The Exhibition Hobby with Bengalese

                                                                                                                                   John Ward


There are three sections in the Bengalese fancy - champion, novice, and junior.

If you are a member of the National Bengalese Fanciers Association the criteria for champion is, you must have spent at least five years as a novice exhibitor, or to have won seven full classes with three or more exhibitors - whichever is the longest.

You can elect to go champion before, but, once you have shown as a champion at a patronage show you must remain a champion. Once you go up  there is no going back!


Bengalese must be shown in pairs of the same colour. Not necessarily a true pair - cock and hen. The Ideal standard for the variegated varieties is 50% colour 50% white. This is difficult to achieve so the standard calls a minimum of 30%  white feathers ,and the show pairs to match for colour and markings, as near as possible.


The self-colours should match for colour and belly markings, (these can vary a great deal even from the same nest) and must carry no white feathers. The white mutations must have no dark feathers. 

The crested mutation of Bengalese are shown as one crested, and one non crested bird

There is only one class for crested Bengalese in both the Champion, and Novice, sections, regardless of the colour they are all shown in the same class.

Junior exhibitors also have their own section.

There is a standard show cage for Bengalese. Birds must be shown in the standard show cage at all patronage shows or the birds will not be judged. The main reason for this is so that all the birds are in exactly the same cages so there should be no chance of birds being identified by the cage they are exhibited in, the only difference in the exhibits should be the quality of the birds. It is all about bringing everything to an equal level where just the birds are considered by the judge. Saying that there is nothing worst than to see a good pair of birds staged in a dirty cage, it only takes a little while to wash out the cage and give your birds a fighting chance, and remember change the seed on the bottom of the show cage, your birds have to eat that seed for the duration of the show and if it has been there for the duration of the show season it can’t be to nice for them. 


Type, which is really the shape, is the most important feature of the show Bengalese. Type should not be confused with size. It is possible to have small birds with good type or large birds with no type. It’s all about shape and everything being in proportion.


Those large birds with little or no type and have a poor stance should have no place on the show bench. They can be very useful in the breeding program when trying to put size onto a small bird with type. Like all varieties of birds – size is important, but size must never be the only factor – size, combined with type/shape is the important feature we should be looking for.


Condition is also important and getting the tail feathers just right is a major problem with Bengalese.(when asked about the shape of the tail it can be likened to the shape of a bricklayers trowel) Plenty of baths go a long way to keeping feathers in good condition. One of the biggest problems appears to be that some fanciers keep too many birds together in the stock cages. When this happens, the feathers get damages. There will be some rivalry within the cage of birds. Some will become aggressive while others become the victims. If there is any fightly between the birds, the feathers will get cut and damaged. There is no doubt that birds do best if they are given lots of space and room on the perch.


Ideally one or two birds should be housed to a single cage, but lack of space means that many fanciers tend to keep too many birds for their set up. Ideally you should only breed enough birds for the room and space you have. If your number of cages, flight space and room is limited, you must restrict the number of birds you breed. Common sense tells us we should keep within our limits, but unfortunately most of us   tend to keep too many birds.

Some times even with the docile Bengalese we find a particular bird is aggressive, and a bully other birds by pulling or damaging their feathers, if behaviour is observed the culprit needs to be removed for a few days.


A missing feather will take 6 to 8 weeks to fully re-grow so any damaged feathers can be pulled and they will re-grow, but nothing happens overnight. Preparing birds for the show becomes much less of a problem if the birds are not kept in overcrowded conditions. Keep too many birds together can be a disaster for a show season.   


If you are a keeper of birds rather than an exhibitor, I would remind you it costs the same to keep good birds as it does to keep not so good ones.

For those of you who do exhibit other types of birds Bengalese will add another string  to your exhibition team.


I would also suggest to all fanciers that you should keep birds for you - no one else. There is much pleasure from keeping birds and you should keep the ones you like and the ones that bring you the most pleasure. It is you that cares for them, you that feeds them and you have initially bought them, presumably because there was something about them you liked, So get as much pleasure from the birds you keep as you are able.

 Keeping birdsis of course not just about exhibition, there are lots of birdkeeers who keep them for the pure joy of having them to look at and care for,

Time is short for a lot of people in this ever changing world where there are many more things to do and the rest of the world is just a few hours flight away, and being stuck in a village hall for the day is not everyone’s idea of a good day out.


