Tips on Conditioning & Showing Poultry
by Tyler Greer
First off I want to say an unhealthy bird never shows well. What I mean by this is make sure your birds are healthy and free from and disease and parasites (mites, lice etc..). There are several products on the market for treating lice, mites, etc...In addition to the above, scaly leg mites can be treated with petroleum jelly, vegetable, mineral, linseed oil are effective when directly applied to the legs. Don’t be that exhibitor that brings a bird full of mites or lice to a show. In most cases the bird will not place in any show. Showing a bird, a lot of people don’t understand this but it really does put a lot of stress on the bird. Moving the bird from its original home where it is used to staying to being put into a new cage with new neighbors, smaller cages, different lighting, different shavings, etc… I always suggest to cage train your birds. What I mean by that is handle them often, move them to another cage for a few hours, walk past the bird several times to try to “mock” what the bird will see and encounter in a real chicken show. Also something to remember about showing- most shows require test papers. Contact the show superintendent usually listed in the show catalog or fair book and ask what papers you are required to have before showing. After you find out what kind of test papers you are required to haver you can contact your local extension office to find people who will test your birds. Most hatcheries send you paperwork with your chicks.
Now I will get into conditioning birds. If there are any broken or damaged feathers you will want to pull them 6-10 weeks before the show you are attending. Personally, if I see a broken feather I pull it A.S.A.P, because I don’t like broken feathers on my birds. It is critical that you get them pulled in that time range because it takes 6-8 weeks to grow back in. (Some breeds vary). You want all the feathers fully grown when you take them to a show. A few weeks before the show is the time you want to do all your trimming, toenails, beaks, and spurs for males. I use regular pet clippers, or fingernail clippers. It is good to do the trimming a few weeks before and not the day before because freshly trimmed nails and beaks do not have the “natural” look. A few days before the show (I try to do it a 3-4) you will
want to wash your birds getting off all of the dirt manure bugs etc.. I do it as simple as possible I have 3 buckets of water the first with water and I use blue or green Dawn dish soap with water. The second bucket I have full of warm water, also the third bucket is full of warm water, I wash the bird in the first bucket and make sure I clean every spot of the bird. Do not just dip the bird in the soapy water and take it out. Thoroughly clean the bird as you would yourself. I don’t expect you throw soap on in the shower without scrubbing and then get rinse off and get out… same principle, secondly I rinse the bird in the second bucket of warm soapless water rinsing all the soap off the bird. In the third bucket I just dip the bird in just to make sure all soap is off and no soap is left on the bird. You don’t want to wash them the night before or the morning before because when you wash them it takes oils out of their feathers and it takes a few days for them to put the oils and natural sheen back in. There are several ways to dry a bird. If it is in the warm months you can simply put them in a cage outside. In the colder months you can dry them off with towels and then blow dry them. Some breeds such as cochins and silkies will take longer to dry than breeds such as moderns or leghorns. After drying put the bird in a CLEAN cage that is freshly bedded and change the bedding every day until the show day.
When you arrive at the show before you carry your birds into the show, go in and find out where your birds are supposed to be cooped in and show your paperwork. After you have located the correct cages for your birds make sure the pens are bedded and you have fresh feed and water in the cage before you put your bird in. Now that your bird is cooped in you may start prepping. Prepping your bird for show is like handwriting- everyone does it differently. I will go into a few tips that I do, again this is me personally. I like my bird to “stand out” so to speak. That being said, I want the bird to be clean, showy, and appealing to the eye. Let’s start with the dead and face of the bird. By using baby oil or products like VetRx (can be found at most feed stores) gently apply either by dipping your fingers in or by using a Q-Tip to the face, comb, wattles, beak, and feet. This will show the face brighter and the legs cleaner and brighter. Next the plumage of the bird again, there are several products to use my personal favorite is Pink hairspray, this can be found at your local grocery store in the hair product section. Holding the bird facing you head pointed down to the ground arm-length from your body lightly spray the bird with the product you choose. You will know when enough is enough be careful not to spray too much as you will have an oily chicken. After spraying take a cloth and gently rub in the product to the birds plumage. This will give your bird a shiny and clean look.
Going to end this with a few words when you show you will not always win and that is okay, the biggest thing a poultry show provides is not winning but experience. If you want find the judge, if he/she is not busy ask them if they would mind evaluating your birds with you one-on-one. Listen and be kind. Most judges will give you feedback and help you. Remember we are here to better the breed!!