Preparing for Poultry Showmanship (USA)


In the Brooder
Dec 30, 2020
Poultry showmanship can be both nerve racking and exciting. Over my 8 years as a 4-H member specializing in poultry, I have perfected my craft in poultry showmanship and hope to aid others in the ring as well.

1 month before show:
  1. Choosing your bird: choose a bird that is light weight and docile. Lighter weight birds are easier to carry and show. The more docile the bird is, the more likely she/he will corporate during handling.
    • Don't show a diseased chicken. You don't want your chicken getting other poultry sick!
  2. I HIGHLY recommend purchasing the American Standard of Perfection. This book holds all standards for each poultry breed characterized by the American Poultry Association (APA).
  3. Handle you bird every day. This is so when the competition arrives they will cooperate for you and for the judges.
  4. Research basic poultry anatomy.
  5. Research basic skeletal framework.

Research your breed according to APA standards.
  • This includes but is not limited to:
    • Breed
    • Color variation
      • Note other color varieties for your breed
      • Note any abnormalities, disqualifications, or defects
        • Includes if not an APA recognized color
    • Sex (gender)
      • If female:
        • Hen: if the chicken is over 1 year old or has started laying (mature)
        • Pullet: if the chicken is younger than 1 year in age and has not started laying (unmatured)
      • If male:
        • Rooster: if the chicken is over 1 year old (reach sexual maturity)
        • Cockerel: if the chicken is under 1 year old
        • Capon: If the chicken has been castrated (neutered)
    • APA recognition year
      • Breed recognized
      • Color variation recognized
    • Breed class (as characterized by the APA)
      • What class does your chicken belong to?
      • Classes:
        • Large breeds
          • American
          • Asiatic
          • Continental
          • English
          • Mediterranean
          • All other standard breeds
            • Game
            • Oriental
            • Miscellaneous
        • Bantam breeds
          • Modern game
          • Game
          • Single comb clean legged
          • Rose comb clean legged
          • Feathered legged
          • All other comb clean legged
    • Standards for breed
      • Size (in pounds)
      • Color:
        • Beak
        • Eyes
        • Head
        • Neck
        • Back
        • Wings
        • Breast
        • Body and fluff
        • Legs
        • Shanks and toes
        • Comb
        • Face
        • Wattles
        • Earlobes
        • Under color of all sections
      • Note any abnormalities, disqualifications, or defects
    • Feather patterns
      • What feather pattern does your chicken have?
        • Note: your chicken breed may not have a feather pattern (solid color)
      • Feather varieties include:
        • Penciled
        • Spangled
          • Can also include: Elongated, diagonal spangles (occurs in Buttercup breed)
        • Molted
        • Laced
        • Barred
        • Stippled
      • Note any abnormalities, disqualifications, or defects
    • Comb varieties
      • Which type of comb does your chicken have?
        • Single
        • Chrysanthemum
        • Rose
        • Pea
        • Cushion
        • Strawberry
        • Buttercup
        • V-shaped comb
      • Note any abnormalities, disqualifications, or defects
    • Breed purpose:
      • Meat
      • Eggs (laying)
      • Ornamental
        • "Show" breeds- raised for show/ their fancy appearance
      • Dual purpose
        • Egg and meat production
    • Breed history:
      • Origins
      • (If known) why was this breed created and how?
        • The "how" part may include the crossing of multiple chicken breeds
    • Questions to ask yourself:
      • If you chicken up to APA standards?
        • If not, note this to the judge.
      • Does your chicken have any disqualifications?
        • If so, note this to the judge.
      • Does your chicken have any deformities/defects?
        • If so, note this to the judge.
      • Does your chicken have any abnormalities?
        • If so, note this to the judge.
      • Is your chicken a bantam or standard variety
        • Bantam: Smaller variety of fowl, usually under 3 pounds.
        • Also note if your breed can come in both varieties
      • Differences between male and female variety?
        • Coloring
        • Size
        • Weight
        • Anatomical features
          • (Such as spurs)
      • Does your bird have feathery legs?
        • Can your breed come in both feathered and non feathered legs?
      • Is your bird crested?
        • (Has feathers on head)
        • Can your breed come in both crested and non crested varieties?
      • Is your bird bearded?
        • (Has tufts of feathers around their face/neck instead of a wattle)
        • Can your breed come in both bearded and non bearded varieties?
      • Is your bird frizzled?
        • (Non straight feathers)
1 day before show:
  1. Properly clean your chosen show bird (bath)
    • Can be done a couple of days prior
  2. Clean poultry legs and feet
    • I do this with a tooth brush
  3. Trim/file beak and nails
  4. Prepare transportation (such as cage)
    • TIP for flighty birds:
      • Grab at night or when the bird is in the coop/nesting box
  5. Prepare your outfit
    • Dress: black pants and a white button down shirt. Ladies, I recommend tying your hair back into braids or a pony tail.

Day of show:
  1. (Optional) rub a small amount of Vaseline on the chickens legs, wattles, and combs to make them shiny.
      1. Do not I REPEAT do not put Vaseline on feathers
        1. Do not put Vaseline on combs crested birds
        2. Do not put Vaseline on legs of birds with feathery legs
  2. Bird should be in cleaned cage
    • No feces around the bird
    • Cage should have hay/ wood chips to catch feces and provide comfort for the bird.
  3. Bird should have food and water present within cage
Good job! Just remember judges like to ask you what NPIP testing it and how YOU groom your birds. Also when the judge tells you to put the bird either on the table or in the cage and put them in show position do it try to get them in position, but they’re most likely not gonna want to go in show position because it’s a new place but try your best and don’t take forever. Judge love to hand you your bird backwards so just say no thank you you have to turn the boat around for me to take him/her. If you can not get the ABA standard of perfection then the ABA Standard up perfection is a good option because it’s a lot cheaper and the only difference is the weight of the birds. Also if your bird is just a full size bird it will not be in the ABA.
Depending on the show your doing showmanship at the handbook can require khaki pants, bolo ties, or lab coats to be worn so make sure to read the handbook too! Before you go you should figure out how to execute the different ways you’re supposed to handle your bird, sometimes they want you to flip over the bird so the heads facing downwards to show off feet and length of keel bone...take my word for it some birds are not going to be willing to do that :lol: I really like this thread super helpful and informative!!:goodpost:

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