Plan Ahead To Show Poultry at a Fair
You have just joined 4-H, or maybe you’ve been involved in 4-H for several years but have decided to take on a poultry project for the first time. Where do you begin? What kind of bird do you need? Where do you get it? When is the best time to purchase? I will help guide you in the best direction in this blog.
Each county has different rules and guidelines regarding poultry allowed and possession dates for the fair. Your best action plan is to contact your county 4-H extension office to get a copy of your local fair’s guidebook. This guide will show you what date you need to have your bird or birds in possession by, how many of each type of bird you can exhibit, the skillathon date, the date you need to check your bird(s) into the show, as well as show dates and times. I also recommend getting contact information for the members of your poultry board. They are an excellent resource for any questions you may have along the way.
Types of Poultry Projects
Projects vary from fair to fair, but poultry projects typically include chickens, turkeys, and waterfowl. It is crucial to think about what type of poultry you want to show when deciding on a project. Do you want to show a market bird? Market birds are an excellent option for showing and selling your project birds at the fair auction. How about an exhibition bird? These birds will not go to auction and will need to be taken back to your farm once the fair is complete.
Most fairs will have market classes that include chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Many fairs require specific breeds only to be shown in these classes, so it is vital to determine the rules for your location. Most commonly, Cornish cross are used for the chicken market class, Embden geese are used for the goose market class, Pekins are used for the duck market class, and broad-breasted turkeys are used for the turkey market class.
Where do I purchase my market birds?
Some counties require you to purchase your market birds directly from the poultry committee, while others allow you to purchase your market birds from a hatchery of your choice. Be sure to check with your local rules before purchasing.
How many Market Birds do I need to purchase?
If you plan on showing broiler chickens, I recommend purchasing a minimum of 6 per exhibitor. Raising more birds than needed is a good idea just in case you experience losses. It also gives you a variety of birds to select from, so you can take your best pen to the fair. Keep in mind; extra birds are not a waste. You can take any extras to be processed or process them yourself to stock your freezer.
It is essential to pick quality birds that meet the show qualifications of the APA (American Poultry Association) and ABA (American Bantam Association) standards. Any chick from a hatchery may or may not conform to the APA Standard of Perfection for its breed, but we do hear of several individuals who have won shows with chickens that they have purchased from Meyer Hatchery.
Be sure to contact your local 4-H extension office to find out what your bird possession dates are so that you can make sure you purchase your show birds in plenty of time to show them.
Bantams are a great choice for beginner projects because they are smaller, easier to handle, and require less space.
Egg Production Project
Many fairs will have an egg production class. This project is an excellent opportunity to show off the laying excellence of your bird. The judge will look at the bird’s uniformity, size, and overall quality of the eggs laid while at fair.
For this project, you want to select a breed not shown as a market bird at your fair. Again, check with your 4-H extension for breed requirements for this class. It is best to raise several ducks for this project to choose the best bird for show day. Most fairs will have a hen and a drake class which allows you to show two birds. Check on possession dates for your county so that you can get your birds in plenty of time for them to grow out and mature in time for fair. Ducks are typically full-grown by 5-6 months of age.
For this project, you will want to select a breed not shown as a market bird at your fair. Most fairs will use Embden for the market goose but it is always good to double-check. Check with your 4-H extension for breed requirements and the possession date for this class. It can take a full year for a goose to reach its full height and up to 2 years to fully mature. It is recommended that you raise at least a few for your project in case of a loss and so that you have some variety to select from prior to fair.
Most often, heritage turkey breeds are shown in this class. Checking with your 4-H extension is recommended to see what breeds are allowed and so you can learn what your possession date is. Generally, fairs have a tom and a hen class, allowing you to show one of each. Heritage turkeys typically mature by 7 months of age. . You want to grow them out long enough to allow their bodies to develop and feather out fully.
Planning is essential for a quality 4-H poultry project. Figure out what type of project you will take on, where you will house your birds, what you will need to take care of them. Once you know the possession date requirements, get your birds ordered as soon as possible. It is best to pre-order to secure the birds you need before they likely sell out. For exhibition projects, you may need to plan for the following year to allow you enough time to grow your project birds, so they reach maturity and full show potential. Poultry projects are tons of fun, and Meyer Hatchery is dedicated to giving you the tools you need to raise your birds successfully.
Be sure to also check out our blog on show day prep for chickens as most of the tips given are great for all poultry types. I wish you the best of luck this upcoming fair season!