Published Sunday, February 17, 2013
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
Before you get to the poultry show, you can hear it.
From the parking lot, visitors at the Coweta County Fairgrounds see a large banner with the words “Chattahoochee Valley Poultry Association.” Crowing roosters, honking geese and quacking ducks send their greetings over the walls and into the parking lot.
Inside the exhibit buildings, there are rows of cages with well-fed fowl – familiar barnyard breeds like leghorns and cochins, as well as more exotic chickens. Brian Massengale, the affable Cowetan who is the CPVA president, said the show, which is in its ninth year, continues to grow larger.
There were 2,470 birds registered for the show on Friday morning, but at least one person had a problem with online registration. “We had a guy come in last night who had 18 more,” said Massengale, who predicted the final count could top 2,500.
“Every year it grows,” he said – by 250 birds or more per year for the past five years.
There were 206 exhibitors in the open show this weekend, for people age 18 and older. The youth show had 54 exhibitors. While most of the exhibitors come from Georgia or an adjoining state, there were exhibitors from as far away as Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Texas.
People come “from all over the country” for the annual show, Massengale said.
Poultry shows – like shows for purebred dogs, cats and cattle – judge entries based on a standard. “There is a standard for every variety, every breed,” Massengale said. “There are little characteristics you look for.”
For example, Massengale raises black mottle D’Uccle chickens. The birds have feathers on their claws, and if there are no feathers on the largest claw, the chickens are disqualified from competition.
The success of a chicken in competition “doesn’t tell you if the bird is a good layer or a bad layer,” Massengale said. In fact, he said breeding chickens for show characteristics often diminishes the bird’s egg-laying potential.
Still, the show birds are the standard by which breeds are known.
(To view photos from the Poultry Show, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Events for the Photo Gallery.)
A photographer for a reference book wanting a photograph of a Rhode Island Red would probably want a picture of one of the large show birds like those on display at the fairgrounds, while an egg producer might prefer smaller birds that lay more and require less food.
Pointing to a huge, beautifully embellished silver-laced Wyandotte, Massengale explained the breed is a common one seen in many a barnyard. The typical Wyandotte, however, “is not going to look like this,” he said.
Both male and female chickens are in the competition. “For some breeds, some people think roosters show better. Other breeds, you’ll see mostly hens,” Massengale said.
The show continues today, although judging and prizes will be completed by about 10:30 a.m.
Families – sometimes three generations together – ambled through the fairgrounds on Saturday. In the exhibit buildings and tents, people walked among the aisles. Youngsters exclaimed at some of the larger or more exotic birds, and many people took photographs of their favorites as they moved through the entries.
“There are lots of breeds of poultry here that people have seen before,” Massengale said.
Occasionally, an aisle would be closed – a chain across the entry with a bright yellow sign reading “Judging in Progress – Thank you for your patience.” Judges removed birds from cages and examined them closely. They also made notes and – in some instances – used a retractable metal pointer as part of the process.
“We have seven judges. We hired five, and we recruited two extra because of the number” of entries, Massengale said. Each judge was looking at a narrow wedge of the entries, and awards are to be presented for large fowl chickens, bantam chickens, waterfowl, turkeys and guineas.
“Every variety belongs to a breed,” Massengale explained. “Every breed has a class.” Awards are given by breed and class, and there also is a best of show award to be chosen from the top winners in each category.
Becoming a poultry judge is “a long process,” Massengale said. People wanting to gain certification start by clerking a set number of “times with a licensed judge,” then undergo an apprenticeship, he explained. “There is a written test involved and a judging test.”
In addition to the judging of the birds, the youth competition includes a process that evaluates youngsters on how they handle their birds.
Along the midway, where youngsters line up for rides when the fair is in town, breeders displayed chickens and other fowl. People stopped to ask questions or to more closely examine a chicken.
A woman walking down the paved walkway gently petted the head of a chicken nestled in her jackets. Not far behind her, a man carried a duck under his arm.
Newnan attorney Clay Hudson was among those who came just to see the birds. “They’re beautiful. They’re really interesting,” said Hudson, who has been to several CPVA shows.
Exhibitor Lorraine Tallent makes earrings, planters and other items from feathers, as well as using her artistic talents to create prints. She got into the poultry show circuit when her husband was a judge and now makes the shows with her son.
Tonya Plummer came from North Carolina to man the Eastern Silkie National Club’s raffle ticket table. The group’s junior club sponsored a scavenger hunt and a coloring contest. Another group held a silent auction.
Massengale grew up on a Coweta farm and has been raising chickens as long as he can remember. He and his father-in-law, Ricky Frost, direct the Coweta County 4-H Poultry Club, which is one of the beneficiaries of funds raised by CPVA. Some 80-90 youngsters from Coweta and nearby counties are in the 4-H group.
CPVA gets corporate sponsors for the annual show, and breeders pay $2.50 for each bird they enter. In addition to encouraging young chicken breeders, CPVA has expenses for the annual show.
Buying new cages is an ongoing process, and the group still has to borrow cages from other groups when there is a show.
The Massengales generally keep about 100 chickens. That includes birds raised by Massengale, his wife and their children. He said the fact that he is not an aficionado of a single breed or type means more chickens at the Massengale home.
“My problem is, I like them all,” he said.
The Coweta 4-H Poultry Club sold slices of cake and cupcakes from one of the concession stands at the fairgrounds. Club member Shelby Snelson, 7, of Greenville was among those showing birds.
“I’m showing a Welsummer bantam rooster and a Mallard drake,” she said. The drake is 1-year-old and the rooster about 3-years-old.
“You get ribbons if you win,” Snelson said, explaining what she likes about the competition.
Snelson explained the family often ends up with a new breed or two of chickens to raise after a big show. “We had 11 chickens. We brought all our chickens home with us and came home with many, many, many more,” she said.
“I like chickens,” Snelson said. She also admitted she likes chicken – the kind people eat. “Our kids,” her mother, Jennifer Snelson, noted, “see meat doesn’t come from the grocery store.”