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 hadn’t 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! I’ll 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. I’m 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 wouldn’t 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 it’s 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 won’t be placed so it’s 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 it’s still a good idea
Good news is Norfolk Greys are fairly easy to prep and if there is two pairs of hands it’s 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.
It’s a good idea
to have everything you’ll
need ready so you are not running round looking for things with a wet bird in
The items for show prep you will need are:
Nail or Toothbrush
Pet/poultry or Johnsons baby shampoo
Cotton wool, damp cloth
2 Large containers for washing in or Kitchen
Vaseline, olive or coconut oil
Before you begin make sure the bird is looking fit, healthy and is a
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 nail’s
This reduces the risk of anybody being scratched by the bird when
It’s 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
it’s 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 you’ll 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 you’ll
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
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 there’s 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 don’t mind being blow dried so they should quite enjoy this part of the
It’s important to bear
in mind the breed standard at this
point, as it calls for close feathering, therefore you don’t want to be blowing to much air under the
feathers. It’s 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 you’ll need to house your chicken in a clean
environment until the morning of the show.
If you don’t 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 it’s cold outside.
It’s important to
remember not to have the hair dryer too hot or the chicken will over heat and
don’t 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.
Morning of the show
It’s 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 it’s 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