Rylee Maggret has a “friend” in the 2015 Poultry Show at the Fort Worth Stock Show.
“It’s awesome to have a chicken as a friend,” said Rylee, of Sunset, about an hour northwest of Fort Worth, philosophizing as only a 12-year-old can. “It’s almost as neat as having a horse friend.”
A four-year veteran of riding competitions, including the 2014 Stock Show, Rylee expanded her reach this year. The student from Paradise 4-H put her “friend,” Ell, and two other golden-laced Wyandotte hens up against similar breeds Saturday. For two days, judges look at the best fowl that teenagers from 4-H and FFA clubs across Texas have brought to town.
That amounts to about 1,600 birds representing 40 breeds of chickens, at least six breeds of ducks, two kinds each of geese and turkeys, as well as guineas, said poultry judge Sam Brush of Keller.
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How well the birds do depends on how well they conform to standards set for each breed, said poultry judge Troy Jones of Fort Worth.
“This is basically a beauty contest,” Jones said. “There are written standards for each breed and/or variety, and we try to apply common sense to those standards.”
Judges go over the birds twice, Jones said.
“First, we look at each bird and apply that list of standards,” he said. “Then, we go back to the top birds we spotted from that and compare bird to bird.”
The standards include the colors of feathers and legs, the number of points on the combs, eye color, body size and symmetry, Brush said.
“A couple of breeds have unique eggs, but there’s no way a judge can use that,” he said. “But I have waited until a hen laid an egg to judge her. I could tell by her posture that she was trying and it was affecting her conformation.”
Judging will resume at 9 a.m. Sunday, and results will be announced at about 1 p.m., said Bonnie Campbell, who has come from Abilene with her husband, Charles, yearly since 1968 to help in the poultry barn.
“This is what you do when you marry a man who loves birds,” Campbell said. “I’m happy to do it. There are so many other things he could be doing that I wouldn’t want to be part of.”
Janine Hunt-Zarate of Fort Worth feels that way about her daughter Cherokee Zarate’s infatuation with the fowl.
“She’s learning responsibility,” Hunt-Zarate said. “She’s also making friends here and all over the state.”
Cherokee, 11, of Westside 4-H, said that chickens not only are fun and easy to take care of but also pay dividends.
“I feed and water them every day,” she said. “And I also collect about three eggs a day.”
Show chickens provide breakfast, but are typically safe from the kitchen themselves, Cherokee said.
“We don’t eat show chickens,” she said. “But we get 25 to 30 chicks from 4-H to raise for 45 days, and from them take six to nine to show. So the rest are for dinner.”
So, when it comes to show chickens, friends don’t have friends for dinner, Cherokee said.