Pet Peeves of a Veteran Exhibitor
I began showing exhibition poultry at age 18. As I am now 70 years of age, that means I have been an exhibitor for over 50 years now. During that period of time, I have been fortunate to be able to attend hundreds of poultry shows and to have my birds evaluated by well over 50 judges, quite a few of whom are now deceased. Overall, that experience has been rich and fulfilling.
It would be difficult, however, to accumulate that much experience without also accumulating some frustrating experiences. What follows is my top three. I am certain that my readers will have some pet peeves of their own. Feel free to compile your own lists.
My first pet peeve occurred quite commonly early in my career as an exhibitor. It almost always involved bantam ducks although I have seen it done with bantam chickens as well. It would usually involve a large and competitive class. Because he found it difficult to compare birds caged a distance from one another, the judge would select a bird as a standard to compare others against, take it out of its’ cage and compare it against others by putting it into the cage next door or sometimes even putting it into the same cage. Can you guess what would happen? Yep, the poor bird being moved from cage to cage would become thoroughly frightened and would, of course, almost never win. Even today it sometimes happens when the judge is making his final selections in a large class and he moves some birds around to compare them to others. If any birds are moved in such cases, all birds under consideration should be moved even if that means having a separate section of cages set up for the purpose. That way, every bird under consideration is evaluated in the same situation, having been moved.
My second pet peeve is actually more serious than the first because it could cause harm to the birds. It involves a “check for weak or split wings” and it is used exclusively on chickens in my experience. The judge opens the bird’s wing fully and then flexes the last joint down to just about a 90 degree angle. If a bird didn’t have a “weak wing” when the process began, it would stand a good chance of having one after it was handled in that manner. As with the Hippocratic Oath taken in some form by graduating medical students that specifies that most of all, a doctor should “do no harm”, one would think that such common sense would be universally applied by all judges of any type of livestock.
Last but not least, it is a pet peeve of mine when judges simply do not give exhibitors their money’s worth when evaluating birds. By that I mean that they do not take the time/effort required to evaluate the birds properly. I have seen this behavior applied to all types of poultry but it seems to be most common with bantam waterfowl. Just because it is not required that waterfowl be handled does not mean that they should never be handled. Cayugas, Black East Indies, and Black Calls should be examined for hidden white which cannot be seen from the aisle. It is the height of arrogance to assume that one can, after a 10 second glance from the aisle, know all that there is to know about a given bird of the previously mentioned breeds. The only exceptions which make sense to me are if the bird’s obvious faults have already taken it out of the running for any placement or if there is no other bird in competition for a placement. The need to handle birds which may have flaws not obvious from the aisle would, of course, also apply to Blue Swedish ducks (number of white flights in each wing) as well as Blue Calls. Gray and Blue Fawn Calls may also need to be handled to check belly color, among others. Pearl Guineas have to be checked for white flights too but that may be determined from the aisle sometimes, I am told.
I honestly think that the vast majority of judges are not guilty of any of the afore- mentioned practices and I believe that most endeavor to give the exhibitors a fair evaluation of their birds. Judges are not robots or computers, thank God. The human element should hopefully never be eliminated from the judging process. The purpose of this article is to get those few who do engage in the practices mentioned above to re-think how they do things. I also believe that we ask our judges to be knowledgeable about more types of poultry than is expected of virtually any other type of livestock evaluators. Originally published: 12-23-2015
Last updated: 12-23-2015