4-H provides many enjoyable learning opportunities for youth across the country. We here at Meyer Hatchery support our 4-H youth and want to help them succeed with their poultry projects. Today we will discuss a few pointers to keep in mind while selecting your birds for your project.
Before you even begin to look at all of the different types of poultry available for purchase, take a few minutes to find your 4-H Project guide, make sure that you understand the requirements for your project, and ask your 4-H advisor for any clarification on exactly what you need to know before you order your birds. Here are a few things to know before selecting birds.
- Know how many birds you need for your particular project. Each state and even each county within a state have different requirements. Will you take a single pullet, pair or trio of pullets, male and female of a particular breed? A single market turkey? A pen of broilers usually consists of 3 or 4 birds. Make sure you know how many birds your particular project consists of.
- Taking market animals? You will also want to purchase more than the number required for your project. Extras allow you to select a group of birds that match each other very closely in weight and body conformation. Extras also ensure that you still have an animal to take to the fair should something tragic happen.
- For exhibition animals, it helps to know what the Standard of Perfection says about your chosen breed of poultry. The Standard of Perfection is a book from the American Poultry Association that lists the ideal size, weight, appearance guidelines and other attributes that are desired in a show animal. Many libraries may have a copy of the Standard for you to reference. Your breed’s standard is the “ruler” by which a judge will grade your birds.
- Know the hatch date needed for your project. For market animals, many times the hatch date will be listed in the Project Guide as “hatched on or after” a certain date. Try to select birds as close to this hatch date as possible, but keep in mind that for market animals, a good feeding regimen can make up for a slight age difference. For exhibition animals, the hatch date is usually much more relaxed than for market animals, but it may have a “hatched prior to” date listed. Pullets and cockerels typically are birds less than one-year-old, with hens and roosters being older. Check your Project Guide for the most reliable source of age requirements for exhibition birds.
Now that you have this information at your fingertips, it’s time to go shopping! After a little research, reading through the Standard of Perfection (if you are taking exhibition birds), and with the desired hatch date in mind, you can now shop with confidence and select those winning birds!