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Poultry Showmanship Made Easy (UCDavis)

Practicing with your Bird - If you have ever seen a professional poultry showman at work, they make showing their bird look very easy. However, for your bird to act that good in a show ring, you need to practice, practice, practice. The smaller and calmer your bird is, the easier time you’ll have of it. You should first start by handling and talking to your bird a lot, as well as feeding it tidbits out of your hand. With roosters, you need to be careful with the last step, as they can get aggressive if they feel that they have an advantage over you. When you and your bird feel comfortable around each other, you can start practicing holding and walking around with the bird the correct way, by placing your middle and fourth finger between the bird’s legs. Using your first finger and pinkie, hold the bird’s wings down.  For carrying, put the bird’s head under your arm. Although the chicken’s head is supposed to come out at the back of your arm, most show birds are so small they don’t fit.



At The Show


It is finally time to pack for the show. The materials you will need are:


A waterer – A metal dish or glass waterer are the most common kinds of waterers that you can find. They both work well and are not very expensive. You can find them at most feed stores.


A feeder – A feeder that can attach to the side of the cage is usually best. Do not use an unsecured trough

feeder! Your bird can easily tip over this kind of feeder unless it is tied to the side of the cage.


Food - Bring your own food that you usually give the bird at home. Some shows provide food, but it is always best to bring the food that the bird is used to and you know is O.K.

You’ve finally made it to the show! Set up in the cage provided, or in the one you brought, the waterer, feeder and bedding. Make sure that your bird cannot tip over either the water or food by securing it with the wire or string to the cage. Fill both completely and then put the chicken in. Don’t worry if he/she doesn’t eat or drink at first. Almost all birds get carsick, even if you are on a straight road, just like some people get sick on a windy road. Watch them for an hour or so. If they are not eating two hours later, the chances are

that they are sick. You should immediately remove the bird from the show if this happens. If you aren’t sure if the bird is all right, ask a judge if they think your bird is off color. This is one of the many reasons that you should observe the bird at home in its normal environment to see what they usually act like. Are they usually a bit slow? Do they normally act somewhat lethargic? If so, this may be normal behavior for your bird.

After your bird is set up in the cage, wash it’s head and face with a damp towel or baby wipes. Make sure that you use warm water on the towel, as this is much more comfortable for the bird and helps to clean it better. Then put a little bit of the olive or mineral oil on a towel corner or on some Q-tips. Gently apply this to the chickens comb, wattles, and beak. Be careful when applying it to the beak, as you can plug up their nostrils with the oil. Clean the bird’s feet and legs with a damp towel or baby wipe. Then rub oil onto the bird’s legs and feet. This gives them an extra shine for the judge. Don’t do these things until right before judging, however, as the oil attracts dust to the bird.




This next section is completely on showmanship. If you are planning on only exhibiting your bird, you only need the information up to this point to be successful.



The first and most important rule of showmanship is kindness to your bird. The more co-operative your chicken is, the better success you’ll have in the ring. Start out with the same procedures you would use for an exhibit bird, by feeding them treats and tidbits out of your hand, to gain their trust. Then start practicing holding and walking correctly with your chicken. Both of these steps lead to having a calm and docile show bird. The next step is one of the more important ones, but it also takes a lot of patience. Place your bird down on a table and wait. After a few seconds the bird will try to walk away. Calmly pick them back up and place them in the same spot that they were in before they moved. Continue doing this for about 10 minutes, then reward the bird with a small treat. It will take about 2 weeks for them to stand still for the required 2 to 3 minutes that you will need in the show ring. Then start working on posing the bird according to their breed. There are two mains kinds of poses; the pose for the fluffier breeds such as cochins and silkies; and the other pose is strictly for the upright birds like the modern game. The pose that is in-between these two is for old English and Japanese bantam types.


Silkie Pose – Fluff up the tail so that it looks as much like a fluffy ball as possible. Then perk the birds head up by holding a small piece of food between your fingers and slowly moving it up in front of the bird, so that they stretch their neck up after it. Set the body at a very slight angle for the finishing touch.


Modern Game Pose – Use the same technique as with the silkie pose to get the birds head up. Then place the body so that the chicken is nearly upright. Make sure the tail feathers are in good condition, as the judge looks at these very closely.


