Nine-year-old stuns poultry world with show wins

Meet nine-year-old Sam Dunning, a rising star at British poultry shows. The youngster has achieved phenomenal success his year, crowning it all with top honours at the National Poultry Show at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, in November.

Sam’s achievement is all the more remarkable because he is self-taught – and he even set up his own poultry business this year, called Sam’s Funky Fowls.

Sam lives with his parents Sandra and Paul at a farm near Chard, in Somerset, and is a pupil at Chard School. His parents’ main interest is horses, not poultry, and both have represented Great Britain at showjumping.

Sandra said it all started four years ago, when Sam was just five years old. “I took him to a local farm sale. There were four ex-battery hens there and he wanted to buy them. He had some pocket money saved and paid 50p each for them.

“Over the following months they laid us some lovely eggs and, much to my horror, Sam would bring his new friends in the kitchen to have a chat.

“His flock grew and I had to let him take over one of my pony paddocks to accommodate them all.

“We supported him as best we could, although we knew nothing about them. We figured it was a far healthier life than most kids lead these days – sat in front of a computer or the telly.

“Then came the ducks, and all of a sudden we needed a pond, so another horse paddock was commandeered. I put my foot down after my horses’ feed shed was converted to an aviary and filled with budgies, cockatiels, finches, doves and quail!

“He exhibited a few of his birds at a local show and one or two of them came back with a place. Sam was pleased, but determined to do better next time.

“He bought books and started learning more about husbandry and rare breeds. Then he bought some hatching eggs from a local breeder and bred some beautiful Campines, Sultans and Polands. Now he has numerous other rare breeds as well.

“By the middle of last year he was doing quite well, with wins at many agricultural and county shows. This year has been incredible. He has been virtually unbeaten, taking Champion Junior at the North Somerset, Devon and Bath & West Shows.

“Finally he was declared Junior Championship and won the Prince of Wales Gold Star Award at the National Show.

“This is quite a feat, in view of our lack of knowledge to advise, guide or help him and the fact he competes against children to 16 years.”

“Sam is very modest about his win – I don’t think the reality of his massive achievement, in such a short space of time, has dawned on any of us yet.”

Sandra said Sam’s business has also taken off – he recently sold £1,000 worth of birds when his Dad accompanied him to a garden sale!

Sam had the final word. He said: “I want to breed many other types of chickens and ducks. I would like to have every type of breed known to man! I want to continue showing and also travel abroad to a few shows.”

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