Saturday, May 18, 2013

You Love Your Beautiful Chickens - How to Predict Whether They're Qualified to Show At The Fair

Have you thought about signing your chickens up to be shown at your local fair this summer? Not quite sure how or where to get started?  There are both health and appearance requirements.

In the United States, anyway, there are NPIP standards. It stands for the National Poultry Improvement Plan. If you ordered your chickens from a hatchery, they will usually identify themselves as a NPIP approved hatchery - it means the baby chicks you order from them have been vaccinated for Pullorum, Typhoid, and other diseases.

If you bought your chicks as babies from a feed store, they will most likely have gotten those babies from one of these hatcheries . . . and will tell you which one. Each fair can have different requirements, but for the most part they do require these vaccinations. To learn all the requirements of your local fair, you'll need to read and understand the information contained in the Premium Book that will be available from your local fairgrounds. Sometimes, you'll find them at the counter of your local feed store.

Don't fill it out and submit it along with a check or money order for the entry fee (usually, $2 - $3 per bird), though, until you've looked up the breed of your chickens in the  The American Standard of Perfection, which you can usually find on Amazon.com. It is your 'bible' for deciding whether your beautiful chickens have a chance of winning a trophy or ribbon. You'll learn what your chicken must look like in order to compete for its breed, age, and gender. This includes things like body shape, stance, color of every body part, feather design, and much more. If there's a "Barnyard Chickens Category", you can probably disregard this step, but there will no doubt be some standards to meet in that category, as well.

How to Get A Copy of the Premium Book
Online, Google the name of your fair. Any more, each one normally has a website with a search button. Look for the Poultry Superintendent or Poultry Department-there may be a phone number or email for you to use in case you have any questions after you've read the premium book. Don't expect a response immediately, as this superintendent may be a volunteer with a full-time job elsewhere. Note: if your kids are showing their chickens as members of their 4-H Club, they will be given all the information they need from their leaders. As an adult hobbyist, you'll be showing "Open Class" - if both you and your kids will have entries, be sure to understand the details about each. Many times there'll be a pdf of the Premium Book on the website that you can print out. Read it carefully, as it provides all the rules and regulations, as well as times you need to bring your show birds in for 'Vet Check', whether you need to come each day to feed your chickens or whether volunteers are in place, whether you can or should bring your own feed, when judging will occur, and the date and time you must remove your chickens. 

Common Errors That Will Get Your Chicken Disqualified
The judge may disqualify your birds if you haven't entered the complete and proper name of the breed and other required information in the registration process. Watch out, though - try to visit before judging is to take place. Once in awhile, the cage tags get mixed up, as they are sometimes placed on the cages by busy fair volunteers. Clear up any such mix-ups before judging takes place. 

Not passing vet check (a Veterinarian will be present on the first day during registration) will mean you'll need to take your chicken back home right away. Examine each chicken yourself on the day before the fair (the day of the fair, you'll be too busy packing up to get there by 8 or 9 a.m.). Listen to it breathe, inspect it's eyes, check for any parasites, monitor appetite, droppings, and activity level - if everything is normal, you'll probably be safe.

Other disqualifications mean your chickens will remain at the fair, but won't be judged. Know your chicken's breed, and don't show a chicken that clearly doesn't measure up according to the Standard. You must know whether it's a bantam or full sized chicken, spell the breed names correctly, get the gender right, and understand the difference in name between a young bird and the adult hen or rooster. It should not have any glaring disqualifications, such as a completely wrong color of leg, for example. You must not have engaged in any "fakery" in preparing the bird for show - such as glueing a missing feather in place in order to qualify.

What are the Advantages to Showing Your Chickens at the Fair? 
  • Getting your chickens trained, tamed, and groomed can be a fun family activity, assuming everyone involved enjoys raising chickens.
  • Hanging out with other chicken hobbyists can be fun and informative
  • As an exhibitor, you'll most likely get free admittance to the fair, any time you wish to visit
  • If your birds win, you'll get a "premium check" - not much, but it buys a little feed. It's based upon whether you get a trophy, a best of class, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place ribbon
  • Winners will be awarded ribbons or trophies. Not so many trophies in the recent past, unfortunately, but ribbons are still dispensed 
  • If you volunteer during the day, you'll enjoy meeting fair visitors and answering their questions about chickens
  • It's a great educational opportunity for you
  • You'll benefit year around from having tamed chickens - advisable for fitting and showing, but an added pleasure when interacting daily with your flock
What if You Want To Learn More? 

Coincidentally, I've got you covered. Benefit from my 30 plus years experience raising chickens which translates into showing at fairs every year other than the four I was serving in the military. I could show you all my ribbons and trophies, but I'm pretty humble; plus, it would require unpacking them.

If you'd like to understand how to tame and train your chickens for fitting and showing I'm confident the books below will help you (if they don't, please take advantage of the generous return policy, which I heartily endorse). They're priced low enough for anyone to afford - my goal is to grow this hobby: 



This book is available on Amazon.com - scan the QR Code below it and you'll be directed right to it. It's priced at a whopping $2.99. The rooster in the photo is Spike, a "Holy Terror" to even the most manly visitor.



This showing book adds to the information in this post. It does not detail the rules and regulations of every area in the U.S.! The time required to do that - and to update continuously- would make it very expensive. Like the taming book, it, too is priced at $2.99. You can find out about the rules and regulations for your local fair just by performing an online search and spending a few short minutes. The photo is of me at the fair my first year in 4-H. I was showing my white silky hen. The tall guy was the judge.

Scan this QR Code in order to directly access the Fitting and Showing book on Amazon.com.

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