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4-Hers are waiting for their moment with the poultry judge. Photo Credit: Misty Smith

4-Hers are waiting for their moment with the poultry judge. Photo Credit: Misty Smith

I am often asked, “How do you wash a chicken?” I reply, “Just like a turkey, only on a smaller scale!” But for many 4-H’ers, washing chickens is part of showing chickens and is a skill they have to master.

Raising and showing poultry is quickly becoming a hobby for people of all ages. Youth who are active in a 4-H poultry project, are already one step ahead of the rest. Not only do they learn about poultry health, bio-security, and nutrition, they also learn about sportsmanship and other aspects of the poultry industry through showmanship.  Many UF/IFAS Extension Offices offer day camps and clinics to help youth learn how to raise and show poultry, so contact your local office for more information- there’s one in every county!  Here are a few steps 4-H youth can take to prepare for a poultry show:

Step 1: Handle your chicken daily. By handling your chicken daily, this will ensure that it is used to people, and will be friendly to the judge. A friendly chicken shows the judge that the chicken’s owner has been dedicated to preparing the bird for showing, not just ignoring it and bringing it to the show on show day.

Step 2: Practice holding your chicken. There is a correct way to hold a chicken when you are showing it and you will need to practice, practice, practice. 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. When youth practice holding and carrying their bird, the bird becomes very docile and calm which makes for a great show chicken.

Step 3: Know the parts of the chicken. This step is one of the hardest in the entire showmanship procedure.

Poultry Showmanship can help youth build communication skills and confidence. Photo Credit: Julie Dillard

Poultry Showmanship can help youth build communication skills and confidence. Photo Credit: Julie Dillard

It is based on simply remembering the steps and practicing with your bird. Youth are quizzed on the parts of the chicken and whoever knows the most, does the best. Make sure you know about the head, wings, under color, width of body, breast, vent, abdomen, pubic bone, legs and feet, and how to cage a bird. All of these will ensure to the judge that youth have studied about their bird and are very knowledgeable on the parts of a chicken. Also, know about the breed of your chicken. You will want to do your homework on the breed of chicken that you are showing so any questions that the judge may ask about your bird you will know how to answer correctly.

Step 4: Know how to bathe your chicken. The easiest way to bathe a chicken is with a 5 gallon bucket of lukewarm water and dish soap. You want to “dip” the chicken 2-3 times in the soapy water, avoiding getting the head wet, and then dip them in clean water to rinse them off. Never submerge a chickens head in the water due to the fact that the chicken can aspirate and die. If your chicken’s head is soiled, use a wet cloth to wipe it clean. The chicken will take care of the rest by preening itself so make sure that you bathe the chicken 48 hours prior to the show so that there will be time for natural oil replacement. Place your chicken in a wire cage to ensure it stays clean before the show.

Step 5: Have fun! Showing chickens is a great and rewarding experience for youth. Poultry shows are a great opportunity for youth to demonstrate their skills, gain confidence, make lifelong friends and practice responsibility.  The 4-H poultry project can be the spark that leads youth to a career in animal science industry where the possibilities are endless!

Do you have a passion for poultry?  If so, consider using your knowledge, skills and interests as a 4-H poultry volunteer.  We could use your expertise planning shows, teaching workshops and helping youth experience success with their poultry project.  Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org for more info.

Recommended Resources for Poultry Showmanship: