Downside (above): the pressure to earn those winning rosettes can be stressful. Photo: Dave Brown

It’s a free choice to give up birdkeeping, but it’s one that all too often the ex-fancier comes to regret. DAVE BROWN has some positive suggestions for both the leavers and the remainers

IT IS always a shame to hear of fanciers giving up their hobby, particularly if they are well established and have made an impact on their chosen branch of that hobby, through either show success, administration or both. Of course, any of us may face the dilemma of having to call it a day through illness, a house move, new job or family commitments. All unavoidable and understandable. 

It is particularly sad when fanciers move on because of politics or despondency within the hobby and while I’m sure other factors apply, more often than not, when these are cited as the sole reasons, we must ensure that attitudes or individuals don’t drive good people out. A competition is only that if there is actually competition!

‘Please stay’

Sometimes a few words of encouragement may be all that is needed to keep someone in the game, or at least let the fancier know that they will be missed. Firing off a message enquiring what birds are available, the minute the news is heard, may not be the most sensitive of approaches. Nor is making a ridiculously low offer for what might, potentially, have been someone’s life work or at the very least a symbol of a great deal of investment in time and money. 

In other cases, the jump from novice to champion status can cause a percentage of fanciers to call time. Breeding birds for show means an element of competition, and most of us that compete do so to win. Most of us also learn to take the results as they come, win or lose, although the wins are far easier to take! However, particularly if a novice has done well, the potential knock-back in the higher section can be hard to deal with.

Leave of absence

Many of us have been there and I would urge anyone facing that dilemma to take some time to assess feelings fully, as when a stud is gone it can be hard to ever restore the quality you had. A cooling-off period, or even finding a fancier that will take on your birds for a limited time, will allow you to change your mind without all your hard work being lost. Maybe change tactics – keep fewer birds and colours and focus only on the best; compete at fewer shows; and maybe switch off the social media to lose the feeling of getting left behind.

Equally, the drive to achieve each year, bringing about consistent improvement in stock, may not suit everyone. 

On more than one occasion retiring fanciers (usually those making the transition from novice to champion) state that the hobby had stopped being enjoyable, the problem being that, as perfectionists, the push to achieve got harder and more addictive, making the hobby stressful. For me, it’s the opposite, I find the hobby is the perfect antidote to the stresses of real life. 

The urge to come back

The hope is that retiring fanciers will return again when the time is right, which might be many years later. Recently, I was contacted by someone returning to their interest after a 25-year break. Again, those that are still active in the hobby need to be aware of what we can do to welcome them back. We can all try to ensure there are birds to supply to them on their return, particularly if they had helped us out in the past. Try to make the price fair and remember that life can change at a moment’s notice and we may one day have to rely on the goodwill and generosity of others to make a decent return to the fancy.

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