Grant Brereton gets realistic about what we can expect when it comes to poultry shows today…

The last few years have been absolutely devastating for pure-breed poultry and their keepers. There were a few glimmers of hope of recovery in the early years, before quickly being dashed. One example is the upsurge of poultry keepers during the pandemic, whose enthusiasm was soon shattered when the bird flu ‘flockdown’ rules were imposed; often for months at a time on an annual basis.The result was inevitable… people soon found it too much hassle and further, ‘cruel’ keeping livestock in restricted conditions for months on end.

This wasn’t their dream, but a nightmare.The show scene suffered greatly. Not only with a loss of enthusiasm for breeding, but to many people in our circles (the fanciers), it was their way of life. The shows and sales were great social events for many poultry keepers, the loss of which made for a very bleak outlook. Some older exhibitors, who’ve spent their life in the hobby, never got to experience meeting up with old pals one last time.

An example would be the late John Harrop MBE, who aimed to have his ‘showing swan song’ at the Federation show, but due to regulations, was unable. John was one of the few who bred large black Minorcas to a very high standard and was president of the Minorca Club.

Although you can’t really quantify how many specimens exist in any given breed or variety, the shows at least gave a rough indication of the amount of people who took ‘breed preservation’ seriously, and although the actual number of keepers of any poultry variety are proportionally higher than the number who exhibit their stock, it’s the show exhibitors who, in general, bring the top specimens and important genetics to the main events (the national shows) to be thoroughly assessed by breed specialists known as judges. There are, however, the ones who don’t show yet are dedicated to their varieties and have helped out many exhibitors over the years. Unless they are a member of the relative breed club, it can be very difficult to identify and quantify these people – I’m just grateful they exist!

This article extract was taken from Practical Poultry in the June 2024 edition of The Country Smallholder. To finish reading it, you can buy the issue here.

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