Learn how to show chickens. Do you have a type of show chicken that you want to present at the next poultry show?
You are reading Chapter 7 of our Homestead Handbook:
Raising Backyard Chickens
How to Show Chickens
Exhibits can be something that is fun to do; it certainly is for the enthusiasts. For many it is not all about the winning, it is more about the experience, bonding, and learning new things. Fanciers are people who exhibit their chicken and continue to do it because it is a fun hobby to do in their spare time. Most fanciers are older people though it ranges from all ages and is a great experience for families to do together. You will likely come across people who have the same breed you do, and it is interesting to exchange knowledge you might not have learned otherwise. Serious fanciers look forward to getting feedback from the judges to improve their flock and showing abilities. There are some shows that allow and promote selling birds or sell their own for those who are interested. How well your chicken will rank on a show is dependent on their physical health, how close they meet the standard description of their breed, how they compare with other breeds of its kind and how skilled they are. There are people who enjoy listening to music, collect books or sew clothes because it is fun to them. Chicken exhibits are there for people who just like chicken and are happy to be in an environment where there are other people who feel the same. If you want to do more than raise your chicken for food, I recommend this.
7.1 – Choosing what breed to show
As you have come to realize, chicken come in a variety of unique breeds, shapes, colors, sizes and personalities. For newcomers, it can be pretty challenging to pick one and may pick several. From initial lack of knowledge, they often do not compete well and come with the mistaken idea that the more they enter, the higher their chances are at winning. Exhibitions base winners from skill and specialization. Exhibitors who win trophies are wise in the genetic background of their breed. If you are curious about exhibiting or are thinking about trying it out, grab a copy of the American Bantam Association’s “Bantam Standard” or the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection”. Most shows have bantams over larger breeds since they are easier to take care of and transport, less costly to feed and are better with confinement. You would be away of what qualifications shows are looking for but understand that no chicken is perfect, and there will never be a perfect score of 100 in a show. A point scale is assigned to every feature a chicken possess such as their comb, eyes, size, condition, wings, legs, face and earlobes. A process, known as cutting, is used to deduct points from these features where there is any defect. When defects are serious, it does result in automatic disqualification from a significant lack or a deformity of a particular characteristic – Crooked breastbone, floppy tail, crooked feet or a hunchback. Type and color are also two important factors used. The type is observed more than the ladder as it defines the breed by looking at their weight and size; they even check the shape of the birds head or the quality of its feathers. These qualities are set and contrast between each and every breed. Proper color is what defines the variety of a chicken and is associated with their comb, skin encircling their eye and earlobes aside from the outer appearance of their feathers and the skin beneath it. When you are deciding what chicken you want to show, try and select those that have the least defects, are vigorous and clear of disease, an adult and well developed, at or near the ideal body type and weight for the breed and one that would lack any chance of automatic disqualification.
Before you attempt set foot at an exhibition, you need to map out and know where and how you will train and condition them. You will also want to have the premium list that state that class and variety are accepted in shows to be fully aware and prepared. The premium will also provide you with the date, time and location of the show; the fee and deadline to join; prizes offered; health requirements and methods accepted to identify the birds. Most shows have four classes they will show: pullet, hen, cockerel and cock. Cock and hen are birds of at least a year in age and pullets, and cockerels are those under a year of age.
7.2 – Training and Conditioning
Training your bird before a show will give you more of an upper handed because you will get them used the surroundings so they aren’t disorients, and they will become used to being handled by unfamiliar faces. It would not work in your favor if your chicken behaves awkwardly or retreats to the nearest corner because it is frightened. There will be some who will train their bird right before an upcoming show and those who train them around the clock. It is the easiest to start them young so they can better adapt to it though there may be some who will have none of it. If it is a constant struggle with no sign of progress, it will save you time, energy and money to not enter them in a show. Most of the time, all that is required to get them cooperative is a little hard work and patience. Who am I kidding? You’re going to need a lot of it, buddy. About a week before the exhibition, keep your bird in a separate wired cage. Go-hard exhibitors take the extra mile and invest in show coops for training reasons. They can put quite a hole in your wallet but if you can find a way to get it used or at a discount price at a fair, it may not be all too bad. If you have more than one chicken, you plan on taking with you, train them separately when they are calm and keep the sessions brief, so they do not drop interest. You first want to train them to learn how to strike poses and learn which style is most suitable for your breed. You can train them using a judge’s stick and show them where they should set up. You can use your hands to raise their tail and head where you want it until they understand the directions you give them. Make sure you get them used to strangers, so they do not flap around, run away or struggle. You want to start by gently opening and moving the chicken until it faces sideways. Then, reach across their back, placing your hand over the opposite wing. Have a firm handle to prevent the wings from moving and move the bird to face you. Place your other hand beneath the breast while one of its legs rests on your pointer and index finger is between its legs. Retain a gentle, yet firm grip on the legs to lift the bird outside the coot and hold it for a while. If the chicken remains calm, release your hand from its wings and let it latch onto your arm freely. It takes a while to reach this point with your bird so segment everything piece by piece until it is comfortable enough to do the full routine.
Conditioning your bird allows it to be at its highest level of level health and cleanliness. A bird will not always be in a constant state of bloom and aren’t suitable for multiple showings as it causes them stress. Switch the birds that will condition and take on exhibitions. Washing, grooming and drying all go hand in hand before a show. Light-feathered chicken should be clean prior to a show, and the dark colored birds require a good cleaning only when their feathers are dirty. They should be washed no more than 2-3 days before a show to allow their feathers to lift back into shape. You can watch them in your laundry room if you have a sink, your tub or outside, whichever best suits you. You will need to use three tubs of water where one is to wash the bird and the other two tubs to rinse it off. If you have soft water available, use it and keep water at a warm temperature. Slowly dip them into the water and add enough mild soap where you can see some suds. You can use either a sponge or non-abrasive brush to wash them and rinse them off twice when you are done. The first rinse should be plain water and the second should have a hint of lemon or vinegar in it to ensure any soapy residue is removed. After the bath is over, wrap it firmly in a towel while being delicate with the feathers. You can take some time to clean their comb with rubbing alcohol and follow up with some oil. You can use a toothpick to remove any debris from the nostrils and dust their earlobes with baby powder to keep it clean. When you are looking at their feet, see if they require any nail trimming and move on to drying them. It’s easier to let them air dry outside if the weather is favorable and not too cold or windy. A temperature of at least seventy degrees Fahrenheit is ideal if you choose to. You could also use a hair dryer that is set on warm. You will be amazed at the difference in appearance a simple bath can do. It is a fun and rewarding experience to be around an animal you enjoy taking care of.
That was Chapter 7: How to Show Chickens from our Homestead Handbook: Raising Backyard Chickens
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