Photo: Dave Brown. Cleverest bird competitions could draw in a big audience as parrots and mynas offer up their party pieces 

Pet classes are a great way to increase our appeal and provide lots of fun, says DAVE BROWN. So what makes a good pet class and how should the judge pick out the best pet?

THE inclusion of pet bird classes at our open shows or even via displays at local events, such as county or agricultural shows, is potentially a great way of encouraging new members, as well as involving the wider birdkeeping community.

In the days of the original National Exhibition, held in venues including the NEC in Birmingham, a Cleverest Bird competition was held. This provided a showcase for talented talking parrots and myna birds, or any other feathered companion that had a party piece. A celebrity judge often selected the winner with the appropriately named cricket umpire, Dickie Bird OBE, doing the honours at one show. Understandably, such a competition would often draw interest from the wider media, providing a good source of advertising.

Perhaps its reintroduction or similar could be considered as a possible attraction or publicity generator at the current National Exhibition. Obviously, most pet classes included at more usual events are going to be on a much less grand scale. To generate the greatest amount of support, it needs to be advertised to good effect.

Posters around the local community, and particularly petshops and garden centres, will help to get the message out to birdkeepers who may not be aware of clubs or the fancy press. For the same reason it is worth contacting the local paper, which may choose to run material in the run-up to the event and even send a reporter or photographer to the actual show. Online birdkeeping groups are also a good place to advertise and are generally free.

Having a few attractive prizes on offer may add to the hype of the event. Approach local businesses or national bird product companies for sponsorship or donations. Then, if interest is created, it is important someone is designated to deal with enquiries and, of course, send out entry forms.

Calls must be dealt with politely. Any would-be competitors are unlikely to have tried their hand at bird showing before, so be prepared to take some time to explain the process in a patient and thorough manner.

In terms of the classification it is probably worth breaking it down into a few classes. There should be classes for both junior and adult exhibitors and these could be separated into:

  • Best talking bird
  • Prettiest bird
  • Cleverest bird

Having classes such as the prettiest takes away the possible temptation of judges to look at exhibits in the usual way and compare them to breed standards. Judging criteria are best based on factors  such as health, condition and tameness. If birds are demonstrating a talent, it is likely that the owner will need to be present to encourage them to deliver their script or perform their act.

If birds are likely to be free flying at any point, the venue needs to be secure and escape-proof. In the event that a fair number of talented birds are expected, maybe judging should take place in front of an audience.

Entries should be allowed on the bench in either their own cages or suitable carry cages that allow them plenty of room.

Would-be exhibitors should prepare their exhibits for the sights and sounds ahead. Moving the cage around the room and acclimatising them to the notion of someone peering through their cage wires will help to make them stand out to the judge.

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