Best in show

By: Jessamy Miller | October 8, 2015

Poultry show winner
Photo: Kara Cooper

Ever been to a poultry show? The array of breeds is dizzying, the noise deafening, and the competition runs hot. Perhaps you have a gorgeous chook in your backyard and are wondering just what is involved in this quirky hobby.

The Standard

Believe it or not, your lovely looking hen may not have what it takes to win a blue ribbon. Crossbreds are out – it’s purebreds only here, and the bird has to perfectly represent its breed in colour and type. Serious show people consult a bible known as the Australian Poultry Standards, which lists each fowl along with the points allocated to it for correct feathering, size, body shape, comb and so forth. Breeders show birds that closely conform to the standard, and the best wins grand champion.

Preparation

Show breeders have numerous strategies for presenting perfect poultry on the big day, of course, many of these are classified!

A top show bird must be in peak health, with feathers looking perfect, and no nasty surprises like lice or mites hiding underneath. Owners often feed a special diet, and spend time getting birds used to being handled and kept in a cage, so they aren’t stressed by the experience.

A Silkie breeder might wash the bird a few nights before a show, then gently blow dry it. Legs, comb and wattles will be oiled, nails trimmed and the bird kept on clean wood shavings so it arrives at the show in immaculate condition.

Sales and Auctions

Poultry shows often conclude with an auction or sale. This is a good opportunity to buy quality birds from well-known breeders. Expect to pay top dollar for the best birds. A Silver Laced pullet sold for $775 at the Centennial Wyandotte Show recently, while at a previous Sydney Show a Muscovy duck went for $770. Luckily, the average price range is a mere $50 to $150.

Get Involved

If you are intrigued about showing, start by joining the club for your chosen breed. Go to shows and meetings and speak to breeders about what’s required. An easy class for a novice to enter is the matched egg plate; these can come from any backyard fowl. In general, expect plenty of competition, but also camaraderie with like-minded poultry tragics.

If you are wondering which birds win the top prizes, this year the Royal Melbourne Poultry Show was won by a White Silkie hen, Sydney by a bantam Black Australorp cockerel, and Queensland Ekka by a White Pekin.

My first taste of showing was at age 10, when my Silkie won her class at the local rural show. All right, I admit, the only other entrant was carted out sick before judging so I won by default, but I still treasure my certificate! 

As does Theo Brozovich, pictured above, who recently took out first prize in the junior division at the Lithgow Poultry Show for her blue red leghorn "Hattie".

 

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