Showing your Norfolk Grey

Preparing your Norfolk Grey for show

by Sean Crabtree

I got my first chickens back in June 2010, which was a little over a month after me and my partner Darran moved into our new home in the Monmouthshire countryside. That was the beginning of my hobby, although Darran would say His Obsession! 

I started off with five chickens  and that number quickly grew over the next couple of years. In 2012 I decided to join the local poultry club to increase my knowledge on all things poultry and to meet other like minded  poultry people.  This is where I met my good friend Marcia. Now up until this point, I hadnt even thought about showing chickens, but after paying Marcia a visit at her home  and seeing all her beautiful show birds in their immaculate aviaries, with all the placement cards and rosettes laid out on the dining room table, it set a spark off within me, I thought I could  have a go that.

With a lot of help and encouragement from Marcia I entered the Devon Fanciers show  in February this year with two of my home bred Salmon Faverolles pullets and to my complete shock I managed to get Best Faverolles in show! Ill never forget that feeling of winning for the first time and lots of people commented how well turned out they were which was all down to Marcia showing me how to prep a bird properly. Im not sure I would have even been placed had she not taken the time to go through it with me.


It was around the time of the of the Devon show that I began seriously thinking about keeping another breed and I had my eye on the Norfolk Grey. As a breed it seemed like the ideal choice for me, what with us having a two acre smallholding and the Norfolk Greys being great utility birds with close black feathering to cope with even the wettest and muddiest Welsh winters. I also liked the idea of keeping a rare British breed, hoping to do my bit by conserving them for others to enjoy in the future. Thanks to Mathew Roynon, Gina Upex and Bill Osborne I  managed to get myself off the starting block and build up a nice little flock of Norfolk Greys and I have just started to show some of the better ones I raised  at local shows. 

Due to a little bit of recent success with my Norfolk Greys I was asked if i wouldnt mind putting together a little guide on preparing them for show to help people who are possibly new to the breed  or perhaps have had them for a while and would like to have ago at showing for the first time, so here we go! 


Firstly its important to do show prep on your Norfolk Greys as it helps to show them off at their best and also  helps them to stand out against some of the more showy breeds in the Rare breed classes against which you will compete. Good show prep can  also make the difference between a first and second place when you have two birds of equal standing and it also has the added benefit I have found,  of making the birds tamer.

You can  usually begin exhibiting poultry once the birds have reached  6 months of age. If you have young Norfolk Greys and would like to show them it is a good idea to start handling them regularly as they grow on so they become comfortable with being handled. This will make your life easier when it comes to show prep and also for the judge on show day.

A week before the show I like to check my chosen Norfolk Grey for any external parasites like feather lice and deal with them if need be with a few squirts of Johnsons anti-mite spray. If you present your bird with a heavy infestation of lice or mites the judge may refuse to look at your bird and you definitely wont be placed so its a good idea to deal with that straight away. I must say Norfolk Greys seem to be quite capable of dealing with lice themselves but its still a good idea to check.

Good news is Norfolk Greys are fairly easy to prep and if there is two pairs of hands its easier still.

I normally prep my Norfolk Grey two nights before the show. This gives the bird a day in my show pen to preen and for the feathers to settle back down in place after being blow dried. 


Its a  good idea  to have everything youll need ready so you are not running round looking for things with a wet bird in your hand.




The items for show prep you will need are:



Nail clippers

Nail or Toothbrush

Pet/poultry or Johnsons baby shampoo

Cotton wool, damp cloth

Hair dryer

2 Large containers for washing in or Kitchen sink

Vaseline, olive or coconut oil


Before you begin make sure the bird is looking fit, healthy and is a good weight.

Next run a sink of warm water ( not too hot ) so the level  comes half way up the chickens side.


Step 1 Trim your Norfolk Greys toe nails

This reduces the risk of anybody being scratched by the bird when being handled.


Its easier for one person to hold the bird securely, whilst the other trims the nails. If you are on your own you can hold the bird and extend the legs backwards with the one arm whilst you trim the nails with the other. 


Be careful not to cut too deeply and into the quick as this will cause the nail to bleed and its difficult to stop once it starts.


Step 2  Clean the legs

Whilst holding the bird I dunk the feet and legs in the water then add a few drops of shampoo to each leg and then scrub with an old toothbrush or nail brush to remove the dirt.


