Monday, March 12, 2012

Beginner's Luck

Confession time:  I absolutely LOVE our chickens.  3 years ago I decided that we needed to dive into the world of poultry despite being conditioned to believe that "Beef" people don't keep chickens. It's all nonsense. I can raise cattle and keep a backyard flock if I want to and nobody's gonna tell me otherwise.  I adore the feather brained antics of our hens and I love those pretty brown eggs they lay for me.

We love chickens, but we're not "chicken people".  I'm learning that there is a HUGE difference.  I naively signed my kids up for a poultry project in 4-H, not knowing what we were getting into. My husband dutifully took the kids to their first poultry meeting while I was in Texas, despite his firm convictions that this was a bad idea.  I re-assured him that the kids were merely honing in their chicken raising skills, and getting advanced education on poultry flock health etc... etc. 

In order for my kids to complete their poultry project, they must show their chicken in a poultry show, and enter the county fair in the fall. Poultry shows aren't exactly "popular" in our part of the world, so we only had one opportunity to attend one, and it was an hour and a half away.  With only one meeting under our belts, we watched some you-tube videos on showing poultry, loaded up three birds in a cage, and headed off into the great unknown.

We got a real education this weekend, and that's for sure! Chicken people are serious about their birds.  They give them baths, wipe their feet with wet wipes, put petroleum jelly on their combs, pluck unsightly feathers, and trim their nails. We brought ours straight from the yard. No frills, no pampering, no blow drying.

We already knew that two of our pullets weren't qualified to show in their breed class because they are each missing a toe-nail from frost bite this winter. Even with heat lamps, it gets c-o-l-d in our neck of the woods. That was just fine because we were only entering the kids in the showmanship class.  With just two weeks notice, we've had no time to acquire and raise any show-quality chicks.  This whole thing was just a formality so we can qualify to show in the fall at our county fair.

Here the kids are practicing their skills while they wait to show in front of the judge.  During Showmanship, the animal is not judged at all.  Only the child is judged on how well they show their animal, and their knowledge of poultry.

Our children were the only ones in the whole building to show standard size birds in the showmanship class. Everyone else showed little Bantams for ease of holding and control.  Since our kids didn't know any different, they did fine showing our giant dual-purpose birds.

Here's my baby holding someone else's rabbit. She loved it but she's not getting one. I draw the line at rabbits. No rabbits in this house! It ate a hole in her shirt.

A quick change into their dress whites, and they were ready to see if their You-tube watching and two weeks of practice was going to pay off.

Here my daughter is showing the judge the wings of her bird.

They each received a blue ribbon, but the top place finishers wouldn't be announced until that evening.

During lunch, they dressed their birds up for a costume contest. Everyone else dressed up rabbits and guinea pigs.  We were the only ones to attempt to dress a chicken. Ha Ha!

After a long day, we were pleasantly surprised to hear our daughter's name called for "Reserve Grand Champion Showmanship". Woo Hoo!!!

She was definitely the underdog in this show. 

Do you know what this felt like? It's like the feeling I get when a bunch of fancy rigs pull up to a team-penning competition with their pedigreed horses and trailers with living quarters. They unload  their intimidating steeds covered in fancy tack and warm up around the arena with arrogance. Then, some teenagers pull in at the last minute, straight off the ranch, with a rusty old stock- trailer, dusty work clothes on, riding something in their string of work horses, no practice whatsoever....and watching them win the whole darn thing. I love it when that happens!!!

We now have 7 more months to prepare for the fair. We are deciding if we're going to buy a fancy specimen to show from a breeder, or just take our yard birds again and focus on showmanship. Either way, the kids will have a blast! 

Since this is definitely NOT our area of expertise, anything gleaned is exciting. The important thing is that the kids are learning about caring for their flock so they can get maximum egg production and enjoyment from their chickens.


  1. Congratulations, looks like the homework paid off.

  2. That is awesome! Glad you did the chicken thing! We like our chickens too! When we first got them...we'd be walking by their pen, and the next thing we knew, 20 minutes had gone by, and we had just been standing there watching the chickens...we couldn't believe we were so infatuated w/ the bird brains....hehehehehe!
    Good job to your daughter! Your children are lovely!

  3. That's great!
    Congratulations to the kiddos!

  4. That is great!! Sounds like us when we showed horses for the first time. They were just all around ranch ponies, never had a bath or manes trimmed. Not to mention the fact they had never been in a arena!!