Showing Canaries
By Wayne Lehnert

Copyright © 1999 Wayne Lehnert. All rights reserved.

A series of 10 messages sent to the Canary List in June, 1999.

Canary Bathing for Show Season - Part One

There are many different methods to prepare a canary for exhibition. You can start at the feet and work up or at the head and work down. Preparation depends a lot on the type bird you are showing. Let's talk about a Gloster Corona. Their condition will have a lot to do with how he/she were housed before and during show season. Mine stay in flights until show training starts. I try to keep the floors very clean or use wire bottoms. This will keep the feet and tails clean. Try not to overcrowd them. Bathing is important at this stage of development. What you use and how you use it can all come down to personal preference. When you cage them up separately then it will be their individual needs. This can depend on feather type etc. My bath water before show training will contain the amount of listerine that I mentioned before. Also at this time of year it is kept in the refrigerator. I do not use listerine when show training starts. The alcohol can remove some of their natural oils. You don't want that during the show season. They get baths every day. The baths are left in the flights approximately 30-45 minutes. There are 20-25 birds per flight. I put in one bath per every 5 birds. This will get them through the molt in good order. I will write more later on as this is starting to get long, but we should be thinking about show season as it is just around the corner.

NOTE: I do not claim to be an expert but I am not afraid to put my methods out for examination. Please pick through them, maybe we can all learn some things. I will try to pick up where I left off soon. Have a nice day.

Canary Show Training - Part Two

Let's see, we left our show possibilities flying around in a flight cage enjoying themselves. They also can be developing and getting stronger, something that I feel is necessary at this stage in their life. Some exhibitors like to introduce their birds to the show cage as early as possible. They do this by hanging a show cage on the flight in a manner that will give the young birds that are interested a chance to visit. You can put a piece of green or another treat inside that will make them curious. I no longer use this method but a lot of people do so with good success. Some things to start doing are getting your birds used to your hand in their cage. When you do any feeding or even cleaning try to take that little extra time by doing things a little slower when you are working with their seed cups or removing their trays etc. Some breeders will even spend a little time just sitting with their hand in the flight cage. When I enter or work in the bird room I always whistle a little - this seems to let them know it's me. My wife always did this and I could see the birds respond differently so I started also. You should be trying to sort out your show cage situation, or where and how to get some. Also what are the dates of the show or shows you plan to attend? This will dictate when your show training will be in full swing.

We will talk about show cages next. Enjoy your day.

Canary Show Cage Training - Part Three

We are starting to think about the cages we are going to use to train and show our birds. Show cages for type birds are designed for each type. This is usually determined by the National or International club for each specific type. The size of the cage, it's perches, cage color, are all selected to enhance each type. As an exhibitor of your type canary you should be up to date and present your bird in the proper cage. You can get this information from the above clubs, or a local canary club may even loan a cage or two to their members. Now should I run out and buy all new cages at this time even though this is my first year showing? Am I sure I want to show this type bird next year or will I fall in love with another type? These are questions you will answer for yourself. I will give you some options and ideas. If you think you will only show two or three birds this year then maybe that will be all the cages you need for show, but maybe you have 10 birds to evaluate and train. Why train ten if five are just going to be retained for stock birds. You want to make sure all birds you use for breeding will be steady in the show cage or you could end up with a nice line of birds that no judge can evaluate because they will not settle down in the show cage. Some birds also develop earlier than others so don't give up on some birds too early because they may surprise you. Keep an eye on your flight even after you have picked what you think is your show team. There may be a sleeper in the bunch. Show cage training will do three things for your birds: 1) teach them to live in confined space; 2) be steady on the perch no matter who is standing over them or moving their cage around to get a better look at them (even if the person is wearing a mustache and wig); 3) get them used to being handled so they can be moved from one cage to the other without being chased all around their cage. Sometimes you can train them to go from one cage to the other on their own. This can save your show birds from stress and injury. Also feathers can be lost that could mean the end of that bird's show season. Let's say your type bird is shown in a three sided covered cage. Now someone has some of the old style colorbred cages for sale at a cheap price. These cages could be used to train your birds. You can do a lot of things here such as install the correct perches at the proper distance apart, painting them the correct color or just leave them as is. Just remember your final evaluation of your show birds has to be done in their proper cage. But you could do the necessary training in a similar cage. You may be able to pick up some used cages that are not in very good condition but are correct for your type and just use them for training. Start looking around now and see what you can come up with.

I hope no one took the mustache and wig thing personal. I could end up drawn and quartered. Enjoy your birds. I do.

