Show Preparation


Show Preparation

This does not just mean having clean birds. Show Preparation starts months before a show because fitness (correct feeding for good bone and muscle) is the framework upon which all the superficial items such as feathers are built. With some early maturing breeds it is only possible to show them in their first year, which usually means just coming into lay, so that hatching has to be timed to match point of lay (usually 18 weeks) and the chosen show(s). This effectively means that if these breeds do not have all the breed points when they are young, they are unlikely ever to have them. Other breeds do not mature until they are at least two years old, so will gain in breadth of body if the frame is there as youngsters.

Even dark coloured birds need washing for a show. Either washing up liquid or baby shampoo is normally used. The birds are dunked in warm water, lathered, rinsed and dried either in front of a fire or with a hair drier. They rather like this. It is best to wash birds at least a week before a show to allow the natural body oils to return to the feathers. Put the birds in a clean show pen in an area with lots of human activity to get them used to the bustle of a show. If the birds are tame as well, then so much the better. Don’t forget the legs which may need scrubbing gently and ingrained dirt gently removing from under the scales with a wooden toothpick.

Those feather colours which are liable to fade or change in strong sunshine tend to be kept in outdoor runs which are covered over, which means they are still fit and still the correct colour. If you must wash a bird the day before a show, make sure it is dry before you box it as otherwise the feathers will stick out at all angles. Always try and use boxes that are too big so that the birds have enough room both to keep cool and to turn around which protects the tail feathers. Use a proprietary flea powder to make sure that none of these unwelcome parasites accompany your birds to the show. You will have taken precautions against scaly leg mite by dunking the legs in surgical spirit about once a month throughout the year, so that should not be a problem. Make sure that claws and beak are trimmed to the correct shape. Dog toenail clippers are the correct shape for this. Check on the correct leg colour for your breed, because if it should be yellow, and the birds have been laying well, the yellow colour will go out of the legs into the yolks. Feeding maize will help to counteract this, as will running the birds on grass. By the same token, if your breed should have white legs, do not feed maize in order to avoid a yellow tinge to the skin.

All shows have an entry date which varies between several weeks before the show to one week before the show. Make sure you enter before this date as late entries are not accepted and check that your entries are correct for the various classes. Show Secretaries will give entry information if asked. Their addresses are on the Poultry Club website under Affiliated Societies, and lists of shows are usually published in the various poultry magazines. If you have shown the previous year, you will normally be sent a schedule. Make sure that your birds are penned in time for judging, and a little oil or vaseline rubbed on the comb, wattles and legs will spruce them up. A silk handerchief is said to be good for imparting a shine to the feathers, but is is more enduring to have the shine there through good feeding and management in previous months.

Birds are not normally fed or watered in show pens before judging as this can change the correct outline or create dirt and droppings, but take food in the form of grain (firmer droppings) to a show plus water in a container suitable to pour through the bars of a showpen after judging, as not all shows are of sufficient duration to afford stewards to feed and water birds. Water containers are usually provided, but if in doubt, take either a two-hook cup drinker or a small plastic container which can be wired, pegged or fixed to the pen so that it does not tip over.

Bear in mind when returning from a show that dusting with flea powder is a sensible precaution, and ideally, all show birds should be kept separate from your other stock for a couple of weeks just to make sure that they have not brought something contagious home from the show, or that the stress of showing has not depressed their immune systems, allowing the entry of disease. A bit of cossetting after a show may well mean that a particular bird can be shown again soon, or return to the breeding pen in a fit condition.