To launch a new series on showing chickens, Grant Brereton eases readers into the fascinating world of exhibition birds. In forthcoming issues, Grant will cover many aspects of the hobby, such as breeding, selecting and preparing birds for shows. He will also recommend shows. This month he looks at the meaning of the word ‘fancier’

What is a poultry fancier?

A lot of people keep chickens for their free range eggs. Others like to keep pure breeds and hatch a few of them each year. Such breeders, in general, have fairly high standards – but the poultry fancier sees the hobby through the eyes of a perfectionist.

The word ‘fancier’ derives from the word ‘fancy’ and, in the show world, there are many fancy breeds of poultry. Whether in poultry or pigeons, the word is used to describe someone who breeds their stock primarily for exhibition.

Many breeds have their own breed club, and those that don’t are covered by the Rare Poultry Society. These clubs are affiliated to the Poultry Club of Great Britain and are responsible for devising the standards of each colour and variety of fowl they cover. For example, the Laced Wyandotte Club has four standards – the Silver, Gold, Buff and Blue Laced. These are published in a seven yearly book ‘The British Poultry Standards’.

A ’standard’ is a strict set of rules which detail the exact requirements of a breed. It covers many aspects of the fowl, including eye colour, body shape (type), weight, plumage pattern, comb quality, stance, leg colour and wing feathering among many other requirements. Each feature is allocated a certain number of points which total 100.

Many people believe they have good quality stock until they see what else is available – often at a show. It is a good eye opener and a way of learning fast.

There is strong competition among breeders at the big shows. Often they have to show something special to beat their contemporaries, and quality is high.

The ‘Crufts of the poultry world’ come in the form of two major shows in the UK – the National and the Federation. These are the shop window of the ‘fancy’ and where you will see the best birds on display in each respective breed.

If you would like to attend one or both of these shows, they are held in November and December. Details will be available in forthcoming articles.