4-h for poultry

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by Vh458, Aug 26, 2014.

  1. Vh458

    Vh458 Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 25, 2014
    Hi! I am planning on joining my county's 4-h, but really don't know anything bout it for chickens. Can you please give me like information on what I need to know and do for my chickens. What kind of chickens do I need or does it even matter? Do I need to wash them? So just anything I should know before joining. The meetings start in January and I would like to know a little before I join. Thanks,
     
  2. BantamLover21

    BantamLover21 Overrun With Chickens

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    Jul 24, 2013
    Okay, I'll do my best to explain 4-H poultry showing.

    When you join 4-H, you sign up for the Poultry project (at least that is how it is in my county). You are then a project member. You can then think more about exactly what you want to show.

    Most county fairs are more lenient that real open poultry shows in terms of what you can show. My county fair has an egg laying class, where you can enter productive hens of any breed/cross. They are judged on their condition and egg laying ability. There is also a broiler/roaster class, where you enter meat chickens (usually Cornish X). The meat birds are judged on their meat qualities and partially on cleanliness/condition.

    However, the main part of the show is the fancy or exhibition show. That is where you enter pure breeds of chicken. Some people do enter mixed breeds (such as Easter Eggers) by accident, calling them Ameraucanas. but if you do your research, you won't make those mistakes.

    As for what breed is best to show, it really depends on your preferences. If you want to show in the production class, get some Rhode Island Reds, Sex-links, or other productive breeds. If you're showing in the meat bird classes, make sure you buy some fast growing Cornish crosses. And if you're showing in the fancy poultry class, you can get any purebreed you like.

    Still, if you're new to showing, I would stay away from a few breeds: Silkies, Rosecomb bantams, Sebrights, and crested breeds (such as Polish). Rosecombs and Sebrights are not very hardy, and can be a little tricky to breed and raise for a beginner. Silkies make great pets, but they appear to be very prone to accidents--getting hit on the head, neurological problems, weakness, etc. And the crest on crested breeds can make keeping them mite free, clean, and well feathered rather hard. I'm not trying to discourage you from those breeds, but I do think they might be a little much for a beginner.

    Preferably, you want to purchase exhibition quality chickens. This means you buy from a breeder (local or not), not a hatchery or large scale dealer. Hatcheries focus on quantity, not quality, in the birds they breed and sell. It is true that many fair showers show birds from hatcheries, but they won't do well unless there is little competition. Finding a breeder may slightly limit the type of bird you can show, since that particular breed may be in short supply or not found in your area. However, getting birds from a breeder will pay off in the end. County fair judges love when they are able to judge quality birds.

    Once you've selected the breed you want, now it is time to prepare for the birds. Raising winning birds starts with excellent preparation. Make sure they have a sturdy, well ventilated coop, with enough nest boxes and roosting space for the amount of birds you plan on raising. Ensure a good water supply for your new chickens, too. Lack of water, even for a few hours, can cause birds to lose condition and molt. Feeding is also important. Regular layer feed is just fine, but some people give their showbirds gamebird feed instead. The gamebird feed contains higher protein levels than layer feed, so it is better for keeping birds in good feather condition.

    At least 3 months before the show, begin preparing your birds. Look through each chicken, checking for defects/disqualifications, broken or damaged feathers, mites or lice, and any other problems. Do not show a bird with a disqualification, or one with serious defects. Remember, though, that there is no perfect bird--all have defects. If there are any broken or damaged feathers, pull them. They will grow in by showtime and your bird won't be counted down for lack of condition. Make sure you get rid of any mites or lice, too, since they can wreak havoc on a bird's condition and health.

    Along with looking through your birds, start training them for the show. This is especially important if you plan on doing poultry showmanship, but it also can help your birds do well in the actual show. Get a wire cage to practice with, since that is what the birds will be housed in at a show. Let each bird you plan on showing spend some time in the cage each day. This will get them used to being confined, and they won't panic while being judged on show day. At this point, you can also work on posing them. Use a stick or your hand to gently manipulate a bird into posing and looking its best. This means that its tail is up, it is standing firmly on the ground, its head is up, and its wings are well tucked. Also practice taking the birds in and out of cages, and holding them. Always take a bird out of/put it into a cage headfirst, or you risk breaking wing feathers.

    3 days before the show, it is time to wash your birds. Get three tubs and fill them with 90-95 degree F. water. Put some mild soap/shampoo (baby shampoo, dog shampoo, etc.) into the first tub, leave the second tub plain, and put 1/4 cub of vinegar in the third tub. Assemble some towels, a cup for pouring water, and an old toothbrush, too. Make sure you have a clean cage/other area prepared as well. Once you have everything ready, you can begin washing.

    Move each bird, in turn, through the series of tubs. Using the cup and your hands, gently massage the soapy water into their feathers, being careful not too rub against the feather grain. Use the old toothbrush to lightly scrub the toes and shanks of each bird and remove any dirt collected there. The dirtiest parts will be near the vent, near the head, and the legs, so spend the most time washing those areas.

    When you think the soapy water is massaged into the feathers well enough, move the bird into the plain water rinse tub. Pour plenty of water onto the bird's feathers and swish it around in the water. It is important to remove the soap, or the feathers will be sticky and won't dry right. After the plain water rinse tub, move the bird into the vinegar water tub. Let it sit there for about a minute. The vinegar will help kill any mites/lice on the bird, and it will remove any remaining soap and make the feathers shinier. Then, take the bird out of the tub, place it on a towel, and pat it dry using the towel.

    You do not need to get the bird completely dry with the towel; just remove as much excess water as you can. Some people do blow dry their chickens, but I believe that dries out the skin and feathers, possibly making the feathers brittle and easy to break. Air drying works just fine. When you have finished patting dry the bird, place the bird in the clean cage/other area. It will probably act rather drunk and stagger around, but that is normal. Within 24 hours, your freshly washed birds should be dry and fluffy again.

    At the fair, there is more work to be done. Make sure you keep each bird's cage as clean as possible--you wouldn't want a dirty bird after all of that hard washing work! Pay attention to their health, too. Make sure they are eating and drinking well, even at the show.

    On judging day, there are a few other small things to do. Rub some Vaseline or oil on each birds comb and wattles to make them shine. Clean up any slightly dirty spots, and trim any long nails or beaks. Then you and your birds should be ready to go!

    Well, I think that about covers it. Good luck with 4-H and poultry! [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2014
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  3. Vh458

    Vh458 Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 25, 2014
    Thank you so much!!! I was planning on getting the sebright chicken, but I will probably reconsidered that. Why do you say that I shouldn't get them? I am not being mean or judging your judgement, I am just wondering. :) What do you think of buckeyes, Delaware, dorking and faverolle chickens? Would they be good for showing? I am not doing meat birds if that makes any difference.
     
  4. BantamLover21

    BantamLover21 Overrun With Chickens

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    You're welcome. I'm not saying that you shouldn't get Sebrights; I just wouldn't necessarily recommend them as a bird for a beginner. I wouldn't want you to get them, really enjoy raising them, and then be disappointed if they get sick/die because they are not a very hardy breed. I understand perfectly why you want to raise them--they are beautiful birds! If I had room, and wasn't worried myself about them succumbing to diseases like Marek's (common in my area), I would probably be raising some, too.[​IMG]

    All of the other breeds you mentioned are great choices, though. None of them are the most common chickens in the world (not a bad thing), but I don't think you'll have too much trouble finding some good ones, either.
     
  5. Vh458

    Vh458 Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 25, 2014
    Thanks! That's makes more sense! I can't wait to start showing.
     

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