It is getting to be that time of year again when poultry enthusiats are preparing their bird’s for poultry shows. Whether professionals, beginners, or even participants in 4-H, they all want to do well at the show and have their bird’s looking the best! I love showing my chickens and in order to catch the judges attention I make sure they are in the best condition! Here are a few steps that I take in preparing a show chicken!
Step 1- separate
I make sure to keep my show birds separate from the rest of my flock to keep them in good condition and healthy! Several things to keep in mind when separating your show birds are:
- keep show hens away from roosters
- make sure your chickens are coop trained (which means they are used to being caged)*
- keep young show chickens away from older chickens
- quarantine any sick chickens or ones that have parasites
- keep the pen that the chicken is kept in clean and smelling good
*A typical poultry show coop is 27 inches by 25 inches square for large chickens and 18 inches square for bantams.
You may also want to cage train your show chicken. Cage training is basically training the chicken to stand still and look pretty when you pose it in a cage. You can also train your show chicken to pose on a table.
Step 2- inspect
Regularly give your show chicken(s) a health check and inspection. I perform a chicken health check at the beginning of each month for my entire flock including my show birds. Here is what I look my show bird over for:
- broken, missing feathers
- long nails or beak
- defects- side sprigs, multiple spurs, stub feathers
I always treat my show chickens for parasites at least three weeks in advance by spraying them with Poultry Protector. Trim any long nails or overgrown beaks at least one week before the show. Judges like natural looking nails and beaks. Trimming them one week before the show allows them to grow out and look natural again.
Step 3- supplement
You can improve your show chicken’s outward appearance by improving their diet or supplementing their diet! The chickens that I raise to show at the fair are fed starter/grower rations because they are usually not old enough to be fed other rations. For the older chickens that I plan on showing, I like to increase the protein in their feed. Some people feed their show birds breeder ration which has a higher protein content. I feed my show chickens layer feed and supplement with high protein snacks. Here are some sacks that my show birds receive:
- mealworms- high in protein
- whole oats- improves feather quality without making the bird fat
- sunflower seeds- stimulates natural oil production
- flax seeds
- kelp- improves overall health
I mix those supplements all together and feed my show birds a little bit of it each day. Do not supplement with corn, which can cause white birds to have a brassy hue to their feathers.
A few days before the show (1-2) I feed my show chicken scratch grains. Scratch grains help keep a chicken’s poop solid so that it is less likely to soil itself while at the show or before the show. Don’t feed scratch grains to chickens who are not fully grown and always offer grit to your show birds when giving them supplements.
Step 4- bath
Bathing your show chicken will make sure that your chicken is clean and give it a radiant glow! It is best to bath your chicken 3-4 days before the show. This will ensure that the bird can replenish the oil on it’s feathers that got washed off. You can easily bath a chicken in a laundry room or outside if the weather is nice and the temperature is not too cold.
Bathing your chicken: Washing
First fill a tub with warm water (90 degrees F) and put some flea and tick shampoo that can be used on dogs and cats in the water. Avoid using harsh detergents that can cause the feathers to become brittle. Hold the chicken securely (one hand at the legs, the other holding the wings) and slowly place it in the water. The chicken should relax once it is in the warm water, do not let it’s head go under the water. Swish the bird around in the soapy water, making sure that all the feathers get wet. Gently rub the feathers to remove any dirt or stains, pay special attention to the feathers near the oil gland and around the vent. If you have a crested breed, hold the bird upside down and submerge it’s crest in the water. Scrub the bird’s shanks, feet, and toes with a toothbrush.
If you are bathing a bird with white plumage you can add a smidge of Bluing to the bath water. This will make the bird look very white. Do not add too much or you might end up with a blue bird instead of a white one!
Next move your bird to a rinse tub. You can add a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice to the rinse water to help remove any suds. Once again thoroughly swish the bird around in the water. It is especially important not to leave soap residue or suds in the feathers. After the bird is completely rinsed, wrap it in a towel and gently dry it off. Keep the bird in a warm area until it is completely dried. Keep in mind that breeds that have a lot of feathers will take longer to dry.
Clean the comb and wattles using a Q-tip and water. If the bird has some dirt around it’s nostrils, use a toothpick to gently remove the dirt. For breeds that have white earlobes, you can apply a little bit of baby powder to make them look super white. Apply some Vaseline or baby oil to the comb, wattles, shanks and toes to make tidying at the show grounds easier. You can just wipe the dirt right off!
Step 5- transport
The last step in preparing for a show is figuring out how you are going to transport your nicely cleaned and tidied show bird to the show grounds! When picking out a carrier to transport your chicken in consider these tips:
- no slats, holes, or cracks that a feather or toe can get caught in
- no protruding nails, wood slivers, staples, or wire
- good ventilation
- small enough that chicken will not get tossed around in it
- big enough that the chicken can stand in it and turn completely around it without squeezing against the sides
- easy to put the chicken in and out of
- sturdy flooring
Make sure the litter in the carrier is clean and will not get the bird dirty. Wood shavings or a layer of newspaper often work well. If you have to travel quite a ways to get to the show, make sure you can provide your bird with water and/or food while it is in the carrier.
The day of the show you can apply a little vitamin E or baby oil to the chicken’s comb and wattles to give them a shiny glow! Baby wipes or paper towel also come in handy for wiping down shanks, feet, and toes.
Poultry shows are fun and preparing for them can be too! Best of luck with your poultry and have a good time! I would love to hear how you do or what you do to prepare your show bird!