January is the time of year that VJP Poultry begins to get inquiries about purchasing chicks for 4-H. In most of 4-H county and state fairs, chickens shown have to have hatched anytime past January 1st of the year you are showing. They also must be owned by May 15 of that year, in case you are thinking of buying your chicks later.
It is important to get your silkie chicks as soon after that January 1st date as possible because that will mean that you will have a more mature bird when showing. A more mature bird will have advantages in judging because they will look closer to what the “Standard of Perfection” states. Silkies mature slower than other breeds so it is important to buy them early.
Every breed of chicken conforms to an ideal standard. That is what the judge looks for when they evaluate your birds. Weight and condition is also taken into account when judging.
Fixed standards for a breed include: Breed and variety, class, age, weight, sex, plumage or feathers, coloring, tails, crests, combs, earlobes and beards. Each breed and variety has a written standard that you are trying to approximate. Copies of the standard can be found on-line. It is important to make sure that there are no faults or DQs in the chicks you purchase to begin with.
Silkies are an excellent bird to use in showing. They have a calm temperament and are easy to work with. You will eventually need to coop train or cage train them. This means getting them used to being in a small show type of cage, usually about 24″ x 24″. You will need to work with your bird teaching them to allow people to lift them in and out of the cage easily. You will also need to get your silkie used to bathing and grooming.
You will also be judged on Showmanship. Showmanship is when the judge rates how the 4-H er handles their bird. If he has a silkie, he needs to be familiar with everything about a silkie as well as basic chicken anatomy and chicken knowledge. The judge will ask the handler questions and the 4-H er should know the answers.
In 4-H, one can show one cockerel and two pullets in a breeding pen. I would purchase as many chicks as I could afford or have room for. You will be choosing a trio that matches and best conforms to the standard for that breed. The more choice you have in that decision, the better. It is always good to have back-up show birds. Sometimes molting season comes during a show so a back-up of the same variety can fill in.
I have found white and black to be the easiest colors to work with for beginners. It is easier to match these colors. Buff and Blue are harder because they grow into so many different shades.
4-H rules vary from state to state. I recommend contacting your local extension office or local 4-H group to get the details on how they run a poultry show at your fair.
Our flock is NPIP which means that we are pullorum tested. If you buy from a NPIP flock you will not need additional testing done to your birds when it comes time to show them. I have the “Statement of Origin” paperwork which you will present at the time of showing. I have worked with many 4-H ers over the years. Many have won their county shows and have gone on to the State Fair. Good luck to all with your showing!