Regarding 4-H showing....


In the Brooder
8 Years
Feb 25, 2011
Okay, I've been thinking about this question a lot and been mulling over a tactful way to ask. I've read countless pages of threads on this forum for the past month...ever since my daughter decided that she wanted to show chicks for 4-H. We are both rank newbies at 4-H, showing and even raising chicks and chickens so the past month has been a learning experience.

I've noticed a distinct 'attitude' towards chicks bought from hatcheries when the subject is showing, conformation, breeding, etc. I'm used to dealing with the subject in relation to horses but it's new to me in relation to chickens. I want my daughter to find some measure of success in showing 4-H chickens so that she feels confident in her abilities and such...but are we going to go to the local 4-H shows and find a bunch of breeder raised chickens? I wouldn't think 4-H would promote something like that, being what they are...but I want to make sure my daughter is prepared either way. I don't want to have to go out and buy her special 'showing' chickens from a breeder but if everyone else at these 4-H shows are going to have them, I guess we will have to. I've never been to a 4-H show so I don't know.

Anyone with experience in this area, please let me know and thank you in advance for reading this!


Never enough coops...
10 Years
Feb 5, 2009
Monroe, WA
My Coop
My Coop
You can do fine using hatchery birds for 4-H. At the show, there will be different types of competition. Type, where a judge comes by and ranks the birds according to the Standard of Perfection. This is the only competition where quality birds might be preferred. If you go to Open Class (non 4-H) shows, this is the main type of compitition and you would definently want quality birds for those types of shows. The main type of competition in 4-H, is Showmanship, and it's more about the knowledge the competitor has about birds, not so much how much the bird matches the Standard. It is important for this competition that your bird be in good condition and healthy. 4-H Poultry is much more about the knowledge of keeping poultry. Being able to identify the nomenclature (body parts, feather types, etc) knowing about diseases, being able to recognize breeds and name their class, breed and variety, how to raise them, how to house them, etc. These are the types of questions they will be asked during Showmanship. HTH!


8 Years
Feb 24, 2011
some 4h shows are very competive and have very nice quailty birds just make shure u by pure breed not laying hibreeds 4h is all about there fueture and what happens after witch are apa shows when u show chickens

Buck Creek Chickens

Have Incubator, Will Hatch
12 Years
Nov 26, 2008
Neenah, WI
what state are you in, I'm the poultry superintendent for my county, and i get a bunch of very good quality chick for the 4h kids, with the new ones getting first pick, also call around, a lot of breeders will either give or sell at a very low price great birds to 4h, FFA kids to get them interested in showing and raising chickens, it never hurts to ask, just tell them you are in 4h
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10 Years
Nov 12, 2009
Central Ohio
My dd has been involved in 4-H poultry for the last two years, and it's been great--our club has some great poultry folks who are wonderful about sharing their knowledge. I imagine you guys will have the same experience--congrats. She has shown hatchery birds and they have done the job, but if push came to shove I think in a production class a breeder quality bird would most likely top a hatchery bird because that is based on a bird that best meets the ideal for production and the particular breed standard...BUT in the showmanship class it's based on the condition of the bird (healthy, bright-eyed,etc.) and the knowledge of the handler, in other words, the kids need to know about their bird, how to handle it and how to show it to the judge...identifying the bird parts,etc...that means as long as you have a nice, healthy, bird that has been worked with and it easy to handle you guys will do great--hatchery or not. I'm sure there are the same type of competitive folks at the 4-H poultry level as there are in the 4-H horse but overall our experience has been very, very positive and the judges great, giving the kids tips,etc. since, even though it is a competition it is also supposed to be educational. Best of luck to you both, hope it's a good time for you both.


