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Dik Hz
Feb 22, 2004

Fun with Science

Alterian posted:

They freak out when we take our ferrets outside though.
Weasels will kill off an entire coop full of chickens. I had that happen once; a mink (I think) got into the coop through a mouse hole and killed every single chicken. He couldn't even drag any off through the small hole.

I've never lost a chicken to a fox. Around here the foxes are nocturnal and spooked by buildings, so they don't get a chance at the chickens.

One evening I was late in locking up the chickens, and a possum had come down and was munching on my favorite bantam rooster. That fucker. We've also occasionally lost free-range bantams to red-tailed and sharp-shinned hawks, and full sized chickens to great horned owls. The owls are the only bird of prey big enough around here (Minnesota) to take down a full grown chicken.

I raised chickens for 4-H for several years growing up, and am twice the county junior champion chicken showman. So, if anyone has questions about how to show off your cock appropriately (Anthony Wiener itt?), feel free to ask.

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Dik Hz
Feb 22, 2004

Fun with Science

GrauFrau posted:

I'm not showing any chickens and haven't been in 4H for decades, but I'd like to hear about showing chickens, just out of curiosity. I know a fair bit about various livestock, dogs, and cats, but nothing about showing chickens. What do you do to groom them for the shows? Are there any tricks of the trade that showmen do to help their roosters get the blue ribbon? Mostly I think it would be cool for someone to be able to brag, "My cock won first place!"
Well, in chicken shows, there's a couple different categories. The 4-H show is broken down into 3 separate categories: meat production, egg production, and breeding pen. Meat production is a pair of cockerels, egg production is a pair of hens (usually pullets), and breeding pen is a cock and two hens. On top of that, there is junior showman contest where people show off their chicken. The showman are judged on their knowledge and handling abilities instead of the birds.

There's a row of cages on a table in the middle of the show-ring, and the birds are preloaded into the cages. The judge then walks down the line and stops at each cage. The showman retrieves birds from the cage as requested and shows off the birds' features and traits to the judge.

To a groom a bird, you pretty much just have to give it a bath. Then right before the show, you make sure its feathers are all straight and clean off its feet and comb. I learned the hard way that you have to very careful to dry off your chickens thoroughly after the bath. I had one get sick in the cage at the chicken barn at the county fair. The assholes at 4-H wouldn't let me swap her out for a healthy bird, and I refused to show a sick chicken, so I got a white ribbon on that one.

As for tricks, just know your breed and work the chicken ahead of time. Dress smart and pay attention to the judge at all times. Never stand between your cage and the judge. Some breeds are easier to handle than others. But, the judge knows that too. So if you handle a tough breed and make it look easy, you look better to the judge than if you handle an easy breed. One of the years I won junior showman, I had a big beautiful brown leghorn rooster that was cagey as gently caress. Caginess is actually a bred-for trait in leghorns. I was kinda pissed at him, because he ripped the tail feathers off the better-conformation rooster I was planning on showing in my breeding pen a week before the show. But I had worked with him quite a bit and handled him with ease, which I think earned me bonus points with the judge. Come to think of it, that was a pretty good year. My breeding pen got third and my egg production pen won its class when the brown leghorn hen laid an egg in the judging arena.

Oh, and I won a trophy for showing my cock to an arena full of strangers.

Dik Hz
Feb 22, 2004

Fun with Science

GrauFrau posted:

You said handling tough breeds with ease could get you more with the judges. What are some of the breeds and their differences? I assume it's mostly about their temperaments and willingness be handled, crowd tolerance, etc.? How is the egg production category tested and judged?

Generally, bantam roosters have their reputation for a reason. Leghorns are the birds most often used for cockfights, so they can be pretty cagey. The laying breeds are generally more docile. Same with the meat production breeds. Rhode Island Reds and their related breeds can go either way. Egg production is judged by having healthy, breed-standard, mature pullets of an egg production breed. It can be tough sometimes to get chickens to mature by fair time enough for this competition.

GrauFrau posted:

How well do chickens tolerate water baths and towel drying? I thought they preferred dust baths. Do you use a special shampoo? Do you shine up their combs with Vaseline or anything like that? (Forgive me if that comes across as a bizarre question. I've seen people do some goofy stuff to livestock to make them look snazzy for the judges.)

Chickens love dirt baths and hate regular baths. But the second they get wet, they become docile. The more tame breeds actually like the towel dry step. We used gentle dish soap, as per the recommendation at the time. Vaseline is not allowed because it can hide illnesses. And a naturally red shiny comb is a key indicator of health for most breeds.

GrauFrau posted:

Why did you show chickens? I mean, as opposed to some other animal or a non-animal category like pickles or strawberry bread? (I won blue ribbons for both of those. ) When did you quit showing? Did you outgrow it or move to the big city? Ever do any show judging?
I showed chickens because my parents already raised them. Plus, my parents let me pick out the breeds. I eventually outgrew it. But, when I own a house, its something I'd like to get back into. I also fly fish, and would like to raise some Plymouth rocks. They're great egg-layers, the unneeded roosters make good fryers, and the mature rooster would give me a lifetime supply of grizzly hackles.

I've never show-judged. Show judges have to study a ton; there are too many recognized breeds with their own standards. I think I'd be pretty good at it, though. When I go to the fair, I can easily pick out which bird is going to win best of breed with near-perfect accuracy. Comparing between breeds is much tougher.

Dik Hz fucked around with this message at 13:32 on Jun 14, 2011

Dik Hz
Feb 22, 2004

Fun with Science

ODC posted:

The wife and I have been wanting to keep chickens for several years and this thread finally spurred me to action. We're looking for something for our kids to help out with and really just want egg layers, though meat isn't out of the question down the road.

Going with the egg laying thing and wanting some variety we're looking at some combination of the following breeds: Jersey Giant, Wyandottes, Buff Orpington and Plymouth Rock.

If it matters, we live in Central Florida so it gets pretty darn muggy and hot, but the area we are building the coop and run is pretty well shaded and gets most of its sunlight from sunrise to 11 AM.

Anyone have any gotchas they notice from breed to coop location or anything inbetween?
Silver-laced Wyandottes are the most mellow low-maintenance breed I've ever raised. Beautiful birds and they're very quiet. I think they're the perfect breed for backyard egg production, especially in suburbia.

Dik Hz
Feb 22, 2004

Fun with Science

Zeta Taskforce posted:

How dangerous are birds of prey in cities? Are there still hawks and falcons patrolling the skies that are a danger? I personally have not seen any, but there have been occasional reports of them making nests around parks or in high rises and eating pigeons. Not sure how much of a risk, or how common they are.
The only bird of prey big enough to take down a full size chicken is a great horned owl. Maybe a full grown peregrine could get one, but I doubt it. Bantams are another story. I'd be much more concerned about alley cats than birds of prey for bantams, though.

Zeta Taskforce posted:

Also, how hard is it to balance out chickens with a lawn to the point where they eat the grass to where it doesn’t need to be mowed but not to the point where they destroy the lawn?
Impossible. Chickens will pick out the grass roots before they eat the blades.

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