Young people enrolled in 4-H poultry clubs, operated by their state cooperative extension services, learn about caring for birds and participate in specific poultry projects. Although 4-H offers several poultry projects for members, only one requires showing chickens for completion -- the exhibition bird project. If you show your chickens for 4-H, it's not just the birds on display. Judges ask questions regarding your knowledge of poultry husbandry and breeding. During the course of the project, you learn to identify different poultry breeds, raise your chickens and record your progress.
Exhibition Bird Project
Competing in the 4-H exhibition bird project requires the participant to raise at least 15 purebred birds from one day old chicks. Either bantam or standard-sized chickens are acceptable. The grown birds must be exhibited at poultry shows on the county, regional or state level. Since the exhibitor and breed should appear proportionate, younger 4-Hers might want to choose a bantam breed, rather than, for example, a Jersey Giant. Purchase chicks from a reputable hatchery.
Since you are raising your birds from the beginning, handle them frequently as they age so they are used to people. Showmanship requires specific ways to hold the bird and present it to the judge, from the minute you take it out of the cage until you put it back. Learn the holds carefully beforehand and practice frequently with the birds. In addition to holds, the judge might ask you to walk your bird on the table so she can observe leg movement. Make sure your birds are clean and free of disease and parasites before bringing them to the show. Select the birds best representing the breed standard in your flock to exhibit. While you can wash the birds with mild soap a few days before showing, it takes at least 48 hours for natural oil replacement in the feathers after washing.
You must dress appropriately when showing your chickens. Standard attire includes a white shirt and black or white pants. Boys should wear a conservative-looking tie, while girls can wear black ribbons. Each bird should be in an individual cage. Bed the cage well and immediately clean up any droppings. Your chickens should also have fresh, clean water and feed available.
Every breed of chicken conforms to an ideal standard. That's what the judge is looking for when she evaluates your birds. Chickens might be judged on an individual basis or as breeding stock. If it's the latter, your exhibit consists of a rooster and two hens. In addition to how closely the birds match the breed's standard of perfection, the judge also takes weight and condition into consideration. Not only must the bird weigh the appropriate amount for its breed and age, but it must appear healthy. If the breed has distinct feather patterns and colors, your birds should match that standard.
- Iowa State University Extension: 4-H Poultry Project
- Iowa State University Extension: What Is the Judge Looking For?
- University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System: 4-H Poultry Showmanship Rules
- West Virginia University Extension Service: 4-H Poultry Record Guide
- Louisiana State University Ag Center Research and Extension: Introduction to the 4-H Poultry Project
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.