IF YOU ARE GOING TO SHOW YOUR BIRDS YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO JUDGE THEM RUTHLESSLY AT HOME.
It is not much good going to a show thousands of miles from home with a bird that has a defect which will eliminate him or her at the first hurdle.
WHAT ARE THE LIKELY ELIMINATIONS?
There are several defects that mean instant elimination from a show bench, no explanation needed either. These are most of them, and if I have missed some please forgive me!
1. Split wing: This is where the wing seems to have a duel level, where the feathers have a gap between usually primary and secondary feathers, or at the top of the wing between primaries. You will always know when a wing is split as the wing feels weak, and there is a lot of give in the handling of that wing.
This is not to be confused with a wing in moult from a young bird where all feathers have not as yet grown in. Count your feathers: there should be 10 primaries and 10 secondaries with no gap between.
The picture shows a Rhode Island Red with a split wing, where when the wing is opened there is a clear difference in level between the primaries and the secondaries.
The picture below shows a perfect wing.
Notice the perfect level opening of the wing on the picture on the top left with no gap between feathers and more importantly all feathers on the same level with none lower or higher than the others.
The picture on the right shows a definite split on the top half of the wing. The wing will feel loose and weak. Notice the level difference more important than the gap between the feathers.
There is also what is known as a slipped wing, where the wing does not return to its natural folded position when opened and the feathers tend to piggyback on each other, without giving the appearance above of smooth even layers.
2. SIDE SPRIGS ON COMB:
This is another bug bear and will always happen when you are least expecting it on the birds you could swear will never have it! Sussex are prone to it, as are most single comb breeds.
In this picture you can see a small protruding piece of the comb at the back. That is a side sprig and will breed on so do not use birds with this defect in your breed pen.
In breeds that have a cushion comb or a rose comb or a pea comb, the bird that does not display the correct comb may be marked down if the comb is seen as a relatively bad example of the type.
It will however be disqualified if it displays a totally wrong comb:
For example: A silkie has a cushion comb but a silkie that displays a single comb will be disqualified. A silkie that displays a cushion comb that is so large as to obscure the eyes, will be marked down severely but not disqualified, unless it is so ugly and disfiguring as to obscure sight completely.
One should actually not breed from a bird which shows such an ugly deformed comb, unless of course you have no other bird to breed from, in which case you should breed many chicks and cull the offspring severely, keeping only those that have not inherited Dad’s ugly face!
This is a fault of in breeding usually and a sign of very poor genetic stock and poor selection on the part of the breeder. The beak is crossed instead of straight, and the bird usually does not survive beyond a few weeks as it cannot feed itself. I have no pictures of this as I have never had it in my pens. Here are some pictures courtesy of http://www.backyardpoultry.com
Please note that crossed beaks are ALWAYS from poor breeding and genetic flaws. This does not happen by accident. If you believe the bird has been traumatised in some way, the result will never be a crossed beak, but more likely a BROKEN beak, or a split beak, never crossed.
4. DENTED KEEL.
This is where the breast bone beneath the chest of the bird, (see anatomy in the gallery pictures), has a dent or a dip in the bone as opposed to being level and smooth. This sometimes happens when birds perch too early in life and the bones being soft, become deformed. If the bend is towards the head of the bird this could be caused by perching, whereas a dent at the back of the keel, towards the intestines, is more likely to be genetic.
This will also breed on so do not breed from a dented keel.
In cases of genetics as in Brahmas, you may not have a choice, in which case select carefully among the babies and breed in numbers so as to be able to select.
5. CROOKED TAIL
This does not need explanation as the tail has to be a natural extension of the bird, leading straight from the back and absolutely in line with the head.
If it leans left or right it is crooked. Be aware that hens when they lay, especially young pullets, will display a crooked tail until that egg is out. If this is the case in a pullet or a hen, if I am judging, I leave her to her job, and come back later. If there is an egg, that was the reason for the crooked tail, and the tail will be perfectly aligned once more. If however the tail is still crooked and no egg is visible, the bird has a crooked tail and must be discarded in judging.
6. DUCK TOE
This is not always easy to spot. It is when the fourth toe, the one that usually sits at right angles to the leg behind the bird, is instead lying parallel to the leg. The fourth toe must stand straight out behind the bird as it walks.
It happens sometimes in Rhode Island Reds, and other birds that descend from game birds, where duck toes are common.
7. CROOKED TOES
Also very obvious when the toes are not perfectly straight but turn in or out or are broken. This is sometimes genetic but often the result of an accident.
8. MISSING TOES, EXTRA TOES, NO TOE NAILS
Very often the case in birds that are five toed as in silkies. Where five toes are the standard they must be five distinct toes with nails on all. Lack of toe nails is usually an indication of in breeding. Silkies sometimes have six toes on one leg and four on the other.
