Lowering stress in our birds is really important when traveling and being at the show, as it is quite an abnormal experience for them. Below I have provided 10 tips on lowering stress for your birds and a couple stories on what happens when that doesn’t happen.
I had a hen on Champion Row that took reserve in the American Class. As I stood there contemplating whether she needed sprucing up while other birds were still being brought up, the exhibitor who owned the class champion, a gorgeous white Plymouth Rock pullet, walked up to the other side, pulled her out of the cage, and began touching up her comb and legs. Within seconds I watched the chicken seize up and die in his arms. The chicken apparently had a heart attack and much as the owner tried to revive her, she finished seizing and died.
At another show I watched someone (who had driven 1500 miles with their large fowl and bantams stuffed in cardboard boxes) coop in. A beautiful large Jersey Giant hen died in her cage almost immediately. There are 2 additional incidents with acquaintances where each had a bird die on Champion Row.
I absolutely have no facts about the actual cause of death for any of these birds. It very easily could have been any number of things, including genetic issues. But each time I hear or see a bird die like that at a show, I am reminded that stress can kill a bird.
Our Jersey Giants spend their days happily foraging and munching on their buffet of feed, mash, fruits, vegetables, grass, bugs, and treats. They take dust baths, mingle, flap wings, and power nap. So we need to remember when they are suddenly handled, washed, groomed, separated from “family”, crated, traveled, cooped in along with hundreds of strange birds & noises, trimmed, and handled multiple times more before being crated back up, traveled back home or dragged to another show; that is stressful.
10 Tips in Lowering Stress
Be aware and take some easy steps to lowering stress in your birds. Here are some things to consider:
- HANDLE your birds before the shows. Once in a while, pick them up, gently examine them, and gently put them down so they learn they aren’t going to be eaten or hurt when picked up.
- DON’T RUSH. At least not when handling the birds.
- Bring the WATER they are accustomed to drinking. There can be very disruptive differences between water, even with well water.
- Bring the FOOD they are used to eating. ESPECIALLY include their usual treats. Don’t get cheap by using show food. It can actually cost you.
- Add a little ELECTROLYTE/vitamin powder to their water (unless they are white… could stain feathers).
- Give them decent transport SPACE…don’t stuff them together, especially long distances. They need fresh cool air that is well circulated.
- Do your MAIN SHOW PREP at home including oiling, where the environment is less noisy and stressful. Then you are just touching them up at the show.
- GIVE THEM A BREAK during long distance transport. Stop the truck, open doors, provide food and water, etc. You need a break, they need a break. They won’t normally eat or drink in a moving vehicle.
- Use your own CAGE CUPS for food and water. Big ones. Keep them topped off at the show until judging, so they can graze.
- Bring CARDBOARD pieces to insert between your group and other birds. This is not “framing”. It’s preventing fights and bickering….and exposure. I even purchase a couple extra cages on my entry so that I can have space between my birds and someone else’s, especially if you are showing males.
There may be other things you can think of but the point here is think. You have a lot invested in your bids, don’t get sloppy and mindless when showing your treasures. Be a supportive part of your Poultry Show Team by lowering their stress.
By Sher Jennings