How To Prevent Chick Deaths During the First Week of Life

 

20170518_104519One day old chicks are so irresistibly cute when they first learn to eat, drink and move around. First time chicken owners are drawn to the sweetness of a baby chick and make rash purchases before realizing that newborns are more fragile than they think.  There is a huge difference between a chick that is one day old and a chick that is one week old.  Truth be told, a baby chick is much more apt to die in that first week than at any other time in its life.

Some don’t make it to the point of hatching out. Lethal genes or creeper genes can cause chicks to die during development. This is a genetic trait that certain breeds have. Some will make it to the hatcher and then die before hatching due to humidity and temperature issues.

When a clutch of eggs is hatched the chicks that hatch first are usually the strongest and healthiest.  They have no trouble zipping around that shell and breaking free. If the chick is a late hatcher it has been my experience that they have more trouble. They are prone to leg issues or even need to be helped out of the shell.  They tend to be stickier as well and have a harder time fluffing out.  Leg issues include straddle leg or even having a hard time standing up on their feet.  Right from the beginning you have some chicks that are just healthier and stronger than others.

Hatching out too quickly or often when being helped out of the egg, can lead to unabsorbed egg yolk. The umbilical cord can also end up hanging out. Pulling on it can cause the intestines to pull through.  Sometimes by helping it hatch you are giving life to a chick that may not end up living very long. Chicks that have a red or sore looking umbilical area should be watched for infection.

Water and food should be offered to chicks within the first 24 hours.  Hatcheries that ship chicks often rely on the fact that chicks can live off the energy from their egg  yolk for three days. Chicks will become dehydrated if not offered water and will be healthier if they start eating sooner. Shipped chicks have a higher death rate than chicks bought from local breeders or raised by a broody hen.  Some hatcheries will include Grogel to their shipping boxes to help chicks stay hydrated.

By day 3 or 4 chicks are no longer receiving energy from their yolk.  Some may begin to die after the third day.  They will close their eyes and become lethargic.  Then they die.  Losses of baby chicks almost always occur in the first two weeks of life.  A mortality rate of 1-5 percent is considered normal for a hatch.  Anything above 5 percent is abnormal.  Failure to thrive is a very real thing and young chicks often die leaving us wondering what has happened.

One of the biggest chick management factors for early death has to do with brooder temperature.  Most people use a heat lamp and bulb for small groups of chicks.  You adjust the temperature by raising and lowering the heat lamp over the brooder. Often the brooder ends up being much too hot.  Too high of temperature can lead to dehydration. The body of a young chick is 70 percent water. A water loss of 10 percent will cause death.  Pasting up, which is poo that sticks and covers the chick’s vent, is often due to too high of temperature in the brooder.  Many chick deaths occur because their vents have become plugged up with dried poo and they can no longer eliminate.

Low brooder temperature can also lead to deaths in young chicks.  If they are too cool, they can become chilled and develop pneumonia. Chicks that huddle together can ultimately smother the weaker ones. Pasting up can also be caused by too cool of temperatures. Chicks will let you know they are too cold by huddling under the lamp and making very loud cheeping noises.  Too hot and they will gather in the corners, panting and lying down. Transitioning from too warm to too cold back and forth is also a cause of pasting up and ill health.  Any transition can cause stress which can lead to death.

I recommend something with radiant heat like a sweeter heater  or an ecoglow as a heat source. The radiant heat is safer than a heat lamp bulb and will give a constant temperature.  For more information check out Brooder Heat Sources.  Make sure that you adjust  the brooder temperature 24 hours before introducing chicks to it. We like to use a temperature gun for accurate readings.

The food and water you choose to give your chicks can also lead to early mortality. Chick starter that is old and has started to get moldy can cause death. Check for a date on the bag. Chick starter can often come in pieces too large for a newborn chick which could cause them to choke. I like to take my chick starter crumble and grind it up even smaller in a coffee grinder. I feel that this helps with digestion and with pasting up as well.  Do not give newborns a lot of other foods besides the chick starter. Treats should not be given until they are over one week old.  Anything besides chick starter, yogurt or scrambled eggs needs grit (sand) in order to grind it in their crop.

Water that is too salty can lead to early death.  I like to add Rooster Booster with vitamins, electrolytes and probiotics to my water. I also add apple cider vinegar with the mother as well to the water.  Make sure that you have your feeders and waterers up as high as the backs of your chicks. The chicks tend to kick shavings and poo into them which can plug up the waterers and contaminate the water. Change water daily and clean and sanitize feeders and waterers weekly.

