Preparation for competitions


The competition represents the culmination of his breeding season for the zebra finch breeder. This will be the best method to check if the new birds correspond to the standard, it will also be an opportunity to compare your own results with those of other breeders. The progression in his breeding necessarily involves the comparison of his birds with those of other breeders. The competitions therefore represent THE privileged moment which ends a whole year of breeding.

The first step for the breeder will be the selection of his zebra finches. Usually around July 15, the young zebra finches are sorted: you have to distinguish between farmed birds and show birds. The zebra finch is a "finished" bird and not a working bird: a carrier bird will (normally) not be judged, a female with cheek suckers will be sanctioned, etc. When possible, plan to prepare replacements: the breeder is not immune to a general condition problem that arises just before the competition. Ditto for the preparation of the stams (group of 4 identical birds), planning 5-6 birds seems reasonable to compensate for any unforeseen events.

In order for the zebra finch presented to have plumage in perfect condition, do not hesitate to tear off the damaged or broken feathers.

The zebra finch in competition preparation

From then on, each subject goes through "a sieve" and sees the feathers torn off, which are not in perfect condition. It takes about 6 weeks for the feathers to grow back. This is one of the reasons that birds should be prepared from the end of July if you plan to present a zebra finch for a competition in early September.

Selecting zebra finches for competitions implies knowing full well the standards of high mutation and not making the mistake of underestimating such or such quality that the bird must possess.
Many breeders rely on size, which is often to the detriment of color and shape. A zebra finch is judged on the following criteria: the size yes, but also the shape, the maintenance, the general condition, the quality of the plumage, the color and the drawing.

From a general point of view, here is the description of the zebra finch as it should appear in competition:

- The zebra finch measures 11.5 cm. (Measurement between the tip of the beak and the tail) (here there are already big differences depending on the mutation presented, a zebra agate diamond will generally be shorter than a classic gray by example)
- The zebra finch proudly stands on its perch, the feathers shiny and un-tousled
- the lines of the zebra finch are harmonious (no break between the chest and the belly, no drooping tail, etc.)
- No morphological defect such as damaged or missing feathers, a missing nail, any malformation
- The beak and nails are shiny without scuffing
- The head is large and round (no flat or pinched head with a too long beak)

Here is the detail of the distribution of points out of 100 of a judgment sheet (source O.M.J. 2017):

 Type and structure  30 points
 Color  20 points
 Drawing  20 points
 Plumage  10 points
 Attitude and posture  10 points
 Condition  10 points

Small reminder, the total is out of 100 and for judgments in France:

Champion: 90 pts minimum
2nd and 3rd: 89 pts minimum
In stam:
Champion: 360 pts minimum
2nd: 358 pts minimum
3rd: 356 pts minimum

At the World Cup, classified birds are noted (rules likely to be revised):

90 pts minimum for the bronze medal
360 pts minimum in stam for the bronze medal

Preparing zebra finches for the competition also means preparing them to spend a few days in a competition cage and to be moved, observed, judged. This change of environment will be accompanied by stress, which means a high probability that the bird will present itself badly in the eyes of the judges: ruffled feathers, an overactive bird in its cage, and an additional risk of damage.

For people like me who rear zebra finches in drums and let the youngsters develop in aviaries, the progressive learning can take place as follows:
Six weeks before the competition, in fact at the same time as the damaged feathers are removed, the birds are moved from the aviary to 120cm batteries. At the rate of three or four zebra finches per battery.

zebra finch in aviary
Zebra finches in the aviary

battery zebra finches
Zebra finches in battery of 120, here black females face black breast

Three weeks before the competition, this space is reduced to 40 cm by zebra finch. One space per bird. From this moment, the bath is offered daily. Finally, one week before the competition, each bird is placed in a competition cage.

caged zebra finch contest
The end of the preparation, in competition cages

Some tips and tricks:

- Rather than bathing the birds, some breeders spray the birds with water containing baby washing product
- There are also additives for the bath water which help to give a shiny plumage
- When the bird is in a show cage, move the cage daily to get the bird used to being moved
- When possible, register the zebra finch in its own cage to prevent manipulation
- Train the zebra finch to move from one bar to another in its competition cage (using a pen or a radio antenna-style stick), to get the bird used to the gestures made by the judge. Yes, it takes time if you present more than 10 birds but as they say, when you love you don't count ...

To conclude on the preparation of zebra finches for competitions, here are the points that I think are important to take into account:

- Distinguish between working zebra and exhibition zebra finches
- Know the high and presented mutation
- Gradually accustom birds to competition cages
- Take the time to prepare your zebra finch in optimal general condition for its future judgment

zebra finch in competition preparation

Hoping to have motivated you to present your zebra finches in the competitions, I hope to see you soon in the exhibitions.

Michel Landry, amateur breeder.
Article published in 2021.

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