Newbie guide to Chicken 4-H, very long, opinions?


11 Years
Jan 3, 2009
Oregon, west of Portland
Banks Barn Busters
Beginners Guide to Showing Poultry

At this point, everybody should have a nice, friendly, not too spooky bird picked out that they are going to use as their showmanship bird at Fair. It is important that the bird is not too big to handle, or prone to flying away from people. Also, a bird that fits the standard for it's breed and variety is a good choice. Any breed or variety of chicken, duck, goose, or turkey is fine, so long as you can handle it. If you are showing something other than a chicken, make sure that you are knowledgeable about that bird, as this guide focuses on chickens, and the judge will definitely ask you questions about your bird.
8 to 12 weeks before Fair:
Start checking your bird(s) for mites and other parasites regularly. Even if you see no signs of them, a dusting of Poultry and Garden dust, available at the feed store, every 2 weeks or so is advisable. Make sure your bird is healthy and in good condition-no missing feathers. If it is just starting to molt, pick a different bird. If it is ending it's molt, that's ideal.
Continue treatments.
About 1 week before Fair:
Your bird will need to be washed, especially if it's white or buff. If it's a lighter color, you may want to either keep it in a cage where it can't get dirty, or wash no closer than 3 days to Fair. Same goes for feather-legged birds, even in dark colors. If it's a duck or goose with access to water, you can probably just hose it off a bit, but anything else needs washing!Here's what you'll need for washing your bird:
3 Buckets
Gentle soap, not detergent.
Some vinegar
An old toothbrush that is strictly for chicken usage!
Nail clippers-for dogs is best, but for humans is okay too, just be careful.
Towels that can be beat up
A blow dryer, if you want.
Start with your first bucket, filled with soapy water around 95 degrees. This is where you're going to get rid of dirt on the body, and especially the feet. ALWAYS rub in the direction of the feathers, never against. Use the tooth brush to clean the bird. NEVER put the bird's head under water. If the water is too shallow to get the bird's back wet, then just pour water over it. This is often easier than any other way, as chickens don't like having much more than their legs under water.
Your second bucket should be about 85 degrees, with about a capfulof vinegar in it, depending on how much water is in there. Rinse! Pick any dirt off that you missed, don't be afraid to use the toothbrush and scrub again!
Your third bucket should be about 75 degrees. This is mostly used for getting the bird used to closer to room temperature, but also as a final rinse. Make sure there is no soap left on the bird.
Let the bird drip dry a bit, then get the towel ready. Lay the chicken down at one end, with it's head and legs sticking out, and log roll it! This keeps the chicken in place for getting it's nails clipped, or any cleaning you want to do on the head. Also, they're easier to stack this way, if you're washing a lot of birds.
It is very important that you clip the nails. Just try to do it without hitting the quick, which bleeds a lot.
Leave the birds in their towel rolls until they're mostly or completely dry. If it's cold out, you may want to finish the job with a hair dryer, set on either cold or warm, not hot. Hot will dry out their skin. Placing your bird in a cage until Fair is best.
At Fair, or the day before:
Rub a little mineral oil into your bird's wattles. It cleans them up and gives them shine! Also, if your bird is clean legged, rub a little on the feet and shanks. Make sure you don't get any oil on the feathers at all.
Handling and showing your bird:
When you start looking for parasites, you should start spending some time with your bird. Hold it, sit in it's pen, make sure that it is used to you. When around your bird, move slowly and quietly. Sudden movements will scare your bird, cause it to injure itself or you, and make it reluctant to be caught or held. With birds such as the Polish, which can't see because of it's large topknot, it is extra important to move quietly and smoothly.
At the Fair:
Don't feed your bird too much on the day of the show, and don't handle your bird on the day of the show either. This will make your bird more agreeable. Every show will start out with the judge asking you to introduce yourself, and tell them what you know about your bird. You should know:
Your bird's species (chicken, duck, turkey, etc)
Your bird's class ( American, Continental, Asiatic, etc)
Your bird's breed (Rhode Island Red, Polish, Mix, etc)
Your bird's variety, or color( Buff, Black, White, etc)
