Poultry shows are similar to dog shows in that the chickens are being judged against a set of breed standards. While a sassy chicken may win over the hearts of the judges, the chicken that best conforms to the breed guidelines is going to do the best in a chicken show.
If you’ve seen a few shows, you might be ready to get your chickens involved!
So how do you break into the chicken show business? Where do you find chicken shows, and what can you expect your first time showing?
Read on to answer all your questions about how to break into the chicken show business.
How do you get started showing chickens?
The first step in preparing to show chickens is understanding how poultry shows work. The best way to get a sense of the flow of poultry shows is by attending them yourself! Check out the list of ABA Sanctioned Shows for a great place to start in finding a poultry show near you.
Once you’ve attended a few shows, it’s time to get started building your flock. You’ll need to purchase chicks from a breeder with a good reputation. Make sure to purchase healthy chicks, as that’s a vital part of succeeding in the competition. A healthy chicken will show best!
When your chicks have grown to be healthy and strong, you’ll need to select which will be shown. Use the American Poultry Association’s Standards of Perfection to identify which of your chickens will naturally show best.
After you’ve selected the chicken you intend to show, you’ll have to begin training the chicken for showing. This involves practicing handling and chicken positioning. Once your chicken is properly reared, the last step is grooming! Grooming a chicken for a poultry show can be involved, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time.
Getting started showing chickens really isn’t too hard. Once you’ve started raising a flock with the intent of showing, you’re halfway there! Socializing your chickens, as well as becoming educated on breed guidelines, are important steps to succeeding in chicken shows. Once you’ve got a sense of what you’re doing, check out the state fair and get your chicken in front of some judges!
Which birds are the best to show?
There aren’t any chickens that are better or worse to show, so long as they are purebred. Poultry shows, like dog shows, judge chickens against a breed-based rubric. In order to succeed at a poultry show, your chickens need to be purebred.
Once you’ve identified your chicken as purebred, what’s most important is understanding the various divisions of the poultry show and how to prepare your chicken to do their best!
There are two large categories in poultry shows: large fowl and bantams. Bantams are small fowl, whereas large fowl are larger in size. Chickens can fall into either group. Standard-size chickens are generally in the large fowl group, but small chickens can be shown in the bantam category.
Large fowl and bantams each have a set of classes that each bird will fall into. Large fowl are divided by place of origin, whereas bantams are divided by physical characteristics. Then, within each class, there are breeds.
In order to determine the standards for each breed within the class and large division, check out the Standards for Perfection, published by the American Poultry Association. This will serve as your guidelines for preparing and selecting your chicken. If you’ve raised a flock of the same breed, you’ll be able to look at the guidelines and judge for yourself which of your flock will do best when scored against the rubric.
The last thing to consider is health. A healthy chicken will always show better than an unhealthy chicken, so make sure your chicken is in top-notch medical condition.
How do you handle a chicken for a poultry show?
Primarily, your chicken needs to be comfortable with being handled. As you raise the chicken from chick to adult, be sure to socialize it so that it becomes comfortable with being handled.
The way to hold onto a chicken for chicken shows is specific. You’ll hold the chicken with your dominant hand with your pointer finger between its legs. Make sure you have a solid grip on the thighs for handling. The head of the chicken will be facing you, with its breast resting in your palm.
Place your non-dominant hand atop the back of the chicken for security. This position will not only be comfortable for both you and the chicken, but it will also settle the chicken down. It’s easy for chickens to become overwhelmed in show settings, so perfecting your handling is vital to keeping the chicken’s stress levels low.
How do you pose a chicken for a poultry show?
When the judge comes over to inspect your chicken, it’ll be expected that your chicken can hold a pose for 30-60 seconds. The expectations are clearly identified in the APA Standards of Perfection guide, so do research on your breed before you get to training. Different breeds require different sorts of positioning.
The best way to ensure success during the chicken posing portion of the show is practice. Start preparing your flock early to be posed and examined. You can use treats or a clicker to train your chicken well.
Your chicken may also be asked to demonstrate a short walk. Again, address the APA standards to identify specifics. You’ll use the same training methodology that you used for positioning to help teach your chicken to walk calmly for a short distance.
How do you groom a chicken for a poultry show?
Grooming a chicken for a poultry show is a moderately involved process. Around five days before the show, give your chicken a bath with warm water and shampoo or dish soap. You’ll want to really clean your bird, so a toothbrush or other small cleaning tool is recommended.
After you’ve cleaned the chicken with soapy water, rinse the bird off with clean water. Doing the bathing process multiple days before the competition will give the bird sufficient time to dry off and preen prior to the competition. If any of your chicken’s feathers show signs of mite egg deposits, remove the feathers. Plucking feathers after bathing is easy and painless.
Directly after bathing the chicken, take time to groom the beak and nails of the chicken. Smaller chickens can have their beaks trimmed with fingernail clippers, while large fowl will likely require toenail clippers. Your chicken may not need their nails trimmed. Some do it well themselves. Inspect the nails of your bird and, if necessary, trim them appropriately. You can use cat or dog trimmers to do this, and you want to make sure to not cut too close.
How much does it cost to show a chicken?
The prices to show chickens can vary. A lot of the cost of showing a chicken is upfront when you’re purchasing a chicken from a high-quality breeder. Some breeds can require $50 per chick, while others are only a few bucks per bird.
The cost to enter a show is generally very low. It often doesn’t cost more than $10 to enroll your chicken in the show. While raising chickens requires a pen, food, and more, the cost of showing a chicken isn’t substantial!
Overall, showing a chicken can be a gratifying hobby. Teaching your chicken to pose and walk and learning to groom are enjoyable ways to bond with your animal. Enrolling your chicken in a poultry show is a fun way to get involved with the farm community and put your animal-rearing skills to the test!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Nadanka/iStock via Getty Images
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