All set for Show Time?

Your Chickens - - Contents -

Ex­hibit­ing, by Grant Br­ere­ton

Any­one who as­sumed that the show cir­cuit was solely for ex­pert ex­hibitors should think again, says Grant Br­ere­ton. Birds be­long­ing to am­a­teur and pro­fes­sional keep­ers alike vie for rosettes and prize-cards on the cir­cuit ev­ery year and ev­ery­one can try their luck

Many peo­ple’s first ex­pe­ri­ence of a poul­try show is vis­it­ing the fur and feather sec­tion at their lo­cal agri­cul­tural show. The thought of en­ter­ing your own chick­ens (or ducks, geese or tur­keys) into a show can be quite daunt­ing, es­pe­cially if you are just start­ing out, be­cause it can be dif­fi­cult to know how well your birds will be re­ceived. But there are many ben­e­fits to tak­ing the plunge and hav­ing a go. Firstly, you will find your­self in the com­pany of many like-minded in­di­vid­u­als, and shows are a great op­por­tu­nity to net­work and find new con­tacts in your lo­cal area.

Poul­try shows are also great so­cial events and quite of­ten ex­hibitors gain en­try to the whole show if en­ter­ing a spec­i­fied num­ber of birds in the poul­try/wa­ter­fowl sec­tions. Each show is dif­fer­ent, de­pend­ing on size and sta­tus, so awards in terms of rosettes and em­bossed cards, etc, can be nu­mer­ous and var­ied. Many show so­ci­eties of­fer their own awards for dif­fer­ent sec­tions, which are of­ten spon­sored by lo­cal in­di­vid­u­als or com­pa­nies. No two shows are the same, so it is worth check­ing the rules be­fore en­ter­ing. Prize-money is oc­ca­sion­ally avail­able, which is an­other added bonus.

THE TIERED SHOW SYS­TEM

In terms of poul­try shows held in mar­quees (and un­der cover) across the coun­try in the spring/sum­mer/au­tumn months, the ba­sic ones are re­garded as voucher shows. They gen­er­ally have lim­ited classes, awards and judges, but are a great place to start. The more se­ri­ous shows are the regionals, which have to have a cer­tain num­ber of en­tries to be re­garded as such. They are gen­er­ally judged by qual­i­fied judges. They have more in­di­vid­ual pure breed classes than the voucher shows and the sec­tion win­ners go on to a cham­pi­onship row, from which one bird will be crowned show cham­pion. A step up from this are the cham­pi­onship shows, where an in­di­vid­ual cham­pi­onship judge is drafted in to choose the show cham­pion. Then there are the royal shows, which have royal pa­tron­age, and fi­nally the na­tional shows are at the top of the pyra­mid. All are af­fil­i­ated to the Poul­try Club of Great Bri­tain and held un­der the char­ity’s rules. The Na­tional Cham­pi­onship Poul­try and Eggs Show (1-2 De­cem­ber 2018) is run by the Poul­try Club of Great Bri­tain it­self.

BUT I DON’T KEEP PURE BREEDS…

It would be easy to as­sume that the ob­vi­ous pre­req­ui­site of poul­try show­ing is to ex­hibit pure breed stock, but that isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the case. Even pres­ti­gious cham­pi­onship shows, such as The Royal Cheshire County Show, have classes for cross breed hen and pet chicken.

Such birds have no writ­ten stan­dard by which to be judged, so it is down to the judge’s dis­cre­tion on the day which bird is awarded first prize. A clean and friendly bird will stand a good chance of tak­ing the spoils.

If you keep pure breeds but are un­sure of their qual­ity, it is a good idea to visit a few poul­try shows be­fore dip­ping your toe in the wa­ter. Speak­ing to judges and fel­low breed­ers is an ex­cel­lent way of gaug­ing the qual­ity of your own birds while also check­ing out the com­pe­ti­tion.

There aren’t a mil­lion things to learn about each breed. There are com­mon nat­u­ral fac­tors through­out the breeds that make for a rea­son­able spec­i­men, such as straight toes, breast­bone, good wings, etc, and there are also each breed’s dis­tinc­tive fea­tures to learn. There are usu­ally a hand­ful of el­e­ments to be­come fa­mil­iar with when look­ing for a good ex­am­ple of a par­tic­u­lar breed. For ex­am­ple, a Pekin ban­tam should have feath­ered legs, be ball-like in ap­pear­ance, have a for­ward-tilt­ing stance (where the head is car­ried lower than the tail), the tail should be rounded and is re­ferred to as ‘the cush­ion’, and the breast feath­ers should all touch the floor when the bird is stand­ing. These feath­ers are known as the skirt. See be­low for an ex­am­ple of these points.

