Showing chickens in 4-H is something I love doing every year! I have shown chickens in 4-H for five years now and every year it gets more exciting! This was my first year being a Poultry Teen Superintendent at the Isabella County Fair, so I was able to help out a lot of young chicken enthusiasts. Now I would like to share the 4-H steps for showing chickens so everyone can access them and practice for their county fair!
Being a Poultry Teen Superintendent was so much fun this year. I loved teaching other young people how to show their chickens. I especially liked it when they showed genuine interest in not only showing their bird, but also caring for it and preparing to bring them to fair. Here are a few tips that I gave first time poultry enthusiasts.
- hold your bird in your right hand if your right handed or your left hand if your left handed
- there are two ways to hold a chicken for showmanship- #1. position your pointer finger between the bird’s legs, grip the bird’s thighs with your thumb and remaining fingers. Hold the bird with it’s breast bone resting in your palm and it’s head facing you. #2. Same as the first method but instead of your pointer finger being between the legs you can use your middle finger instead
- make eye contact with the judge
- prepare your bird properly for fair- check out my post 5 Steps for Preparing a Show Chicken
The picture above shows method #1 for holding a chicken. You can see the pointer finger is between the legs and the remaining fingers are gripping the thighs on either side.
Now here are the poultry showmanship steps that I go through with every young person who wants to show chickens!
Posing the Bird in a Cage
- Open the cage door
- Turn your arm so that the bird enters the cage head first
- Rotate the bird once it is in the cage so that it is facing you
- Set the bird down and pose it (head up and tail at the correct angle for the breed of chicken)
- Close the cage door and take a step back
If your bird takes more than 3-4 steps while it is posed in the cage, you can open the cage and repose it. When the judge tells you, you can remove your bird from the cage.
- Open the cage door
- Put one hand under the bird and one hand on it’s back
- Take the bird out head first
- Close the cage door
Posing the Bird on a Table
Some judges ask you to pose your bird on a table.
- Place the bird on the table so that it is facing the judge
- Pose the bird just like you would if it were in a cage
- When the judge asks, pick up your bird
Examining a Chicken
After the judge has had you pose your bird in the cage and/or on the table, he/she will ask you to examine your bird. Examine your bird in this order and also tell the judge what you are examining each body part for.
- Overall look your bird- tilt the bird slightly from side to side to look over it’s body type
- Check the eyes for blindness, bleaching, and color- point at each eye with your pointer finger and wait until the bird blinks
- Feel the comb for texture and abnormalities
- Feel the wattles for texture and abnormalities
- Examine the head feathers for molting- pull back a few head feathers around the comb
- Feel the beak for abnormalities and check for the color of the beak
- Check the earlobes for color for the breed standard and bleaching- point at each earlobe
- Feel the neck for smoothness and check for molting- run your hand down the bird’s neck and pull back some feathers to check for molting
- Check the back for length and width of bird, molting, skin color, abnormalities, and size- run your hand down the back. Pull back some feathers to check for molting and skin color. Gently squeeze either side of the back to check for the size
- Check the tail feathers molting and feather condition- fan the tail feathers out with your finger
Flip the bird upside down with it’s back against your chest
- Find the vent and check for mites and lice and bleaching- the vent is located right before the fluffy feathers of the abdomen begin and the where the long tail feathers end
- Check the ‘handling quality’ for thickness or thinness- roll a little bit of the skin right below the vent between two fingers
- Feel the pubic bones for thickness and flexibility, which indicates laying ability- the pubic bones are the two pointy bones on either side of the vent
- Check the abdominal capacity for laying ability- see how many fingers you can fit inbetween the pubic bones and see how many you can fit between the pubic bones and the end of the breast bone
- Feel the abdomen for hardness or softness, hard would mean that the bird is not laying, and check the feathers for feather condition and molting
- Feel the thighs for meat content- the thighs are the part of the leg that you grip when you are holding the bird
- Examine the shanks for cleanliness, scaly leg mites, and bleaching
- Spread the toes out and examine for number of toes, condition of the toenails, defects, bleaching, and straightness
- Feel the foot pad for defects and check for bleaching
- Feel the breast for straightness and length, check for breast blisters, other defects, and meat content- run your fingers up the breast bone. Pull back some feathers to check for breast blisters and defects. Run your fingers up either side of the breast bone to check meat content.
- Open up one wing and blow in it to check for molting and mites and lice- open the wing by grabbing the boney part of the wing close to the wing shoulder.
Move the bird to your other hand
- Pull out the other wing and examine the same way, switch back to your original hand
- Feel the crop for abnormalities- the crop is located on the breast and is used for storing and grinding food
- Tilt the bird back upright and stand at attention
If you are showing a rooster you will want to skip steps 12-15 because you do not need to check the laying ability of a rooster. You may want to make mention of this to the judge when you skip those steps during examination. Also, do not examine for bleaching either if you are showing a rooster. Bleaching is the loss of skin color in hens as the xanthophylls is used to color egg yolks instead of the skin.
To make for easier memorization I have made a printable list of all the steps and what you are looking for: 4-H Poultry Showmanship Steps
After you have examined your chicken the judge will ask you some poultry questions. The judge may even take your chicken from you and ask you to label some body parts of the chicken. The questions will range in difficulty depending on if you are a junior, intermediate, or senior.
Showing chickens is a great activity to participate in and is very educational! I love showing my chickens at the county fair and enjoy studying the facts and learning the showmanship steps! With consistent practice and diligent studying, showing chickens can be rewarding too!