SHOWING especially on a national level is very hard on the birds and not so gentle on the people either!
You can show at provincial level, which is more relaxing, especially one day shows where the stress on the birds and the people is minimal, and also allows you to mix with other breeders, judges and enthusiasts. This is great for the exchange of information.It is usually a good social event, and makes great friends.
NATIONAL shows are more demanding, as they are usually four to five day shows and require travelling.
These are some rules I have found over the years, for stress free showing on the part of animal and human.
1. Be prepared for a show. Take your show birds out of the pens at least 8 weeks prior to a major show and separate them from your flock. Go through them with a fine tooth comb, ensuring no split wings, dented keels or other defects will disqualify them at the outset. You do not want to travel 1200 km to find your bird has a dented keel! Travelling is expensive, so is accommodation so hedge your bets beforehand and take only those birds that will stand a chance at winning. Separate males and females as you do not want the hens showing signs of lost feathering or injury due to the attentions of a cock. Besides, if she lays an egg at the show, you do not want that egg to be fertile…there will always be the unscrupulous person who will deliberately steal your eggs. Always have in the show pen at least two more than you intend to take, as a precaution for sickness or injury.
2. Once the birds are separated, make sure they are fed correctly with extra grain for weight and condition. You can feed wet cat food for vitamin content, maas for the fat, a little cod liver oil to condition feathers, and plenty of greens. It is better to let the birds gain a little extra weight as they will lose some by virtue of stress on a show floor.
3. Vaccinate, and this is SO important against Newcastle and Infectious Bronchitis, as a booster at this time.
Wait a week and deworm with IVERMECTIN injectable. This also treats any outside parasites. Wait another week and inject with a broad based CORYZA vaccine. If you wish you can also vaccinate with a booster MG but always a week apart. DO NOT vaccinate with all these at the same time on the same day. It is pointless, as each vaccine will cancel out the other, and you may kill your show champion in the process. Remember all vaccinations given now are BOOSTERS as you should have a good vaccine programme in place during the year anyway. This is only a precaution against diseases that may be prevalent in the show hall. Birds are locked away together for five days and nights, they are stressed, and most show people NEVER vaccinate against anything so beware. Most prevalent will be the CORYZAS,( there are several strains). If you have vaccinated with a broad based vaccine such as TALOVAC 101C, you have protection of some sort. Should there be a nasty strain of Coryza on that floor that you have not vaccinated for, your birds may be ill but WILL NOT DIE. If you do nothing they will succumb.
Several years back a nasty strain of Coryza was around in the Cape. Many people lost birds that year after the National show in Worcester. I had a couple of sick birds but no deaths.
The idea is to boost the immunity of your birds as much as you can, and this starts when they are chicks not 8 weeks before a show. Good food, clean water, dry bedding, vaccination programme in place, no parasites…all this is vital.
4. More important than vaccines even is the way you treat your birds. Stress is a vital part of any infection they may pick up. A stressed bird is vulnerable to anything. When you prepare them for showing or bathing them, be gentle make your movements slow and steady. House them correctly away from predators or noise. Don’t allow your two year old to walk around with your birds, screaming all the way. When you bench, be calm, be slow, be gentle. Make sure all preparation is done at home so you need not stress the birds by washing with cold water in an unfamiliar environment. Make sure your travel boxes are large and warm and comfortable, but mostly DARK.
I have seen many a potential show champion squashed into a totally unsuitable box, where he cannot turn around let alone breathe, and coming out the other end looking like death, with ruffled feathers and gasping for air. And NO they do not recover.
I have always taken a lot of flack from fellow competitors because my boxes are so large, we needed a large trailer to house all the boxes. I say to them, yes, perhaps, but the birds arrive fresh, with clean and unruffled feathers, unstressed, and they SHOW properly.
When I bench them they settle at once. Bad enough the noise and unfamiliar sense of a show floor with lights, people, dust, unbelievable crowing from 3000 cocks…if the bird already feels bad because he travelled badly, he will not show correctly.
5. Work with your birds at home so they become used to handling. There is nothing worse than a bird that flies to the top of his show cage every time a judge handles him.
6. Unfortunately you are not allowed to feed your birds before judging on a national show, but take some of your usual feed with you, with some extra grain, for after judging. Always check with the SASPO representative if this is ok. The birds will be better for it, as some do not like the rations doled out at poultry shows.
Make sure you have a drinker that does not leak in each pen, and make sure it is at a height the bird is comfortable with. I have seen many a bantam and many of my silkies, struggling to reach a drinker way above their heads.
If you show ducks, check the drinkers and check them three times a day during showing: ducks will spill their water often during a show as they try to bath in the drinker.
7. Take some tie tags with you to secure your cages, as some unscrupulous people will take your birds out of their cages and handle them. This after judging.
When you bench, take the ring numbers of all your birds and keep a copy of this for yourself. You will be asked to hand in a copy to the staff. Check that the bird you put in the cage is the one you take home. If you know your birds this should not be a problem but be sure anyway.
8. Have an emergency box with you for any that might arise:
antibiotic and syringes.
Some oral antibiotic for water.
Some swabs, sponge, methylated spirits for cleaning any unforeseen mess, as meths does not wet or stain.
A towel and a sponge, and a bucket with a small watering can.
Some vitamin powder, for after judging.
Cotton wool, cloths.
Baby oil for the comb if necessary.
Some scissors and small cutting pliers.
9. When returning home, again be gentle with the birds that have had a rough few days. When home have all your cages ready beforehand with feed and water, settle the birds in quarantine cages for at least a week, in case they are carrying some infection.
Watch the birds very carefully, and make sure they get the extra vitamins in water for a week, to allow their system to acclimatise again to the home environment. Try not to stress them with vaccines or deworming at this stage.
When you are sure they are coping you can then send them to the breeding pen. Watch the girls, as they can stress to such an extent they may not lay for a while. Leave them in the breed pen WITHOUT a cock, until they have settled and are laying well in the nests provided. If eggs are on the floor, rearrange your nest boxes until the ladies are satisfied.
Once all is on track you can introduce the lucky gent who will be allowed into this hallowed pen!
Never come home from a show and throw all your birds haphazardly into breed pens, that is a sure recipe for disaster.
Better start slowly and start as you mean to go on than have to do damage control later on.
It is a patience game, as you are dealing with livestock and not machines, but I assure you the rewards for being patient are wonderful!