Fall poultry shows are coming up and hopefully, if you are planning on showing, you have selected your birds that you are bringing and are in the process of conditioning them.
Conditioning means that you have separated your selections from the rest of your flock and have made sure that the boys and the girls are not in the same pen. Separate areas are important as rowdy boys can break or tear feathering on the females.
You should also be feeding them a diet that is high in protein to keep those feathers in tip top shape. Showbird food or Feather Fixer are good choices. I also add vitamins to the water or Roster Booster to improve the over all health and beauty of the bird.
About a month before the show you will want to start training your birds to be comfortable in a small wire cage. These are the type of cages you will find at a poultry show. They are about 24 X 24 in size. Place the cage on saw horses so that they are about table high.
This enclosed cage will be very different from what your silkie is used to out in the coop. I would start with short time spans and then gradually increase how much time the bird spends in there.
You will need to teach your bird how to eat and drink inside of the cage. A good waterer for silkies is the pop bottle waterer. You buy the bottom where the birds drink from and then place a plastic pop bottle with water in it on top. They provide a spring to secure it on the side of the cage but I use small bungee cords and place something underneath the bottom to support it. I use an empty cat food can. I like these because they are small and don’t take up much space in the cage and because the silkie is less likely to dunk their heads and get wet and messy. You will want the judges to see a clean, dry bird. It is a good idea to remove the waterer before judging starts to keep your bird looking perfect.
The food container hangs on the side. I like to put food they really like in there while you are training them. Treats such as mealworms, sunflower seeds and berries, or cracked corn will teach your bird how to eat from the little container. They will begin to associate treats with time spent in the cage.
Learning to eat and drink from these different containers is very important. Silkies who have not had their feathers trimmed around their eyes will have a hard time finding the food and water in the cage. Use pink hair tape or blue painters tape to pin up the feathers in the crest which will allow the birds to see.
Place the feeders and waterers in the front of the cage. This will get them used to being on that side of the cage where the judge will be. A judge does not want to see a bird cowering in the back. They should be up front where they are easy to see and judge.
The judge will have a little baton that he uses to get the bird to pose properly. You should practice with a dowel or stick so that your silkie is used to seeing it in the cage and feeling it against its body.
Shows are very noisy places. You may want to place a radio by your cage so that the bird gets used to loud noises while they are in the cage. I have the radio tuned to the Oldies station that has lots of commercials.
Practice taking your bird in and out of the cage. The judge will be taking the bird out head first and placing it in the cage head first. You should practice the same way. Hold the bird with one hand under the keel one hand on top of the wings. Birds will struggle if they are not used to being handled. Judges would rather not work with struggling birds. Spread the wings out and check all over the bird the same way a judge would.
Give the bird a treat while handling them so that they associate people holding them with treats. Treats include Chicken Crack, Happy Hen Treats, Grublies, and Mana Pro Garden Delights. Roosters will especially need practice in handling. Sit with them on your lap when you are watching tv and cuddle up with them. You will enjoy it and so will they.
For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com . VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul. We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available. Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.
Victoria J. Peterson