Best way to train/prepare a chicken for show?

Discussion in 'Exhibition, Genetics, & Breeding to the SOP' started by fxrnnnn, Jan 16, 2017.

  1. fxrnnnn

    fxrnnnn New Egg

    Jan 12, 2017
    Hey guys!

    I have the opportunity to show my silver sebright hen, silver sebright rooster and lemon bantam hen at a Royal Show.
    The only problem I have is getting my rooster to sit still in my hand when I'm holding him like the judge would. He just doesn't seem to want to show himself off, which is a shame because he's truly gorgeous!

    What are peoples ways of preparing their birds for show which have proven to be effective? TIA
  2. silkiecuddles

    silkiecuddles FortheLoveofSilkies

    Mar 1, 2015
    Your best bet for cooperative and friendly chickens is to handle them young, letting them get used to you. Sebrights are naturally flightier birds than most. Can you post a pic of how you hold him?
  3. fxrnnnn

    fxrnnnn New Egg

    Jan 12, 2017
    I've had all my birds since they were very young. They're all very calm birds who have no problem being handled. I just can't get him to sit the way I would like. I have held him all different ways. Against my body, sitting in my hand and all sorts in between. [​IMG]
    This is how I've been holding him over the last couple of days, with his legs between my fingers as this is how I was told a few judges hold the bird so I just want to get him used to lots of different ways depending on which holding technique the judges use.
    I just need him to keep his head up and stay still and I'll be happy!
  4. I Love Layers

    I Love Layers Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 25, 2015
    North Dakota
    What I do is have someone else hold my birds and when they have their head up don't move etc everything I reward them with a treat.
    I'm assuming you're going to wash them also, he looks to have a yellowish tint which is either just dirty or it's a bronze from being outside
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
  5. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

    Jan 4, 2009
    Tempe, Arizona
    you need to hold him in your left hand, facing your arm, not away from it as in your photo. When your fingers surround his legs, his body will be in your palm.
  6. CanuckBock

    CanuckBock THE Village Ijit

    Oct 25, 2013
    Alberta, Canada
    My Coop

    To allow any poultry to become accustomed to the show room environment...inspecting them in hand daily is a good idea. When selecting birds as breeding prospects, a breeder does this anyway as part of our "enjoying the finer parts" of the Fancy. I will end this post with one I posted on my own BYC thread some years back. I teach and judge showmanship for youth and was the APA/ABA Youth Program Adviser for Canada.

    If you are going to take up showing poultry on a regular basis, get yourself some cages like you would find at the shows. Show cages fold up to take up minimal space for storage and have no bottoms on them. They also make great trio or pair breeding cages during breeding season if you pedigree breed. Pet crates of the wire kind may work better for you as they may be easier to find and purchase than show cages...if you do not need to have them new, you may often find these at thrift and used stores. Back when we use to show, we would sanitize the bird's plumage by washing them in surgical soap, allowing them to fully dry and then quarantined our waterfowl entries for a month to twelve weeks after the show in our Hay and Straw building. We never showed landfowl for fear of bringing home contagious disorders like chronic respiratory disease. We are a Conservation Farm so we are setup to be able to evacuate our livestock if needed (during past emergencies like several forest fires and monumental floods like 2005, etc.) so obviously we have a large assortment of containment crates as part of our evac plan! [​IMG]

    Show cages piled up for storage on top left

    We use oat straw for bedding. At the shows, usually you will find wood shavings used--when you register your entry, you may ask the organizer what they use. My Calls found some of the shavings at the shows, far too sharp (whole pieces of wood shards that could have been used as fire kindling! [​IMG]) on their tender webber feets so you will want to train them to stand on "sharp" shavings or like bringing your own water and feed (less shock and stress to your birds), you may want to bring softer "pet" type shavings. Ask if this is OK as you may be deemed to be "marking" your cages if your shavings are noticeably different than what is provided to the rest of the exhibitors. At the shows, the wire cages are usually placed on long strips of paper and topped with bedding to help contain the bird dropping messiness. You could brush the sharp shavings to the sides to allow your birds an area to stand level in if it is seen to be unsportsmanlike to use your own softer shavings for bedding. We bring our own feeders and waterers, but we will wait until AFTER judging is over to put these in our bird's cages. When we showed, we never left our entries unattended as part of our duty of care to them.

    These shavings were nice and soft to Rosy's webbers

    I happen to have show cages but also have two sets of training cages that I had made by a rabbit cage maker. These ones below are four units fully enclosed and were a steal of a deal at a cost of $150 for both in 2003.


    After the initial training on straw, I placed scraps of wood ply in each cage and then heaped on shavings. The photo above, the ducks are just starting to be cage trained and have straw for bedding...what they were typically use to, eh. Don't want to overwhelm them with too much all at once--unless duck a l'orange is on the menu...nobody likes a dead duck, especially the ducks. [​IMG]

    Some people that show Runner ducks will train them to stand up tall in their show cages by using treats held at the top of the cage to encourage that stance. Birds may often be encouraged to stand in perfect form in their show cages by gently using a show stick (judges often have these and brilliant judges have these on their persons ALWAYS! I recall asking a judge that was not judging at the show to have a look at my Call entry and instantly they had their trusty stock stick in hand! [​IMG]) to get them into position...just like riding a horse, it is a "pressure" to move and then for Pete's sake, leave them at rest when standing perfect. I have seen young kids entered in showmanship with a well trained bird moving wonderfully steady down the carpet and in a youthful miscalculation, the child has pushed the bird too quickly so much so the bird takes to its wings and leaves the table!!

