Thursday, January 10, 2013

Showing your birds? Help protect them!

I love keeping chickens (and peafowl, ducks, etc) and I love the challenge and excitement that come with showing them.  We have been fortunate to have participated in The Ohio National poultry show for the last three years.  We taken our bantam Russian Orloff's and have done very well.  It has become something we look forward to doing at the end of each season.  Shortly after this show, which is held in November, we take a break for the holidays and then eagerly awaiting spring again.

For the most part it has been a very positive experience but there have been some things we've seen and heard about that have us concerned.

I can't speak to how all shows are handled but I can say what they do at this particular show.  Here is a run down of the show weekend.
Check in is Friday starting at 9am up until 10pm.  You see folks coming and going all day long, vendor tables are being setup, sale birds being put in cages and random greetings of fellow enthusiasts.    Only exhibitor's (and their family) may enter on Friday.  You enter the hall and go to the sign up table to check in.  They ask your name (never requesting any identification from you or a visual on your bird), check your name off on the list, give you a booklet listing out the names of everyone exhibiting, a button to allow entry to the show over the weekend and then they point you to a large group of papers listed on a wall nearby.  In the three years we have been showing, this is the only contact we have with the show staff the entire weekend.  The papers indicate where each bird goes on the floor (row and cage) and a handy diagram of the floor so you know where to go.

Thousands of cages!

This is a big show with rows being labeled by letter and cages being stacked three high on either side.  There is a center aisle down each row.  You then go find your cages and get your birds settled in.  You provide your own food and water but they do put small plastic cups in each cage for you to fill.  None of the cages have any kind of locking mechanism and the rules state, "If the coop is locked or the bird is not accessible to the judge, the bird will not be judged." I have never noticed one lock on any cages in any of the years we have went, although I have seen a few zip ties here and there.   

You can also setup any sale pens you have pre-purchased.  Sale pens are in the same hall but a different area than the show birds.  Lots of sales happen Friday evening, we often don't arrive until 6:30-7pm and are mobbed upon arrival.  ;)

Sale area.  This was mid morning on a Saturday.

Around 9:30 the show staff starts reminding everyone they are closing up at 10PM.  At 10pm personnel begin throwing people out and the hall is then locked up for the evening.

They open the hall up at 7am but judging doesn't start until around 9am.  One by one they will block each half of a row from all traffic so the judge can easily go from one cage to the next, looking at each bird and noting their comments.  After they have judged a row they block off the next and open that row back up.  This takes a while, there are thousand of birds being shown.  If I recall judging usually lasts until 4 or 5 pm (it might have been earlier) but the hall remains open until 6pm, when they again go around to move people out.  Again, the hall is locked until morning.
Mid Day on Saturday, judging is happing somewhere amongst these cages.

Throughout the day but especially in the morning are when many sales happen.  There are a lot of people that come to the show simply to look at all the birds, but from the vendor tables and check out the sale pens.  By late Saturday most of the cages are empty.

The hall opens at 7AM again.  Champions are awarded mid-morning, I think it was around 10 or so.  After that they formally dismiss everyone.  The process for taking your birds is simple, you walk up to your cage and take your bird.  You can put it in a transport cage if you want but lots and lots of people are there carrying birds around so no one really pays any mind to an uncaged bird.  You then pack your birds up and head home.  Most of the sale pens are cleared out before they award the Champions and by noon the place looks like a chicken ghost town. lol
Note, there is absolutely NO check out of birds, validation/identification or proof of ownership you need to provide to leave with your (or any) bird.  
Getting ready to pack up to head home.  

Can you see the red flags in the process here?  Did it help I highlighted them? ;)

I'll discuss those red flags a little further, flags that had always been there but were brought to light more recently.

It started the Monday after the show with reports on Facebook from a few people that their birds were missing.  Some came through on our farm page wall so I shared them with the Ohio National Facebook page, their replies were less then helpful. :/ As days went on, more reports of missing birds came in.  Some were located but others remained missing.  How sad it is that someone brings a bird to a show and comes home empty handed!?!

Then today happened.  Today I received a postcard in the mail...

there was a little sticker on the front directing me to a youtube video:

wow, just breaks my heart.  truly.

I've been thinking about Julia all day, how much she must miss her boys, how much she obviously cares for them and how WRONG it is that this happened to her.  I knew I had to do something to help.

