Preparing for a Show

Ever wondered why the same old names keep appearing on the champion cards at the shows? The reason being in most cases these people are very good showmen and take time to prepare a fowl for exhibition. Apart from stating the obvious that you need quality stock to start with, the little extra efforts can often mean the difference between a champion card or a place getters card. It can be said show preparation begins the day the chicken hatches, it is sometimes hard to understand that people will go to all the trouble of care and nurturing a fowl to show time, only to fail to present it in pristine condition.

Getting a bird ready for show requires a number of steps which I will try to outline in the following information.

Pen Training

As the show gets closer its time to get your birds used to show pens. I usually like to place my cockerels a number of times in the show pens just to get them use to it prior to the show. With the pullets, I can generally get away with just placing them in the show pens after washing them for the show. However, with breeds more prone to being flighty, this is not always as easy. Hence, for a number of days leading up to the show, it is worth putting a bird in a show pen say in the morning and taking out in the evening. After doing this a number of times, the birds will eventually get used to it and begin to realise the show pen doesn't represent danger. Some birds will tend to be shy in the show pens and push their heads into the corner. Often a reward of some damp bread in the pen will lure them out and help them to settle. Try moving your bird around whilst in the show pen and set it in a position as to stand still and show itself as if being judged. A bird that will stand and hold its position will really help its prospects on show day.

Washing for the show

All birds should be washed prior to the show. It is a good idea to wash your birds at least 3 days prior as this will give time for their feathers to settle. Washing birds over the years I have tried it all as keeping Light Sussex on red soil does present a challenge. After going through anything from a horse palomino wash to a grey haired women's specialty mixture I found myself right back where I began, sunlight soap. I will usually prepare a tub of warm water with a little bit of fabric softener and Napisan added. After putting the bird in, ensure all feathers are wet and start working all over with the sunlight soap, at this point the leg scales often become quiet soft so it is also good opportunity to try and get dirt out from under scales with toothbrush or nail scrubber. Once the bird has been well and truly soaped up, it is time for the rinse. It is best to have two rinse tubs at hand as the first rinse will remove most suds but the final rinse ensures perfection. I will usually add a cap or two of Bluo to the final rinse, however please exercise caution here as many a white chook has been turned blue over the years with a heavy dose of Bluo. Ensure birds are rinsed thoroughly as any suds not rinsed out will cause the feathers not to sit probably. After removing from the wash I usually towel dry first and if a warm sunny day, will place drying pens on the lawn. As most poultry shows are in winter, it is not always possible to dry birds this way, and sometimes a hair dryer comes in very handy. Whatever you do DON'T place your birds in a cold draft whilst drying and DON'T allow them to remain wet come night fall, the results can be disastrous!!

Transport to the Show

Generally most shows require a very early start it is this reason that I will usually box my birds the night before. Ensure your carry boxes contain plenty of pine shaving to avoid your birds soiling themselves. Your boxes should be of good size and allowing some movement for your birds to change position. Fowl are best boxed individually and ventilation a must as the body heat generated by the bird can increase the temperature within the carry box to significant levels. My show boxes for large fowls are 600mm long 600mm high by 450mm wide. It is worth noting that if you are transporting your birds to a show in a trailer, ensure trailer suspension is not to rigid as this can really shake your birds up leaving them in no state to be shown.

Dressing your birds up

To give your birds that winning edge it is a good idea to add some finishing touches. Starting with the comb I like to rub some soft margarine into it, to really make it glow. There are a number of other head dressings that are used by various exhibitors, however I find any of the petroleum based dressings burn the combs a little, causing the birds to lose a thin layer of skin from the comb after a couple of days. With legs, I like to massage some olive oil into them, wiping away any excess. A silk cloth is a must in preparing birds as this really helps feather shine and placement when wiped over the feather. Some exhibitors with dark coloured birds will add a little bit of kerosene to their silk cloth allowing it to dry before wiping over to provide greater feather sheen.

At this point you have done all that you can to give your fowls every possible chance to win, put your birds in their judging pens and enjoy your show day. Good luck!!!!