Be Prepared To Show - Part Four

I may be getting the cart before the horse, but let's talk about the sequence of events it takes to get you and your birds thru a show. Sometimes the day of the show really would stress me out. I am better prepared now, but I still like my checklist. You might also want to start one. I like to have a show catalog from the previous year's show or this year's, if possible. This will let you see how a show is broken down. It usually ends up a bird will win it's class, then section, then division, and go up for best in show. But you will want to get your bird properly benched. That means the bird is in the correct division, section and class, for example let's say Old Hen -Self . You want to be as knowledgeable about your birds, so you can enter them correctly. Some information along with the bird's band number will be entered on your sign-in sheet, and on the show tag that is attached to the cage. Make sure you attach your show tag to the cage in the proper place. Try to get a sign-in sheet, and a cage tag from your club or someone so you can familiarize yourself with the information you will need. When you are looking at your birds after the molt try to determine what classes they would be in. Old means a flighted bird; hen is self-explanatory; Self means a bird with all dark feathers -no light feathers anywhere, such as wings or tail or? This might sound ominous now but take one bird at a time, and classify it, and under stand why it is a self bird, and not a clear bird, or varigated etc. This will take time and that is what we have right now. The return address stickers that a lot of organizations send you have your name and address on them. These can be used on your show tags. This will save you some writing. Some exhibitors have their own rubber stamp with this information. It helps to take your own pen.

Are we starting our list yet? More to follow. They're not even in the car yet. Yes, showing birds is fun.

Prepare to Show - Part Five

We last talked about properly classifying our birds and the paper work involved. I will sometimes try to explain why things are done in a certain manner so it will have more meaning. The seed used in show cages are Plain canary and Rape. I mix approx. 80% plain canary and 20% rape. The seed is put on the cage floor. I try to cover the floor with at least one-eighth of an inch of seed. The floor should be completely covered. Ask yourself how long will your bird be in this cage? You may want to use more. I have seen cages with a lot less. Cleaning up the bottom of the cage after the show can be a lot more involved if the exhibitor skimped on the seed. Everyone has to use the same seed mix for uniformity. Any cage that is brought before a judge should be staged the same as the others. A judge cannot be put in a compromised position by judging a bird in a cage that could have been said to be marked. Is teaching your bird to use the show drinker a good idea? Most exhibitors today attach a small tube drinker in addition to the proper drinker to the cage front, and the stewards will take the tube drinker off just before the bird's class is brought up to be judged. Why? There is a proper drinker for the cage front that must be used at all times. However, some exhibitors don't like the proper drinker because it makes their birds put their heads through that small hole in the cage front to get a drink or try to take a bath. This usually means disaster for a corona. Your show drinker should still be filled with water. I prefer to offer both drinkers. I put my initials on the bottom of the tube drinker. Stewards do not have time to put everyone's drinker back on their proper cages at the end of judging. After the show you should be able to indentify your drinkers by looking for your initials. I take extra seed in a zip lock bag and extra tube drinkers and show drinkers. Make sure your perches are securely fastened. A bird trying to perch on a loose perch will not show well. I also bring a spare set of perches with the tool needed to tighten or change them out if necessary. Am I paranoid or what ?

Next installment: when is the best time to put your birds in their show cages prior to being transported to the show? Trust me we will get them in the vehicle soon.

Show Training - Part Six

There are a lot of different scenarios that will come to mind, after you read what I say. They will make us think. The safest way to transport your birds to a show is in their show cage. When and how we get them in the cage, and transported to the show may vary on the conditions. Is it a one day show? Or do you bench the birds for example on Friday then they are judged on Saturday and not released to you until Sunday? I have had good success putting my birds in their show cage the morning of the show when I attend a one day show. Sometimes you have to be up early to prepare for travel. Before the birds wake up you can reach right in the double breeder and lift them off the perch while they are sleeping and put them in the show cage. Or you may prefer to put them in the evening before and let them settle in. Have you been able to train some of them to go from their holding cage to the show cage? The less we handle them the better off they are. You will have to make sure that you know which bird is in which particular cage. The way I do that is to place the band number of each bird directly on the cage it is being shown in. I do this is by using plastic tabs that you can find on loaves of bread in the store. Just write the band number on the tab and attach it to the cage front. When you make out the show tag you will remove the tab, look at the band number, and write it on the tag. Now do we just carry the cage out to the car or van, put them inside and off we go? Let's back up a little here. Will the birds travel with water on the cage? That should depend on how long the trip will take. If the birds travel with water on the cage must make sure that the cages are as level as possible. This will keep the water from spilling into the cage which will make the seed wet. You can see where I am going with this. How do we get these cages to the car? Will we get some boxes? Office suppliers or U-Haul might have what you need. Or will we have a cabinet maker make some carrying cases that will hold about four cages each? There are options here. Will they ride on the seat or the floor? Will I cover the boxes with a light sheet? Will their position in the vehicle be safe enough if I have to make a quick stop, or take evasive action to miss some trouble? I have made my choices, and am loaded up driving down the expressway. Looking in the back seat you happen to notice the sun shining through the window right on the box in the back seat. I wonder how hot the birds are getting in there? Just one of many scenarios. We have left a little early and our directions were good so we have arrived in good spirits. There is the show location. Can I pull right up front, or do I park in the parking lot, or do I have to park about a block away? Let's see, I have three boxes, but I cannot carry them all in at the same time. Do I leave one box in the locked car with the windows cracked? It's 85 degrees outside. How long will I be gone? Again many scenarios. I solved this problem by purchasing a four wheeled hand cart that is collapsible and easy enough to transport in the trunk. Again an office supply, or maybe Home Depot might have what you need. I have also seen a child's coaster wagon work. It is hard to anticipate what problems will have confronted our birds before they make it to the show bench, but the least amount of stress they were put through before being judged makes them better candidates for Best in Show.