You may need to show your young chicks how to drink.  Mother hen usually gently pushes their beaks into the water and you can do the same. If you pick up a chick and it feels much lighter than the other chicks, it has probably not learned how to eat or drink yet.  I will dip their beaks into the water first and then dip them into their feed so that the chick crumble sticks to their beaks.

Make sure that there is adequate air ventilation in and around your brooder. Toxic gasses such as ammonia, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide can kill small chicks if they are exposed to them.  Chicks require a minimum 100 percent air exchange six times in a 24 four period. This should not be a cold draft but continuous movement of air in the brooder.  A plastic tub with high sides does not have a lot of air movement allowed.  One problem encountered with poor air movement is sinusitis. This is caused by excess humidity and ammonia released from chicken poo. Remove damp bedding which causes pathogenic micro organisms  to multiply  and large clumps of poo in the brooder and spread a thin layer of bedding on top of the old. Once a week change out the bedding and sanitize the brooder with something like Oxivir.

Construct your brooder to keep out predators.  A screen should lay over the top to keep out insects, vermin, dogs and cats.  If you have small children who like to handle the chicks make sure that they are supervised.  Newborn chicks can jump out of your hands. Injuries caused by crushing or squeezing too hard are a very real problem with little ones. I would keep handling of chicks less than a week old to a minimum. Any injuries can lead to infection and should be treated with Vetericyn spray.

Avoid having too many chicks in a brooder. Overcrowding is one of the number one causes for early death.  Trampling, starvation and damp litter are caused by overcrowding.  Chicks with vaults like silkies or polish need to be especially careful with having too many pen mates. A well placed peck to the head will result in death. Any drop of blood or open bare spot is an invitation for the other chicks to peck at it. Loss of down caused by pasting up attracts others in the pen to continue to peck at it until bleeding occurs. Separation is sometimes necessary.

Practice biosecurity around your brooder. Wear gloves around your adult chickens and wash your hands before handling the newborns. Wear different shoes or boots around your adults than you do around your brooder.  Newborns do not have well developed immune systems.  You will be bringing in germs and diseases on the bottoms of your feet. You may also bring in mites from the outside coop.  Young chicks are very prone to an attack by mites which will result in death if not dealt with. I use the powder very sparingly if I think that they have been exposed.

Light is important in your brooder.  Chick activity is greatest in bright light. They need to be able to see the food and water. Lights should be low or off at night. If you use a heat lamp bulb, choose one with an infrared coating. This helps with pecking and at night can help simulate darkness.

Coccidiosis can be a killer during the first week of life. Because of possible exposure to the disease people will use medicated chick starter.  I would only use it if you think that your chicks are being exposed. If they are inside and you practice good brooder hygiene you probably won’t need to worry. Medicated feed can rob your chick of some vitamins.

Some items to have on hand just in case of a problem would be Save-a-chick, which goes into their water and provides electrolytes.  There is also one which adds probioticsNutridrench can give a boost to a lethargic chick but read directions for use with young birds.

Chicks under one week old are very fragile. If at all possible try and purchase birds over one week old. They are stronger and sturdier and have a much better chance of survival.  They know how to eat and drink and the pasting up usually ends after the first week.

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

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Pecking Order and Who Rules the Roost

20180429_133813-1If someone says that they “rule the roost” at their house you may wonder where that term came from.  The top chicken gets the best place on the roosting bar at night as part of a complex hierarchy commonly called “the pecking order.”  The pecking order has an influence on feeding, drinking egg laying, roosting, crowing, mating and even dust bathing.

Chickens are a social animal and enjoy the company of their flock mates. Chickens will become lonely for others of their own kind if they are deprived of them. However, the pecking order is anything but gentle and chickens are very aware of their own place in that order.

Everyone knows their place in the pecking order so when a new chicken is introduced, problems arise until the pecking order is reestablished  again.  Pecking order rank determines the order in which chickens are allowed access to food, water and sleeping spot.

The top chicken is usually the strongest and healthiest.  It is their responsibility to protect and take care of the flock, keeping it safe from predators and mitigating disputes between lower members.

The pecking order is a sort of cooperation between members of the flock. It ensures the survival of the flock by giving the best chances to the fittest birds. Unless a member of the flock is removed or added, the pecking order will remain the same for a long time.  However, it is a fluid thing and is never permanent. The younger will always challenge the older.

