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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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!