If you want to start showing chickens, bantams are the easiest chickens for beginners to exhibit. Bantam is a size, not a breed. Bantams are usually the miniature versions of standard-size chicken breeds. Too small to produce much in the way of meat, and laying tiny eggs, poultry fanciers breed them primarily as pets and show birds.
Among the advantages of showing bantams is that smaller breeds mature faster than larger ones. In order to do well in shows, your chickens must appear in top condition, and bantams get to that point earlier on. That's 6 or 7 months of age for young bantams, compared with a few months later for the bigger birds.
Although bantam size varies by breed, most weigh between 1 and 2 pounds at maturity, one-quarter the weight of standard chickens. Their small size means not only that they require less feed and are cheaper to keep but also that transporting them to and from shows is much easier. Children and others competing in shows can more easily carry a relatively smaller cage with a much lighter chicken. Bantams' size makes them easier to handle overall than larger fowl.
At a poultry show, chickens are judged against an ideal for their breed. According to Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, the most commonly shown bantam breeds include Old English game, Cochins, Plymouth Rocks, and Wyandottes. These are among the hardiest and friendliest of the bantam breeds, which makes raising them easier. Purdue Extension notes that at most poultry shows, bantam breeds outnumber larger birds. Other well-known bantam exhibition breeds include the silkies, Brahmas, faverolles, frizzles, modern game, rose combs, Japanese, Spanish and naked necks. Unlike large chickens, which are judged based on region of origin, bantam breeds are judged on certain physical attributes, such as "rose-comb clean-legged," "single-comb clean-legged," feather-legged and game birds.
You're already providing your bantams with the best feed, along with a constant supply of fresh, clean water, and you already have them on a regular worming program. While overall good husbandry is the most important preparation element in showing, other practical matters relating to exhibiting your bantams to their best advantage. Handle your birds on a regular basis so they are used to you. Before your first show, let your chickens inspect the "show coop" in which they'll be exhibited. According to the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, you can teach your bird to assume a proper pose for showing by repeatedly offering small bits of bread or vegetation on a small stick.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.