    Lightly touch to move any misplaced part into place and stop immediately when the bird is correct--the reward to the bird is to be left in peace and not it becomes natural when a person approaches the cage, the bird turns and displays so you leave them alone and un-poked! I remember after judging at a show was completed, asking an exhibitor with landfowl I admired if it was alright to take photos of some of their show entries...having their permission, I walked up to the birds in their cages and immediately the birds turned and stood perfectly for me to click pics. I commented on how easy it was to get their pictures compared to some entries and the exhibitor smiled that knowing smile...all their work was fruitful but not necessary easy like the photos were. LOL You may do this type of training with all sorts of creatures...besides the birds, I've shown llamas, dogs, and sheep at sanctioned shows using the same techniques--short sessions of practise, practise, practise and it does pay off. Some animals adore the whole affair and just have an aura about them; others never shine under the limelight and would rather not. Identify the ones that excel and usually they are also made up properly to begin with. It is awful hard to get an improperly made up creature to stand or move balanced if it has bad feet, improper structure, and/or all around bad conformation. There is a whole art form in preparation for showing (fitting and training), but the old saying that it is difficult to make a silk purse from a sow's ear rings very true.

    Shows are basically one big beauty contest with beauty in the eye of the's hoping it's the judge that agrees with your vision! [​IMG]

    Get a radio and tune it to a station with a mix of, talking, commercials (car ones seem the most annoyingly loud!), etc. to acclimatize your birds to the noises they may hear at the show. Place your training cages where there is traffic, like you moving around them (doing chores?) but in an utmostly safe location where the cages won't get tipped over (note I have secured mine with bungy cords and placed them up on bales of straw) and you are not risking your bird's physical wellbeing by harm thru predation, inclement weather, etc. Make the experience enjoyable for your birds by placing fresh feed and water in the cages before collecting them and placing them in the when you go to get the birds, after a few times, they will look forward to it, knowing there are good eats waiting on them--a few romaine lettuce leaves go a long way into convincing your ducks this is all about the FUN GOOD TIMES! Make show cage training like a pampering SPA DAY, eh.

    You may tie plastic shopping bags near the cages to flap in the wind; the movement and strange noises all add to the desensitizing and acceptance of the upcoming show environment you will be exposing them to. I start out with the birds in the cages for about half an hour and then return them to their regular quarters. The handling of taking them in and out of the training cages also mimics what is done to them at the shows when being judged. If you have not trained them prior, about a month or so in advance, every few days per week should work. Depends on the temperament of your birds. I was training bantam ducks and our Calls are pretty sassy little flirty blighters. Our exhibition bird club entry included a pair of Whites that just loved being in the annual rodeo parade on our Jacob drawn wagon...go figure! [​IMG]


    There are some poultry breeds that we personally would never attempt to show...we find our Mandarin ducks are not a breed that will ever settle to be complacent enough to be shown IMHO. They are quite fine and happy at home and let me do chores all around them, but that be at home, and not confined to a show cage. They are pretty and they are a wild species we keep in captivity. I have witnessed turkeys being shown that really took the exposure quite badly...depends on the breed, the strain, and of course...THE pre-show TRAINING you do with them. It is your call on what to do with your property.

    Thankfully Silver Sebrights are a wonderful breed and variety for exhibition...there is no better contrast than black to white in the colour pattern and well made up Sebrights literally strut their stuffings magnificently at the shows. We often recommend bantam chicken breeds for newbies when showing in showmanship. The attitude of the bantams to show off is rewarding and the small size makes them less intimidating to youth. I hope you and your entries do well. [​IMG]

    So without further is a hen that will never lay... (a cackleberry that is!). [​IMG]

    Here's my post off my Pear-A-Dice thread from a few years much fun, it needs regular repeating... [​IMG]

    For those unaware, showmanship is a form of competition that may be held at sanctioned poultry shows. It is not how one enters poultry in exhibition but it does teach people how and why judges do what they do when judging the show entries. It is most helpful to persons entering birds because you get an idea on what the judges will be looking for in your entries and makes you a much better selector in what would do well at a show. Besides, it is delightfully enjoyable to see a small bantam chicken listen or not listen to its master...after all, the BIRDS are the ones in control...or did you not get that memo they sent via Pigeon Post?
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]




    In the meantime, this is ClaraBELL (yes, that's a ding dong torture the turkey & make it crazy BELL) and she has assisted me in teaching many persons on how to properly HOLD a chook...she never complains about being held upside down for what would choke a normal live chook, eh. [​IMG]

    Her rarity is that she is a HEN (most stuffies and plushies of chickens are ROOs) and she has legs with toes for you to inspect and grip in our fingers...flippy wings to do an inspection of, and respectable wattles and a decent hen comb for the head examine (do I need my head examined about now perhaps?). [​IMG]

    PS...NO real chook harmed...t'was Clarabell! [​IMG]

    So dat be how you hold a chook, examine a bird in hand too... [​IMG]


    So for any smarty pants that made it this far...a question for why is the depth of abdomen AND width of pubic bones measured on both GENDERS in poultry when doing the exam in hand?

    Well?? [​IMG]

    Doggone & Chicken UP!

    Tara Lee Higgins
    Higgins Rat Ranch Conservation Farm, Alberta, Canada
  7. BrokenPaddle

    BrokenPaddle Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 27, 2015
    Chico TX
    wow thank SO much for this detailed account for conditioning a bird's behavior for show. I have looked all over for years to find a written explanation on how to prepare a bird mentally for show. I have read countless bathing articles/essays in my search for THIS very information.

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