A show bird will need to look his best. Ideally his spruce-up should be via a standard bird bath, placed in the cage every day for a week or two before the show. If your finches are reluctant bathers, you’ll have to shower them every day with water in a spray bottle. Some breeders hand-wash their birds. Some go to extremes, spraying their finches with feather-shining agents, shampooing their crest and frills, plucking out any damaged feathers, heat-straightening bent ones and bleaching blood-stained pin feathers with a bird-friendly compound. However, including oil seeds such as flax in your finches’ food mix, and an optimum diet in general, will make feathers shine and eyes twinkle, and ideally you should keep your physical interference to a minimum. The real preparation is all in the breeding, keeping and feeding – getting the right type of bird weaned, tamed and in the prime of health. Again, ask local experts and exhibitors for advice on how to prepare a bird with minimal fuss.
Some owners give their Canaries the bird equivalent of a haircut and shampoo
The majority of finches and Canaries at a show are birds in their first year, and will not be used to shows. Getting the finch accustomed to the cage and its handling is therefore essential, as it will assist in keeping the bird calm during the event. Finches can be acclimatised by spending part of the day in the show cage for at least two weeks before the big day. Judges will handle the cages, so it helps if you lift the cage and gently move it around. Pick it up from behind too, to simulate unexpected cage movements at a show. Keep the finch in the show cage for 48 hours before the show as a finishing touch, and make sure he has an uninterrupted night’s sleep before the event. Cover the cage to make sure there is no disturbance.
One common problem seen in novice show birds is a reluctance to perch, and a fondness for staying on the floor. There are two ways to encourage the finch onto the perch without scaring him. Cover the bottom half of the cage front (with dark paper or cardboard, for example). The finch will not like the impeded view, and will start to use the perch so that he can see out. Alternatively, cover the tray area of the cage with seed or bran. The finch will not like the sinking feeling he gets when he lands on this, and will use the perches instead. Note: neither of these ploys should be carried out at the show itself!
The birds need to feel comfortable and safe in their cages
One good tip for a great-looking bird is to spray it with water from a mister just before the judging begins – this will make the finch preen itself, which will get the feathers looking their best. Do a final cage-check – remove any feathers from the floor, and wipe away droppings from the perches.
It helps if you can take a look at the various forms, tags and rules before entering the show. Local old-hands will be able to assist you here. Shows have categories for different finch types, but also for novice keepers. If this is your first show, you will up against fellow novices rather than former champions.
There will be prizes for various types of finch – song, type and colour in Canaries, for example – and some overall champion categories too. Points are awarded to birds based on an official type description of the ‘ideal’ specimen of that particular variety. Condition and behaviour on the day are also taken into account, along with the state of the show cage. No one wants to lose out on account of a dirty cage!