The Herald Bulletin

July 22, 2013

Poultry and other fowl stretch their wings in poultry competition

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — The latest trend in poultry names among 4-H fair entrants these days is decidedly against the likes of Foghorn Leghorn, Daffy or Sylvester.

Cartoon and action movie names are still popular, but think more along the lines of Disney and Pixar over Loony Toons. What's popular now are names like Jesse, Buzz Lightyear from "Toy Story," and Harley Quinn, and The Joker, from "Batman."

But some, like Chayleen Ray, of Frankton, don't bother naming their poultry because sometime in the not-so-distant future they're likely to be what's for dinner.

The 15-year-old Frankton High School student — who entered two turkeys and a duck in the poultry show at the Madison County 4-H Fair — said she used to name her birds, but not anymore.

"At a young age I kind of got used to the whole slaughtering and eating thing," she said. "A lot of the food we eat comes from my backyard, and if not there from the neighbors."

Emma Noble, also of Frankton, entered her Wyandotte, Carol. Known for the quality of their meat and eggs, at age 10, Carol was likely the grand dame of the poultry competition. The 14-year-old 4-H'er uses Carol to help train younger birds for competition.

"She knows how to puff herself up and make herself look bigger, and the younger birds watch her," Emma said. "She just stands in her cage and looks pretty. I got her when she was three and have had her for seven years. She just plays and eats and stays in the garage."

Fifteen-year-old Blake Dietzer entered two Silkies — the ones named after characters in the "Batman" movie — in the fair competition.

Silkies are distinctive for their unusual colors (for chickens), and an odd ball of feathers on their head that protects their face.

"They are also the only bird that actually has hair ... And they are the only ones with five toes," Blake added. He's not sure what that does for the bird, though, although he speculated it might help their balance.

Blake, who plans to attend culinary school at Vincennes University, has been showing chickens for seven years.

He uses a special cleaning process to prepare his birds for judging. It involves a good dunking, followed by a thorough washing with Gain. After that, the fowl is dipped in vinegar to remove all the soap and a final rinse in clean water.

Blake's birds also eat an all-protein special food blend available at Tractor Supply Co., but they're all fools for lettuce and tomatoes.

"I'm pretty sure they like the vibrant colors and like to eat it, too, because they just attack it in the garden," he added.

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