Yes, I still believe shows are fun. In the next installment I will discuss the Show Scene.

The Show Scene - Part Seven

When you enter the show hall try to find somewhere you can unload your birds and fill out your paperwork. There should be some tables set up for this purpose. You will have to get your sign-in sheet, show cage tags and your show catalog from the show secretary. Just by chance ask the secretary to point out the steward who could help you if you have a problem classifying your birds. You then will go through the process we have talked about to get your birds benched. There's just that one bird that has been giving you a problem. Which class should he be in? You're just not sure. Ask the steward and he/she should be able to give you the answer. This is important. If a bird gets classified incorrectly, there is a chance it may not get judged. For example, if the class that the bird really belongs in has already been judged, and it was a big class all the birds would have to be brought back up for the judge's comparison. Sometimes it is just not feasible. Now you're ready you give your sign-in sheet to the steward. He/she should verify the number of birds you are checking in and their classes to verify they are correct. You will get your copy back and your birds will be benched. THEY MADE IT. Now what? Maybe this is your club's show and you have already volunteered for a job, or maybe you are free until the show starts. The area where the birds are benched will be off limits until after the show. Try to get a good seat before the judging starts. There's not much meat in this installment but it will set up the next one.

The next installment will be The Judge.

The Judge & Judging - Part Eight

All judges are human. Maybe I should stop here? Did you get a front row seat? The show manager, or the members of the host club have selected a judge, or judges for today's show. Some judges will talk to the audience, and some will limit their comments. Some will describe what they are looking for in the birds as the different Sections are brought up to be judged. A lot depends on how many birds are entered, time being a factor. I think the first thing to remember is that the judge will give an objective opinion of the birds as they appear at the time they are being judged. When Best in Show awards are given out you might see a bird that placed second in its own section be placed ahead of a bird that won another section. I have heard comments by exhibitors regarding this. If a judge believes that a bird who placed second in his own section is a better example than a first place bird in another section then I stand behind that judge's decision. After a show some exhibitors like to ask judges questions about their birds. One thing to remember is that this person has already judged every bird in the show, so keep that in mind if you do get him cornered and get to ask your question. There are probably a couple other exhibitors that have the same idea as you so you might have attracted a couple more who are eagerly awaiting his answer, or waiting to ask another question. I have heard questions like, “What do you think of my bird?” Some judges can handle these situations very well. You might have been able to answer your own question. On your show tag judges will sometimes write comments or put 4/14, or 4/4. The first number would mean your bird was judged fourth in it's class or section. The second number means how many birds were in that particular class or section. This should tell you something about your competors' birds versus your bird. If you ask a question like, “I will use this bird for breeding this year. What strengths do you think its partner should have?” You might get a answer you can take to the breeding room. No matter what, take the time to thank the judge for the job he/she has done. Judging is not an easy task and a good positive attitude by your club and members will go a long way in the future.

The next installment will be returning your birds back home. Thank You.

Returning Home After The Show - Part 9

The show is over, and you are gathering up your birds. You might need your copy of your sign in sheet to check your birds out. If you were using tube drinkers get those back on as soon as possible. Make sure your birds have water available before they are packed up to travel. You should always bring enough water from home to last through the show. They have some nice bottles available now with the pop up dispenser. You can get these when you buy bottled water. They are very similar to a bicycle rider's water bottle. I go one step further and add a product called Spark. It is made by the Bird Care Co. in England. It is basically a health drink for birds. They claim it is good for sick or stressed birds. It replaces lost body salts and provides an energy boost. It's good for show birds. I am sure there are other products on the market that will do the same thing. I start giving it one day before the show and continue two days after they are home. I think it is a good added precaution. Make sure the birds are loaded safely for the trip home. When I get my birds home I get them out of their show cages first thing. Depending on the time of afternoon or evening I will give them a few greens. The first thing next morning they will be offered baths. Keep a good eye on them to make sure they are in good health. You also might want to check them for external parasites or take some preventative action. I also like to clean my show cages up as soon as possible.

Webster's definition of a hobby is, “Something a person likes to work at in his/her spare time.” The next installment will be the conclusion.

Conclusion - Part 10

I went back and read all nine posts. I might have wandered around a little from the original topic but I want to thank all the members for their nice e-mails. I would hope the posts would have stirred some interest for members to venture out and expand their interest in the Fancy whether it be to attend a show as an exhibitor or a spectator. Maybe even attend a local Canary Club meeting and see were it goes from there. We get only as much out of the Fancy as we put in. We all seem to be leading lives that totally consume us with work family etc. Sometimes it might seem like time spent traveling to and from a show or a club meeting can't be warranted. But maybe you meet new friends, exchange ideas, get invited to see someone else's birds, and you invite them to visit your bird room. In order to grow we have to expand the circle that surrounds us. So good luck to all of us in the Fancy. Remember it's just a hobby and hobbies are fun. W.L.

P.S. I want to thank my wife who checked most of these for grammar and spelling.

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