A flock of chickens who were hatched and raised together establishes a pecking order early on.  Pullets and cockerels that grow up together will play games of running and bumping chest together.  The strongest one is usually chasing a weaker one around the food dish.  Serious games of pecking order start at around six weeks.

The most dominant bird will be the rooster if you have one in your flock.  The lowest bird will be the meekest and the gentlest. Older birds will be dominant over younger ones until the younger ones start challenging them.

Gender has a lot to do with what the pecking order looks like.  If you do not have a rooster in your flock, then the strongest hen will take this spot. It will usually go roosters, hens, cockerels and pullets at the bottom. The order is established by pecking, chasing, blocking from food and water and sometimes violent fighting.  If there are several aggressive birds fighting for that top position there can be blood shed.

Pecking order positions are fixed when one flock member confronts another.  The weaker will back down and become lower in position than the stronger one.  Do not try and interfere unless bleeding is occurring.  They need to work it out themselves.

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Flaring hackle feathers with a lowered head is one form of intimidation.  Loud wing flapping with the head held high and the chest puffed out is another form of letting everyone know who is the boss. They may also use the wing dance to challenge one another.  The dominant bird will come up sideways to the other bird. Then he will lower his outer wing and dance in a half circle around the other chicken.  If the other chicken walks away, the dancer is now higher than the other bird in the pecking order.

Roosters who copulate with hens throughout the day are asserting their dominance over the other roosters who are not allowed to. Roosters who are lower in the flock crow less and rarely mate.  They only get a chance to when the other rooster is not around.

Alpha roosters will crow to signal their dominance to the other chickens.  Roosters who are the flock leaders will look out for the hens by watching for predators, finding them treats, mating and chasing other roosters away from their group of hens.

Hens who are at the top tend to be fearless and boisterous.  Hens high in the pecking order will chase other hens out of the nesting boxes.  Chickens high in the order get to eat more and have a better spot in choosing where they will roost.  Weaker hens have to wait to drink or eat and will often be pushed away by others. If one of the low ranked chickens tries to feed before their leaders, they may get a nasty jab or peck to teach them a lesson. If a bird tries to go out of turn, she will earn glares, pecks and feather pulling from higher ranked hens.

Establishing a pecking order can take anywhere from two days or up to two weeks.  Once everyone knows their position, the stress will go down and disputes will be settled very quickly.

The less space chickens have, the more violent they are in establishing and maintaining the pecking order. They need around four square feet of space per bird inside the coop and eight square feet outside in the chicken run.

Use hanging feeders and waterers in the middle of an open area rather than in a corner if you are having problems.  There should be three inches of feeder and waterer space per chicken.  If you have more than six birds, use multiple feeders and waterers.  One inside the coop and one outside the coop if smaller birds are being pushed away.

There should be one nesting box for four hens and eight inches of roosting bar per bird.

Problems can occur when a new chicken is introduced to an existing flock. This upsets the pecking order and an new one must be reestablished.  If the new chickens are younger and outnumbered this can create additional problems.  Chickens have a habit of ganging up on any chicken that is bleeding and pecking at the red wound.  They are very attracted to the color red.  Remove and bleeding chickens and apply an antiseptic wound spray.    Silkies can be very territorial.

When introducing new flock member, fence off an area inside the chicken run for the new chickens.  After a couple of days remove the fencing and let them mingle. For more ideas on how to introduce new flock members,  check out “How to Integrate New Members Into Your Flock.

Humans are also part of the pecking order.  Roosters see you as part of their flock and will seek to overthrow your top position. Aggressive roosters can be dangerous especially if you have small children.  Never leave them unattended with a rooster who has shown past aggression towards humans.

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Doing the chicken wing dance around you and charging towards you are some clear signs that a rooster is challenging you for top spot.  Pecking and jumping at you to claw or spur you should not be allowed.  Never run from a rooster.  Stand your ground or run and chase after him.  Grab him and hold him down to the ground.  Put your hand over his head and back.  Hold him until he calms down and then let up on him.

Segregate any bully birds that you might have. Place them in a crate for a few days.  The pecking order will change while she is in isolation and when she is reintroduced, she will be the “new bird.”

In order to avoid problems in your coop make sure that there is always enough space for your birds and enough hiding places for members of the lower ranks.  The “hen pecked” chicken is always your most submissive and is often a silkie in a mixed flock. Try to keep to one rooster per pen.  A happy, stress free flock will give you more eggs.

