Backyard chicken farmers raise chickens for various reasons with two of the most common being eggs and pets. However, with the rising popularity of raising show chickens, we need more information about this facinating hobby.
My best advice to anyone wanting to raise chickens for show is: research—research—research. Besides reading articles on line and in poultry publications, talk to your local extension and 4-H offices.
First you need to find out where the shows are and what criteria you’re required to meet. Show chicken judging uses various criteria and fixed standards for the breed includes:
|Breed and Variety|
|Age, Weight, and Sex|
|Plumage or Feather Coloring|
Show Chicken Breeds
There are many show breeds to choose from, but I am only going to list five of the more popular ones. Start with this list and research the judging criteria for these chickens. Roosters are normally chosen for show poultry because of their feather and coloring characteristics.
For beginners, start out with only one or two breeds and don’t add another until you gain experience with these. This is the best advice I can give you yet many ignore it, eventually setting themselves up for failure.
Silkie – Fluffy, silky feeling plumage, dark blue flesh and earlobes, and five toes on each foot, makes this chicken a favorite at poultry shows. They come in several colors including, white, buff, black, gray, blue, red, and mottled variations. They are the most docile with a calm and friendly temperament, making them ideal pets and show chickens. Something to consider before deciding to show Silkies is their high maintenance, making them less ideal for the beginner.
Polish – Known for the crest of feathers adorning their head, the Polish were originally kept as egg layers but today are primarily kept as show birds. These tame chickens are timid and easily frightened because of limited vision caused by the crest which covers most of their head. This limited vision can impact their temperament.
Houdan – Native to France, the Houdan is an attractive bird with many distinctive features. Like the Polish, the Houdan has a crested head and five toes. Their earlobes and wattles are small and hidden by the feathered bearding and crest. They come in two colors, white and mottled (black with white spotting).
Silver Spangled Hamburg – This is a beautiful show bird with trim, stylish, and delicate features. They are good flyers and active, making them less suitable to confinement. As well as the silver spangled, Hamburgs are found in gold spangle and silver pencil color variations.
Seabright – A true bantam, or miniature bird with no large version of the breed, is a beautiful ornamental chicken. Seabright is strictly an ornamental chicken, and boasts a specialist club for enthusiasts. The plumage on all Seabrights has lacy black edges on a silver white or dark gold base. Their legs are unfeathered with slate-blue skin while their combs, earlobes, and wattles are bright red. Seabrights are tame but males may become protective around hens, possibly turning on their owners however, this can happen with any rooster breed.
My best advice if you plan to raise show chickens—always buy chicks and buy from a knowledgeable and reputable breeder. Hatcheries breed for quantity and their birds are not show quality. Your local extension and 4-H offices can help you find a breeder.
Picking Your Show Chicken
When deciding which of your chickens to show, good fit stock is essential. Always look for:
Overall fitness and condition—sound plumage and good physical traits. Conformation or shape—comply with breed standards. Color—comply with breed standards.
As the cost of living rises, more people are looking for alternative family fun, moving away from expensive movies, concerts and other high priced events. With the rise in urban backyard chicken farming, raising show poultry is quickly gaining popularity.
Raising show chickens is fun for the whole family and gives parents and kids some all-important bonding time. It’s a great, inexpensive hobby with competitions on the local, state, and national level.
If raising backyard chickens interests you, then you’ll love the striking plumage, bright colors, and even some of the weird features of show chickens.
Look for future posts about raising show chickens including how to bathe your chickens.