The Herald Bulletin

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Special Reports

July 20, 2010

Video: Kids get birds to crow their hearts out

4-H superintendent: Caring for roosters more than contest

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — How to make a rooster crow.

Hide their heads from the light. Crow with them. Clap your hands. Wave a good-looking hen before their eyes. Beg them.

“There are many ways,” said Caydee Terrell, a 13-year-old 4-H’er, holding her rooster beneath her shirt. “When you taunt them, they’re either anxious or kind of mean. Then, they crow.”

Terrell was one of about 20 children who stood in front of their roosters Tuesday night, coaxing out as many crows as they could in seven minutes. The rooster-crowing contest is an annual event at the Madison County 4-H Fair.

“They just do it mainly for the fun,” said Julie Parton, the poultry superintendent. “It’s just one more thing they can do with their birds.”

Mackenzie Neeley, 11, won the contest. Her rooster, a Golden Comet named “Butterscotch,” let out 15 clear cock-a-doodle-doos as Neeley clapped her hands and crowed along.

“I’m excited, I didn’t think I was going to win,” she said of her first win. “When I was showing earlier, he was growing so much; I thought he wouldn’t do anything.”

The 4-H’ers care for more than just roosters. Each child rattles off a list of small animals they care for. Neeley has turkeys, ducks and chickens. Terrell names geese, turkeys and ducks. Another competitor, 10-year-old Logan Miller, owns chickens, pigeons, rabbits and dogs.

“Over the years, they just get so used to handling these birds that it’s more like a dog or cat to them,” Parton said.

That’s just how Miller and Terrell described their animals. They said their birds will sit with them, are excited to see them and can be lulled to sleep.

“They’re pets,” Terrell said.

Parton said the children learn the birds top to bottom, naming every body part. As they gain that knowledge, they pass it on to the younger children, she said.

They also have to learn to care for them properly.

“As long as they learn the proper way of handling them and raising them, it’s not a problem,” Parton said.

Parton said raising roosters, just as the other animals at the fair, helps build character for the children.

She said the children have gotten so good that she had to hire a qualified American Poultry Association judge to judge the 536 birds in the poultry barn this year.

“It’s because the quality of our birds has come up so high,” she said proudly. “Where I am amazed is how much they get into it.”

Youths ranging from about 3 feet tall to almost 6 feet carried their roosters around the Poultry Barn expertly Tuesday, grasping their legs and cradling the birds in their forearms.

Even 7-year-old Jeron Mason, his age told by the one tooth remaining, cradled his unnamed silky rooster before the contest. It wasn’t the one he wanted to compete, he said, but his other rooster didn’t crow yet. This one got him 10 crows.

“I was proud of him,” he said, kicking the hay on the ground. “He doesn’t really crow that much.”

Contact Christina M. Wright, 640-4883,

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