Photo: Dave Brown. Preparing for the important show day: Dave’s show team get some show cage time

Six weeks is how long DAVE BROWN starts to prepare his show birds before an event – how is your own prep coming along?

With the zebra finch show season upon us, serious fanciers will already have begun to condition their show team. As a starting point, if space and the number of birds available allows, the aim should be to house each zebra finch separately.

Zebra finches need a full set of feathers for a show appearance, and keeping them on their own removes the risk of all important tail bar feathers being plucked by other cage companions. However, mutual preening is not possible and pin feathers will start to become obvious on birds housed on their own. Some fanciers take on the role of grooming these out. If you hold the bird in your hand gently, the waxy coating can be broken by gently scratching over it (from head to tail) with a fingernail, the edge of a coin or similar.

As zebra finches are prone to moult at any time, it is best to prepare reserves for the event of absentees on the day of the show. In recent times I have housed small groups of reserves in long flight cages, and I have to admit that they generally get on well and often look in better feather than the birds housed on their own. This method of housing may be worth the risks if space is tight.

Show preparation usually begins six weeks before a show and from this point the show team should receive frequent access to a bath and regular spraying. To reduce the risk of tail bars being dropped prior to a show, some fanciers remove the tail bars using the theory that they will have grown back by the time of the show. I’ve tried this myself in the past, but note that it can add to your stress levels if the regrowth appears to be slow!

The floor covering needs to be replaced regularly to prevent staining to the plumage and woodchip is probably better than paper for reducing the chances of this occurring.

Housing birds of the opposite sex next to each other means that the slides can be pulled for a short while on a regular basis – say during the evening feed – so the birds gain some stimulation from contact time. However, I’d advise you to steer clear of letting intended show partners see each other too regularly or they may not display as readily in the show cage if they have become over familiar.

Keep the diet relatively plain, avoiding softfood and greens that may cause soiling around the vents.

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