9. PIGEON TOED OR COW HOCKED
Birds must stand straight, with two legs separated by the chest and lying parallel to each other without leaning towards each other and with the toes facing ahead and straight. The hocks should never touch. You will find that birds with narrow chests and incorrect structure are the ones that usually end up cow hocked, or knock kneed. Similarly if one leg or one foot is turned in or out, while the other is straight, this is also a disqualification.
10. ROACH OR ROUND BACK
If you run your hand down the back of a bird it must feel absolutely flat, without a curve or a dent. A rounded back is a bad fault in a breeding pen especially in the hens because the cock will never balance on a rounded back.
It also breeds on.
11. PARASITES !!!
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!! check your birds seven times seven times before putting them on a show bench, so that no parasites are present.
I cannot stress this enough.
If your birds are well prepared there should never be any parasites anyway. And it is no use suddenly checking five minutes before benching: This must be done at home.
You should check regularly anyway if you are serious about your birds.
I am afraid I have NO sympathy for the exhibitor whose birds are disqualified for lice or mites, or even worms! (yes some so bad they are obvious externally!)
Parasites are most often present around the vent, around the eyes, or on crested breeds on the head. Make sure there are no moveable assets on your birds as you endanger the bird itself as well as thousands of other birds on the floor. Lice migrate very quickly from cage to cage. If you are going to go to the expense of showing and travelling with the birds, accommodation, fees etc…for heavens sake make sure they are clean!
12. SICK BIRDS
Fairly obvious I would say, but there are some breeders who are either clueless or insensitive to the needs of their birds. See the SHOWING TIPS on this web page.
Sufficient to say, do not bench a bird that is lethargic, has weepy or foamy eyes, is coughing or sneezing, stands with eyes closed, looks pale or has diarrhea.
13. ODD FEATHERS
In a white bird that would be any coloured feather not in the breed standard. In a black bird it would be white or any colour not in the standard.
14. TWISTED FEATHERS IN WING OR TAIL
This is sometimes unavoidable but you cannot show a bird with a twisted feather in the wing or the tail. If the feather is a secondary one or a tail covert you can pull it out, but a missing primary is too obvious to miss. Feathers sometimes twist when the bird has been ill, stressed, has had antibiotic, is underweight, or the diet is not high enough in fats and minerals. In some ducks, it indicates a diet too high in protein, though I have never had the case and have always fed high protein. It could also be genetic, or an indication of feather mite, the little bugs that are microscopic and crawl inside the blood vessels of the wing feathers.
Again dosing with Ivermectin regularly sorts it all out, but it must be done regularly, not just a week before a show…by then it is too late!
15. ODD EYES/PEARL EYES/WALL EYED
Eyes should both be the same colour. Sometimes this is not the case and it is an immediate disqualification. Pearl eyes are just that: The colour gene in the eye has not materialised and the bird has almost mother of pearl greyish eyes. This is usually genetic.
Wall eyed birds are the same: the eyes have no colour except a greyish tint, and usually are blind, in one or both eyes. Most people do not show these specimens, and most will be destroyed at a young age. IT is also a genetic condition.
16. FEATHERS ON SHANKS/FEATHERS ON TOE
This is common on clean legged birds. If the feathers are small you may pluck them out before showing but if the feathering is profuse, leave the bird at home. It will be obvious it has been plucked!
Feathering here is relatively small and could be removed.
This is too much and should mean the bird will be left at home or culled.
There are many more faults that a bird can manifest, but these are the most prevalent faults and are all subject to disqualification.
This is in the book of standards, so please do not blame the judge for throwing your bird out if it has any of the above faults!
Any other faults that are not subject to disqualification are subject to a mark down, and will depend on the exhibits on the floor at the time.
For example: If you have a Sussex cock with yellow eyes, this is not a disqualification, but on a show bench next to another cock with beautiful orange eyes, he will be discarded simply because there is a better bird on the floor on the day. At another show he may win simply because either all other Sussex that day have yellow eyes, or all other birds have other defects that are worse than the yellow eyes. Judging is not easy, especially when faced with a class of 150 plus birds all the same colour! You then have to eliminate, and you have to be very severe in large classes so as to narrow the field. Should your bird be on the floor that day and be passed over, he may not be disqualified, simply passed over for a better bird on the day.
So, DO NOT go home with a big knife and start dispatching all your birds. Look them over, select very carefully and don’t be in too much of a hurry to discard a bird that may have one small fault and a lot of good points. Make a list of all the pros and all the cons. Take time to JUDGE YOUR OWN BIRDS.
And how can you fault that?!!!!