If you feel that show­ing and pos­si­bly breed­ing your own re­place­ments is for you, then most breeds have a ded­i­cated breed club or so­ci­ety that you can join for a fairly nom­i­nal an­nual fee. Join­ing will al­low you to com­pete for their most cov­eted tro­phies at the na­tional shows, as well as for spe­cial awards at re­gional shows. Most clubs of­fer an an­nual year­book and con­tact de­tails of many top breed­ers, so it is well worth the join­ing fee. In re­cent times, many clubs have set up ded­i­cated so­cial me­dia pages, too, where you can up­load im­ages of your birds for an hon­est ap­praisal. This can be a great way to learn about your birds, but be­ware that not ev­ery breeder and ex­hibitor is sub­tle — de­spite hav­ing the best in­ten­tions of ed­u­cat­ing you and help­ing you to learn what makes a good spec­i­men, you need to be pre­pared for some ‘con­struc­tive’ crit­i­cism.

Each breed has a writ­ten stan­dard, of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by photos of ex­cel­lent spec­i­mens, and this is in­cluded in Bri­tish Poul­try Stan­dards, which is up­dated ev­ery few years. The lat­est edi­tion is avail­able in Novem­ber. This book also de­tails all the faults to avoid in any poul­try breed. It is avail­able from the Poul­try Club of Great Bri­tain (www.poul­tryclub.org/) and other out­lets.

WHAT NEW­BIES NEED TO KNOW

The birds you en­ter in a show can be bought in, but in most cases should have been at your prop­erty for at least three months. The sched­ule for shows is usu­ally avail­able through the sec­re­tary and you gen­er­ally have a few weeks to de­cide which classes to en­ter, with the en­try dead­line be­ing around a fort­night be­fore the show. (This dead­line is so that the or­gan­is­ers can de­ter­mine the num­ber of pens needed.)

Since the Bird Flu re­stric­tions (which ran from late 2016 to June 2017) which caused all shows to be called off, new leg­is­la­tion is now in place that re­quires shows to have wel­fare of­fi­cers. Your birds will there­fore be in­spected on ar­rival for any signs of ill health or dis­ease. You will also have to sign a dec­la­ra­tion form that con­firms your ad­dress and that the birds you en­ter are your own prop­erty and from premises with good wel­fare stan­dards.

There is no min­i­mum age to show as an ex­hibitor, but your birds must at least be young adults and look ma­ture to be ac­cu­rately as­sessed. Around 28-30 weeks is usu­ally suf­fi­cient for most large fowl breeds, but bantams can ma­ture a lot quicker.

Most shows take place over a sin­gle day, but some sum­mer fix­tures can have poul­try classes on con­sec­u­tive days, so it is worth check­ing be­fore send­ing in your en­tries. The Na­tional Cham­pi­onship Poul­try and Eggs Show, a two-day show, is held in Telford each year, while The Fed­er­a­tion Cham­pi­onship Show, also a two-day event, is held in Stafford (15-16 De­cem­ber 2018). These shows, both great fam­ily events, are held an­nu­ally in De­cem­ber, so that the cur­rent year’s crop of birds will be ready to be ex­hib­ited as they reach ma­tu­rity.

Ba­si­cally, don’t be afraid to have a go. Show­ing is a great ex­pe­ri­ence and win­ning your first rosette will give you a real boost. You can also show your eggs and many stand­alone egg shows are now pop­ping up around the coun­try as well as be­ing part of poul­try shows. Most shows also have sec­tions for best dec­o­rated egg, egg con­tents and chicken draw­ings and pho­to­graphs. There has never been a bet­ter time to start plan­ning a cam­paign.

Next month: Pre­par­ing for a show when your chicks are only a day old.

Grant Br­ere­ton is editor of Fancy Fowl.

Evie Wil­liams is one of many chil­dren who en­joy ex­hibit­ing poul­try

Spe­cial tro­phies from the Fes­ti­val of the Plough Show

A Cuckoo Pekin show­ing the cor­rect stature and feather

Some peo­ple pre­fer to show eggs rather than chick­ens

Cham­pi­ons’ row at The Royal Cheshire County Show

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