Paycen, my eldest, has always loved chickens. He began showing exhibition birds when he turned 9 years old. He’s now 16 and has won many ribbons over the years.
I’d like to share the basics of preparing a bird for show.
Notice the holes cut out around the top. Those are air holes for transportation. We only cut holes up high so that feathers can’t get damaged. You want smooth sides to not ruffle feathers.
You should soak the bird in warm soapy water. Depending on how dirty the bird is, you may need to do two soapy water baths.
Recently grown in feathers will still have shafts. Try to remove shafts without removing the feather. You can pick them out with your fingers, gently, or you can try a comb or brush. Just be sure you aren’t pulling feathers out – just the shafts off of the feather base.
You can also employ your old toothbrush when scrubbing legs and toes. After cleaning well, paying attention to the vent area, you should rinse twice. Some people like to add a few drops of glycerin to the rinse water for shine. Usually, two rinse tubs will do the job. I like to put them in my bathtub and use the shower arm to rinse well.
Always check for lice or mites. They will lay nests of eggs around the vent area. Your chicken will be disqualified for having a contagious disease if mites or lice are found on your bird. You can treat routinely with Adams flea and tick spray, diatomaceous earth, or once monthly Frontline Spray.
After the bathing and rinsing is complete, you will need to dry your bird. We like the “chicken burrito” approach:
You can bathe multiple birds while waiting for them to dry. Here’s a pic of Landry a few years back with 3 birds at one time.
After they are partially dry, we pull out the hair dryer. Any bird with fluffy feathers will need to be dried on low or med heat – don’t overheat the bird with high heat. Birds with close, tight feathers can simply air dry.
Toes and beaks can be trimmed with dog nail clippers or with a Dremel tool. I prefer using a Dremel because there are no sharp edges to cut you or your judge. Spurs on rooster should be trimmed back as well. If your judge is injured while handling your bird, you will not win.
After the chickens are dry, you can polish their combs and wattles with baby oil or tea tree oil. It will take about 2 days for the bird to return to its normal sheen, since you have removed the natural oils. Be sure to bathe 2-3 days prior to the show.
We love Pink spray to give a little extra sheen. We use this on our chickens, dairy cows, and pigs.
You should be ready to show! Be sure to bring your feed, some baby wipes for last-minute clean-up, and that oil to shine combs and wattles.
Chickens are a very easy way to begin any young person’s 4-H show career. Plus you get eggs that can’t be beat!