Judging chickens is a fascinating skill that requires a keen eye, attention to detail, and a deep understanding of poultry standards. Whether you’re a backyard chicken enthusiast or aspire to participate in poultry shows, knowing a little about the basic of poultry judging is a good skill to have. In this article, we will delve into the basics of judging chickens, providing a comprehensive guide for beginners to start their journey in the captivating world of poultry evaluation. If you really get interested in poultry judging, get in touch with your local 4-H and FFA chapters to start participating in smaller poultry shows, and consider becoming a American Poultry Association licensed judge.

Understanding Poultry Standards

Before embarking on the path of judging chickens, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the poultry standards specific to the breed you are assessing. The American Standard of Perfection contains these standards for chickens as well as ducks, turkeys, and geese. Poultry standards outline the ideal characteristics that a chicken should possess, including physical attributes, size, shape, plumage, and coloration. These standards serve as a benchmark against which chickens are judged, ensuring consistency in evaluation across competitions and exhibitions. You can purchase a current edition of the American Standard of Perfection from the American Poultry Association, and you can read the 1910 edition for free here! Please be aware that breed standards have changed.


Physical Attributes

To judge chickens effectively, it is vital to observe and evaluate their physical attributes. Begin by assessing the overall conformation and body shape of the bird. Look for symmetry and proper proportions, as deviations from the breed’s standard may indicate faults. Evaluate the head, comb, wattles, eyes, beak, and feet for cleanliness, size, shape, and alignment.


Plumage and Coloration

The plumage and coloration of a chicken play a significant role in judging. Carefully examine the feathers, taking note of their condition, texture, and arrangement. Look for uniformity in color and pattern, as well as vibrant and glossy feathers, which often signify good health. Additionally, be aware of any breed-specific traits related to feather color, patterns, or other unique attributes.


Health and Condition

Judging a chicken’s health and condition is essential for identifying sound, robust specimens. Observe the bird’s behavior, energy levels, and physical appearance. Healthy chickens should exhibit alertness, good posture, and a well-maintained appearance. Assess the quality of the skin, eyes, beak, and feet for any signs of disease, injury, or abnormalities. This is important whether you are interested in judging or not as having healthy chickens is essential to keeping your flock happy and preventing diseases from spreading.


Temperament and Disposition

Black and white chicken with red comb and beak open. Photo by Mayukh Karmakar on Unsplash.

While assessing a chicken’s temperament may not be explicitly stated in the standards, it is worth considering. Look for chickens that demonstrate a calm and docile demeanor, as these traits are often desirable in backyard settings. However, it’s important to note that different breeds may naturally exhibit varying temperaments, so understanding the specific requirements for each breed is crucial.


Documentation and Communication

As a chicken judge, it is essential to maintain accurate and detailed records of your evaluations. Take notes during the judging process, documenting the positive attributes, faults, and overall impressions of each chicken. These records will serve as a valuable reference and help in providing constructive feedback to chicken breeders and exhibitors.



Judging chickens is an art that combines knowledge, observation, and experience. By understanding poultry standards, assessing physical attributes, evaluating plumage and coloration, considering health and condition, and documenting your findings, you can begin your journey as a proficient poultry evaluator. Remember that judging chickens is a continual learning process, and as you gain experience and expertise, your ability to identify exceptional birds will undoubtedly improve. So, embrace this fascinating pursuit, immerse yourself in the world of chickens, and enjoy the rewarding experience of judging these remarkable creatures.


Written by ChatGPT and edited by Dr. Maurice Pitesky and Joseph Gendreau.

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