Photo: Dave Brown. Bowing out at the top: now retired from bantam showing, Poppy Brown has moved on to zebra finches 

If other fanciers’ children show an interest in birdkeeping, we should do all we can to encourage them, not accuse them of showing their parent’s birds, says DAVE BROWN.

I WAS recently invited to give a talk at a cage bird society. There, I made reference to the fact that my daughter Poppy has moved away from caring for and showing bantams, and followed in the family tradition of exhibiting zebra finches. 

Quite a long debate ensued as I was warned to prepare my daughter (and myself) for the inevitable claims of: “She’s showing her dad’s birds.” I think the warning came with genuine concern for Poppy’s feelings, and stories were shared of how fanciers had encouraged their grandchildren into showing some birds, only to have them be put off by the experiences described. Predictably, the view was also canvassed – which the room seemed to agree with – that we need to attract youngsters into the hobby.

One of the great realities of the history of bird clubs and their politics is that it is full of contradictions. If fanciers acknowledge that many juniors, probably indirectly, are going to be in the firing line for criticism rather than praise when they stage a few exhibits, what is the point of harping on about juniors being the key to the survival of the fancy? The reality is that the days of getting away with keeping a few canaries in a converted orange box down the old air-raid shelter, and travelling to a show with a few cages strapped to the bike, are long gone. (I’m being a bit sarcastic here.)

With so many other outlets for leisure time now, it’s unlikely children are going to choose birdkeeping, unless they receive direction and encouragement from an adult, most likely a family member, who is already into birds. After all, they have to be willing to allow birds in the home or garden and then help source them, monitor that the birds are being properly looked after, fund seed bills and drive to shows.

That will be the case whichever animal fancy you consider. Shows for farm livestock often have young handler classes to encourage the next generation to learn the skills of ring craft. (I wonder how many farmers turn to an old pal and say: “Her grandad bred that bullock.”) Larger poultry shows also have classes for juniors where they not only present their exhibit to the judge, but are also asked about their chosen breed and how they care for them. That is a sure-fire way to work out which kids are caring for their birds and those who aren’t. Small animal shows often encourage junior entries by putting on extensive classifications for pet type animals. At many cavy shows, pets outnumber the show-type animals.

So perhaps rather than continue the age-old tradition of whispering about who really owns a junior’s birds, we should do all we can to welcome the few younger exhibitors and visitors we see at our shows. Other fancies seem to manage it.

I always enjoy a bird club debate, but was grateful for the gentleman who put the whole thing into perspective for me with a few private words at the end of the meeting. It is well documented that I am very fortunate in my hobby to have not just the support, but also the assistance of my family.

On most days, my daughter not only sorts out her own lightback zebra finches but changes the water in all the drinkers in the canary room, and my wife normally has all the eggfood sorted and other drinkers replenished by the time I am home from work, several days a week.

Having listened to this, the worldly gentleman remarked: “I suppose some people would accuse you of showing your wife and daughter’s birds.”

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