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

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A Look at the Silkie Standard of Perfection

20171020_121935-1The American Standard of Perfection is a wonderful book published by the American Poultry Association. In it you will find all kinds of valuable information on all of the breeds of chickens that are recognized by this group.  Their main purpose is to list characteristics of each breed at their highest level.  This information is used by judges to help them judge the qualities of individual birds against what has been decided as the “perfect” bird of that breed and variety by the American Poultry Association. It is also used by breeders to improve their birds through breeding towards the standard and by exhibitors who want to place well in poultry shows who use the standard as a guide for choosing birds.

In judging, there is a scale of points that equals 100.  Points are assigned to different attributes of the bird.  Points will be deducted if the bird does not meet the standard given.  There are also disqualifications that can be given which will eliminate a bird from competition.  Since silkies  have crests and beards their point system is adjusted to include points for those areas.

The disqualifications specifically for silkies include :  Bright red comb, face and wattles.  Shanks not feathered down outer sides.  Feathers not truly silky (except in primaries, secondaries, leg, toe and main tail feathers.) Vulture hocks. There are other disqualifications that are for all birds, not just silkies.  You would find those under “General Disqualifications” elsewhere in the book.

The standard weight for a silkie cock is 36 oz.  The standard weight for a silkie hen is 32 oz.  The standard weight for a silkie cockerel is 32 oz.  The standard weight for a silkie pullet is 28 oz.

The standard then lists descriptions of each of the areas of the silkie’s appearance.  This is all part of the bird’s shape.  It is best to obtain a copy of the standard so that you can read in detail what the standard entails. I will mention a few of the items of interest but there is much more information listed in the book. I will be discussing the Bearded Silkie only.

The comb should be walnut shaped. In the males it should be circular shaped and have a horizontal indentation across the middle of it. Females should also be walnut and smaller. The wattles should be small and concealed by the beard in bearded silkie males.  The females should be very small and concealed.

The crest should be medium sized. The beard and muffs should be thick and full. The neck should be short and gracefully curved.  The back should be short and broad and rising back in a curve towards the tail.  The cushion of the tail should be broad and round and very fluffy.  The tail should be  shredded at the ends.

The wings should be closely folded and carried well back being nearly horizontal.  Primaries should be concealed  by secondaries.  The tips should be well shredded with tips being concealed by saddle feathers.

The silkie needs to have five toes. Three in the front and two in the back.  One toe in the natural position and the other placed above it curving upwards and backwards.  Feathering should be to the middle toe.

Comb should be deep mulberry colored.  Beak should be slaty blue and eyes should be black.  Earlobes should be turquoise blue. Skin should be dark blue and toes slaty blue.

Silkie’s feathers come in different colors and not all colors are recognized by the APA. Here are the ones that are recognized: white, black, blue, partridge, buff, gray, splash, self-blue (lavender) and paint.  There are separate descriptions for each of the different color varieties indicating what is accepted and what is not.

Symmetry, as well as, condition and vigor are also important in judging.  The overall shape and balance of the bird is important.  The silkie should look like a “S” curve with the bottom part of the “s” continuing upward.  They almost look completely circular, like a bowling ball when they stand correctly.

There is much more to the silkie standard than I have talked about in this article.  If you would like to purchase a copy, you can get one through the American Poultry Association here.

There are also old copies and  knockoff copies at Amazon that are not printed through the APA.  I think that they are basically  xerox copies and have the same information.

Hopefully this will answer some of your questions concerning what the standard of perfection is.  As a breeder, we are constantly trying to improve our silkies and have them come as close as possible to the standard that has been set. It is important to show your birds as a breeder or attend shows so that you can talk with judges and other people who are knowledgeable about silkies.

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

Information for this article was taken from The American Standard of Perfection 2010 published by American Poultry Association, Inc.

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What To Expect at a Poultry Show

20171028_135827     A poultry show is usually a three day event. The first day is spent “cooping-in”. This is when you arrive and place your birds in their show cages. The second day is when the judging takes place and other events.  The third day is very short and it is known as “cooping-out” or cleaning up and taking your birds back home.

Leading up to this event you will have sent in your entry form to the organization that is hosting the show.  You will need to declare how many birds you are entering in each breed and whether they are pullets, hens, cockerels or cocks.  Pullets are females up to one year of age.  Cockerels are males that are up to one year of age.  Cocks are male roosters over one year old.  There is a small fee for each bird that you enter.  You will also need to have each bird pullorum tested and have that paperwork sent in along with your entry form.  There will be a cut off date for getting your entry forms completed and mailed in.

