David Herbert, nicknamed The Egg Man, tells you all you need to know about showing eggs
Produce on display
You’ll get your entries submitted to the show secretary after giving careful consideration to your likely choices. Then you’ll spend the run-up making sure that everything is just right and consistent in the effort to make sure your entries are up to scratch. The day before will be one of final decisions and organisation: ensuring you’ve got any passes, tickets, directions and other relevant paperwork, all before a restless sleep and an early awakening to get loaded and moving. Arrival at the showground usually means a dash to your section where you unpack, apply some finishing touches to your entries and get ready for judging. If you’ve been to an agricultural show you’ll have seen judges of various disciplines making their assessments of the cows, sheep and birds on display; getting hands-on to have a feel for muscular structure or conformity and looking square at the exhibit to get a sense of proportion and line. Then looking at the back end to make sure all is clean and in order and checking that all points meet the necessary standards for the breed or type.
But just how do you go about judging or selecting eggs? What is it that you’re looking for when presenting your egg exhibits in the poultry sections? Whether it be large fowl, bantam, waterfowl or even turkey it’s much the same principle.
Let’s start with the shape. This should be, well, egg shaped. An egg that is too round or thin and narrow is no good. Particularly for chickens, we want to see a broader base and a narrower top. Next we look at the shell and how it was formed. There are any number of undesirable features we hope to avoid. The shell should be smooth, with no wrinkles, pimples, cracks or holes. There should be no excess calcium deposits on the surface and no visible areas of thin or translucent shell.
Now we look at the colour. If a pigment is applied to the shell we want to see a smooth, even field of colour around the whole egg. Some breeds such as Marans or Welsummers (which will sometimes have their own dedicated egg classes) will lay down extra pigment which can result in mottling. If this occurs we want to see an even application and consistent pattern to the mottling across the entire surface. There should be no marks from nest-boxes or claws and it goes without saying that the egg should be clean!
It is deemed acceptable to wash your eggs for show, however a judge can disqualify an egg which smells of detergent or looks polished. It is also forbidden to bleach or attempt to colour an egg in any way.
I tend not to wash my eggs, rather I rely on the cleanliness regime, and at a push might just wipe a spot or two with a (fragrance-free and recycleable) baby wipe.
Now we’ve got a good egg. The next challenge could well be to match three or more of the same to produce a set of eggs as identical as possible. Some shows even feature
classes of twelve matching eggs – not an easy feat to achieve I can assure you! I like to think I’ve developed an eye for egg matching and selection and get absolute pleasure and joy from the preparation and choosing of my exhibitions. I find it almost zen-like to shut myself away with a few trays of eggs and make my decisions, finding that proper preparation, consistency and attention to detail tend to produce better results and make the process a pleasure.
About a month before the show I’ll need to pick which classes I’ll enter and get my entry form sent to the section secretary. I need to plan for which birds are going to be laying come show time - I could be waiting for juveniles to turn POL, anticipating the end of a moult or dealing with broodies by then.
The week before the show I’ll be ensuring that all nest boxes are clean and making sure the birds have clean feet and bums so they’re not dirtying the eggs or boxes as they lay. I’ll collect eggs as many times a day as feasible to ensure cleanliness and to prevent damage. Next, I’ll sort my eggs into colours – a tray for white, a tray for dark brown etc so that I can look for consistency and readily identify any that don’t make the grade as far as colour goes.
Now it’s a case of going through those eggs and discarding the ones that have faults such as described earlier.
For this I need good, preferably natural, light to best see and will also on occasion use a magnifying glass or candling torch to check for hairline cracks or thin spots.
With my trays of eggs now whittled down it’s time to start picking single eggs or matching groups as per the entries.
For contents classes it’s a little different as the quality of the external shell isn’t judged (unless it’s a specific Internal/ External class). Here, I’ll be taking eggs and breaking them open to have a look. On show day the judge will be looking for a good thick albumen that doesn’t separate too easily. The yolk will need to be pert and nicely rounded with a good rich colour. It should also be free of blood or meat spots. A fertile egg showing a white blastogerm is acceptable, providing incubation hasn’t begun. My selections will be picked from birds showing these attributes during the run up, and only ever taken from those laid the day before the show. I hope that by providing consistency in this period I can rely on the birds to deliver on the day.
With eggs all chosen they then get packed away ready for competition. I used to carry bagfuls of egg-boxes but now use a couple of make-up cases adapted to hold egg trays. These are ideal – they provide security, darkness and help protect from temperature fluctuations. They also very conveniently fit in the car’s child seat so I can strap them in safely for the journey.
On arrival at the show I’ll get my plate numbers from the section secretary and lay my entries out.
I will always try to present the very best view of my eggs. The judge will pick each one up for scrutiny but a good first impression always helps. This done, I’ll take a step back, double check I’m on all the right plates and that all the eggs are looking as good as possible and from there on there’s nothing more I can do but wait for the judging to be completed.
I never go to a show expecting results – you simply never know how things will fall on the day – but I like to think that proper preparation and considered selections will ensure you and your birds (therefore your eggs) have a fighting chance of a card.
NORTH SOMERSET SHOW
For the North Somerset Show on 7 May 2018, after following these steps, I took 24 entries to cover six classes and I’m pleased to report back that out of a possible 18 cards we obtained five thirds, four seconds and five firsts.
I was particularly happy to sweep the board for Large Fowl and Waterfowl contents, but the real icing on the cake was clinching the Best Eggs in Show prize for our winning plate of Three Large Any Colour.
Once again it seems the hard work and effort paid off and I can’t wait to get stuck in again with a whole new selection of fresh eggs for the next one. See you there!
I used to carry bagfuls of egg-boxes but now use a couple of make-up cases adapted to hold egg trays
ABOVE: PCGB judge Kevin Brown in action
Winning Waterfowl contents entry
Cracking an egg for contents judging
Nest box check
Nest box check...with occupant
View down the table