In the Brooder
8 Years
Feb 12, 2011
Cambridge Springs
Hi, I have been a leader of our local poultry 4-H club for 2 years now, and I can't say how your group works, but some of our kids ( mostly first years )do buy from Hatcheries. In fact, for the last 2 years, we all decide on a breed, and then we order chicks at the same time from a hatchery, and the kids raise them, usually 3, and then take them to the fair. That way the kids are getting birds from the same place, and seeing just how much environment, and raising technics affect the birds. Plus they have to learn about the breed, and be able to tell the judge their bird's faults. It's a lot of fun and the kids learn a lot. At fair, we hire a separate judge for the 4- h birds so they are not judged as harshly as the open class. But, I will tell you, that we are teaching these kids to raise birds according to standard. And when they bring their birds to fair, they must know their birds, and how their bird compares to the poultry book of standards.
I can honestly say though, that the kids that buy from breeders usually do have better birds, and they do better at fair. Example. There is a big difference between a production silkie that is just bred for pet ( bad crest, no beard, poorly feathered legs and feet, too tall, incorrect toes and spacing ) and a show quality silkie ( nicely vaulted skull, full beard, nice cushion, feathering all the way down the leg ,nice toe spacing, small) There is just a world of difference between the two, and if your daughter has a pet quality bird against a show bird, even at 4-H level, she is going to lose to the bird that meets the standard the closest. So I guess what I am saying is, no matter where you get your birds, 4-H teaches the kids to raise birds that meet the poultry standard. Same as in dogs shows, horse shows, any show.

My advice to you, let your daughter pick out a breed that she loves, buy a few babies, raise them, learn about the breed and take them to fair and let her see how she likes 4-h. If she wants to continue with it, and is really getting into the chickens, then worry about getting some nicer birds. All of us started out with the basics, and learned from there. If you have questions, talk to your leader, and even some of the other 4-H kids. They should be able to give you some pointers. In fact, if you want to talk privately, write me at [email protected] dot com, and I will help you the best that I can. Good luck, and hang in there. Write me anytime. Hope I have helped


In the Brooder
8 Years
Feb 25, 2011
Everyone...thank you for the great replies!

Buck Creek - Oregon.


And just in case you are interested, here is the list of chicks (pullets hopefully) that we are raising at the moment. I have no doubt my daughter will be very knowledgeable regarding all the areas you guys spoke of. She's been studying her books closely and practicing chicken parts.

Black Australorpe
Silver Grey Dorking
Silver Laced Wyandotte
Iowa Blue
Exchequer Leghorn
Partridge Chantecler
Norwegian Jaerhon
Ameraucana (Easter Egger)
Buff Brahma
Light Brahma
Barred Plymouth Rock
New Hampshire Red
Golden Campine
Gold Brabanter

...and as of tonight, we will be adding two cochin chicks to the brood...although I'm not sure what color they will be yet. The place we are getting them from has a 'mixed' variety and figuring out which chick is which color is not my best subject.


11 Years
Jul 9, 2008
A lot depends on your area and on the class she's entering. If she's entering a meat or egg class, the pens will mostly be hybrids and hatchery stock. Just like showmanship being less about the bird and more about the knowledge of the exhibitor, those classes are judging egg/meat production and general uniformity of the birds.

IME so far most local 4-H shows you can do just fine with whatever you can pick up locally from the feed store. The exception to this is if you have any competitive clubs. One trip down the aisle at the fair is enough to tell. Sometimes you can get a good idea from the poultry barn itself. Better set-up (nice coops, ventilation, protection/security) often denotes better birds. Once a handful start getting into nice breeder birds, others often follow.

That hasn't been the norm for our area, but because of my kids and one other family, ours is starting to go that way. Better birds and now licensed judges. If it keeps up, eventually better facilities. Just the natural progression of things. I'll always expect a little leeway towards younger/new exhibitors, but that holds true here for any of the animals/exhibits/projects.

That's at the local/county level. If state or opens come into play, I've found that to be a whole different ball game. Yes, even in the Juniors/Youth. We have and possibly still would be showing birds and doing just fine from whatever the local feed store got in every year if my kid's had never gone to and had no desire to return to state. Even now, my youngest, who only shows at a small local, owns and shows mostly hatchery birds. My older two who show at state and have now added some opens even last years APA Nationals along with our locals, nope, their birds are 100% private breeder stock. Anything else would be pointless.

So for straight up exhibition breeds it's going to depend a lot on her competition and just how far she wants to go with it. Though honestly I've found it's often really not as difficult or expensive as you might think to just start out with breeder chicks. Sometimes a little longer wait or some asking around. Yes, older birds, proven birds can really get up there. Some well known breeders or really rare colors same thing. There are also good deals to be had and really nice breeders who'll give breaks to kids starting out. My DS tool RV AOSB at this years APA Nationals with a bird he bought as a chick from a private breeder for $4. No special deal or anything, just contacted the breeder and ordered chicks. He swept his breed and his next in line was a pullet, also bought from a private breeder when she was around 4 months old for $10. No special deal or break on that one either.

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