Organizations Lead Young People Toward Poultry

It starts with fascination. Organizations give young people a way up.

Organizations Lead Young People Toward Poultry

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Kids are attracted to chickens from the first time Mom reads them the story of the Little Red Hen. They fall in love with fluffy feathers. Poultry organizations can help them build those attractions into solid life paths. 

APA — ABA 

The American Poultry Association and the American Bantam Association are the primary national poultry exhibition organizations. Their goal is an improvement in domestic fowl and advocate for purebred poultry. Local clubs affiliate with the APA and sponsor local shows. Specialty breed organizations hold competition meets for their breed within the show. 

The APA elected Mark Podgwaite president in March. He follows John Monaco, with whom he served since 2016 as vice president. Mr. Monaco led the APA to adopt more technology during the past four years, using it to track the point system faster and more accurately, and recording and live streaming meetings. Membership services allow directors to communicate better with members. 

“We’re sort of old fashioned, but we know that we have to bring the organization into the modern age,” Mr. Monaco said. “We need to think to the future, but remember the past.” 

Joining the national organizations gives young people an entry point and direction to get more involved. The Youth Exhibition Poultry Association offers young people programs to get more involved with poultry. YEPA was created in 1995 under the APA and ABA and became an independent organization in 2015. The A.C.E. Program: Activities, Competition, Education is one of the most popular. Kids get started as young as eight years old, and can continue to build their knowledge through four levels, to age 21, at which point they can apprentice to become poultry judges. Doris Robinson is the director of YEPA. 

Two YEPA participants take their Buckeyes to showmanship. (Courtesy YEPA)

“They learn the basics about purebred, exhibition poultry,” said Mrs. Robinson. 

The program requires members to learn about their breed and others, history, husbandry, candling and hatching eggs, health and medications. They keep notebooks and Health Maintenance Records of their flocks. They track income and expenses to arrive at a financial summary of their project. 

“The kids have to work extremely hard,” says Mrs. Robinson. “It’s a great reference for kids who want to go to college in poultry. They go into adulthood with a lot of knowledge.” 

Youth programs are always in search of leadership to support young people. YEPA is seeking a successor to Mrs. Robinson. Contact her at 423-465-0111or through the website, http://youthexhibitionpoultry.org/

The Livestock Conservancy  

The Livestock Conservancy offers two youth microgrants of up to $2,000 each to support young people. Apply through https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/resources/internal/micro-grant-program

Last Frontier Poultry Association will use the grant to purchase cages and ribbons to improve its shows. The club supports local 4-H and other young people in learning about, raising and showing standard and other heritage breed poultry. The grant will be dedicated to holding an APA-sanctioned show in Alaska. 

“For us in Alaska, there are no APA licensed judges and therefore one must be flown in from the lower 48,” said club president Josh Ream, “We had a donor last year for securing a number of exhibition cages but we needed many more to support this year’s demand.” 

Twelve-year-old Liam Beheler of Indiana raises RC (rose-comb) and SC (single-comb) Nankins and Dominiques. He’ll use his grant to build more breeding coops and a new run, and purchase other equipment, such as a heat plate for his chicks. He also plans to purchase an additional pair of Dominiques to add a new line to his current flock. The new birds will increase genetic diversity in his original flock, and allow him to breed birds that more closely meet the Standard description. That’s an important aspect of breed preservation.  

Liam Beheler works on the coop he’s building, paid for with funds from the microgrant awarded by The Livestock Conservancy. (Amanda Beheler photo)

“I can start training a Nankin to take for educating people,” he wrote in his application. “Once my breeding lines are going and I get enough chicks to raise and show, I want to start selling chicks and giving birds to more 4-H kids.” 

Educating others about rare Standard breeds increases awareness of their importance. Helping others start their own flocks makes the breed stronger and more resilient. 

Elaine Shirley, rare breeds manager at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, gave Liam and his family their start with heritage breeds.  

Liam is active in 4-H at the county and state levels, giving his rare breeds more visibility. He  

participates in YEPA, where he has already earned his Coop Tender and is working on his Flock Tender certification.  

Specialty breed clubs 

Enthusiasts for specific breeds form organizations to exchange information and stock and to advocate for their breed.  

Young people who want to breed chickens can find mentors among breed clubs. Each breed has its own story to tell. Young people like to be experts and have insider knowledge. 

Because specialty breed clubs depend on volunteers and extend membership across the country and sometimes around the world, paid staff in a permanent office location is a luxury they do not enjoy. The Internet is often the best way to locate information and contact them. The APA maintains a list of breed clubs on its site.  

Local clubs, 4-H, FFA 

4-H and FFA are national organizations directed to helping guide young people into agriculture. Local chapters bring friends together. Children bring their parents in as poultry leaders, which may introduce them to a new field. My daughter was the one who brought me into poultry.  

Young people in FFA and 4-H can participate in show events. Progressive elimination competitions lead to national events that offer scholarships and other substantial recognition. 

LFPA Poultry Information Booth at the Alaska State Fair in 2018. Club Treasurer Dustin Hattenburg shows a Mille Fleur Belgian Bearded d’Uccle cockerel to youth. (Josh Ream photo)

Showmanship classes place students in a one-to-one examination with the judge. Showmanship gives young enthusiasts an arena in which to show off their best birds and shine. They learn to present their projects and practice public speaking skills, assets that will serve them well as adults. 

Local poultry clubs organize the shows and connect members with local poultry issues. They are the grassroots of national organizations.  

Central Coast Feather Fanciers, my local poultry club, offers a scholarship for high school students. Find out what your local poultry club offers. All members, young and old, are important members of the grassroots that make poultry strong. 

The Grange 

The Grange isn’t active in every state, so ask around if that’s where the poultry action is. In Nevada, Gloria Montero is director of the High Desert Grange, which has about 70 members. It’s been a rewarding experience for those who have gotten chickens, ducks, and turkeys. 

“Poultry is a great starter project for kids, especially kids who can’t afford large animals,” she said. “Some towns and cities allow kids to have poultry in their backyards. Here in Lovelock, they need a special permit. The town always lets them have a permit for their animals. The parents are learning along with the kids.” 

They show poultry in several local and state shows. Children five to nine years old enter the Peewee Class, showing their birds and being examined by judges for showmanship.  

“They aren’t really competing,” Ms. Montero said. “It’s more like learning to show their chickens.” 

After age nine, they enter more competitive events. She encourages them to participate in YEPA online and work toward being certified as poultry judges. 

Market turkeys are popular with young people at High Desert Grange (red vests) in Nevada. (Gloria Montero photo)

Members keep Silkie, Dutch, Old English Game Bantams, Asils, Thai Ganoi, Seramas, and some other larger chickens such as Rhode Island Reds. Turkeys have gained popularity, both Broad Breasted Whites in market classes and Standard breeds such as Bourbon Red and Bronze.  

Turkeys have increased in popularity. When they started a few years ago, only 10 turkeys were entered. She expects 50 this year.  

Only one member so far is showing ducks, but she loves her two white Call ducks. Her interest may attract others to waterfowl.  

“Kids with their chickens crack me up,” she said. “One girl was holding her chicken in her lap, and the hen laid an egg right there in her lap. They build a good bond with their poultry.” 

For information on joining the 150-year-old National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry (Grange), see nationalgrange.org. 

Originally published in the June/July 2020 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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