Your bird's age and gender, as indicated by one of these four terms: cock(male over a year), cockerel(male under a year), hen(female over a year), pullet( female under a year) If it's a chicken, that is.
You can tell them your bird's name if you want!
Next will be the health check. This is to show the judge that you know how to evaluate a bird's wellbeing.
1)You start with the head. With the bird facing you, look at the nostrils, under the head, and between the wattles. Point to these areas with your finger.
2)Next is the wings. Pull the one closest to your free hand gently, with the bird facing you. Spread the feathers, then flap it once or twice at the judge. Do the same thing with the other wing, by crossing your hand either in front of the bird, or by crossing over the back.
3)Next is looking at the undercolor. You do this by gently pulling back the feathers in the saddle area. You can blow in there to make a point if you want.
4)Next is the width of the body. At the base of the wings, put your thumb and fore finger around the body, inside of the wings. It's kind of like you are going to pinch the chicken. Show how wide that is to the judge.
5)Next is looking at the keel bone. Simply flip the chicken over with its head down, and it's back against your stomach. First, run your hand down the keel bone, then see how long it is with your first finger and thumb. Show this to the judge.
6)The next part is examining the vent. Flip the bird back into it's normal position, and tilt it up so that it's tail flares and you can see the vent. Look at the vent, spread it with your fingers, then flap the tail at the judge once.
7)Next is determining the depth of the abdomen. This is how many finger you can fit between the end of the keel bone, and the pubic bones, the ones that are small and pointy. Show these fingers to the judge.
8)Next is the width between the pubic bones. See how many fingers you can fit between them, and show those fingers to the judge.
9)And last is examining the feet and legs. Hold the back of your bird to your stomach, with it's head facing up. Run your hands down it's legs, and pick up each of it's toes.
An that's it for the health check!
The next stage is asking questions from the judge. You need to answer in complete sentences, only talk if you're spoken to, be polite, always thank the judge if they give you a tip, and pay attention to the judge. Smile, and face them even when they are not near you. During this time, your bird should be still, facing the direction that the judge asks, and standing up. Don't pet your bird, just let it be, and correct it if it moves too much. DO NOT LET YOUR BIRD FLY OFF THE TABLE!
Here are some questions that the judge might ask a junior:
What is another variety that your bird comes in?
What is another breed in the same class as your bird?
What is another class?
What is a male duck called?
What is a female turkey called?
Do you know what part of the world your breed of chicken is from?
What color eggs does your chicken lay? (if your bird is a rooster, what color eggs would it lay if it were a hen?)
Do people raise that breed of chicken for eggs, meat, or just to look pretty?
Do you know how to control mites on a chicken?
Is your chicken a standard or a bantam?
What type of comb does your chicken have?
Here are some intermediate questions:
How many varieties are accepted in this breed?
Tell me the cause, treatments, and prevention of a poultry disease.
What is the standard weight for your bird? Is it underweight, overweight, or standard weight?
Name three types of combs.
Name 3 other breeds in the class that your bird is in.
What is the approximate laying rate of your chicken?
How long does it take for a chicken egg to hatch?
How long does it take a duck egg to hatch?
What is a breed of chicken that lays extra dark eggs?
What is the only chicken with a strawberry comb?
What is the only breed of chicken with a cushion comb?
What is a distinguishing feature of the American class?
After awhile, the judge will only start asking questions to the people she/he has picked out as possible champions or reserve champions. As they hand out ribbons, the judge may come over, shake your hand, and congratulate you, whatever ribbon you won. SAY THANK YOU! These judges take time out of their day to come help, and they almost never get paid. If the judge doesn't come around to shake hands, etc, or if you won champion or reserve champion, thank the judge after you're dismissed from the table, if the judge isn't busy.


11 Years
Jan 3, 2009
Oregon, west of Portland
Do you think that this is a good beginning? I'm also giving them instruction on other things, but this is the very beginning. I'm not sure that this is in the right place.
Also, the version that I'm giving them is in a better format, that evidently doesn't work on the forum.

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