Tips for the "Wanna Be" Exhibitor
By Ken O'Steen
If you have ever attended a show, no doubt you have caught the fever. It is very contagious. If you haven't experienced the excitement as yet, check the show listings in the magazine or online and make plans to attend one this year.
For those ready to get started, it is time now to prepare for your debut. For those fortunate enough to live in an area that has an active bird club, you are way ahead in the game. If not yet a member, seek one out. Many clubs are listed in the magazine and online as A.C.S. Affiliates. You will meet many local members that share your interest in Cockatiels and several may have experienced the rewards of exhibiting, these members are usually more than willing to share their time and expertise with novices. Make your presence known, ask questions, get involved, and offer help wherever needed.
If you feel you need to improve your breeding stock, the local clubs are a good place to begin your search. Members that are noted exhibitors, most likely will have a surplus of quality birds and will be willing to help find the bird you need. Study the A.C.S. written Show Standard, to help you make the proper choices. These booklets are available from the A.C.S. Sales page of the magazine.
Although most advanced exhibitors choose to breed and exhibit their own birds, novices are expected and even encouraged to show birds they have purchased. If banded, the breeder will be credited with any points earned. The exhibitor will win any awards and recognition. (To clarify misunderstandings concerning our positions on unbanded or birds banded with another society band: Unbanded birds may be shown but will not receive points, but are eligible for awards. Birds banded with a closed traceable band may be shown in A.C.S. and receive points earned towards an A.C.S. Championship.)
It will be your responsibility to feed properly, show train, and groom the bird for exhibition. Once you have chosen the bird or birds you plan to enter:
Continue a good diet all year. Proper food brings out healthy, glossy feathers. Pellets, seeds and diets including vegetables and fruits are all acceptable and usually relished by Cockatiels. Condition is an important consideration on the show bench. Healthy birds are in prime condition. Proper nutrition is the backbone of good conditioning.
Begin training individual birds now, in a show cage or cage of appropriate size. (Standard show cage is 18" wide x 17" high x 10" deep.) Novice exhibitors are not required to show in a standard cage, but it helps to exhibit the bird to its best advantage. Used cages may be available from exhibitors if not contact state reps for their input as to locating one. Your goal in show training is to familiarize the bird to confinement in a show cage. It must learn to perch calmly and not panic when moved, viewed, and/or manipulated by a judge. Some Cockatiels take to the show cage naturally, some are stubborn and must be given more time to adjust. Allow birds that seem to enjoy the experience to remain in the cage for periods of several hours a day. Those that object may find treats of spray millet hung from top bars an enticement to perch. Make their confinement an enjoyable experience. Talk to it, calm it with a soothing voice, and allow it to return to the home cage before it becomes too tired. Covering the show cage with towels may also calm a bird initially, but naturally it must eventually feel comfortable without the security blanket. Gradually increase the time spent in a show cage. Show judging can take as long as 6 to 8 hours. Once your bird appears comfortable in the show cage, it is time to simulate a judging situation. Place the cage in a well lighted, active part of the house. View it often, better still allow friends and neighbors to approach the cage. Judges are not going to be familiar the bird. They will also use a pointer (drumstick) to encourage the bird to move around so that it can be viewed from all angles. Remember proper show training is a must! Regardless of how superior a bird is, if a judge can not properly compare it to the other birds, it will not be competitive.
Grooming will be a simple task if your bird has been fed a good diet all year. To tighten feathers and bring into perfect condition, begin misting with luke warm water about 6 weeks before a show. Water will literally roll off the bird's back when it is properly conditioned. The standard calls for all tail feathers to be fully grown in place, clean and unfrayed. If the tail is bent, carefully dipping in hot water will help to straighten it. Frayed feathers must be removed and allowed to regrow. Many exhibitors remove all the tail feathers in order to prevent loss at an inconvenient time. Eight weeks will give sufficient time for complete growth to occur. Do not pull new or soft quill feathers as bleeding will occur. Never attempt to show a bird that is molting. There will be another opportunity to exhibit and the molt puts the bird under stress.
Cages and/or show boxes should be immaculate. This can not be emphasized enough. An exceptional bird may lose out due to the exhibitor's lack of concern. Freshly painted show cages may be the deciding factor in a close contest. Regardless, there is no excuse for dirty or chipped cages. Do take care of this early in the year to avoid the last minute rush.
If you have any questions, need information or help in anyway contact a Board Member, Judge, Advisor, State or Club Rep. That is one of the many privileges of belonging to the American Cockatiel Society. You are not alone. We all are available to assist you.