Poultry association brings fowl fanciers together in Cape

Monday, March 21, 2005

There is a difference between commercial chickens and show chickens.

A member of the Heartland Classic Poultry Association, Brad Jones considers himself a "poultry fancier." He brought 20 fowl to the group's sixth annual exhibition at the Arena Building.

"The commercial chickens are bred to lay," he said. "They're the same breeds as the exhibition birds, but not purebred; they're bred for different qualities."

Jones has been breeding show birds for 25 years.

"I like the competition," he said. "You meet a lot of good people."

The competition on Saturday and Sunday at the Arena Building was between 1,200 birds, owned by 83 exhibitors from 11 states, said Kirk Keene, the association's secretary. Some breeders came from Texas and Michigan, but most were from Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

"It was a fairly small show," he said. "The large shows have as many as 12,000 birds."

The birds at Sunday's show were among 200 varieties of chickens, ducks and geese. They ranged in weight from 15 pounds to 15 ounces. The small birds are known as "bantams," a fifth-sized version of a breed. The large birds are called "standards."

The poultry were graded by three judges, one local and two out-of-state. Judging is based on the "standard of perfection," a description of every breed's flawless bird. Every part of the bird is judged, from its feet, to its sickles, or tailfeathers.

"It's like a dog show," Keene said.

A wash and a curl

Similar to a dog show, the birds must be prepared for exhibition. Jones said that cleanliness was an important factor.

"I give them all baths, bring them to the show and clean them up again," he said. "It's hard to keep the white ones clean."

Keene, who said he was too busy with coordinating the event to bring his own chickens, said that the birds handle baths better than cats. He washes his in his kitchen sink with dog shampoo.

"We're all obsessed with our chickens," he said. "Some of the things we do for them is like putting on makeup. We apply oil to enhance their faces, clean their feet."

For their hard work, exhibitors can win one or several of more than 30 awards, the best being Show Champion. There is also a Junior Showmanship award, which is based on a child's knowledge of the bird he is showing more so than the quality. "It encourages youth participation," Keene said.

As far as community participation, Keene said he was pleased with this year's turnout. "More people came from the public than ever before," he said.

For those who missed this year's show and want to see firsthand the exotic varieties of poultry, it's held on the third weekend of March every year.

nstanfield@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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