This week at 4pm on Wednesday at the AgriLife Extension office, we begin a major countdown to the Angelina County Fair – – the broiler show chicks arrive.
This year there are 60 4-H and FFA members from across the county have entered the Broiler Division in the fair. Of these 60 entries, only half will make it to the auction at the conclusion of the Fair on Saturday, Feb 28 at 4 pm.
Each exhibitor starts off with day old chicks that they entered and paid for last November. Each exhibitor also starts with a box of 25, day old chicks randomly sorted and delivered to start off this competition.
A “broiler” is a chicken bred specifically to grow muscle efficiently and be eaten. Their genetics are very different from the egg producing breeds we love to have in the back yard flock. Raising broiler chickens is an excellent youth project for beginners to livestock exhibiting. Chickens are considerably easier to handle, require less space, and are less expensive than other species.
This is a short term project. Chicks delivered on Wednesday will be ready for competition on Tuesday, February 24. That quick time frame of only 6 weeks is very typical market conditions. It typically takes only 6 weeks to raise a broiler to market weight.
The broiler show is certainly provides everyone an equal chance to win. All chicks that students receive for a show are provided by a single hatchery. The chicks are the same breed and hatched on the same day. The birds are wing banded and randomly assigned to each student. This removes all bias in the selection of chicks and their assignment to the participants.
A broiler chicken eats less than 2 pounds of feed for every pound of body weight gain. Therefore, a 6 pound broiler requires only 12 pounds of feed to complete its 6 week grow-out cycle.
Chickens are excellent for several reasons. Show birds can be raised in a backyard or a garage; they do not need a large amount of land. Broilers can often be raised in urban areas where larger animals would be impractical. In fact, it is recommended that broilers be raised indoors to maximize growth and prevent attack by predators.
Chickens are easy to handle: The birds are not intimidating and most youngsters can easily handle a 6 to 8 pound broiler.
Housing can also be fairly simple and inexpensive, especially if you keep the birds in an existing structure. Simple, inexpensive materials such as PVC pipe, nylon cable ties, and poultry netting can be used to construct a 10 foot by 10 foot broiler pen. The pen must be housed in a shed or garage to protect the broilers from the elements.
A broiler chicken project costs little compared to the prize money a student can win. The investment and risk involved in a broiler project are much lower than for other animals.
At the county fair only the best 3 broilers are shown in competition. Our show requires entrants to bring a pen of three broilers, and most exhibitors also bring one or two alternates to the show. The remaining birds can be processed and eaten.
If you know a 4-H or FFA exhibitor, you can support them at the auction on Saturday, Feb 28 or you could place an order for their left over broilers. With only 3 making the final cut to go to the Fair, there will be many more needing to go into the freezer. I know of youth who sell off their smaller chickens as fryers as they near the county fair.
We’ll talk more about county fair events and exhibitors as we get closer to the Angelina County Fair.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.