Leading up to the show,  you will need to keep your bird in condition with high protein food.  Practice handling and cage training your bird.  A week before the show you will need to clip toenails, beaks and bathe your bird. You may also want to do some reading on primping your bird for the show.

Friday evening is coop-in time.  You will need to to load your birds into your car or trailer. Use poultry carriers or cat carriers to transport your birds.  One bird per carrier space is preferred so that they do not poo on each other’s feathers.

When you arrive you will check in and locate where your show cages are. They will not all be together, especially if you are bringing more than one breed of poultry.  These show cages are very small.  There will be some pine shavings already in the cage, but you can bring your own from home to add to it.   Set up your feeders and waterers.  If you are showing silkies, you will want the pop bottle waterer.  I use mini bungee cords to secure the waterers instead of the springs that come with them.   I bring jugs of water from my own home that has electrolytes added to it.

In my cage cups I put a wild bird seed mixture. This will help to keep their poo firmer and not make such as mess in their cages.  Each cage has a card attached to it. Read the card carefully.  It will say the breed, color (variety) and sex of the bird that should go into that cage.  If the information is not correct then you need to find someone in charge and get it corrected.

You can then start to unload your birds from their carriers and into their show cages.  As I do this, I carefully wipe clean their feet with baby wipes or citrus hand cleaner.  Look around to see where the outlets are located in the building. You will need to be able plug in your hair dryer in the morning.  I also put a little Vet Rx on the comb to help their immune system since they are in a new environment.

You can zip tie or lock your cage before you leave, but understand that the zip ties and locks must be off before the judge can inspect your bird.  Then it’s off for a good night’s sleep and an early start the next day.

On Saturday morning you will want to arrive as soon as the doors are open.  Check your birds for water and then remove the food from their cage until judging is over.  You do not want your bird to have a full crop when it is being judges.  Then get out your showbox supplies and plug in your hair dryer.  Carefully check each bird for messy feet or feathers and try to clean it with a baby wipe.  If it is a larger mess, use Cowboy Magic or Citrus hand cleaner.

After they are cleaned up, I spray a cloth with Show Sheen and rub it all over the bird.  I use the hair dryer to dry the show sheen and fluff up the silkie feathers.  Use a slicker brush or a fine tooth comb to tease and back comb the fail feathers to make it look as fluffy as possible.  When satisfied with the look of the bird, put it back in the cage and await judging.

Keep your cage as clean as possible and remove any poo or eggs as they come.  You are not allowed in the judging aisle while the judge is there.  I do like to observe from several aisles over white the judge is going over my birds. It helps me to understand my scoring card later.

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Learn to read a cage tag and interpret the judges markings prior to your arrival. The birds are first judged against others that are the same color, sex and age.  For example, all the white silkie pullets are judged against each other.  They will be given a ranking or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 for the top five birds in this group.  This is written or circled on the card.  Then they will judge all the white hens, then all the white cockerels etc. until all of the white have been ranked.  Then the judge will award BV (Best Variety) and RV (Reserve Variety).  This is like first and second place.  All of the other colors (varieties) in the breed are judged this way.  When that is completed the judge will then decide BB (Best of Breed) and RB (Reserve best of Breed).  This is based on all the colors (varieties) that are represented by the breed.  The Best of Breed silkie is then judged against other winners that are in the Feather Legged category.  Again, that winner will go to Champion Row and then compete for Best Bantam and Reserve.  The winner of Best Bantam goes on to compete for Super Grand Champion of the show against the Grand Champion Large Fowl and Grand Champion waterfowl.

The judge will often write comments on the cards such as “nice” or “wing?”.  What you don’t want to see is a DQ (disqualification) or a blank card with nothing written on it.  You will need to find the judge later when they are finished to ask them questions about what was written or why they judged the way they did.

There are other things to do besides watching the judging.  Jr. Showmanship will be taking place. It is always fun to watch the kids answer questions about their birds.  There will be auctions and raffles to participate in.  Vendors are often there so you can look at all the new chicken supplies.

Outside you will find many people selling birds from their cars or from specially marked areas.  Food will be for sale as well as a special banquet at night where awards are often given out.

Sunday morning is coop-out time.  Awards will be given at that time as well.  Make sure that you do not remove your birds until the coop out announcement is made.  Then it is a mad dash to quickly take down your food and waterers and load your birds back up in their carriers for the trip home.  Before the bird goes in the carrier make sure that you give it a quick spray of Adams Flea and Tick in case they picked anything up at the show.