Pay attention to the underside of the feet and nails also.


Step 3  Washing

Gently lower the chicken into the warm water.   You may now experience some flapping as the bird settles.   If your Norfolk Grey is like mine youll need to hold them in place whilst you begin to wet the feathers.  I use a small plastic cup to pour the water over the bird making sure to wet under the wings and the vent area.

Take the shampoo and squirt a little in your hand and mix with the water so it applies easier to the birds feathers.  Lather up the bird paying attention to the vent area. This is where the nail or tooth brush can come in handy for helping to removed any dried on faeces.  Gently work around the bird to avoid damaging the feathers.

To rinse the bird youll need to empty the sink of water and refill with clean warm water. if you have two large containers or a  double sink   you can just transfer the bird over to the adjacent sink with the clean water.  Make sure to remove all the shampoo residue and change water again if necessary. Once your happy all the residue is out you can empty the sink and then gently squeeze any excess water out of the breast, tail and bottom feathers.


Step 4 Towel Drying 

Lift the bird out of the sink and place in the middle of a large towel, wrap the towel around the body of the bird allowing the head the pop out the front. You can now gently press on the towel which again will help to remove more moisture before you come to blow drying.  Leave your Norfolk Grey in the towel for 20 to 30 minutes.


Step 5  Cleaning the Face, Wattles, Comb and Beak

As I prep my Norfolk Greys on my own I find it much easier to do this whilst the bird is wrapped in the towel. If theres two of you it could easily do this whilst the birds in the sink.


I dilute a few drops of shampoo in a little water then using the toothbrush gently scrub the comb, wattles and beak  then wipe clean with cotton wool or a damp cloth.  on the face area near the eyes  I just use a damp cotton bud to remove any dirt and again gently wipe clean


Step 6 Blow Drying

Generally speaking most chickens dont mind being blow dried so they should quite enjoy this part of the show prep.


Its important to bear in mind  the breed standard at this point, as it calls for close feathering, therefore you dont want to be blowing to much air under the feathers. Its best to blow dry in the direction that the feathers are growing especially along the birds back, wings, neck and the thighs. The exception to this would be around the birds bottom where you may wish to add a little volume.

Placing the bird on a folded towel upon a stool I usually begin blow drying at the back end and with the feathers on the legs, moving round to the sides and drying under the wings, then onto the front before finally focusing on the back, neck and top side of the wings. Once finished youll need to house your chicken in a clean environment until the morning of the show.

If you dont have a hair dryer then leaving your Norfolk Grey in a large pet carrier in a warm room  overnight will do the trick . This should allow them to dry off without catching a chill if its cold outside.

Its important to remember not to have the hair dryer too hot or the chicken will over heat and dont keep the dryer in one place, keep it moving round so not to burn the chickens skin or damage the feathers.  If need be take a few minutes to rest and allow the chicken to cool down before continuing.


Step 7  Morning of the show

Its a good idea to check your Norfolk Grey early and leave yourself plenty of time to fix any dirty vent feathers or dirty feet. Baby wipes are a poultry exhibitors best friend and can fix a lot of minor problems. If the bird has really messed up its vent feathers then quickly wash the bottom and dry again with blow dryer.

Finally - you can do this before you set off to the show or whilst penning. Using your hands rub some vaseline, olive oil or coconut oil into the legs and feet which will help them to look nice and dark and shiny, buff up with a dry cloth.  Add a little to the comb and wattles also which will help to intensify the red colour.

Hopefully this will encourage a few more of you to have ago at exhibiting your Norfolk Greys. It would be great to see a few more of them at shows and would also benefit our breed greatly.

                                  I wish you the best of luck and look forward to seeing pictures of your birds future wins on the website.





Exhibition classes for The Norfolk Grey are held at the following shows:

The Poultry Club of Great Britain National Championship Show - separate class for males and females

The National Federation of Poultry Clubs Championship Show - joint class for male and female

The Royal Norfolk Championship Show - separate classes for males and females

The Norfolk Poultry Club Shows - separate classes for males and females

The Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Poultry Club Shows - joint class for males and females

The Leicester County Poultry Show - separate class for males and females

The Wayland County Poultry Show - separate class for males, females and youngstock

The Vale of Glamorgan Poultry Show - separate class for males and females

Angelsey Poultry Society - separate class for males and females