Photo: Larry Mann. Speak to a breeder before you buy, advises Larry, as they can advise what set-up is suitable for your choice

How many marks out of 10 should go to the new generation of bird sales events? The answer is down to the buyers, points out LARRY MANN, since they are in a position to approve well-presented sales tables and reject sub-standard ones. The birds’ welfare is ALWAYS paramount.

THE emergence of auctions and sales events in the past decade has dramatically changed the way the fancy buys and sells stock. There was a time when bird farms, petshops and other retail outlets were plentiful and provided ample choice for the birdkeeper. There were, of course, cage bird clubs and local breeders to visit, in great numbers.

The iPhone has also revolutionised selling, now that a photograph or video of the birds for sale can be sent to the buyer. Distance has no bounds and I have seen such deals made with people even in another country.

While watching a couple choosing pairs of zebra finches and Bengalese from cages in my local garden centre,
it occurred to me that some people don’t have access to other sources. This garden centre chain won’t buy from local breeders like me because they have to buy from approved dealers. The couple were paying high prices but, of course, they wouldn’t know where else to buy from or what the market price was.

I look at the bird section on my frequent visits to the centre, because occasionally a quality individual appears, so I knew how long these birds had been available for sale. It made me think about the stress put on them in such a public place where every day many different people and children peer into these brightly lit cages. Yet they have adapted  (at least the “survivors” have) into happy healthy individuals that would probably have no trouble being transferred to their new home.

How different to the birds at the large sales events that have come from a controlled environment. They are put on display in an enormous hall with thousands of other birds and people with all the noise and upheaval involved. Then, they are transferred into a small carry cage, travel to a new home and have to cope with a new setting all in one day.

When purchasing stock from such events, I recommend studying the seller’s stand. This is where they hope to sell their birds, so it’s an indication of how they are looked after at home. Therefore, if they are overcrowded and in dirty cages, you have to imagine how bad conditions are back in the breeder’s quarters.

A nicely displayed table with clean cages, the correct food and water and the birds shown in good feather quality is an indication that stock is respected. Those birds are likely to be a good buy because they are less stressed and may have a good history of being bred from a similarly well-kept strain. If you talk to the breeder about the birds and their husbandry methods, you can buy with confidence knowing how to continue their successful method of keeping your purchase.

Genuine sellers will talk you through a bird’s ability to breed, etc, and will sell you their stock only if they feel you are the right person for this particular variety. Finches that need space and are not suitable for a communal aviary shouldn’t be sold to people who have only such an aviary set-up, for example.

One such encounter sticks in my mind. I really fancied a super-looking cock bird and the seller explained that although it was a great show bird, its temperament was bad.

He said it couldn’t be put in a flight of birds because it would attack everything in sight and had to be watched carefully when pairing. He kept it in a cage separately, but it was very successful on the show bench. That wouldn’t have suited me and consequently he lost the sale, but he earned my respect.

Larry Mann is well known as a populariser of the newer mutations of zebra finch in the UK.

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