I have no idea where her boys are and I don't breed silkies but I knew I could use our FB page to try to get the word out.  If you are on FB, please go share our post!


that's not enough.  We need to make sure this doesn't happen again.  How can anyone feel comfortable bringing their birds to a show environment if they are being taken right out of the cages, potentially stolen, right there at the show.  I checked the Ohio National's web site list of rules again and noticed one I hadn't seen before, "The Association will take every precaution against loss or mishap, but will not be held responsible should any occur." Hmm, let's see 'every precaution'?  Remember my run down, does that SOUND like 'every precaution'? heck does that sound like ANY precaution?
So, what can we do about this?!

  • Check in Process:
    • Any adult exhibiting should be required to show photo ID and check in with their bird(s)
      • Because this is a junior show as well, I can understand many of them would not have an ID but in those cases an adult with them should be required to show the needed identification.  
    • Birds can be marked with a numbered leg band at this time, provided by the show itself.  This would provide a consistent, standard, unique identifier for each bird.  It would be low cost, easily removed, harmless to the bird and a way to identify EVERY bird being shown.  And, how handy, several sponsors of this show SELL these leg bands.  hmm, seems like they could work that out pretty easily.  
  • Caging/Penning In process
    • The design of the cages would lend itself to a lock or other mechanism to secure the cage but this could prove problematic for judging unless the show itself purchased locks.  Ideally they would have a master key for the judges and then individual keys for each lock that can be given to exhibitors.  The cost for these locks could be included in registration fees and/or a deposit could be taken and then returned upon return of the lock at the end of the show.  This would ensure the safety of the bird but also allow the judge access to the bird.  Incidentally, the judges are not alone when they walk around, they each have at least one helper that clears people from the rows before they block them off, you hear the judge talk with them as well.  From the watching I've done of the judges (I admit, I find it fascinating to watch them) I think this could be incorporated into the process, again with assistance that they already have.  It would be made more simple by the show issuing the lock thereby having a master key to unlock all locks.  It wouldn't be a case of the judge having to fish through thousands of keys for the right one, it would be one key they would have to work all the locks.  
  • Check Out 
    • This is the process I think has the most opportunity for improvement as to date there IS no process.  To start with, if they can implement a simple banding upon check in it would be easy to verify birds upon exit.  The show staff would need to check leg bands of each bird against the master check in list of leg band numbers.  No match, no leaving.  
    • They should also require you check out the same way they require a check in; you check in with X number of birds, you check out with that many.  
    • I also feel they need amend their rule that states, "Any birds left at the show will be disposed of at show management's discretion." I feel they should first off designate a difference between birds in the show area and birds in the sale area.  They could then say any birds left in the SALE area will be disposed of at their discretion.  I think they should at least make an effort to contact anyone with birds in show cages after noon on Sunday.  

I realize all of this would require a little more time on the part of the the show personnel but then again aren't these just 'precautions'?! After all, they themselves said they would take 'every precaution against loss or mishap'.
These checks would not eliminate ALL instances of missing birds but I think it would really deter future instances.

So, what do you think?  What rules or processes/procedures do you think should be put in place?  Whether you show birds or not I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Peafowl 201: Genetics part 1: Colors

When we left off with our Peafowl 101 post I promised more on genetics.  If you read our previous post you might remember that every peafowl has a pattern and a color.  This will be a multi-part series on genetics/breeding, this is part one: Colors.  We will have more posts on the Sex-Link Colors and then Patterns.

As we discussed before, peafowl come in 12 Colors (India Blue, Bronze, Cameo, Charcoal, Jade, Midnight, Opal, Peach, Purple, Taupe, Violeta and White).  We keep 7 of these colors: India Blue, Bronze, Cameo, Opal, Peach, Purple and White.

Most of the colors follow the same rules while a few of the colors are referred to as 'sex-linked' colors.  Let's start with the basic colors to get an idea of how the genetics break down.  The colors that follow the basic 'Punnet's Square' rules are 

  1. India Blue
  2. Bronze
  3. Jade
  4. Midnight
  5. Opal
  6. Taupe 
I remember doing Punnet's squares back in high school biology (and I quite enjoyed it, nerd that I am.), husband is a scientist so he does most of this in his head.  If I didn't have him handy to refer to I'd be writing this all down!

In the peafowl world, the term split refers to a bird carrying those genetics but not visually expressing it.  For instance, this boy looks like an India Blue (Black Shoulder pattern) but he is also split peach.

