Ask a Poultry Farmer: Where do I find birds for 4-H or FFA projects?
Many folks don't just raise poultry, they enter their birds in county fairs and other shows.
The first photo at left is an example of backyard Rhode Island Red chickens. The backyard Rhode Island Reds have a lighter color and feathers aren't in as good condition as show-quality birds.
The second photo is an example of a show-quality Rhode Island Red rooster. His feathers have a richer color and sheen.
Youth and adults who are going to show poultry in 2015 need to order chicks now or at least need be thinking about it. Check your premium book, which lists the entry information, classes and categories for the show. Some shows only allow cockerels and pullets, which are hatched after January 1st of the show year. Some shows allow cocks and hens, which are older birds hatched before January 1st. Some shows use a different date as a guideline, so it's best to check beforehand.
There are many places to get purebred or show quality chicks:
The big hatcheries. These are fine for backyard poultry but iffy for purebred birds. My understanding is most buy their hatching eggs. Therefore they have no control over the breeding and quality of the birds.
Swaps. Most people selling at swap are good and honest, don't understand the concept of purebred poultry. Ask where they got the birds or breeding stock. Find someone from the area and ask if they know the person's reputation.
Craigslist and other online sellers. This can go either way. Ask the same questions as at a swap.
Local breeders. By far the best. You will be able to drive to their house and talk to them. They are also able to give advice on raising that particular breed of bird.
While you are at the show talk to other exhibitors to get leads for next year.
Advice. If they have a multi-page color brochure, can't tell you where they got the birds or don't know about the breeders stay away for your show birds.
Buying quality birds from breeders with good reputations is a start, but birds can still develop crooked toes or broken feathers that could affect their chances when they show. As an exhibitor, you need to coax them along and make sure they're in top shape.
And always remember the old advice: "Don't buy the best chick from a bad flock."
As always, post further questions in the comment section or send me an email at [email protected].
Dale Wheelock has been raising chickens, turkeys and waterfowl since he was a farm kid in the 1950s. He owns and operates the Wheelock Family Farm in Walworth County with his wife, Barb, and has been an agriculture leader in the community for decades. Read more about poultry farming at askapoultryfarmer.blogspot.com. Dale is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management. Have a question for Dale? Send him an email at [email protected].