“Life is Better with Chickens.” When you think of a chicken, you probably think of Kentucky Fried Chicken or your little backyard laying hen. Well, it can be a lot more than that! I was largely involved in the 4-H program and a few years ago, Poultry became one of my projects and little did I know what it would grow into.
Growing up, my mom always had a flock of laying hens, not that big of a deal but I enjoyed them. I started to grow away from the flock so my mom got rid of them. Fast forward to about three years ago. I had decided that I wanted to enroll in the Poultry Project, so I did, and my mom helped me order chicks from Murray McMurray, a hatchery that hatch and mail the chicks to customers. I decided on getting a variety of Wyandottes. Wyandottes are a dual-purpose breed, they can be used for laying eggs or meat consumption. Being new to the project I had no idea what I was supposed to do or what the judges would look for at the fair. So, the chicks arrived in the mail about three days old and we started them on feed and water and got them under the heat lamp so they could stay warm. The days went by and they continued to grow. The chicks had turned into “teenagers”, they look like “little” chickens they were old enough now that they could go outside, and it was a whole new world. So, they continued to live the life of a chicken. But it was soon fair time and I did know that when I exhibited them, they needed to be clean and that mean a bath. Yes, you heard me, a bath. So, my mom and I teamed up and gave them a bath, it is quite the ordeal, but it was done, and they were clean. We were ready, the fair was upon us and the chickens had been judged, and it turns out I didn’t have a very bad bunch, not great, but not terrible. I ended up getting Reserve Grand Champion Chicken at the Edwards County Fair.
But here is where the main story begins. The judge, whom I shall leave unnamed, also showed chickens, Bantam Wyandottes to be exact, and I approached him and told him that I would be very interested in getting some chickens from him. Bantam means small, so Bantam Wyandottes would be the smaller size of the Wyandotte. So, I had high hopes on getting some Bantam Wyandottes. Well my dream came true and he brought me a little flock of Columbian Bantam Wyandottes. They are black and white. I couldn’t believe it. But the Kansas State Fair was coming up and I had qualified a pen of three and my single entry for the state fair from the county fair and I decided to enter two of the bantams that I had received. My eyes were opened to what the show chicken world was like and that a show chicken is NOT just any chicken. But I knew that this is what I wanted to show.
So that same winter I travelled to another chicken show and only entered my bantams because they were the only birds, I had worthy of showing. But at this show I met a show poultry legend Milt Gadberry who also showed Bantam Wyandottes, white and black varieties. After talking to him and making a connection I wondered if he had any birds for sale, well, anybody has birds for sale if the price is right. I saw a box on the floor with a Black Bantam Wyandotte female in it and I asked him if she was for sale, he said, “Yes, but I have a guy who is supposed to get her.” Well, she was still there at the end of the day, so I kept pestering him and he finally caved in, I got her!! This is the moment where my poultry showing career would be changed forever. I would name her “Bianca”.
Throughout the year I continued to grow my flock, I now have white, black, and columbian varieties. I then started collecting eggs and incubating them. I had a few successful hatches, the first of many. The spring flew by and before I knew it, it was time for the fair again. Chickens were washed and clean, but this time my facilities and processes were much improved. The poultry show went much better than expected I won Grand Champion with “Bianca” and Reserve Grand Champion with “Gabby” one of my white females that I got from Milt. I was very excited because my work had paid off. Since I won, I qualified for the State Fair.
Heading to the State Fair I knew what I was in for and how things would work. I knew I had good birds, but I did not see what was coming. I had entered Bianca, Gabby, and Cluck Norris. The show was very stressful for me because I had worked for hard. The judges went round and round continuing to look over the birds they were down to the last two birds and little did I know they were both mine! That’s right! I had won Champion and Reserve Champion Bantam Birds with Bianca and Cluck Norris. But that is not all, Bianca won Super Champion Chicken. At the time, I did not even know what that meant, well it means I had the best bird in the building, and I could not believe it. Little did I know when I bought this bird out of a box on the floor that she would be chosen as Super Champion. And only my second year in the project.
So, my chicken showing career has continued and my flock has grown even more, my knowledge had continued to grow, and my winning has not stopped. Even though I am in college I have not let that stop me. My flock and I keep having success and I hope to keep improving and this goes to show with hard work and patience anything can happen. And like it said, “Life is Better with Chickens.”