Bethany Bennett inspects a Police rooster named Derp as a 4-H judging competition Friday at the Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days.
Photo by Alfred Diaz.
WALLA WALLA — Chicken showing is not for the chicken-hearted.
“They hold them and show they know how to pick them up. They show the wing feathers and name parts of the birds. They show how to check the bird for external parasites,” 4-H Rabbit and Poultry Superintendent Pam Castoldi said.
As if handling and showing a chicken isn’t difficult enough, 4-H chicken showers are also bombarded with questions to determine how well they know their breed, usually from a special chicken showing judge direct from Portland.
“It’s a big deal,” Castoldi said.
Nevertheless, there isn’t much cackling at the fair about chicken showing.
“Most people are like, ‘You show chickens?’ They don’t even know you can show chickens,” said 4-H competitor Darnelle Larish, 18.
The general public is also mostly unaware of the preparation that goes into getting a chicken ready for show. The process requires Miriam Bennett, 13, to practice with her bird at least three times a week.
“Putting in as much time as they need and balancing my schedule is the hardest part,” Bennett said.
Like many farm animals, if chickens aren’t handled regularly they end up not liking to be picked up or even bathed.
“They enjoy it. Well most of them. You get warm water and baby shampoo and you rinse them well and they enjoy it,” Castoldi said.
4-H chicken competitions also include egg judging competitions. And for many youths, eggs are the main reason they keep chickens.
Except for one other reason.
“Don’t get me wrong. And a lot of them go home and go in the freezer. But a lot of our 4-H kids keep them as pets as well,” Castoldi said.
Bennett added, “I love how much personality they have. They are just so much fun to handle. And they come in so many varieties and breeds. I just love it.”
The chicken judging finished on Thursday and Friday, but today the 4-H poultry youths will compete in a Barnyard Olympics at 1 p.m. at the Rabbit and Poultry Barn.