Poultry primped for Berkeley County Youth Fair show

August 02, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Arianna Cunningham of Shepherdstown, W.Va., reacts to eating ice cream too fast during the ice cream-eating contest Tuesday at the Berkeley County Youth Fair.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A cotton swab dabbed with a little petroleum jelly, a disposable razor and a toothbrush can help make your hens look pretty, but winning the grand champion poultry showmanship trophy at the Berkeley County Youth Fair requires much more work.

Just ask this year’s winner, Michael Lithrow, who placed second three times before winning the top honor in Tuesday’s poultry show at the fair.

“You pretty much have to know the bird inside and out,” Lithrow said as he held one of his three Rhode Island Red hens outside their cage at the fairgrounds.

Ben Beyers III won the reserve champion showmanship award at Berkeley County’s 64th youth fair, which continues through Saturday night.

For the judges, Lithrow, 20, said he had to demonstrate how to hold the chicken without upsetting it. That requires spending an extensive amount of time with the birds, which typically are flighty otherwise.


In this year’s judging, Lithrow said he was able to more easily speak about his knowledge of the chicken industry after taking a livestock production course at Potomac State College. He plans to continue his collegiate studies in agriculture education at West Virginia University.

Lithrow said he also had to know the anatomy of his chickens, which were bathed and groomed before Tuesday’s show.

Petroleum jelly, applied with a cotton swab to the chicken’s beak, red comb and wattle, and shanks (legs), adds a little sheen and shows off the cleanliness of the birds, Lithrow said.

“Q-tips are your best friend on show day,” Lithrow said.

The razor is used to trim the feathers on the chickens’ faces and shanks, and the toothbrush is used to scrub their feet, he said.

Duncan Manor Jr., whose three Sex Link chickens were deemed the grand champion poultry entry this year, said it is important to choose birds that have ideal physical composition for the particular breed’s purpose. The birds are inspected individually by the judge, who looked for his chicken’s ability to lay eggs and other features, said Manor, who plans to study civil engineering at WVU this fall.

“Each year is a gamble ... your preference may not be the same as someone else’s preference,” said Manor, who has entered chickens at the fair for about five years.

While he was happy to win the poultry award, Manor said he still prefers showing pigs over chickens at the fair.

“You got to look at it in perspective ... I think pig tastes better than chicken,” Manor said.

Kayla Butler, 18, of Hedgesville, W.Va., won the reserve champion poultry award with the help of a “temperamental” Rhode Island Red named Ant that she named after her boyfriend. 

“I just think they’re really cute,” said Butler, who has been showing chickens for about four years. “And a lot of people don’t give them a chance. They just like to (enter livestock) they can sell, but I think chickens are fun.”

About 50 cages of poultry and other fowl are among nearly 500 animals exhibited at this year’s fair, according to Drew Bohrer, livestock chairman, and Lisa Duvall, poultry and pigeon chairwoman.

“Our numbers are up,” Bohrer said. “We’re glad to see it.”

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