Preparing Your Market and Breeding Chickens for Poultry Shows

The time has finally come—after carefully raising, feeding, and caring for your chickens you’ll soon be at your local fair! Here, you’ll hopefully be able to sell and show either your market or breeding poultry, but just like other exhibitors need to prepare their swine, goats, lambs, and cattle for the fair, so do you with your chickens! This may leave you with a million questions like when do I start preparing and how do I get my chickens ready? Don’t worry, and just keep reading to get those questions answered!

Three white chickens laying on a wood table being judged at a show.


The First Steps: Quality Feed


To first make it to your fair, you need to ensure your birds are the correct weight! Restrictions and weight sizes for classes of birds may depend on your fair, so make sure you know this information beforehand. Generally speaking, broilers are three to six pounds, large fowl nine to twelve pounds, and bantams are one to three pounds. Again, this all depends on what your fair has said is the desirable weight, so be sure to check weight requirements!


Here are some general rules of thumb:


  • Weigh your birds weekly once you get them and leading up to fair so you can closely track their weight.
  • Chick starter feeds and higher protein broiler crumble feeds maximizes growth for broilers.
  • A commercial chicken feed is suitable for breeding hens and roosters.


Two to Three Days Before the Show


About two to three days before your big show, you should wash your market and/or breeding chickens! Follow these steps (in the correct order) to ensure a successful wash.


  • First, wash your chickens in warm water with soap! If you have dirty broilers or chickens that are white, use a whitening soap. Make sure to have separate buckets, one with the regular soap and the other with whitening soap—and only use the whitening soap for chickens that have white feathers.

A black chicken in a pink towel being blowdried.

  • Next, rinse your chickens with vinegar! Make sure your chicken, especially if they’re a broiler, doesn’t flap its wings since they can bruise easily. It helps to have two people and to hold their wings close to their body!
  • Wash your chickens again in just regular water! If they are still dirty, you can wash again with regular soap or whitening soap.
  • Dry them! A blow dryer works great; just make sure to keep it at a distance from your chicken.
  • If you have waterfowl (ducks, geese, etc.) don’t use oil stripping soaps to wash them as this can damage their feathers.

At the Show


This only applies to breeding chickens!


  • Apply Vaseline to your breeding chicken’s beak, waddles, and legs to keep it moisturized.
  • Clean any debris around their nails/feet.
  • You may need to trim your chicken’s beak (if necessary) to ensure there’s no overbite with the top beak and make them even. Be careful not to trim too far!
  • You may also need to trim your chicken’s nails; check to see what your fair specifies.

As a side note, when transporting any chickens to the show, make sure they have clean bedding and that it’s hard for them to get dirty (since you can’t wash them again). Make sure to bring baby wipes to the show for last minute cleaning.




To make sure your market and breeding chickens get to show, it’s important you weigh them weekly, feed them quality feed, and have them reach the desired weight! Two to three days before the show, make sure you follow the above instructions to successfully wash your chickens. On the day of the show, it’s important your birds are clean and your breeding chickens (if you have any) look the best. Follow these steps, and you’ll be successful at your big show. Good luck!


Written by Reena Grewal, University of California, Davis Student.

Edited by Joseph Gendreau at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.