If you are restricted for time it might be worth just keeping the birds for now, and perhaps not bothering to show them until time allows.  Enjoy the birds while you are short of time but work towards taking them more seriously later, when you have the time and the inclination to breed them to the show standards laid down by the National Bengalese Fanciers Association (NBFA). Even though time may be short it is always beneficial to try and attend a local bird club and meet like minded fanciers, most clubs hold monthly meetings and would welcome you.


                                                                                                Sorting, and getting a team for the following year

This can be a very difficult period, as at first we all tend to keep more birds than we require. My suggestion would be for most first year fanciers to contact a fellow Bengalese fancier who will be only too happy to help you out. You will probably already have made the acquaintance of a successful fancier and he could be approached for assistance. The only suggestion I would make is that if you ask for advice, treat it in the way it is given, try to follow the advice, but you should remember you are only getting another opinion and most fanciers have there own views.

Remember to study, and understand, the general show/colour standards before making any decisions on your birds. We all make mistakes and get rid of birds we should have kept. Also remember you can’t keep them all, and sometimes you have to be ruthless in your sorting out. Better decisions come with experience and it’s important to learn from every mistake. Try to never make the same mistake a second time – or you will not make great progress with any birds.


It is my opinion that cock birds mature faster than hens, so my advice is to sex all your birds before you make your final selection. I have known fanciers who have sorted out their birds by picking out what they think is the best and ended up keeping all cocks.

It is not a job to be carried out in a rush, take your time, and keep sensible and correct records of your breeding season.


Getting the right colour pattern can be difficult, because the white feathers in the variegated varieties tend to occur randomly. I have found that by pairing birds with the desired markings over a number of years, you can greatly increase the number of young you breed with the required markings. I recommend not to pair together birds with different coloured beaks, like dark and light. If you do this, you will cause yourself problems in the future, particularly with the darked beak varieties where you are likely to breed birds with multi-coloured beaks. This is a show fault and should be avoided if at all possible.

                                                                                                         As a Potential Exhibitor.

Visit as many shows as you can. This should give you a good idea of the standard of birds you should be aiming for. It will also give you chance to meet other like-minded fanciers who you can glean lots of information from.

Most Bengalese fanciers are only too pleased to help newcomers. It may also put you at the front of the line to obtain some good stock when the time comes to buy better quality birds.

Join your local bird club, and the National Bengalese Fanciers Association (NBFA) where you can get all the information you require.    

                                                                                           Buying better quality stock for the second year

After visiting shows and other fanciers, you should have a much better idea what you need to improve your stud. Only buy birds that have a feature your stock is lacking, it is better to buy one good bird than three or four poor ones. Never pair together birds with the same show fault you will only compound the problem and make it difficult to breed out in future years.


Breeding Bengalese Finches for Exhibition

John Ward


The Bengalese Finch is an ideal first bird for anyone contemplating entering the competitive side of our hobby. Unlike some branches of the bird fancy, there is no single exhibitor dominating the show scene.

Although, of course, there will always be individuals who are having a good show season, generally speaking, the way is always open for newcomers to make their mark.

Most general books about breeding birds have a section on Bengalese and usually they recommend them for beginners. This is because they are placid, easy to feed and, providing they are kept out of the damp and draught, will survive without extra heat. There are some interesting colours, they are not noisy, and mix well with other species of similar size.

One of the benefits of keeping Bengalese for exhibition is that there are clear written colour standards for all the colours. This gives you something to aim for and adds to the interest of breeding. Bengalese, even good ones, are not expensive when compared with most other exhibition birds, so any teething troubles are not too hard on the pocket.

Although they are one of the easiest birds to breed, there are still some big challenges awaiting anyone who wants to breed Bengalese for the show bench. Not all Bengalese are the same - as you will find out by visiting a show that has a good entry of Bengalese.

Once you start to understand the variety, you will begin to appreciate the difference between the top birds and the rest of the birds in the section.

As you increasingly appreciate the finer points, it will become clear to you what is required to improve your own stock; features such as shape, size, stance, colour and markings. It is important to recognise the faults in your own stock because it is only then that you will be able to bring in birds with the features that are required to improve your stud.

It may take you a year or two to make the necessary improvements.

However, provided you start with stock that has come from a successful exhibition bloodline, the general belief is that Bengalese finches are not the most difficult variety to improve.

Once you have mastered the art of Bengalese breeding you may consider tackling some of the other types of birds that are available, but if you are like me you may be hooked on Bengalese. I love their friendly, confiding character and am happy to accept the challenge of trying to breed them to the show standards. I think it is fair to say that anyone who has ever kept and bred Bengalese finches always retains an affection for them.