Winner Takes it All
Lewis Wilkinson, an eight-year-old Silkie lover from Weston-super-Mare, may be the first member of his family to try exhibiting, but that hasn’t stopped him from leaving a raft of more experienced competitors trailing in his wake
Multi-medalled junior Lewis Wilkinson
Lewis Wilkinson has been causing quite a stir on the show circuit. He only needs to turn up with his trusty Silkies Chirp and Poldark and his rivals start to feel a little nervous.
And that is not surprising, for Lewis’s impressive winning streak began back in 2016 when his late white Silkie cockerel Frizzle headed his Silkie Class and then became Champion Soft Feathered Light Large at the prestigious Royal Bath and West Show in Somerset. Fast forward to January 2018 and Chirp won Best Silkie at Ashbourton Show; a few months later, as spring was turning into summer, Chirp took Champion Juvenile honours at the North Somerset Show; then Chirp and Poldark helped Lewis to capture the sash for Champion Junior Handler at Devon County. In July, to add to Lewis’s ever expanding trophy collection, Poldark became Champion Juvenile at the Royal Welsh.
“Actually, Lewis has won so many classes that there are too many to list,” says his mother, Carrie Wilkinson, a single parent who lives with Lewis, her only child, in Weston-super-Mare. “But he works very hard. We don’t have holidays — the shows are our vacations — and while his friends have been to Disneyland, Lewis prefers to sleep in a tent at a showground. It makes me really proud to see his hard work pay off. A lot of his friends think its odd and a lot of mine don’t understand why we show chickens, but Lewis is learning about responsibility.”
Lewis’s love of furry and feathered creatures — and Silkies are his number one favourite — can be traced back at least half a decade before the eight-year-old even started school.
“We’ve always spent a lot of time at Court Farm Country Park, a local family-run farm,” says Carrie, who works as a veterinary nurse. “Lewis loves farm animals and I think that may come from my job. He enjoys hearing how my day went and any funny incidents that may have happened.”
However, a passion for birds may also be in Lewis’s genes. His grandfather was an ornithologist. “They spent lots of time looking at bird books together. I think Lewis gets his talents from my father,” adds Carrie.
Until recently, though, Carrie’s own fear of flying feathered creatures meant that she would go out of her way to avoid them, rather like Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 horror film The Birds.
“I didn’t like being in the same room with them,” Carrie explains. “But I had to get over it as I could see Lewis looking at my reactions and I was worried that I would pass my fear on to him. I’m happy to handle any birds now and I always offer to do so at work. Lewis helped me to overcome my fear. I don’t think I could have done so if it wasn’t for his love of chickens. I’m so glad I did get over it as I love the fact that they have become a passion for us both.”
Carrie and Lewis live with Carrie’s mother, Lynn Wilkinson, in a house with a large garden. It is here that Lewis’s two chickens have oceans of room to roam.
Lewis hatched Chirp, his white Silkie bantam, himself.
“She’s full of sass and very cute,” says Carrie. “She loves the shows and people looking at her. She sits well on championship row and she’s perfect for Lewis to handle due to her size and that Silkie kindness she has.”
The St Anne’s Primary School pupil took on Poldark, his large white Silkie cockerel, in February.
“Poldark protects Chirp from anything he thinks will harm her,” says Carrie. “Poldark’s a real character and he loves sweetcorn treats. He’s been used at a local college for animal handling so he’s great for Lewis to try junior handler classes with.”
However, owning and showing chickens hasn’t been all rosettefilled and plain sailing for the Cub Scout. In June 2016 a fox broke into Frizzle’s coop and killed Lewis’s “best friend”.
“Lewis, being the amazing child that he is, totally understood and explained to me at the age of six that this was nature. However, a few days later, while at school, it all hit him and he became really upset,” Carrie says. “That’s when Omlet stepped in and made him so happy by supplying him with an Eglu Go UP coop. He may not have got his cockerel back, but the rest of his birds were now safe.
“As Lewis was getting older, we then decided that he needed a real show bird, so we thought we would hatch some eggs. Brinsea [Incubators Ltd] kindly gave Lewis an incubator and on Christmas Eve 2016 three little Silkies hatched. [Lewis is now sponsored by both Omlet and Brinsea.] Sadly, only one made it and that is Chirp. Lewis gets lots of comments about her at shows.”
Lewis’s foray into the once alien (to him) world of poultry showing was sparked by watching Tractor Ted Showtime, followed by a visit to the North Somerset Show.
“Lewis decided that he wanted to show cows,” laughs Carrie. “After a long chat about how a cow was not going to fit in the garden, he agreed that it was not a good idea. I then saw that there was an ex-commercial hen sale taking place locally and Lewis said that he would love some hens. So off he went with his money and he brought home two hens who he named Les and Fudge after Tractor Ted characters.
“I secretly entered them into the Royal Bath & West Show after asking him if he would like a nice camping holiday — which was at the Bath & West Showground. I only told him what he was going to be doing the day before the show. Then he bathed Les and Fudge to get them ready. When he walked into the showing pavilion and saw all the birds his face lit up. I’ve never seen him smile so much. Sue Black, a lovely lady who was exhibiting, could see that Lewis and I looked lost and she literally took him under her wing and showed him how to make the hens look good for their classes.
“At this point my bird phobia was really being tested as I wouldn’t handle the birds,” adds Carrie. “Lewis therefore did everything himself. He also took all of what was said on board and he still talks about that first show now. He even came away with two second-place rosettes, and from that moment on he was hooked.”
Lewis loves everything about showing — even the 4.30am starts. He also manages to remain cool, calm and collected when it comes to the nerve-wracking judging.
“It’s me who gets nervous,” admits Carrie. “Lewis works really hard and as he doesn’t have a parent that shows or knows what to look for in a bird he really has to do it all himself.”
Come December, Lewis, Chirp, Poldark and Carrie will be at the National Championships Poultry Show in Telford. It will be their third visit.
“I’m so proud of all that Lewis has achieved,” says Carrie. “I always take pictures for him so that one day he can tell his own children about all the fun we had.”
I’m so proud of all that Lewis has achieved. I always take pictures for him so that one day he can tell his own children about all the fun we had
ABOVE: Lewis with his Silkie Chirp, who he hatched himself
Lewis receives advice at a show
ABOVE: Lewis lost Frizzle in a fox attack in 2016