Photo: Dave Brown. Talented artist Dougie Fleming (left) and brother Adam (far right) judged the Welsh ZFS show. They are pictured here with Tucker Furlong. 

Even when you try your very best to prepare your top birds for shows, sometimes Mother Nature will deal you an unfair hand and they lose condition at exactly the wrong time. DAVE BROWN shares some of the lessons that he has learned during this year’s zebra finch show season.

Having spent many months enduring the challenges of the breeding season, they have now been well and truly swapped for the challenges of trying to get a show team into tip-top condition. The first part of show planning is to work out which shows you wish to attend. This year, my aim was to support two of the earlier shows – the Midlands and the Welsh – followed up by the Zebra Finch Society (ZFS) Club Show and then my local area show in Kent. This meant I would need birds in condition from the end of August to the end of September.

Despite all the prep you do, there is no amount of bathing and spraying that will enable you to beat good old Mother Nature and, of course, birds that had looked tip-top a week or two before the first show suddenly look decidedly soft.At times, the perfectionist in me thinks I might as well leave the birds at home, but the shows need our support and if the birds never leave the shed, I’d have a hard job calling them show birds!

With two shows now under my belt, it is clear to me that the majority of fanciers have the same struggles and we can only show what we have on the day. Shows are a great way of gauging progress and my own show team has won classes and even taken a champion colour special, which reinforces that the birds are going in the right direction.

I am sure that the key to having the best chance of getting birds to every show you plan to do is to focus on one or two colours, as this gives you far more options when making up show pairs. In the past, when I had more colours and less selection options, I very much relied on the hope that a specific pair of birds would both be ready on show day. Nowadays, while I still have ideal show pairings noted in the back of my mind, I don’t commit to anything until show selection night, the day before the show. I can now gauge which birds look the best and then spend time finding the most appropriate partner among the dozen or so of each colour I have singled up and prepared. While there are more options, there are still certainly frustrations and the birds you really want to show often have to be left behind.

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be clever either. My favourite pair of adult CFWs won their class at the Midlands show and were still looking good by the time of the Welsh show. However, as the Welsh show involved an overnight stay I decided I’d hold my best pair back for the ZFS Club Show, as I was sure they would lose condition if they went off to Wales. Now, of course, I can’t predict how the pair would have fared at the Welsh, but the pair that went instead weren’t class winners.  And, of course, viewing my favoured CFW pair a few days before the ZFS Club Show, they were then well out of condition anyway. The lesson I have learned is that if the birds are ready for
a particular show, then that’s the show they are going to!

The Welsh event is always one of my favourites; always a great show of quality birds and a friendly bunch of guys running the show. There was one other standout moment at this event, when Scottish fancier Dougie Fleming presented me with a piece of original artwork depicting one of my favourite birds; something I will treasure forever.

You can view Dougie Fleming’s work on Facebook by searching for “Exhibition bird art and wildlife”.

Dave Brown currently keeps zebra and Bengalese finches, north Dutch frill canaries and Malaysian Serama bantam chickens.

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