The Northeastern Poultry Congress held its 43rd annual poultry show, Jan. 16 and 17, at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield, MA. There were a total of 306 exhibitors with 2,946 fowl on display making this once again the biggest poultry show in New England. Attendees enjoyed free admission to the event, which offered plenty of things to do including friendly competitions, poultry sales, informative seminars, varieties of vendors, raffles and plenty of bird watching.
Various classes of poultry were on display during the two-day event including large fowl, bantams, waterfowls, turkeys, pigeons, and the trio classic, which consists of one male and two females of the same breed, variety and age. Contestants had plenty of time to prepare their birds with various cleaning, grooming and styling techniques. Licensed judges performed careful inspections of the birds and awarded ribbons and cash prizes to the best in show.
Each bird is judged by comparison based on American Bantam or American Poultry Association standards. Every bird is handled by judges except waterfowl due to their high-strung nature.
“Some of the best birds in the United States will be at this event,” said Northeastern Poultry Congress member, master breeder and poultry judge Don Nelson.
Nelson has 27 years of experience as a poultry judge and hasn’t missed a show in New England in 30 years. The long time poultry enthusiast was able to put his vast array of knowledge and experience to good use at this year’s show. He was given the privilege of providing a private lecture and tour during the first day of the event. The lecture was free to the first eight preregistered non-exhibitors. For those who were unable to secure a spot for this special option there was a show hall tour, which offered a similar opportunity during the second day of the event.
“The private lecture and tour was a new feature to the show this year,” said Northeastern Poultry Congress Secretary Cherly Barnaby. “The main reason we offered this was to attract outside visitors who are interested in taking up the exhibition fowl hobby. Whether it’s answering questions or providing support we want to do everything we can to accommodate those who are interested in getting involved and exhibiting their poultry during next year’s show.”
Show Superintendent Brian Knox is another key figure behind the scenes who coordinates with Barnaby by making sure the right number of cages are available and put in the proper location in the show hall. Knox also oversees the judging assignments and manages the show breakdown at the close.
“This is a standout show this year because The American Bantam Association is having their national event here,” said Knox. “The national is the largest meet of the year for this club so the show numbers are bigger and we are drawing people from farther away. In fact, we are up 500 entries from last year and we have one exhibitor that came from Ontario, Canada and another one who drove here all the way from Washington state.”
Entering the Northeastern Poultry Congress requires plenty of effort and preparation beforehand. Any winning birds are a direct reflection of the hard work put in by the owner. If a bird flaps wildly to escape when the judge reaches in to remove it, the bird will most likely not show well.
No poultry will be admitted into the show hall until it has been individually inspected by a licensed official. Participants must first and foremost be sure that their bird is free of mites and lice. Any sign of bugs by the judges will eliminate the bird from further contention. Participants must also have their birds tested by a state licensed veterinarian office months in advance. The goal here is to receive a Pullorum-clean certificate, which participants must bring with them. The participating bird must be free of such diseases as infectious bronchitis, coryza, pullorum typhoid, fowl pox, external parasites and laryngotracheitis.
Washing the bird is best if done a few days ahead of the show as this gives the bird time to oil and straighten out all their feathers. Prepping consists of something as simple as cleaning the birds feet and feathers of debris to more complex such as applying an oil and alcohol mixture to the birds comb in order to make it a brighter color. For most people the process of prepping takes about an hour.
The show’s first day tends to be more of a relaxed time for both exhibitors and attendees. For first time visitors this is the best opportunity to browse the aisles and watch how everything is done. Visitors will have plenty of opportunity to ask the exhibitors questions. The American Bantam Association (ABA) table was another great resource for visitors.
Those visitors and exhibitors who are interested in acquiring new poultry stock will find that the show’s first day allows them an interesting opportunity to select the best before the crowds rush in the following day. There are plenty of vendors on site as well who are happy to talk about the various poultry products and equipment that they were selling.
For those attendees who were interested in more detailed information there were several seminars available during the second day of the show. Seminar topics included the challenges of large fowl breeding, the key to chicken success, beginning to advanced for call ducks and breeders secrets.
The second day of the show is also the best time to come for those looking to make contacts or buy sale birds since most exhibitors will be on hand at this time. No outside sales are permitted, only exhibitors are allowed to sell their birds.
One reason that the Northeastern Poultry Congress is the biggest exhibition fowl show in New England is because it draws lots of families to the event. The show offers a very nice junior program for kids 18 and under. Junior exhibitors’ entries must have been raised and cared for by the exhibitor, who must be present during judging, and may be asked to handle his or her birds for the judge.
There are four separate competitions for juniors to participate in including the showmanship competition, a junior judging contest, a skill-a-thon contest and a poultry agility contest. During the showmanship competition participants must answer questions relative to poultry production, health, nutrition, and breeding. The participants must also dress professionally and be able to handle their bird in a natural and comfortable way while allowing the judge to see what they are looking for.
Juniors will actually be the ones doing the judging during the junior judging contest. They must judge a class of production egg layer poultry, another specific class of exhibition birds and the quality of a dozen eggs from a random production egg layer breed. In the skill-a-thon contest participants must perform a written exam in which they must answer questions, which cover poultry identification, production nutrition, health and breeding. The poultry agility contest is a timed event in which the participant must lead their bird through an obstacle course.
One of the most popular portions of the event each year is the bird raffle. There is one raffle per day of the event for several pairs of quality birds, which are usually donated by exhibitors. The proceeds from the raffles enable the “Congress” to upgrade its show cages.
There is also a Chinese raffle available to everyone attending.
For more information visit www.poultrycongress.com .