For most of us, showing chickens isn’t part of the plan. Personally, I prefer to keep a nice little flock that stays home, kept mainly for the healthy free-range eggs they provide our household, and sometimes meat. My chickens also provide excellent fertilizing manure and some pest control in my yards and garden.
My idea of participating at a Poultry Show would be to go and admire all the chickens and choose for myself which breed and which chicken (probably a rooster) is the best looking one to me. I might need to bring home a few new chickens if I have a place to quarantine them, but just going to look would be better than Disneyland.
Heritage or Heirloom Chickens are chicken breeds well established with standards of perfection. In the last 100 years many of these breeds have become threatened with extinction. These are hearty, productive and long lived breeds that have provided well for man for centuries around our world.
Modern production methods have passed over these breeds preferring fast growing Production Breeds capable of keeping up with the competitive demands of the chicken egg and meat industry.
Many Production Breeds have a short life expectancy of 2 years, especially laying hens. Some meat Production Breeds are ready for market by 6 weeks of age. The ability to live a long productive life isn’t important.
An industry that must focus on profit to stay in business can’t afford to wait on slower growing breeds. Long-lived, healthy and naturally reproductive genetics with other reliable traits are unnecessary and eat up profits in the mainstream poultry industry.
Showing chickens and competing against others, intent on preserving breed standards, is one of the best ways to ensure that future generations will benefit from reliable, well established and useful breeds.
Some hatcheries and private breeders keep these Heirloom breeds alive and well. Poultry shows aren’t all about the prettiest chickens and who has the best.
That said, some chickens are purely ornamental. New and unusual color varieties of well-established breeds give die-hard breeders a challenge, fame in the poultry world, and the rest of us something new and possibly wonderful to behold.
Poultry show judges must prove thorough knowledge of Breed Standards, enabling them to skillfully pick and choose through thousands of chickens of all different sizes, shapes and colors, and proclaim the Best!
From my perspective the most negative aspect of taking chickens to shows is disease. Poultry show attendants work hard to inspect all entries, but not every disease can be seen. The process of transporting chickens to shows can be stressful, and some diseases lay dormant until some form of stress weakens immunity.
Generally show chickens are very well cared for. They must be in order to produce comb to toe nail glowing health and excellent feathering, but all it takes is one desperate or unknowing exhibitor to bring disease to a show. Many exhibitors never bring home chickens that they have taken to show, due to the disease risk-factor, even their champions.
Good flock management must include quarantine of chickens brought home from a show, no matter if purchased there, or returning from competition.
If you’re planning on showing chickens you’ll most likely be breeding from pedigreed stock. Purchasing breeding stock from champion blood lines can be an expensive investment. Setting up a facility able to properly house multiple groups of chickens can also be expensive.
Some breeding stock can be deceptive; exhibiting excellence in breed standards, but unable to consistently reproduce their traits. The process of breeding and raising champion off-spring can be hit and miss when it comes to producing the standards you and judges expect.
It can take several generations of chickens to regularly produce what you want, making for lots of culls (rejects) and possibly more chickens than you know what to do with.
This is a highly competitive activity. If you enjoy competition and are prepared to deal with the human drama connected to showing poultry, you just might be.
In poultry shows you will find a wide array of people ranging from mild interest to serious levels of professional competitive enthusiasm. You will meet all manner of people and compete against the honest and dishonest, those with a good sense of sportsmanship to those with quarrelsome, back-biting, jealous and gossipy spirits.
You will compete against those with unlimited financial resources and those barely making ends meet, sometimes from all corners of the world.
You get to decide if the local county fair is as far as you’re willing to go, or if you want to travel to other counties, states or countries. No matter where it takes you, starting small and local will help get your feet wet and introduce you to Showing Chickens.
I highly recommend visiting a local poultry shows, talking to exhibitors, studying breed standards and observing judging before you decide to compete.