The best thing about any poultry show is the time that you get to spend with other chicken people.  You will see old friends and make some new ones.  You will get the chance to talk chicken to your hearts content with other like minded people.  Plans will be made to meet next year again at the show.

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

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What You Need to Have in Your Poultry Showbox

20171025_131540   It’s the day before you leave for the poultry show and your birds have all had their baths, toenails clipped and general primping taken care of. Now it is time to organize your Showbox and pack everything that you will need in order to keep your bird in tip top condition at the poultry show.

You will need some kind of carriers to transport your birds to the show. A cat carrierworks very well. Remember to line it with some kind  of bedding. Try to have only one bird per carrier if possible.  You do not want extra poo rubbing on to your birds nice clean feathers.

At most shows you will be bringing your own feeders and waterers.  Since I have silkies, I use a pop bottle waterer.  You will need to pack enough waterers and empty pop bottles for each bird as well as mini bungee cords to secure them.  I also like to place an empty cat food can under the waterer to prop it up.

Bring a jug of your own water.  Add electrolytes to it as birds can often become stressed at a show.  The electrolytes will help to boost their immune system.  Get them used to this water a week ahead of time.  Birds can be finicky about change in water and food so you want to make sure that they are used to both.

If you have been cage training your chicken they should be used to using the feeders and waterers in the small cages.  Bring a bag of feed for your birds.  Bird seed with sunflower seeds and nuts is nice because it keeps the poo more solid than regular feed.  It makes it easier to remove it from the cage and from the bird.

Remember to withhold food on the morning of the judging. A bird with a full crop will create a lump in their chest and will not have a nice shape for the judges.  You may also want to withhold water so as not to have a silkie with a wet beard.

You will need to bring your own bedding shavings.  Constantly be on the look out for poo on the shavings and remove it before the bird can step or sit in it.  Some people will have booties on their birds until the judging starts.

On the day of the show you will see a lot of people frantically working on their birds before the judging starts.  You can put Vet Rx or another type of oil on their combs, earlobes, beaks, wattles and legs.  This makes the surface more shiny and brings out their colors.  Apply a thin coat.  Vet Rx is especially good because it helps the bird fight off diseases that they might come in contact with at the show.

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You can also shine up a bird using a piece of silk cloth and running it over the feathers. A micro fiber cloth works well for this too.  Feathers are oily and dust will stick to them.  This helps to remove the dust and make your bird shine.

To finish a bird off, I will use Show Sheen.   Spray it lightly on or spray a cloth and run it onto the feathers.  Then blow dry and puff out those silkie feathers.   You can use a slicker brush or a fine tooth comb to really fluff it up and back tease it.

If you see that dirt or manure has gotten on any feathers, you can use Gempler’s Citra Clean hand cleaner or Cowboy Magic Greenspot Remover for those last minute touch ups.  Baby wipes and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser as also good tools for spot removing dirt.

I also bring paper towels, baby wipes, small spray bottle with water to loosen up dirt, tooth brush, hand sanitizer, portable chair, extra carriers in case you buy a bird or two, health forms for pullorum testing, cage ID numbers if the show sent you that information.

Remember to not leave all of this stuff out.  The judge should not see anything of yours.  Pack it up and take it out of the judging area.  It is considered bad form to enhance the cages your birds are in or to distinguish your birds from other people’s birds.  Don’t write your name anywhere such as on your cage cups.  Do not put up barriers between your birds and the birds next to you.  The judges need to be able to look down the aisle at all of the birds to compare them.

Dress for the show.  Be sure to wear clothing that is washable and comfortable.  Dress in layers as temperatures can change.  Do not wear shoes that you wear when tending your flock.  You do not want to bring home disease to the rest of your birds.

A few other things for your showbox would be, scotch tape, nail file, scissors, pen and don’t forget the Flea and Tick spray.  You will want to spray your birds as they leave the show and go back into their carriers in case they picked up a bug

Some people will bring zip ties or small locks to lock up their birds when they aren’t around.  No one should be touching or handling any one else’s birds.  Just remember to have the zip ties off before judging starts.  If the judge can’t get into your cage, they can’t judge your bird.

One last thing I like to bring is a book on poultry breeds.  I enjoy finding actual examples of breeds I am reading about. It is fun to learn about breeds different than your own.  It is also a lot of fun to meet other breeders and get tips from them about your favorite breed.  It is a great place to just talk chicken!

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

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