Zebra Finches are often described as the ideal bird for the beginner. This can often mislead fanciers into believing that they are easy to prepare for the show bench. While it may not be to difficult to bench pairs of Zebra Finches in reasonable condition, the task of exhibiting birds in perfect show condition is much harder to achieve.
Exhibitors should always attempt to bring out the best possible condition in their birds. Ideally potential show birds should be housed in individual cages. When Zebra Finches are kept more than one to a cage it is likely that feather plucking will result. As potential show birds are being caught up they should be inspected for damaged or broken feathers and feet defects. Any damaged or broken feathers should be carefully removed and these will take about six weeks to fully re-grow. Birds with missing toe nails or claws will rarely be successful on the show bench, although they could win a class if they were vastly superior to other exhibits entered against them.
Birds should always be given a well balanced diet and this is essential if they are going to attain full exhibition condition. The most important factors in the diet are of course a good quality seed mixture and an ample supply of mineralised grit, but birds may also appreciate a little rearing food once or twice a week, green food and also wild weed seed can be given. Frequent bathing will help birds to acquire their best feather condition possible. Spraying the birds with warm water will also enhance their final appearance. Birds can be sprayed with boiled water, which has been allowed to cool, two or three times a week prior to the show season. Quite heavy spraying can be beneficial up until about ten days before the first outing on the show bench, provided this does not make cages excessively damp. Where possible it is advisable to use a separate cage solely for the purpose of spraying birds, an old Border Canary show cage is ideal for this job.
Show training will help birds perform to their full potential on the show bench. This simply involves allowing pairs to experience the confines of a show cage for up to an hour (a legal imposition) in any 24 hour period. By running pairs together it may be seen that certain birds perform better when exhibited with specific partners and a note should be made of any show pairs which are particulary compatable. Birds which indulge in feather plucking when put in pairs are particularly annoying to the exhibitor and can rarely be exhibited successfully.
In addition to preparing birds properly for the show bench, show cages must also be turned out in good order. Having made the effort to get the most out of your birds, it is foolish to neglect the show cage in which they are to be benched. The show cage forms part of the exhibit and can be penalised if badly turned out. Judges tend to be particularly unimpressed by dirty cages or those which have been repainted within the past twelve hours.
Having decided to exhibit, prepared your birds properly and made the necessary entries, one should not forget that the whole exercise, win or lose is supposed to be enjoyed. Established exhibitors tend to bench their birds as much for the prospect of meeting and talking to fellow fanciers as they do to win prizes. We all enjoy winning but that is not the prime reason for countless early morning starts and hundreds of miles travelled through fog, rain, ice and snow. Bird shows are social events and it is only possible to reap the full rewards of exhibiting by being sociable.