Part One

By Donald Perez

May I begin this writing with a passage as relates to the preparation of Glosters for exhibition from a book aptly named, THE GLOSTER FANCY CANARY, written by my good friend, Nick Barrett, which was printed in 1990:

 “It is not possible for everyone to own outstanding exhibition birds, but it is possible for everyone to prepare and present their birds in the correct and proper manner on the show bench.  The task of ensuring you always exhibit clean and healthy birds, benched in clean and sound cages, should be a matter of personal pride.  Any laxity with regard to the manner in which birds are benched not only penalizes the exhibit; it also reflects badly on the fancier responsible for exhibiting the birds.”

Suffice it to say, we must always make it our responsibility to use the proper show cages which meet the criteria as laid down by the I.G.B.A. Gloster Convention when exhibiting our Glosters.  These standard show cages must of course be clean inside and out.  The exterior of the show cage according to the standard calls for it to be shiny.  How shiny, one might ask?

Well, I was taught to make mine so shiny & polished that I could actually see my face well enough on the glossy black surface that I could shave by the reflection!  Now one does not have to go that far, if they do not want to.  I look at it like this; the show cage surrounds our entry much as a frame surrounds a painting.  The nicer the frame, the more the eye is drawn toward the painting in front of them.  The cleaner and well polished a cage is, the more it will attract the eye of the judge or judges.  A clean, polished cage even demands the respect of the stewards.  They realize that this exhibitor has taken great pride in showing off its occupant to its very best, so in essence take just a tad more care upon presenting it before the judge out of respect to that exhibitor.  Not that the stewards do not normally take great care in their handling of exhibitor’s show cages at events.

Enough about show cages.  I am sure we are all aware of the fact that we must use sturdy, yet lightweight show cage carrying cases to transport our entries to the event we will exhibit in.  We are also aware of show training our Glosters well in advance of any event. So, no need to touch on these subjects at this time.  

This piece will focus upon the actual exhibits and how we can give our Glosters the edge on the show bench.  This does not mean that with the following information, one will, as the saying goes, “turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse” either.  It simply means that if one can follow the Gloster preparation methods as mentioned here, I firmly believe one would indeed give their Glosters, and really, any bird, the edge that may just be needed to possibly even take the event!

In 1985, I had the honor and pleasure of having Nick Barrett, his wife Annalain and their young children, Moira and Andrew visit and stay in our home for a week or so prior to our journey to the National Cage Bird Show, which was to be held the following week in San Antonio, Texas.

For those of you not familiar with who Nick & Annalain Barrett are, may I say that they are the developers of the “Glenariff Stud,” one of the, if not the most consistently successful line of Glosters in the United Kingdom to date!

The breeding season in The House Of Crests went well in 1985 as in prior years.  The House stud consisted of birds that were the previous year’s National Cage Bird Show Champions as well as their parents and siblings.

The birdroom was rendered spotless, as was the rest of the house in anticipation of the Barrett’s arrival!  They were excited to make their first trip to America as well.  Nick was going to judge the Third All-American Gloster Exhibition during their stay.  But my real excitement was Nick & Ann’s assessment of the House Glosters in the confines of our birdroom!

We had several days of studying the birds as well as taking sightseeing trips all over the city!  We even took some photos of Andrew holding his hands up at the old Soldier’s Field where the Chicago Bear’s play football even though his favorite at the time was the Washington Redskins!

During their stay, one of my objectives was how Nick hand-washes Glosters while using mine as an example.  I had been hand-washing my birds for years but never really had any formal training or having even seen a master at work, so-to-speak! 

The above-mentioned book of Nick’s offers a few paragraphs on the subject of Hand-washing and Dressing Glosters.  It is my hope that you enjoy and learn from this brief pictorial that will attempt to go a step further when it comes to preparing our birds for the show bench.  For the full photo session, visit my website:!

There are many theories as relates to hand-washing birds depending on who you speak with.  Many do not even believe in the practice while others are just plain afraid of the practice.  Trust me, there is nothing at all to fear.  It does not hurt in the least.  Why, during the process, I never felt a thing!  All kidding aside, personally, I’ve found it a most essential practice just prior to campaigning birds on the exhibition circuit.

Prior to commencing with the project, one must first acquire certain essentials, if they do not have them in the house already, like a small bottle of malt vinegar (the kind the British sprinkle on their fish & chips), a small bottle of Johnson’s No More Tears, Baby Shampoo, a cup, three medium-sized bowls, a man’s shaving brush and a bunch of tea towels or what are known as dish drying towels.

Prior to the project of hand-washing, decide well in advance which Glosters will be in your show team the coming weekend.  For us, the trip to the National in San Antonio was to take place on a Wednesday.  Since the trip involved taking a plane with the birds on board along with the show cages in their carrying cases in the hold, we settled upon a team of 38 Glosters.  The judging at the National always takes place on a Friday so the Glosters were bathed on the Monday evening, five days prior.  One should really not bath them any later.

Gather your show cages and set them up in the birdroom without seed on the bottom or drinkers on the front.  Bring also into the birdroom a roll or two of the paper towels one uses to dry or mop messes up or use for general cleaning.  Tear off two sheets.  Tear those two sheets apart and triple fold them so that they fit perfectly on the bottom of each show cage.  Place one folded sheet atop the other in the cage.  Grab a Gloster and place it in the show cage.  Bring the Glosters, once they are all in their show cages, into your kitchen.  Let them relax for about a half hour or so.

While the birds are checking out their surroundings and begin to settle in, start preparing your mixtures of bathing solutions.  In the first bowl of warm water, add a capful of shampoo or enough to create a nice lather when you stir it up.  In our case, we used the first bowl of a double-bowled kitchen sink for the shampoo solution.  The second bowl should also be filled with warm water to which we add about a half-teaspoon of malt vinegar.  The malt vinegar is used to break down the sudsing effects of the shampoo.  The third bowl of warm water is used to rinse the bird down.  We used the second bowl of the sink for this step of the project.  Then the towels are folded to use on each bird as shown in the photographs.

After the birds set in the towels for about ten minutes they are removed and placed into the empty show cage.  Prior to insertion of the canary the top folded paper towel is removed so the clean towel is exposed.  Run the canary into it so it may dry off and preen.  We placed all the show cages with the cleaned canaries into the living room where the temperature was about 75 degrees F. (24 degrees C).  They sat in this room until the following morning where there were then put back into their individual cages in the bird room.  They are then lightly sprayed daily until show entry day where they are once again sprayed lightly one more time with warm water the day of the show.

The results of the hand-washing indeed paid off once again as you will see from the accompanying photos!

Dressing or grooming the Gloster to follow in my next piece!

Now follow the photos of Nick Barrett as he washes my Glosters!

Note: To better view these photo thumbnails, simply click on the photo to enlarge then click the "X" in the upper box of the photo to close the window to return to this page and view the next photo.  Please note also that this article and all photos are copyrighted by Donald Perez and NATIONAL BIRD DESIGNS.   

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