Old English Pose – Again, use the same idea for posturing the birds head. You want the body at a very slight angle, with the tail upright. Be careful about having the body at too much of an angle.





This next part will take you through showmanship step by step. 


Introducing yourself – This is an optional step that some judges don’t require. It is always good to learn it however, just in case you need to do it in the show ring. You should say your name, age, the 4-H club or FFA group you are in, the sex of your bird; hen (a female bird over 6 months old), cock (a male bird over 6 months old), pullet (a female bird under 6 months old), or cockerel a male bird under 6 months old). Next say how old your bird is. Then tell the judge the class, breed, and variety that your bird is. An example of what I would say with this bird is; “Hello, my name is Emily Lane, I’m thirteen years old

and from the Grass Valley Creek 4-H Club. My bird is a hen. She is approximately 2 years old. Her class is game bird, her breed is modern game, and her variety is brown-red.”


Examining the Bird


This step is one of the hardest in the entire showmanship procedure. It is based on simply remembering the steps and practicing with your bird.


Head – Hold the bird’s head up on your finger and look at its eyes, beak, and comb. Then turn the chicken around and do the same thing on the opposite side. Don’t just pretend to be examining the bird, as some judges will ask you questions about certain points on your chicken. The longer you take to start answering these questions, the more the judge will be determined that you don’t know what you are doing. This goes for all of the steps of examination. After you are done with each step, look at the judge before going on to the next. Wait until they acknowledge you before going on.


Wings – Fan the chicken’s wings out by grasping the shoulder joint and gently pulling out the wing. Count the birds feathers on the wing, spreading them out so that the judge can see. Then lift the chickens wing up and blow on the feathers underneath. This is to show the judge that the bird does not have mites or lice. Turn the bird around and repeat the procedure on the other side.


Undercolor – Lift the feathers on the birds saddle or neck and blow under them. This is checking that the bird’s undercolor, or the color of the feather shafts, is correct, as well as checking for mites or lice.


Width of Body – Place your thumb and first finger around the widest part of the birds body, or right behind the wing or shoulder joints. Show the measurement to the judge.


Breast – Flip the bird over and hold their back against your chest. Measure the length of his/her keel bone, sometimes called the breast bone, with your first finger and thumb. Show the measurement to the judge. This is also to check that the keel bone is straight and does not have any bumps on it.


Vent – Lower the bird slightly so that the head is facing you. Part the fluff feathers and shows the judge the vent, checking for mites and lice as you do so.


Depth of Abdomen – Measure the number of fingers that you can fit between the end of the breast bone and the pubic bones, two small bones on either side of the vent that stick out. Show the measurement to the judge.


Width between Pubic Bones – The main purpose of this step is to see how productive your hen is when it comes to laying. This may make it seem like an unnecessary step if you show a rooster, but you need to do it anyway. See how many fingers you can fit between the pubic bones and show the number to the judge.


Feet and Legs – Turn the chicken so that the head is facing toward the judge. Then hold out the feet and legs of the bird and look them over, checking for dirt, scaly leg, bumble foot, and other diseases that might be present. Then slowly turn the chicken in a full circle, looking at the legs and feet all the time. As this is the last step, you need to wait patiently if you finish first, holding your bird and smiling.


Caging the Bird – This is one of the easiest steps. You need to walk over to a cage that the judge has pointed out, making sure that you always face the judge. Place your bird in the cage, pose them, and then shut the cage door. Wait with your hands behind your back until the judge nods or asks you remove your bird. Take the bird out of the cage and walk back to the table.




 Click on the link to watch a video on 4-H Showmanship



CHICKENS (Ohio State University)


Parts of a Chicken pdf

Parts of a Chicken Skillathon Poster pdf  This is a picture of the same bird with no labels.


Parts of a Wing pdf   See an open wing with the feather groups labeled


Wing Feathers of a Chicken Skillathon Supplement pdf


We put together a series of video clips during the Ohio State Fair that we thought might be helpful for people that are interested in showing poultry.  As we get the time we will add to this collection.


How to wash your broiler in preparation for showing


Phil Clauer talks about Jared Miller's first place market turkey.


The following clips have some tips for showmanship


Bill Karcher with Carter Eberwine on Showing Turkeys


"Pass the Bird"


Putting Birds in their Cages

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