any small cage will do as long as there are no viewing obstructions blocking the Judge's view of the bird (food & water cups, toys, etc.). While I personally only use wooden show boxes, they are all slightly different in size, cage bar spacing, perch spacing and alignment, etc. I want my birds to be shown off in their best light, so I will now match cages to birds. Larger birds will be placed in cages that are tall enough that the bird can sit UP on the perch without feeling like it will hit its head or making it want to hunch down. The birds should sit up on their legs on the perch. A bird that sits low or hunches will not do well in the show. Shafttails or Gouldians with super long tail wires will be placed in cages with wider spaced perches. This will allow them to sit on the perch without damaging their tails. Small species such as Firefinches, Goldbreasts, etc., will be placed in cages with the tightest cage bar spacing, and with fronts with no food/water holes - or on which those holes have been completely covered - so they cannot escape.
[The cage on the left has widely spaced perches and lots of head room for larger birds like Shafttails. The cage on the right has more closely spaced perches, is smaller, and has slightly closer cage bars. The drinker hole has been completely covered to prevent small birds from escaping.] The cage on the left has widely spaced perches and lots of head room for larger birds like Shafttails. The cage on the right has more closely spaced perches, is smaller, and has slightly closer cage bars. The drinker hole has been completely covered to prevent small birds from escaping.
SHOW PREPARATION SERIES:
WEEK OF THE SHOW
KRISTEN REEVES, MEADOWLARK FARMS AVIAN SUPPLY, INC.
I use mini show drinkers on my cages when I show my birds, and replace them with 2oz drinkers after the show. I always run any drinkers through the bird dishwasher, but want to give them a good rinse and allow them to air dry again BEFORE I need to use them for show. I will fill them all with KD Cleanser at disinfection strength, which dissolves any hard water deposits, then rinse and allow them to dry. They will be crystal clear for the show.
IN THE AVIARY -
At the time I wrote this article, the show was on an upcoming Saturday and the birds won't be benched until early that morning, I will give the birds Quik Gel in their drinkers to give them an extra energy and stress relief boost starting Thursday - TWO DAYS BEFORE the show. They will have this right up until the point at which I'm ready to turn them over to the Stewards at the show. At that time, they'll receive plain drinking water from my own tap (I always bring my own water) in their show cage drinkers. No colored or treated water is allowed on the show bench. Once judging is complete and I am allowed to go back to their cages, I will replace their plain water with Quik Gel for another two days following the show.
I spend some time checking perches in each cage too. I know my birds well and know who will need more "grip" than others on the show cage perches. I will sand and file the perches to make them very rough. This will allow the birds (young birds new to showing especially) to hang onto the perch more easily. If they can't hang onto the perch because it is too smooth, they won't sit properly and will slip and slide as they try to perch. Last year I had added new perches to some of my cages - slick and smooth - some of my best birds just could not sit still on those perches. The Judge even commented about it and told the spectators to use a file or rough grit sandpaper to roughen up those perches. Little did he know, that bird was mine! And I listen VERY carefully to what every Judge says! This year, I won't make that mistake again with the new perches!
Once the cages are totally prepared and labeled, I line them up and cover them to keep them dust free until I'm ready to place the birds in them.