If you have never been to a poultry show in your area, you are missing out on a fun, family-friendly event. Poultry shows can be local, regional, and national and usually are free to attend. Even if you don’t raise show birds, attending is a great way to discover new breeds, connect with local breeders, and have some of your poultry keeping questions answered by the experts. Here are some of my personal tips to make the most of your day at the show.
Dress for the show. Be sure to wear clothing that is washable and breathable. I wear layers, as sometimes the venues can be chilly during the winter months. Also, be mindful not to wear shoes that you wear while tending to your flock. You certainly do not want to inadvertently share any illnesses with these birds nor do you want to take any home to your own.
Research the lingo. Learn how to read a cage tag and interpret the judges markings prior to your arrival. Judging is based on age, sex, breed, breed characteristics and more. They follow strict guidelines (Standard of Perfection) set by the American Poultry Association. More information about this can be found through an online search.
Get there early and stay until the end. The shows tend to get the busiest late morning and early afternoon. Sometimes, it is fun to be there when it is less crowded to see the birds, meet the exhibitors, and get a lay of the land. It is also fun to pick your favorites early and see who wins the ribbons at the end.
Is there a raffle? Join in and try your luck. Raffles at poultry shows are always great fun! It is a great way to support the show and pick up all sorts of goodies like chicken feed, poultry products, tchotchkes, and collector items.
Visit the poultry sales area early. Check out what like-minded folks are selling. In this area, you will find all types of poultry, ducks, birds, and even bunnies. They are all for sale and often you can find some of the breeders that are showing their birds selling their extra stock. Be sure to quarantine your new acquisitions for at least a month prior to introducing them to the rest of the flock.
Chat Chicken or duck or whatever suits your fancy. Everyone is very friendly and eager to talk to you about their birds, why they love the breeds, and how you can get started.
Meet the kids. Check out the junior section of the show. This is where kids under 18 exhibit their birds. They will impress you.
Don’t miss Showmanship. Check out the kids at the show (dressed in black and white) impress the judges with how comfortable they are handling their birds. The kids also share their general poultry knowledge and breed specific knowledge as they answer questions asked of them by the judges. This is one of my favorite parts of the show.
Go Shopping. Check out vendors at the show displaying and selling all sorts of poultry wares.
Count the eggs. It may seem silly but the kids and I like to count how many eggs we discover. The show hens still lay their daily eggs show or no show. We love it when we hear the egg song among all the roosters crowing.
Cock-a-doodle-doo. It can be noisy at shows. Roosters of all shapes, colors and sizes will crow all day long.
Melissa Caughey is a backyard chicken keeper, beekeeper, gardener, and cook who pens the award winning blog, Tilly’s Nest. She lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts with her family of four and her Miniature Schnauzer. She regularly writes for HGTV Gardens, Community Chickens, Grit magazine, and contributes to Country Living Magazine. Her blog was recently named one of Better Homes and Gardens Top 10 Gardening Blogs. Melissa’s first book, A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens, will be available spring 2015.