People’s Favorite Chickens

There have been lots of replies to what your favorite chickens are.  Some of them we’ve never heard of before, like hsbdfjas and cifgewhuechu–random strings of letters.  It appears that the comments are spam.  If you are a spam bot, please stop visiting this page.  Thank you.  Here are some real chicken breeds.

DSC05277

Cochin.

DSC01531

Buff Orphington.

DSC04411

Jersey Giant.

DSC05215

Russian Orloff.

No spam bots allowed!

Chicken Spotlight: Dragon

DSC05215

Dragon is a Russian Orloff hen.  She is extremely tame, and likes to eat cheese.  She is high up in the pecking order, and is in charge of the younger birds.  After her last molt, her feathers came in lighter, and her color pattern is beautiful.

 DSC05974

For more pictures of Dragon: http://www.bigthingscoop.com/the-coop/dragons-gallery/

Big Thing

 

Keeping Your Chickens Happy at Shows

DSC04773


 Chickens like to be able to see other chickens at shows.


It’s fun to take your birds to a show.  But once you get there, you will need to make sure that your birds have food and water and your cages are clean.  But how do you know if your bird is happy?

DSC06778


 Make sure your chickens have food and water at the show at all times.


In general, I have found that chickens do not like going to shows and sitting in cages.  The longer the show, the more birds seem to become bored.

I think that chickens are usually happiest when they can see other chickens.  This could be across the barn aisle or in a cage next to them.  If it’s hot, you should monitor your chicken to make sure that it’s not overheating.  Watermelon is a good treat for chickens on hot days.  They seem to really like it.

I have observed that chickens like to be taken out of their cages and carried around now and then during the show.  Depending on the show, this may or may not be possible.

There’s not much you can do about where your chicken’s cage is at the show.  It may not be able to see other birds.  But I have found that it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your chicken during the show and know what it needs.

How to Get Best-of-Show Eggs

DSC01140


 Hens like to hide their nests.


Getting twelve eggs to enter in a show or fair is difficult.  The eggs should be uniform, and of the same color and size.  One of our best laying hens always eats or claws up the eggs she lays.  Some of the others hide their nests.  If you are in this situation, the only way to get a good dozen eggs is to start saving them at least a month before you need them (the only way to do this is to refrigerate the eggs.

By the time over a month has passed, the eggs may not be good to eat.  But that doesn’t matter, since at most fairs the eggs are judged on appearance, not taste (there may be exceptions).  Just be careful that you don’t break any of them, or the smell may not be pleasant.

DSC00068


Some hens will eat their own eggs.


 

To get the eggs looking good, we have found that it works best to was the eggs the day before.  We take a paper towel soaked in soapy water and scrub them off.  Usually you can scrub calcium deposits off the egg if you want to.

Once you have saved and cleaned the eggs, you need to sort them to pick out the best ones.  Usually it takes a lot of eggs to get a dozen good ones.

Practice Effectively for Showmanship

Chicken showmanship is like showing any other animal.  It takes practice, knowledge, and a well-trained bird.  But it’s hard to know where to start when practicing for this class.  Here’s some ideas to get the most out of your time spent training your bird.

If you’re training your bird, it should be in a safe area where your bird will be OK if it gets away from you.  Be careful that you don’t get clawed or pecked.

Keep your practice sessions short.  Only do about 5 to 10 minutes.  Practice often.

ChickenWhatYouNeed

 What you need: Your bird, a table, a mat or towel to protect the table (if you want), and a plate of treats (such as cheese chunks).  Keep the plate of food out of the chicken’s reach.  Otherwise, the food will be all gone before you even start training your bird.


 

The first–and easiest–thing you should teach your chicken is learning to pose on the table.  Make the bird stand still  without you touching it.  At first, the bird will try to walk away or fly off the table.  When this happens, pick the bird up and set it back on the table.  If the bird holds still for a second or so, give it a treat.  Gradually go for longer and longer times of your chicken standing still.  The ultimate goal is for your chicken to stand still while you walk a few steps away, wait a second, and come back.

ChickenPose

Step 1: train your bird to pose.


The next thing you can work on is getting your bird used to being picked up.  There is a specific way you have to do this for showmanship.  using whichever hand seems easier, put your middle two fingers together and spread your index finger an pinky away from them.  Slide your hand under your chicken.  The bird’s legs will go between your spread-out fingers.  Bring your fingers together so that you hold the bird’s legs firmly.  Hold one wing down with your thumb.  Finally, put your other hand over the chicken’s back.  Then lift up your bird.  If your chicken isn’t used to this, it will struggle and squawk.  When this happens, set the chicken down.  Keep trying until your chicken stops struggling–even if that’s a tiny fraction of a second.  Then give the bird a treat.  Don’t overdo this.  Do probably a minute max at the start.

HowToPickUpChicken

How to hold your hand when you pick up your bird.