India Blue Black Shoulder

Peach Peachick

Some of the female chicks are Peach like this chick to the left, some are blue like the chick below.
In contrast, this is an India Blue chick.

For the combinations listed below you can interchange where I have listed blue (short for India Blue) with Bronze, Jade, Midnight, Opal or Taupe and get the same results.

Blue X Blue = all blue chicks
Blue X Bronze = all blue split bronze chicks
Blue X Jade = all blue split to Jade chicks
Blue X Midnight = all blue split to Midnight chicks
Blue X Opal = all blue split to Opal chicks
Blue X Taupe = all blue split to Taupe chicks

Easy enough right?  Anything you breed that does not 'match up' color wise will produce split chicks of whatever color isn't blue.  The blue color is dominant so it will always visually display when you are not breeding two of the same color.

Now if you take any of these colors and cross them, all the chicks will be blue and split to both colors.  Let's use Bronze in this example (mostly because I love it so much).

Bronze Peacock

Bronze X Jade = all blue split Bronze split Jade chicks
Bronze X Midnight = all blue split Bronze split Midnight chicks
Bronze X Opal = all blue split Bronze split Opal chicks
Bronze X Taupe = all blue split Bronze split Opal chicks

Still with me?  Good.  ;)  The fun really starts when you start adding in the 'split' factor.  Because blue is dominant, crossing them to a bird that is split to another color would not give you that color (blue X blue split bronze will not give you bronze chicks).  You would need to cross that split bird with either one of that color or one that is also split to that color.

Bronze X Blue split Bronze = 50% chicks will be bronze, 50% will be blue split bronze
Blue split Bronze X Blue split Bronze = 25% bronze, 50% blue split bronze, 25% blue
**here is where it starts to get tricky because you will not be able to tell the difference between the blue and the blue split bronze. ** 

Clear as Mud?!

You can see how careful record keeping is imperative to breeding peafowl, well if you are planning on achieving a desired outcome at least.  ;)

In our next installment we will talk about the other colors, Cameo, Peach, Purple and Violeta.  Also known as sex-link colors.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Reflections of (St)Eve

You may have been following our Facebook journey into a photographic year in the life of a chicken.  We have been taking (St)Eve's picture since February 15, that's 320 days of pictures.!

Whew! It has been quite a year!  When I first agreed to take on the project The Chicken Chick originally started, I was really, REALLY nervous.  What if something happened to him?  What if I couldn't get a picture every day?  What if I took all these pictures and no one even saw them?  and a million other 'What if's' went through my mind.

Over the last 10+ months (St)Eve and I have had quite the adventure.  Much more than I could have ever imagined.  We do have a plethora of animals here, including over 75 chickens and between 80-100 peacocks (and peahens).  Normally I would not spend this much time daily with one bird, well unless it was my Bronze Boy. <3

I digress...back to (St)Eve...

When the journey to us started midday on February 14, I was a nervous wreck!  I can only imagine how ridiculous my text messages to (St)Eve's transport (Tiffany) must have sounded.  Even though I had recently started back to work full time and the littlest Louden was only 7 weeks old, I spent that evening pacing the floors instead of catching up on some much needed rest.  I was mixed with excitement and nervousness at his arrival.  After stopping to rest, they arrived at our meeting point in the afternoon with just enough time for me to be back to greet the oldest two Louden's off the school bus for the day.

The kids were all a huge help preparing for both (St)Eve and Max's arrival.  We kept both boys quarantined before integrating into our birds and we had decided (St)Eve would stay inside for the time being (more to ease my mind than anything).

(St)Eve made himself right at home. ;)

Hugs from Anderson!
Checking out a newly hatched half sibling.

Enjoying a view of the farm from the back deck.
Watching TV with Jackson and daddy Max.

Conquering the land of the dinosaurs.

Doing a Mexican Hat Dance.

Playing piano for us.

As the weeks progressed on March started, (St)Eve grew and we introduced him to some friends from our flock (he still hangs with some of them today).  He made his move to the outside in early March.  I would try to spend time following (St)Eve and his crew around just to see what he was up to, he never disappointed me.

Riding Jackson's skateboard.

Making himself right at home in the 'climbing tree'.

Being a protective big brother to yet more chicks.

