Preparing Your Chickens for a Poultry Show

June 9, 2020

Poultry shows are one of the best ways to show off your beautiful birds. Poultry shows occur all over the place.  They’re a great way to find other chicken owners, make new friends and learn more about your birds. If you’re successful, your chickens can win you prizes and even bring home some money.  In order to be successful in the show ring, you need to spend some time preparing your chickens so that they are ready to steal the spotlight at your next chicken show.

Training Show Chickens

At a poultry show, the judge will look at and handle numerous chickens.  Depending on how large the show is, he or she could be looking at hundreds of chickens.  You want your bird to stand out, but in the right way.  A little training beforehand will help your bird to make a good impression on the judge.  You don’t want your chicken to be remembered as the stressed-out bird or the chicken that he/she couldn’t handle.

On show day, your chicken will be housed in its own cage.  It won’t be allowed to free-range or move about excessively.  The cages are small enough that the judge can easily reach in and handle your bird; if the cage was too big, the judge may have to chase your chicken around in the cage to handle it.  Your chicken needs to be used to being housed in a small cage.  This doesn’t mean that you have to keep them cooped up in a tiny crate 24/7.  You can get your chicken used to the idea of being in the smaller cage for extended periods of time by practicing at home.  The cage or crate needs a small amount of fresh water, food and clean pine shavings.  You can make the time in the cage more enjoyable by feeding them treats also.  The average size for a show crate is 27”x25” for chickens and 18”x18” for bantams.

Poultry judges can tell which chickens have been practicing for shows at home and which ones haven’t. If your chicken isn’t used to being in a small cage and then they’re all of a sudden placed in one for a show, they’re likely to cause a scene. They may knock over food and water, make a big fuss or even stress themselves out to the point of panting and developing heat stress.

Make sure that your chickens are used to being handled extensively.  The judge may poke and feel your chicken firmly, which can be uncomfortable for a shy chicken.  Start handling your potential show birds as chicks.  You want your chickens to look forward to being handled.  Always handle them positively and end on a good note.  It’s a good idea to touch them all over to get them used to how a judge may handle them.

Maintaining Show Chickens

Show chickens should be cared for differently than normal backyard chickens if you want to be successful.  Show chickens should look as flawless as possible.  One of the first things that you notice about a chicken is the feathers.  A show chicken’s feathers should be full, healthy and sleek.  There are a few things that you can do to make sure that your chicken’s feathers are in tip-top shape come show day.

Keep show hens away from roosters.  Even the gentlest rooster can be rough on hens when he mounts them to mate.  Roosters will grab the back of a hen’s head and can pull feathers out.  Nothing looks worse than a bald chicken on show day!

Prevent parasite problems.  Your chickens should be the perfect example of a healthy specimen for their breed.  This includes being parasite free.  Not only will parasites cause potential feather loss, but they can also cause unsightly wounds.  Keep your show birds free of mites, ticks, fleas and other parasites that can damage feathers and the skin.

Always make sure that your chickens are getting the best possible diet.  This includes making sure that they get enough protein.  Chickens that don’t get enough protein can drop feathers and even develop cannibalism.  A quick and easy way to make sure that they are getting enough protein in their diet is to feed them some mealworms.  Mealworms are a wonderful treat that chickens love.  If you want to knock out two tasks at once, feed your chickens some mealworms while they are spending time in their small crate.

Last Minute Preparations

Plan on bathing your show birds 3-4 days before a show.  This will give your chickens time to oil their feathers again, bringing back the natural sheen that a judge will look for.  There are numerous poultry show shampoos out there that you can use to wash them.  Don’t use harsh detergents to wash chickens since these can cause the feathers to become brittle.  There are also whitening shampoos that can help you keep your white-feathered birds white and not yellow.

Gently swirl your chicken in warm water and add shampoo.  Don’t submerge their head under the water. If your chicken is a crested breed, hold it upside down and just submerge the crest into the soapy water. Use a toothbrush to gently scrub the feet and legs.  Rinse your bird in a separate tub filled with warm water with a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice. This will help to remove all of the shampoo.  Make sure that all of the shampoo is completely removed before drying your chicken off.

To dry your chicken, wrap it in a towel and pat it dry as well as your can.  It can take up to 18 hours for your chicken to completely dry, so keep it in a warm and clean location until you’re sure it’s dry.  Chickens that have fluffy feathers can be dried with a blow dryer.  Set the blow dryer on low and gently dry the fluffy feathers.  Blow drying them will help them keep a fluffy appearance.

The face, comb and wattles can be cleaned with a q-tip and water.  You can also remove any dirt from the nostrils with a toothpick.  For breeds with white earlobes, a little bit of baby powder can help keep the earlobes looking super white.  Vaseline or baby oil can be applied to the comb, wattles, feet and legs to help keep them clean.  On show day, if your bird gets a little bit of dirt on them, simply wipe it off with a clean cloth.

When you’re transporting your bird to the show, make sure that it’s in a clean cage with clean bedding.  Pine shavings are the ideal bedding since they won’t get your chicken dirty.  On the day of the show, feed your chickens scratch grains.  Scratch grains will make poop that is more solid and won’t dirty them up the same way that other feed will.  Be sure to bring some paper towels in case you need to wipe off your bird once you get to the show.  Also bring food and water for your bird so that they can be comfortable all day long.

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More about Shelby DeVore

Shelby is an agricultural enthusiast that shares her love of all things farming with her husband and two children on their small farm in West Tennessee. She is a former agriculture education teacher and is also the author of the blog Farminence, where she enjoys sharing her love of gardening, raising livestock and more simple living. You can see more of Shelby's articles at:

1 Comment
    1. Where is a good site to get these cages…?preferably one that is for layers so the eggs, roll down a slant.

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