Friday, September 28, 2012

Decision Time- Who Do you Take to the Show?

Showtime Series- Choosing Your ChickensNow that you're studying for the showmanship portion and having so much fun quizzing each other and learning about your chickens, you'll need to decide which chicken(s) you're going to show.  You may only own one or two chickens and not have to decide but since chickens are like Pringles, I'd be suprised if the majority of you (especially if you're reading and following our blog) have just one or two chickens! Noone can own just one!
Since this was our first Poultry Show, we were blessed to have an experienced breeder and poultry show winner we could rely on to help us make decisions.  I am incredibly appreciative for that!  If you do not have access to a knowledgeable person to help you choose your chickens, it's okay!  First, remember what we said in the first post, it's a learning experience for ENJOYMENT! :) Okay, but we all want to put our best  foot chicken forward, right?  So, there are things you can look for to help you decide.  Even if you don't make the best decision, it's okay, if you're lucky you'll get an amazing judge like we did who will explain to the kids (or adults) what he would have liked to see or how you can improve your breeding program/ chicken.
 Our judge was stern with several contestents about the size of their birds.  He marked many of them for being too thin and talked about proper nutrition.  So,

#1- Bring Healthy Chickens!  One would think this is a no brainer just don't know.  Be sure and keep your chickens healthy whether you are showing them or not, but if you have an unhealthy chicken or a chicken that's underweight from a recent illness or something of the like, don't bring it.  It's in poor taste to expose others to whatever illness your chick had and it's not good to stress an already unhealthy bird.  Put your chickens health and the health of the rest of the participants's chickens first.  Besides, you're not fooling anyone.  An experienced judge will let you know. 

I think THE most impressive compliment we recieved from the judge (and we actually had some great compliments- I was super proud of my kiddos I must admit) was to my daughter, Alyssa.  The judge told her that he was so pleased to see such a healthy pair of the bantam la fleche. He was in awe of this pair anyway but he said it made him happier that they looked SO clean and healthy! :) I told my daughter later, she should be proud of her birds in general and for choosing good birds but the largest compliment was that one because it shows how HARD she works at caring for her flock AND how much love and care she gives them!  THAT is truly an important quality of a solid, reputable chicken owner!

#2- Bring chickens that are recognized by the APA!  See that little, gorgeous Polish pullet in the photo above (to the right)?  Isn't she amazing?  Doesn't she look like a Show Chicken?  NOPE. Sadly, although Eleanor is a pure bred Polish and Polish ARE recognized by the APA, she is not a recognized variety (color).  She was bred from a pen with mixed color Polish chickens.  As much as I love her and as sweet as she is and as lovely as she is, she won't be heading to any shows with me because of her mixed color.  She's not even an unrecognized variety.  Now, that all sounds a bit confusing doesn't it?  Pure bred by breed but not really because of mixed color.

Here's another example  that might help. THIS beauty queen above is Elva, my Golden Lakenvelder hen.  Another lovely bird I'm proud to have.  Elva is a PURE bred Lakenvelder, she is also of PURE color (in other words, both of her parents are Golden Lakenvelder).  It becomes tricky though because Lakenvelders are recognized by the APA but GOLDEN Lakenvelders are sadly not.  :(  What a shame, I have such a lovely pair.  We will breed these two and they CAN show, however.  Have I confused you sufficiently.  Many/most shows have what's called an AOV class.  This means Any Other Variety.  So, Dear Elva and Sweet Tiger (the Golden Lakenvelder cockerel below) can and will be taken to our next Poultry Show.  The catch to this is that chickens entered in the AOV class can not win Best in Show.  If your best birds are AOV then IMHO I say, "Go for it!" just know that you won't be able to take the Best in Show, they can only win in this class and not go any higher in awards in an approved APA show.
How do you know if your chickens are a recognized breed?  Go to the American Poultry Association's website here.  In their header you will see Welcome to the APA, hit that drop down menu, click on breed classifications.  That will take you here.  There you will see the list of breed classifications.  To find out if your specific bird is recognized, head back to the menu bar, drop down to breed classifications and click to your right on the button that says, "Recognized Breed."  There you will find the most recent list (it's a .pdf form so you'll need to open it) of all of the recognized breeds.  Now, go through your flock and see which breeds you have that are recognized and move to the next step.
The APA also has a great link on their site, Your Show Birds that gives some other tips and information.
#3 Bring Your Chickens that Best Meet the Standards of Pefection- What is that?  From Wikipedia,
"The American Standard of Perfection is the official breed standard for the poultry fancy in North America. First published in 1874 by the American Poultry Association, the Standard of Perfection (commonly referred to as "the Standard") classifies and describes the standard physical appearance, coloring and temperament for all recognized breeds of poultry, including chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese."
How will you know what those are?  The best thing to do is to purchase the book, "The American Standard of Perfection."  You can purchase the New 2010 directly from the APA here.  I also saw some on 
Other things the kids learned while studying for their showmanship portion. It's good to attend local Swaps and Sales and have the opportunity to speak to specific breeders and ask questions. I've also found specific breed clubs to be of great help, The American Silkie Bantam Club, for example.  The American Livestock Breed Conservancy has a page with a list of breed associations and clubs.  Of course, you can also use Google to try to locate information about your specific breed and any friends that know about them are a huge help. I've added some links throughout, specifically links for the birds we choose at the bottom of the post, remember, we are not judges or certified by the APA, these are just sites we found helpful when reviewing our birds.
Some standards are pretty well known if you know your breed.  For example, Silkies should have five toes, black skin, and walnut combs. The comb looks like half of a walnut with folds and a crease in the center.  Edward, our black silkie cockerel (to the left) has a the walnut comb.   The messy feet of the Silkie to the right have the black skin and five toes per the breed standard.

