For successful showing, birds need to be conditioned prior to the show. All waterfowl should be fed a well-balanced, pelleted poultry feed, cleaned oats and black oil sunflower seeds and very little corn. Fresh bathing water daily is a must - as is clean bedding such as straw or pine shavings. Keep them away from mud.
Proper transport to the show is very important so as not to ruin the time and effort spent in the weeks leading up to the show. Handle the birds with care, never catch them by the wings or tails. Each bird should be crated individually if possible with each crate being an appropriate size for the breed. A nice bedding of shavings in each crate will help keep the birds clean.
At the show prepare the show cages before you place the birds in them, add additional shavings and place appropriate water and feed containers to fit each breed. I recommend bringing your own feed and a watering can with your name on it.
On the day of judging give your birds just enough water for a few quick sips, too much water will encourage waterfowl to try to bath and your birds could be wet during judging. Use a spray bottle and mist them in the morning to encourage preening.
A bit of house keeping should also be done. Remove any litter and feathers then add a few fresh shavings on top of the old ones. Waterfowl love to pull and eat the coop tags, if this happens contact a show official to have them replaced.
A nice cleaned and conditioned bird should not need too much preparation before judging. Cleaning the bill and feet and wiping off any soiled feathers with a damp cloth is advised. You do not want to interfere with the natural lay of the feathers. Some breeds require more prep than others. For example, using an oil product such as baby oil or Vet-Rx on Brown Chinese and Brown African knobs certainly improves their appearance. Don’t fuss with the birds too much as this can have an adverse effect.
After judging is completed talk with the judge if you can, and other exhibitors. When judging of your breed is complete remember to feed and water your birds.
Be a good sport, it is only one show and one opinion. Just because a bird wins one show doesn’t mean its going to win in another.
When the show is over be responsible when cooping birds out. Remove coop cups and dump any excess drinking water in the bedding not on the floor. Coop out with the same care used to coop in. Before you remove a bird from the show cage, check your exhibitor number on the tag, make sure the bird you are removing is your own. Take the coop card either right before or right after you crate the bird. Remember to close and latch the coop door when you are done.
I do not recommend watering and feeding the birds during transport. If your trip is twelve or more hours stop and give the birds a quick snack and beverage. Many times you are going to arrive back at your farm after dark. Know your birds. If your birds get stressed and frightened in the dark, wait to put them away until morning. Before all birds are returned to their home they should be sprayed with a quick shot of Frontline or Adams Flea and Tick spray. This will remove any lice or mites the birds may have picked up at the show.
All practices mentioned are what I have observed and used over the years. Enjoy your birds, have fun at the shows. Observe, Learn and Participate.
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