Photo: Dave Brown. Take your partners: Dave has found time to run some zebras through the show cages 

DAVE BROWN continues to assess his stock for future use in the breeding room and show team, highlighting where his birds have advanced or taken a step back in colour and size.

The process of assessment continues in the birdroom, and there are now zebras that have been singled out as definite “keepers” and others that are definite “goers”.

There are still plenty of birds in between, and those that need more time to develop or were in a degree of moult when first caught up will be given more time before any decisions are made. I have also run a strict policy of running zebras through the show cages several times and allowing them plenty of time to settle before my final decision.

Cock birds that have been earmarked to feature in my breeding plans next year are currently singled up. The hens are still in small groups in flight cages, but the best will be singled up as soon as time allows. Any hens that match some of the retained cocks should already be singled up in preparation for the Kent Zebra Finch Club summer show.

Unfortunately, the realities of time mean this has just not happened, although the pecking order has been established and I have thought about leaving them in a harmonious group. Of course, you only need one bird to have a bad day and tail bars could be plucked and lost. I have, though, found occasional moments to run prospective show pairs through the show cages.

There are good and bad points to this exercise and while I have a few pairs of nicely matched normals, it really highlights that the chestnut-flanked white (CFW) hens I have produced this year are well ahead of the very few cocks I have bred. Looking on the bright side, however, size and type has been maintained, while the colour has improved – albeit on a very small sample of CFW cocks! However, while there is colour, the head quality has dropped back on most of these CFW cocks. The buff feather of most of my older birds that obviously accentuated head quality has been sacrificed for the aim of better colour, with the yellow/intermediate not aiding the bold, cobby appearance in the same way.

Keeping birds individually means stock inspection can be carried out in even greater detail. This was timely because I noticed my favourite bird, a 2016 CFW cock, was holding its foot uncomfortably. Closer inspection showed that the left foot was swollen. Thankfully, a spray with an antiseptic cream a couple of times of times a day have led to improvement already.

It always seems to be the zebras that are earmarked for a show that suddenly create a drama. Other birds, while in good health, seem to find being caged on their own as a trigger to moult. This is not at all helpful when you need a team for an early show. Still, it’s all part of the challenge.

Despite the frustrations, I wouldn’t change this hobby of ours because it not only provides interest every day but it allows new friendships to be forged. It always amazes me how fanciers from across the globe can come together and act like old friends on a first meeting, thanks to our common interest. In the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of welcoming fanciers from Holland, Ireland and Portugal to my birdroom to view the birds and even take a few home with them to create new lines abroad. Hopefully, I will be able to accept some of their invites to visit their birdrooms.

I have also managed to get out to the Cotswolds and visit C&AB contributor and zookeeper Chris Green. His focus on zebra finches this year has paid off and during my visit I was pleasantly surprised to see a good crop of black-breasted and (how appropriate!) penguins. Fingers crossed they make it to the show bench.

Dave Brown is a Zebra Finch Society panel judge.