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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Best in Show

Air Date: Week of

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You’ve heard of dog shows where pampered pooches strut their stuff. But have you ever heard of a chicken show? Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey went to one and brought back this sound montage.


CURWOOD: September is National Chicken Month, according to the National Chicken Council. And while they regard chickens as food, others see pullets as pretty. Consider the Northeastern Poultry Congress, held in western Massachusetts. Now, a chicken show may not have the prestige of its canine cousin. But, as you'll hear in this sound montage from Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey, these birds can strut their stuff.


FEMALE 1: We’re showing White-bearded Silkies. The feathers actually look like a fluffy boa that a lady would wear around her neck. And they have a mulberry comb, and they have turquoise earlobes, and they’re the only poultry known to have five toes.


MALE 1: A few years ago, Martha Stewart’s job was to pick the prettiest chicken of the show, and she had chosen this bird here, which is called a White-crested Blue Polish. This does not have a comb, it has a round crest, and it’s full of feathers. And you want it as round as possible and thick and full. Tina Turner, if you can picture that.


MALE 2: I have here a cock bird. That means he’s more than a year old. He’s a Dorking breed, and he’s a silver-gray variety, that’s the color pattern. He’s a very gentle bird. Yup, he likes me and I like him.


FEMALE 2: They go in the bathroom sink. They get shampooed and conditioned, they get blown dry. I file their toenails and I oil their combs. And they love it. Actually, when I’m blow drying, everyone of my birds lean into it with their head.


MALE 3: Their feet get scrubbed. I scrub them with a toothbrush and hot soapy water. I take a toothpick and I clean under the scales, because they go out on the ground. This is a very hardy breed. These don’t stay inside. I don’t baby them.


MALE 4: I’m one of the five judges. Every breed, every variety has a standard of perfection for its size, weight, color. Chickens are like people – they have good days, they have bad days. Sometimes they don’t want to stand up and show to their best ability.


MALE 4: Sounds like I got a hold of something. I’m not letting go. These are standard old English game, which is related to most of the pit games that they use for cock fighting. These are bred more for show. And they will come after you. They can be extremely aggressive, so they can be quite a challenge to judge. They’re tough to get out of the cage. So far, I’ve been lucky, but we’re only about half done [LAUGHTER].


MALE 4: Oh yeah, you’d eat me if you had half the chance, wouldn’t you, buddy? You ain’t gonna get half the chance, I’ll tell you right now.

BARNAVA: Come on everybody, look this way. Come on big boy. Look right this way pretty girl. Come on! Good boy. My name is Sheryl Barnava, and I’m here today simply to take photographs of chickens. The pose is everything. Feathers must lay flat on top of each other, you can’t have any wrinkled feathers. And we definitely want to catch light in the eye, and the perfect pose that says I’m the best.


BARNAVA: All right now, we don’t need your tail. Come on, we need to see your face. No tail! [LAUGHTER]


CURWOOD: To see photos of Bearded Silkies, White-crested Polish and other fantastic fowl, go to our website, livingonearth.org.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

For a slideshow of the competition, click here.

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from The World Media Foundation. Major contributors include the Ford Foundation, for reporting on U.S. environment and development issues, and the William and Flora Hewlett foundation, for coverage of western issues. Support also comes from NPR member stations and Bob Williams and Meg Caldwell, honoring NPR's coverage of environmental and natural resource issues, and in support of the NPR President's Council. And Paul and Marcia Ginsberg in support of excellence in public radio.



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