Broiler chicken show returns to the fair

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 21, 2017

I’m going to steal a page from my coworker Morgan Watt’s playbook and talk about chickens, specifically show broiler chickens.

This year, there will be a broiler show at the Rowan County Fair for the first time in a while. We have eight youth who will participate in the project and the broiler show will be on the first Sunday of the fair.

If you are interested in participating in 2018 (it is too late for the 2017 fair), give Morgan or me a call at the Rowan County Extension Office and we will put you on the list.

These youth will receive six chicks to raise and they will bring their best three to the fair for judging. This project is one of the fastest and least expensive ways for youth to get involved in livestock and animal projects.

So what makes a good broiler chicken? I guess we should start with what a broiler chicken is and work our way from there. Broilers are chickens specifically bred and raised for meat production. These birds grow very rapidly and reach market weight in approximately 42 to 49 days. Broilers are not selected for longevity or egg producing.

Youth who will be enrolled in the broiler project and compete in the broiler show will receive freshly hatched chicks and will be responsible for raising the chicks to marketable weight in the allotted project timeframe.

Youth will have to manage housing, temperatures, feeding, and make management decisions to raise a uniform set of three birds for judging. We as agents will provide technical assistance to the project participants, but ultimately the youth are responsible for making all the management decisions for their project.

So, let’s assume you are at the upcoming Rowan County Fair and want to check out the broiler show. What is the judge looking for? What is the lingo? The short answer about what the judge is looking for is uniformity and weight.

The top performing birds will all look alike, being as similar as possible in size, shape, fleshing and finish. The top performers will also be of acceptable weight, approximately 8-10 pounds per bird.

Some of the terms you will hear the judge use during the show are confirmation, fleshing, uniformity, finish and skin pigmentation. You may also hear the judge talk about flaws and faults — things that make the bird less desirable for market, such as bruises, parasites, cuts and tears, or deformed legs and wings.

Confirmation is simply the overall shape of the bird. Fleshing refers to overall muscle amount and distribution. Uniformity is how similar the three birds in the pen are to one another. Finish is how fat is distributed across the bird, and skin pigmentation is the color of the bird’s skin.

All of these traits are taken into consideration to determine an overall best pen. The best pen is awarded the Grand Champion award and the second best pen is awarded the Reserve Champion award.

If you would like to learn more about showing broilers or anything to do with livestock or 4-H programming; feel free to call the Rowan County Extension Office at 704-217-8970 and talk to Morgan Watts for livestock questions or Matthew McClellan for anything relating to 4-H. We would love to hear from you.