Chicken Wars At The Fort Bend County Fair!

This year I went to the largest county fair in the state of Texas. Until my trip to the little town of Needville, Texas, I had never heard of the Fort Bend County Fair with its youth livestock competition.

Texas Road Maps are dotted with small towns that feature a feed store, barber, beauty shop and a Post Office. 4-H Clubs and Future Farmers of America chapters are scattered throughout the area. Livestock competition for the youth of these clubs is generally conducted at the county fair.

During the fair, the only laid back and calm folks I witnessed were the kids who showed the animals. The parents were a mess, at least the ones I sat next to in the gallery. The bleachers were filled with Mothers, fathers, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

All were rooting for their son or daughter, niece or nephew. Silently, I guessed they were all thinking about the money they had spent on those fat chickens in the arena. Each was hoping to recoup some of the money spent on their kid’s cluckers at the auction to be held after the show, if they were lucky enough to be invited by the judges.

While there is competition in practically every farm animal imaginable, my attention this year was drawn to the hundreds of chickens I saw at the judging in the center of the dirt ring of the small arena.

The kids learn responsibility by raising chicks fresh that were only a few days old. Then they feed and water them a couple of times a day in hopes that they might have a champion when competition time arrives in about six to eight weeks. Every participant has their own special recipe of feed to make the chicken grow fatter, faster; no steroids allowed.

The kids showing the chickens have to keep the chicken coops clean and parasite free of anything that might destroy their birds. Record keeping is a must, showing the cost of chickens, feed, electricity and all expenses incurred in bringing their poultry to the arena.

For this event the work began in the summer with 25 to 50 chicks. August in Texas is hot! The little house that my son-in-law built to house the chickens required two small air condition units on each side of the eight foot structure to keep the poultry alive. In order to enter the show each contestant had to have three broilers and one roaster to be judged by an expert chicken judge, usually a university trained chicken expert.

By the time this event is finished; chickens have been judged, either as a broiler, a roaster or both. Winners are selected and about 25 other participants are awarded entry into the poultry auction to be held a few days after the selection process has been completed.

There was plenty of stress in the gallery. The parents had to do the worrying, because a chicken that was good enough to be entered into the sale after the show, could bring in thousands of dollars. The ones that didn’t make the auction were granted a great big thank you from the chicken committee.

Competition among families for bragging rights in the coming year can be vicious. My kin folk are already talking about building a bigger and better chicken house than their cousins have. A new one may even have carpet on the floor.

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