After your bird is comfortable with being picked up–which can take a while–you can practice showing the wing.  Pick up your bird as described above, and then turn your hand until the bird’s head is facing you.  Then grab the wing closest to your other hand and gently pull it out by holding onto the shoulder of the wing.  Most birds tolerate this fairly well.  Then do the other wing the same way.  You will have to reach over the bird to do this.

ShowTheWing

Showing the wing.


Once you’ve figured out how to show the wing, you can next practice showing the head.  Bring the bird up to your shoulder, with its head facing away from you.  Take the thumb of your free hand and gently bump the bird’s beak back and forth.  You should see each eye once.  When you’re done, lower the bird back down to the table.

ShowTheHead

Lifting the bird up to show the head.


After this, get your bird used to having its feet handled for showing the feet.  Pick it up and position it like you’re going to show the wing.  Then–with your free hand–gently grasp the bird’s feet (one at a time).

ShowTheFeet

Practice for showing the feet.


Finally, make sure you spend time with your chicken.  This could be picking your chicken up, petting it, or feeding it treats.  The purpose of this is to get your chicken to trust you!

SpendTimeWithYourChicken

Make sure you get to know your bird!  Spend time just petting it.


There are a few more things you will need to practice before a showmanship class.  But these are the solid basics to get you started.  Practice for a few minutes every day, and you will get a well-trained bird.   Of course, you won’t have to practice every day, but it would be ideal.  Also, once your bird gets used to being handled, you may only have to do this every now and then, like every few months.  You can do these exercises all at once (which I do), just one, or several at once.  It doesn’t matter.  These are not things you have to do to prepare for showmanship, but merely suggestions.  I designed them to use when I couldn’t decide what to do to practice for showmanship.   They seem to work.  I did them with my two-time Showmanship Grand Champion bantam Cochin and my Overall Grand Champion showmanship Old English Game Bantam.

Not covered here:

  • Showing the keel, which involves turning your bird upside-down correctly without hurting it.  I suggest watching a good chicken showmanship video to learn.
  • Showing the undercolor.  This uses skills practiced here.  You hold the bird like you’re going to show the wing, but instead pet the feathers on the chicken’s back gently the wrong way with your free hand.
  • Showing the width of body.  This is easy to do if you know how to show the wing.  Picking the bird up like you’re going to show the wing, wrap your free hand around the bird’s back crosswise.  Make sure your palm is facing AWAY from you so you don’t block the judge’s view.
  • Posing according to the standard.  Look up which way your bird is facing in the Standard of Perfection.  Your chicken just needs to face the right way.

That’s pretty much it!

BigThingsCoop

–BigThingsCoop

 

What to Do If Your Pet Chicken Dissapears

 

DSC01544

 



Don’t immediately worry if your chicken doesn’t come back to the coop one night.


Are you an expert on chicken colors?  Click on the green flag to start the quiz.


Last night, a chicken named Panther didn’t come back to the coop.  Maybe she was scared of the neighbors’ fireworks, which were being set off right next to the coop.  Or else she got eaten by an owl.  We searched all over and couldn’t find her–there are a lot of places that chickens can hide in.   All the others were in the coop asleep.  It was dark outside, so it was hard to look for her. Eventually, after a lot of worrying, we locked the coop and decided that Panther had either been eaten by a predator or was hiding somewhere.

DSC06070


 The chicken could be hiding somewhere.


The next morning, she still hadn’t come back. She didn’t even show up for the chickens’ favorite treat, which is scratch. There were no feathers anywhere, or signs that a chicken had gotten eaten.

Then we looked at the chickens eating scratch next to the coop, and Panther was eating scratch with them. She looked perfectly fine. She was covered in dirt, though, which makes me think that she was either in the chickens’ favorite dust bath all night, or else hiding somewhere dirty.   Sometimes, chickens decide not to go back to the coop for no apparent reason.

DSC01493


 Chickens can decide not to come back to the coop for no apparent reason.


Or sometimes, chickens go broody and hide their nest somewhere where you can’t find it.  When they do that, you can only hope that a predator can’t find the nest either.  The nest can be so well-hidden that you don’t find it until you step on it.  When that happens, the smell of broken rotting eggs can be enough to keep you from going by the nest.  The hens don’t seem to mind.

DSC02871


If you can’t find your chicken, the bird may be broody.


If the chicken can’t get back to the coop for some reason, it may roost in a tree.  Or else, the bird might have gotten trapped somewhere, like a storage shed.  Then, when you open the door to the building, the chicken will come running out.  One time a pullet got trapped under a cardboard box in her pen.  Anything can happen.  So if your bird goes missing, and you can’t find any feathers, don’t worry.  Your chicken will probably come back within the next few days.

DSC04716

 


 Panther, the chicken who came back.


BigThingsCoop

–BigThingsCooop

Why Chickens Dustbathe

DSC01503


Chickens dustbathe to keep their feathers clean.


