By Mike Tanchevski
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A din of cackling and crowing filled the air in cage after cage at the Voinavich Livestock and Trade Center on the Ohio State Fairgrounds during the Ohio National Poultry Show, November 10-12. Over 10,000 large fowl, bantams, ducks, geese, and turkeys of every size and color were exhibited during the largest poultry show in the nation.
Nearly 1,000 exhibitors, and nearly 300 juniors, participated in the three-day event which celebrated the 150th anniversary of the American Poultry Association (APA); this had a significant impact on the number of exhibitors. “We’re up this year because we’re hosting the 150th anniversary of the APA,” Ohio Poultry Breeders Association (OPBA) president, Tim Johnson said. “It’s probably 300-350 more exhibitors than normal.”
Despite the event’s annual status planning for this year’s show required more effort and organization. “Well, a show this size, we’ve talked about it for four years,” Johnson said. “Then starting the first week in October we started doing the paperwork and worked every weekend writing the coop tags and getting everything in line.”
Close to 50 volunteers spent the weekend prior to the show setting up cages in the Voinovich Center for visitors who traveled from all over North America and abroad. “I just talked to a gentleman here from California and there’s people from Montana, Texas, Oklahoma, up and down the east coast and Canada,” Johnson said. “We have an egg show and there are some ladies that are entered from France.”
The magnitude of the show is not lost on exhibitors. “This is the American Poultry Association’s 150th anniversary show - it’s like the Super Bowl of the chicken exhibition world,” exhibitor Angela Hand said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Most exhibitors are not commercial producers but fanciers who raise birds as a hobby. Some exhibitors concentrate on a single breed, while others show a variety of poultry. Over 100 breeds were represented at this year’s show.
Michelle Ward from Medina, New York raises and shows a single breed, Barnvelders. Barnvelders lay dark brown eggs, and have copper, black, and metallic green feather coloring.
“I raise one breed and I have hatched 80 chicks this year,” Ward said. “I find for myself, I do better if I limit myself to one breed since I tend to be kind of obsessive and I’m a perfectionist. So one is enough.” Perfectionism served Ward well, her Barnevelder hen was named Reserve Champion Large Fowl
Hand operates Loving Hands Chicken Ranch in Neosho, Missouri, where she raises rare and endangered breeds. Her flock includes bantam and large fowl Crevecouer, Polish (both crested breeds), and White-faced Black Spanish, identified by a white face and lustrous green-black colored feathers.
Judges calmly walk aisle to aisle, pulling birds out of cages, examining them, lifting them, pulling their feathers out, and placing them back into their cages, while someone follows behind recording their commentary and the assigned rating.
Poultry is judged using The American Standard of Perfection. The Standard features complete descriptions of all recognized breeds and varieties of domestic poultry and is the authority for poultry judges, breeders, and exhibitors.
“The Standard tells you what they’re looking for in the breed,” Hand said. “The weight, the height, tail feather length, what color their leg should be, whether or not they have a crest, whether or not they have a comb These are all the things they’re going to be looking at to determine which one is the best of that particular breed. And then there are different classes and then they’re going to pick all of the best breeds, then they’re going to go back and he’ll pick the champion of the class.”
Poultry judge apprentices must clerk under a minimum of eight judges at eight different shows, and pass a showroom exam and written exam prior to being licensed. This year’s show was staffed with 15 judges selected by the OPBA.
“Members of the Ohio Poultry Breeders Association come together and select who we believe to be the best judges in the country,” Newt Long, OPBA director, said. “A lot of our judges have been with us for years and years. “
A unique aspect of the Ohio National Poultry Show is the egg show, which has grown in popularity over the years. This year over 150 entries set a high-water mark. “We keep growing every year,” OPBA Treasure Clell Agler said. “We started with 53 entries years ago and it keeps growing and people have a lot of fun.”
Egg show contestants competed in three different classes, juniors, adults, and seniors. Each class features white eggs brown eggs and colored eggs. Eggs are judged on uniformity, cleanliness, texture, and color.