The birds honked, cooed, crowed, cackled and gobbled.
Their owners had fewer options.
They needed to bring their poultry to a judge’s table and confidently tell him what they knew about the bird, its habits and its care. They also had to keep the bird calm, which with some flighty fowl was as much of a challenge as knowing the history of the breed.
The 4-H poultry showmanship competition at the Albany County Fairgrounds this week tested young poultry breeders’ knowledge of their entries. The birds themselves would be judged later in the week.
Ellie Riske, superintendent for the competition, said the competitors have to know everything from basic nutrition to parasites and market possibilities.
This year, knowing how to keep the birds free from disease was added to the list.
“Avian influenza is a big problem in this county,” Riske said. “They’ve had to learn about biosecurity, how to keep the birds safe.”
That security was reflected in the large space between cages in the poultry building, she said, which meant housing waterfowl in a different building.
She also washed down the judge’s table between each entry.
It’s all part of raising animals, Riske said.
“It’s a lot of responsibility for kids. They have to feed them, water, them, keep them clean,” she said. “For market animals, which are sold and butchered, there is a learning curve for kids, especially those who were not raised around farm animals.
“They learn that they have given it a good life, and it is now in the food supply.”
Jamie Romero of Laramie is one of the young competitors who is learning that lesson. In his first year in 4-H, he raised two broad-breasted bronze turkeys, at least one of which will be offered for sale in the market sale at the end of the fair.
The American breed is a cross between a native North American turkey and a breed brought to the New World by English settlers.
He anticipates being ready to hand over the bird for the sale.
“It is a bird bred for its meat,” he said.
To get ready for the show, he gave the two 35-plus-pound birds a bath, which is not part of the normal turkey experience.
“You don’t want them to be dirty for the show,” he said.
For some competitors, bathing is just the start of the pre-show primping. Before judging, some of the chickens had their feathers fluffed with a silk cloth and their legs smoothed with baby oil.
Sienna Roaque, who was going to enter her Ameraucana black bantam cock, said having clean birds is important or judges can’t see their true colors. This is her first year showing a bird in a formal 4-H competition; in previous years she participated as a peewee.
The 9-year-old said she enjoys working with chickens.
“They are easy to handle, compared to large fowl,” she said. “And they all have individual personalities.”
The entire Roaque family is involved in raising and showing birds, said Sienna’s mother, Jackie Roaque. The Laramie family has 82 chickens and travels to Colorado, Nebraska and Utah to show their birds.
White the Roaque family will not be entering the final competition — the poultry costume division — some of the participants in the Brown family came prepared for it.
Bryanna Brown, a member of the Little Horse Power 4-H Club, brought hats and tutus for her chickens. Some, she said, are happier about wearing hats than others.
Her mother, Sandra Brown, said that while raising poultry teaches children responsibility, the costume contest is just for fun.