The Art of Cage Training
Faith Valley Waterfowl
The Art of Cage Training

I thought I would touch on this subject a bit- as I have been asked by several folks
as to how I actually work with the birds when cage training.

Step one- Acquire a cage similar to the ones that the bird will be shown in
at the shows.  You can purchase show cages from several poultry supply
places. You will need to set your cage in a location that is at waist level or
higher as that is how the cages will be set up at the shows. You also need
to select an area that will receive high traffic from your family or friends that
you can convince to come and visit your birds.  It is important to get the
birds comfortable with strangers walking past their cage and talking.  It
would be good to have some younger children walk past the cages and
chatter as kids do.  You will also need to set up a radio by the cage,
preferable tuned to a station that has talking and not so much music.  The
goal here is to replicate the show floor as much as possible.

Step two- Cage training isn't an overnight thing, it takes time.  When I work
with the birds, they may only spend and hour a day in the cage at first,
gradually working up to where they are comfortable in the cage setting for a
full day.  When I start a new bird on the show schedule, I only take them to
one day shows at first- two day shows can be a long time for a new bird.  
The idea is to make the bird as comfortable and relaxed in the cage as they
can be.  A relaxed bird will show better than a spastic one.

Step three- Now that the bird is comfortable in the cage, you can start to
train him.  I take the bird out of the cage, head first of course, and examine
him like a judge would, and then put him back head first.  I do this several
times each day so that he is used to being caught and looked over.  The
bird will realize that he is not going to get hurt and will learn to just stand
there to be caught.  Judges appreciate a bird that is easily caught verses
one that they have to struggle to catch.  If it comes down to a tie between
two birds, that judge will select the cage trained bird over the wild one.
Then I introduce other people into the catch and handle routine.  The bird
needs to be comfortable with others handling them too.

Step four- Impress the judge.  After the bird is comfortable with this routine,
you add the final touch on- the pose.  Take the bird out of the cage, do
your examination of the bird and then stand the bird on the palm of your
hand in front of the open cage- he should hop in.  As soon as he hops in-
toss in a treat, he will turn to get the treat. The goal is to get him to hop in
and immediately turn to the door, puff up, and pose for his treat.  Now it is
very important to use a treat with a crinkly wrapper as you will be able to
get him alert and to pose just from the sound of the treat wrapper.  I use
Old Roy soft dog food treats.  They come in little individual packets with a
nice crinkly wrapper.  Tender Vittles would work if they are wrapped in
plastic and not a paper type wrapper.  Just shop around, you will find a
suitable wrapped treat. It is wise to work on the return to cage and pose
when the bird is hungry as then it will mean more.  When you are on the
show floor, have the wrapper of the treat in your pocket.  As the judge
walks by your pens, you can crunch your wrapper around in your pocket,
that bird will turn and pose  for the judge.

Step five- Practice, keep it fun for the bird and he will work for you.  In
poultry shows, sometimes it is just the little things that make the difference
in the judge's mind.  Your goal in cage training is to make that judge take a
second look at your bird.  If you can get a second look, then you have a
shot at taking that class.  The birds that are just sitting or wild, aren't
showing at their best.  If you can get yours to pose and show for the judge,
he will be impressed with you and your bird.
White call male in cage training