In my previous article I explained how showing finches work and what you can expect to see and hear at a bird show. What I'd like to cover now is the Why. Why show birds, why not show birds. Is it really necessary or does it do more harm than good?
Personally I show finches because I enjoy it. There is no money to gain, there is no real award other than little ribbons and some pride. I however enjoying being a part of the show even if I've only entered one finch. There is some excitement and suspense to it as you watch your finch being judged and moved around the bench. Yes more often than not even my birds get bumped out of the show pretty quickly, but it really doesn't bother me. In fact it helps me figure out what features the judge did or didn't like about my finch.
Technically I was still a 'novice' until last year. My finches have only recently made it into the division ranks. I probably could have gotten out of the novice rank by now if I had known at the start to mark myself as a novice but instead I jumped in with both feet, not really knowing what I was doing. and have enjoyed every minute of it.
There are many who say that showing does damage to the finches, causes them a great deal of stress and ultimately shortens their life span. I'm sure this is true of some finches. I've seen many finches that simply did not handle the whole show experience well and have had to be removed from the show and have their cages covered to help them calm down. No one wants to see these beautiful little birds hurt in any way. It's just the opposite We go to the shows to see the best of their kind strut their stuff and show the world that finches are great pets.
There are many other finches I've seen at shows who genuinely seem to enjoy the attention. They'll sit quietly in the holding area waiting to be brought before the judge. Then they jump into the most wonderful song and dances and display everything they have for the judge. The ones that do well and place above the others seem to know that they did something good and carry themselves even better next time. Quite often after the show season is over these fine finches are taken back home and given the chance to breed before next year's show season.
Is it stressful for the finches? To some extent, yes. It's not all that relaxing for the humans either. Who hasn't gotten up the crack of dawn, packed their finches into the family vehicle and driven hours just to attend a show then turn around and go home. Quite often the finches seem to handle this better than the people.
Others have argued that setting such high standards on what is 'show quality' is unfair and often in huge contrast to what the wild members of the species look like. A prime example of this is the Zebra finch. Your every day, pet shop variety Zebra finches are small, quick, flighty little birds. If you've seen what is considered a top show quality Zebra you'll notice they look very little alike. A show Zebra is huge and bulky compared to the pet shop variety. Show Zebras are also not flighty, they don't really move much at all in fact.
Is this bad for the species as a whole? I doubt it. The normal Zebra finch is still being bred in abundance all over the world. The show Zebras are not only breed by fewer people but they are also much more expensive to buy. Most people don't want to spend three or more times what it would cost to get a smaller Zebra.
While yes it is a tad hard to get started in showing some of the more domesticated species like Zebras, Society, Javas, and Gouldians because most people don't have access to show quality breeding stock from the start; it's not impossible. I, like most, started out showing normal sized finches with good over all proportions and markings. They did very well but never got to the last bench because of their size. After a few shows and talking with other breeders I was able to buy larger hens to help bring up the average size of my show finches over the next few generations.
Now I have what I consider to be very adequate sized zebra finches. They are a tad larger than your average Zebra finch and not quite as flighty but they are still healthy and easy to care for just as they should be. Showing finches has taught me to find a good balance between show and pet quality.