At the end of March we reached a bit of a dilemma, we were committed to attend an exotic auction for our peafowl for three days.  What to do with (St)Eve?!  He came with of course!
Enjoying his trip to a hotel with a breakfast buffet served in the bathroom. 

In April (St)Eve really started to grow and take on much of the personality we see in him now.  He also found a mate in one of our Black Ameraucana hens, eventually named Eve.

Posing with my wooden rooster to show how big he's getting!

Scratching around for tasty treats.
With his best gal Eve, strolling into the woods.

These two quickly became inseparable.
May started off with (St)Eve almost not making it any further!  I found him tangled up in a roll of wire and nearly lost it trying to remove him safely.  Luckily DH came to the rescue (literally) and helped save his life!  After our little wire scare, we coasted safely through the month without incident. 
(St)Eve with the wire that almost took his life. 

Watching for the school bus in the front flower bed.
Trying to blend in with the orange azalea.

Spending the afternoon with his gal Eve. 

In June we celebrated with (St)Eve when Eve laid her first eggs.  We also all enjoyed the return of warmth and sunshine.

He's so proud you'd think he laid it himself.

Practicing to be a garden statue. ;)
(St)Eve loved to give us action shots.  

Overlooking his domain.

Look at that sweet face.

As (St)Eve grew and July rolled around he found himself the center of attention for several ladies!  He also figured out how to open our sliding glass door and would often wake us up with a crow in the morning.

Another one of (St)Eve's gal's, we call her Blue Hen.

Practicing his best karate kid pose.  

Leaving after his early morning wake up calls. 

Bringing all the lay-deez in for treats!

We were met with another dilemma in August, we planned a 10 day trip to Disney World for the kids.  Unfortunately, we didn't feel this was a trip (St)Eve was up to making so we had our farm sitter text us his daily pictures so we wouldn't miss a day on our journey.  Turned out, he didn't miss us AT ALL and spent most of his days planning a big party--good thing we made it home in time to stop that! ;)
(St)Eve borrowed Sydney's scooter to pick up his Lay-Deez
And Jackson's drum set to play them some tunes!

He was happy to see us but not happy we crashed his plans for a big party!

Some of our friends, Shelly and Harry Wade, made the trip out to meet (St)Eve and take a picture too.  

Before we knew it, it was time for school to start again, Sydney gave (St)Eve BIG hugs before heading out for the first day.
In September, with school and fall soccer in full swing, we were super busy!  We were able to capture some fun pictures this month though.
Remembering his days as a house chicken.

Did you ever have an itch...

Soccer star!

(St)Eve in the moonlight.
October is an even busier month than most, with three Louden birthdays (Jackson, Anderson and Mr. Louden).  (St)Eve was happy to pose with all to help celebrate their day.  October also brought crazy weather at the end of the month, postponing Halloween until the first part of November.  We couldn't let the month pass without showing off baby Savannah's costume to (St)Eve though, he wasn't impressed.
Happy 7th Birthday Jackson

Happy 5th Birthday Anderson

(St)Eve wasn't as amused with Savannah's peacock costume as we all were. ;)

(St)Eve's classic flamingo pose. 
November brought another journey for (St)Eve, this time down to Columbus, Ohio for the Ohio National Poultry Show.  No, he wasn't competing there but his lady bantam Russian Orloff was and he wanted to offer his support. <3 It must have worked as she took Best of Breed (third year running for us at Louden Farms).
(St)Eve with Sydney at his first poultry show, the Ohio National.

Enjoying the last bit of fall with Blue Hen.

NOT enjoying the early hour of it, but enjoying his time with his Russian gal watching the sun set. 

Getting his crow on.  
Crowing at the foggy morning.

Before we knew it, December was upon us.  We tried to capture a little bit of Christmas spirit in a lot of the pictures this month while still letting his personality shine through.

Adding the ultra important Chicken to the nativity scene.

Mesmerized by the lights.

Reluctantly posing with some crocheted trees intended as teacher gifts.

Thankful we didn't wrap him with all the other presents!

Showing us just how far he's come, posing with a newly hatched chick.  

Well, folks that's it.  that's the year.  oh wait!  I have this handy-dandy video I made showing ALL the pictures from the year.  I hope you enjoy it, it's taken us a year to produce! ;)

SO, what will 2013 bring?  Will we continue to take daily pictures?  Will a NEW chick join (St)Eve on his daily journey?  Well, I guess you'll just have to check out our Facebook page to find out! ;)