Our little black Silkie pullet, Ninja, however, we had to rule out almost immediately because of her comb.  A silkie should have a nice walnut comb.   Our little Ninja, (we purchased -did not come from our stock) grew to have a single comb, her photo is below.   Poor Ninja also has "leakage" of color in her feathers.  Can you see the golden colors mixed in with the black on Ninja's left shoulder?  This little ring of gold and copper runs around her neck but not down into the rest of her wings.  Unfortunately, it's not enough color to consider Ninja a Partridge.  So, she's an automatic DQ, or disqualification, for her comb AND her color.  Ninja happens to live in a loving, chicken adoring household ;) so she is B's pet and I'm sure she'll feed us some nice little eggs but she won't be attending any shows with us, and that's okay.  Not to pick on our sweet girl but she was a great example of a bird you don't want to take to the show.  It's hard to admit that sometimes, but if you want to place and perform well, it's better to be honest with yourself over who to bring.  Had I asked Bri to bring her favorite, sweetest little pullet, Ninja probably would have been her top pick.  For a show quality silkie, she just didn't fit the bill... but we don't tell Ninja that!

#4- Avoid bringing chickens with other DQs or oddities.  For example, check out another gorgeous but non-showable pullet of ours.  Her name is Love Dove, quite appropriate isn't it?  Lovey is a little Porcelain Belgian Bearded d'uccle pullet.  Love Dove is gorgeous, without a doubt!  She looks like a lovely baby who will be ready for a show, right?  So we thought until my daughter noticed something odd about her...she's a nubby.  What's that?  Right, I know, I didn't know either, she is missing a nail on one of her toes! What a bummer! My gorgeous, satiny little girl.  It's okay, she's beautiful to watch and enjoy and we love her to death.  She has a total diva personality :) and hopefully she'll be broody and hatch some babies for me one day. :)  It's a character trait of the breed.  Regardless, we love the little girl. 

#5- Choose a chicken that's feathered out nicely.  It's that time of year when many flocks are molting.  It's not a good idea to bring your molting chickens to the show.  It's impossible to show how beautifully bred a chicken is when it's body covering is missing and in shambles.  As well, you don't want to bring your poor hen that's been picked on by roos or other hens, nor your chicks that are too young to be feathered out. 

NOW, Because we have such a young flock as far as our show quality chickens, we DID break this rule. I couldn't have two out of my three kids entering so we explained that they probably wouldn't win with their younger chickens but if they wanted to bring them, I was happy to help them.  As expected, they either didn't place or placed reserve next to a more feathered chicken and the judge was honest and told the kids it was because of the young age of their birds.  We're okay with that.  They still had an amazing time and learned so much.  The judge actually mentioned to my son and daughters should three of their flock continue to feather out as nicely as they've started that they were looking to be some great competitive chickens.  We were told many shows require the chickens to be at least four months old before entering. We had two that were just about 13 weeks but since this was a Youth show and mostly about the learning and experience, they were gracious in letting the kids enter them.

It sounds like we have the Foster's Home for Imaginary Pets of Chickens going on here doesn't it?  Let me assure you we have a high quality flock.  I think many "farms" or breeders are afraid to show ANY negative information about their stock or they tend to cull those that may not be 100% show standard.  We're just not that way.  One, our flock doesn't pay the bills so we can afford not to be that way, two, if noone ever explained faults or shared them with us, how would we ever learn?  Lastly but most importantly, we love each and every one of our birds! Nubby or not, good or bad comb, they're ours and we're keeping them! 

So, how did we make out?  Who did we choose? 

Chance chose his Silver Ameracauna pullet, Chipmunk (below)  and his Barnevelder pullet, Stella (above).

Alyssa chose her pair of La Fleche, a rare French breed, Katie her pullet and Kyle, her cockerel.

Briana chose her Salmon Faverolle cockerel, Samuel Little and our White Silkie pullet, Edith.

We made good choices out of our young flock and the chickens AND the kids placed very well!  Choose your chickens and be ready because we're going to give you information on testing, washing, and preparing your chickens for the big day!  Thanks for visiting!  We're gearing up for our next show along with you!


1 comment:

  1. What beautiful blog! Thank you so much for linking up to our blog hop. I just became your newest follower and would love for you to follow our blog too. I think I too would have had trouble deciding which flock members to show.~Melissa