Show Preparation & Training
As each breeding season ends, a new show season begins. The young fledglings start their show training when they leave the nest box. Our activities with the chicks while they are in the breeding cage and nursery cage accustoms them to human presence; this is really the first phase of training that assists them in becoming, ‘steady on the perch’.
The second phase of training occurs while we spend time observing them in the flights. The more time we spend actually inside the flights, then the more relaxed the birds will become. The actual formal training should start when the chicks complete their first moult.
Setting the stage for a sound training programme
Set up at least four show cages in a space that can serve as your show cage training area in the aviary. This will make it far more convenient for the training process to take place.
It is important to keep the training cages clean and free of dust. Fresh seed should always be available in the bottom of the cage.
Establishing a schedule so that each show bird can spend an hour or two in the show cage every week is important. This process should continue until the bird becomes calm and comfortable in the cage.
As the birds become relaxed in the show cage, simulated show conditions should be staged. These are to include the use of a judging stick and moving the cage around.
Remember, traffic and noise is two factors of a bird show that should not be overlooked during the training process. Cleaning the aviary in the normal manner is a good method to accustom the birds to a busy, noisy atmosphere. The use of a radio playing music will also provide a means of background noise. Using a training system of this nature will assure you that your birds will arrive at the shows relaxed and ready to show to their best advantage.
Budgerigars continually cycle in and out of condition during the year. As we approach the Show Season, it is important to note the cycle of your birds. This will aid you in charting individual birds for specific shows.
There are a number of actions that an exhibitor can follow to legally enhance a bird’s show condition and starts at eight weeks before the first show. At this time, select your show team and examine each bird for broken or frayed tail and flight feathers. It is necessary to pull broken or frayed primaries so that new feathers can be grown in time for the show. It is important to remember that this procedure should be performed only once during the show season.
Six weeks before the show make a start on your training as described earlier. If you routinely train your birds, this will be a refresher course for them. Follow this procedure until the show team is completely relaxed and show well in the cage.
Four weeks before the show mist your birds daily with water. After a few days you will notice water beads forming on their feathers and they will have a good sheen.
Finally, approximately one week before the show, pluck the excess spots. Do not spray the birds immediately after removing the spots as this can sometimes cause the bird to preen its feathers and pull out a fragile spot.
We have now discussed the general principles of “Preparing your Birds for Show”. Once you have become proficient with the general grooming routine, you will be ready for the next level, the “Finishing Touches”.
The three finishing touches that can give your birds that Champion look are:
Cere and legs: Look at the cere and the birds legs. Often these will appear to be rough and somewhat dry or scaly. Approximately one week before the show, apply a small amount of mineral oil to the cere and legs. This will act as lotion and soften the appearance.
Pin Feathers: Remove unwanted sheathing that is encasing feathers on the bird’s head that are about to unfold. Do not confuse “blood pin feathers” with the dry sheathing that is ready to be removed.
To identify the blood pin feather from the dry sheathing, gently blow on the feathers in a direction so that you can see the bird’s skin. If the pin feathers have blood in them, do not interfere with the growth of these. For those that do not reveal blood, gently mash the dry sheathing encompassing the feather, with your thumb and forefinger. The sheathing will crumble. Gently blow on the feathers to remove all traces of the sheath. A soft, dry toothbrush may also be used for this task.
Finally, clip any excessively long toenails. This will make the feet look trim.
Using these techniques will assist you in presenting your birds to their best advantage.