Chickens dustbathe mainly to clean their feathers.  Yes, dust sounds dirty, but it is the way chickens keep themselves clean.  Birds that don’t have access to a dust bath can get mites–dustbathing helps to prevent your chicken from getting infested.

Even if you supply your chickens with a nice sandy dust bath, they’ll prefer to dig their own.  Our chickens dug one several feet deep under a tree.  The dirt there stays dry all year because the tree keeps off the rain.  Also, chickens prefer a dry dirt dust bath to one made of sand.  They generally want their dust bath under the cover of a tree or roof–it makes them feel safer.

Chickens dustbathe by sitting down in a patch of dirt, digging a hole, and then rolling around in it while ruffling their feathers.  They like to dust bathe for a long time–sometimes for over an hour!  Mother hens teach their chicks to dustbathe when they are extremely young.  Dustbathing is an important part of a chicken’s life.

Below: How chickens dustbathe–demonstrated by Flinty, an Auracana hen.DSC01457 DSC01463

DSC01453 DSC01464

How to Show Chickens Successfully

DSC01531


Even the best bird won’t always win.


Showing chickens is exciting.  When people first start, they imagine themselves–and their birds–winning big prizes.  But in reality, this doesn’t always happen.  If you’re really showing your chicken just for the sake of being at the show, winning should be just as fun as losing.  But sometimes it’s not.  Imagine that you’ve had a really bad day, and your prize bird has not placed in any classes.  You’ve been planning for this show for months.  To top it all off, it’s a cold rainy day.  Accept it as a bad show and don’t feel glum.  There’s always another show.  People always say that they don’t care if they win.  I don’t believe a word of it.  It’s better just to acknowledge that you want to win and make it your goal than doing nothing and pretending you don’t want to and then getting all jealous when other people win.  But don’t get into the mindset where you must win at all costs.  Don’t criticize others to make yourself feel better.  This is not a good place to be.

DSC01122


 A big part of showing is learning to lose.


Showing is a game.  Even if your bird is the best in the class (you think), the judge won’t always think so.  If you do badly after preparing your bird and getting ready for the show, you’ve done your best.  There’s nothing you can do about it.  Accept your loss.  Someone else also put a lot of work in and they happened to do better than you.  Congratulate them and try to do better next time.

Sometimes the quality at a show is just so high that the class placing becomes what the judge likes best.  Sometimes the judge wants to give everyone a ribbon, but there are more birds than ribbons in the class.

Sometimes people win after putting in absolutely no work.  They just get lucky.  Maybe they’re borrowing a winning bird.  Maybe they have a really good coach to teach them showmanship.  Accept that too.  I’m sure this will happen to you sometime.

And when you do win, be nice about it.  You did your best and your best was better than someone else’s that day.  Enjoy it–even the most show-type birds don’t win every time.

DSC00150


Enjoy your wins–they may be few and far-between.


Showing should be about meeting a standard of excellence, and not being “better” than others.  Once you have achieved excellence through hard work, it sometimes results in a win.  Winning is fun.  It’s true.  But to be a truely successful chicken shower, you need to know how to lose.

BigThingsCoop

–BigThingsCoop

Why You Should Train Your Bird BEFORE Going in Showmanship

DSC08326


Blackie, a bantam Cochin, is my favorite hen to show.  She’s well-behaved and has won several championships and grand championships.


You should really train your bird to be picked up the correct way before going in showmanship.  Otherwise, you may find your bird perched on your arm, or worse, your head.  Handle the bird when it’s young to get the best showmanship bird.  And make sure you know the correct way to pick up a bird.  We handle our birds at home by not picking them up the way you are supposed to because they’re not used to it.  But the birds we’re planning to take in showmanship get picked up the right way in preparation for the show.

Owly with Her Friend Snowball


Bantams are ideal for showmanship.


Also, not all birds are fun to take in showmanship.  Out of our 23 birds, there are only 3 good showmanship chickens.  Bantams are ideal because they’re smaller and you don’t have to work hard to pick them up.  Also, it’s harder when a 7-pound Jersey Giant misbehaves.  The absolute worst showmanship bird is one you can’t pick up without it perching on your arm.  Everyone will be staring at you in the showmanship class as it claws you and you try to shake it off.

PorfolioFour


Not all birds are good for showmanship.


Handle your bird a lot before the show.  Make sure it is fine with being turned upside down to show the keel, having its wings stretched out, and standing calmly on the table without flying off.  If your bird likes to fly, it’s usually OK if you keep a hand on its back.  After you’ve practiced with your bird, there’s a better chance of it behaving at the show.

Tip for if you get into the round robin: the trick to winning is to show the biggest, nastiest bird you can handle and win with.  Other people will bring their huge rabbits, wild geese, and grumpy guinea pigs.  Also, know as much as you can about other peoples’ animals.  Offer to teach them how to show your bird in exchange for learning about their animal.

BigThingsCoop

–BigThingsCoop