You may not have bred the greatest Budgerigar this year, but if you can exhibit your birds to perfection on the day of the show, you have a chance to beat the best. So, how do you go about doing it?
Choose your show bird 8 weeks in advance.
First, choose the birds you believe are suitable – eight weeks before a show for young birds and six weeks for adults. Birds with narrow faces, short masks, and small pinhead-type markings should be discarded.
Allow the selected birds to settle in stock cages for the first week or two, then examine each individual carefully, looking for broken flights and tail feathers that will need to be plucked. Many breeders do not want to pluck tail feathers because in certain circumstances they may not grow back again, creating what is generally known as a “tail-less wonder”. However, if you wait too long for tails to drop and regenerate naturally, your greatest show bird may be out of commission for the whole show season.
I usually pluck one tail feather and then wait for a replacement feather to develop before pulling another. If the second feather does not sprout, the bird will have at least one, and many a great victor has survived with just one tail feather. Flight and tail feathers take around six weeks to recover, whereas spot feathers take about three to four weeks.
Spray your bird until 3 days before the exhibition.
Following that, the birds must be sprayed to clean them and encourage them to preen, which will deposit natural oils in the feathers and bring them into show condition. The best kind is a pump-action sprayer. Although an old show cage may be used for spraying, I do not recommend it since you can only spray one side of the bird and it will associate the show cage with receiving a good soaking, causing it to act up when placed in a show cage for exhibiting reasons. I like an all-wire cage with 6-8 birds that can be sprayed from all directions.
For the first few sprays, use hot water. This will not damage the birds since it will have cooled to the proper temperature by the time it reaches them in a fine mist. At this point, a few drops of baby shampoo or Plume-Spray may be added to give the birds a nice bath. Then, every other day, shower them with cold water as early in the day as possible to enable them to dry thoroughly before roosting.
Some birds may need less water as they get closer to show time, and the quantity can be adjusted, but spraying must continue. Water pours off the feathers in globules when they are in good condition. Three days before the concert, stop spraying.
Heads will need to be washed on a frequent basis. Hold the bird as you would for de-spotting and moisten the head with a soft toothbrush and baby shampoo. Brush the head from front to back, avoiding the eyes, using a tiny quantity of shampoo. If the bird gets anxious, stop and let it recover before trying again another day.
Pin feathers will open during the head cleaning, but one or two will remain closed by the day of the exhibition. To remove the wax covering, just roll the feather between your thumb and first finger – a rub of the head and the work is done.
De spot 4 days before the show.
De-spotting should ideally take place four days before the performance to allow the mask to settle. Most show Budgerigars have many more spot feathers and flecks than necessary, therefore a good set of brow tweezers will be needed.
Begin by removing some of the specks (down towards the bird’s feet). After the flecks and shadow spots have been removed, it will be clear which are the primary spots (six equally spread over the mask, with the outer two somewhat hidden by the cheek patches). If you are unsure whether spots are genuine, return the bird to the stock cage and re-evaluate it later.
Straighten any twisted or frayed tail feathers the day before the show.
The day before the event, the last step is to straighten any twisted or frayed tail feathers. Dip the tail into a beaker of hot water, then rub the feathers between your finger and thumb. When completely dried, the tail will be as good as new.
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