Show Preparation in the Noonan Aviary

Preparing birds for the show season begins when the budgerigar chicks first come out of the breeding cage. They are transferred to a trolley which I use for feeding and watering the birds. A wire cage fits underneath the top of the trolley and they are wheeled up and down as I carry out the normal everyday tasks. They soon get used to being moved about and accept it as part of their environmental pattern. After a couple of weeks they are transferred to a very large parrot cage, which is also moveable and to which is attached an old show cage. Into this I put regular supplies of millet sprays and usually keep a covering of seed over the base. The youngsters soon get to know where to go for their favourite treat and regard the cage as a normal part of their surroundings. After they go through their first moult they are then put into the main flight, and again an old showcage is hung on the wire. Some of the perches around the walls of the flight are made from old showcage perches. This, then, lays the foundation for those birds which will later be entered for the shows.

About six weeks before the date of the first show, a selection of promising youngsters is made and these birds are transferred to stock cages in order to commence some more advanced training. Once they are in the stock cages, they tend to calm down and become much easier to handle than when they have their full freedom in the flights. They are given extra titbits and deprived of others i.e., carrot is not fed to as this would make the area around the beak turn bright orange! They are then regularly placed in a showcage for short periods of time each day as I carry out my tasks in the birdroom.

In order to enhance the feather quality, three times a week the birds are put in a wire cage which is placed on the lawn and sprayed with cold water. After the first two or three times, the birds start to enjoy this and look forward to bathtime. After spraying, they are placed in the warm conservatory to dry thoroughly. This process is always carried out in the morning, so that there is no danger of them roosting at night whilst still damp. As time passes the spraying gets lighter as the feathers tighten and the oils released by this process start to give the feathers a natural sheen.

About three weeks before the show, some of the adult birds, who will be taking part in their second or third show season, are also transferred into a stock cage and start to participate in the showteam regime. They do not need so much in the way of training as the youngsters.

Ten days before the date of the show, a final selection is made prior to the entry form being filled in. Those who have been rejected this time may well be in condition for one of the later shows and so are separated off from the others into another larger stock cage. At this time, any bird that has shown itself to be temperamentally unsuitable for showing will be returned to the flight and a note made on its record. It is possible that it may mature and be quite happy to show as an adult.

During the last 10 days, spraying is reduced to damping with a hand-spray and any marks on the head or dirty flights will be washed with a soft toothbrush. In this way, if a blood quill is disturbed and broken, marking the bird, then plenty of time is allowed for that to settle and any remaining marks removed with a solution of cold, salt water.

Two days before the show the birds are de-spotted, placed in showcages and checked. Any that do not come up to standard will be transferred to the other stock cage. This sometimes means that a number birds that have actually been entered for the show will not be benched. However, I do try to select alternatives to the very best ones, in the hope that the full number will be benched.

The evening before the show the birds are caught up and their tails are dipped in hot water to straighten and smooth the feathers before the bird is placed in the showcage. Care must be taken that only the tail feathers are immersed in the water, not the bird. This is the time when the best bird drops a flight or tail feather, catches it’s foot on something in the stockcage and covers itself and some of it’s companions with blood, or something equally distressing occurs. I must admit that I get quite het up at this time and until the birds are safely placed in the cages and the appropriate labels stuck on the front of the showcages, my long-suffering husband tends to give me a wide berth. As we live far from the nearest shows, it usually means a very early start which is why the birds are caged overnight. It does mean that the birds are settled by the time they reach the show and I am not thoroughly bad-tempered for the rest of the day. After the birds have been caged and the covers put on the showcages, then the stock cages are cleaned and prepared with fresh seed, millet sprays and water ready for the birds when they arrive home the following evening, after their outing.

After the birds are checked in at the show venue there is a long wait whilst the judging takes place. In Britain, we are not allowed to watch the judging, so we have to find something to occupy ourselves if we are not stewarding. My husband and I tend to explore the surrounding areas until such time as we will be allowed in with the general public.

Once we are in, it is a matter of checking how the birds have done in their classes; putting water in the drinkers and pushing pieces of millet through the bars of the cages. We then have a good look at the competition and discuss the results with other fanciers. Meeting up with friends and catching up on the news is the part of the show I always enjoy. Then comes the distribution of trophies – some you win, some you lose – and after this the gathering up of all the cages and checking them out for the long journey home.

The birds seem to know when we are nearing our destination and the noise from the back of the car gets louder. As we pull up outside the house, they hear the other birds in the aviary and they call out a greeting. First priority is to get the show birds back into the stock cages; the showcages stacked for cleaning the following day and then, thankfully, to sit down and put our feet up with a nice cup of tea.

Now, where is schedule for the next show…


Copyright 1997, Dolores Noonan

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