The growing and conditioning of exhibition fowls is not as much of a secret as many would have us believe. It has been rightfully said that the conditioning of a prize winner should begin with its grandparents. A bird must, of course, have the proper breeding behind it in order to come close to standard requirements. Having this and being well grown, an exhibition fowl to be in good show condition must be in good health, well feathered and full of vitality.
While shape and color are governed mostly by breeding, improper care and feeding will affect condition and color of plumage and thus give the bird a handicap that could be avoided.
Chicks hatched from eggs laid by hens that possess vitality should have the vitality necessary to make a steady growth. It is an old, but true saying that: “well hatched is half grown.” A good chick is one that can be kept growing every day.
Exhibition is more or less of a strain on a bird and requires vitality to go through the show season and then be fit for the laying or breeding pen. Exercise is very essential. The best form of exercise comes through scratching for their feed. All scratch feeds should be buried in a deep, loose litter and not scattered around on a board door or a hard dirt yard. Make them dig for it.
It requires plenty of protein to make growth – flesh, bone and feathers – and it is a physical impossibility to put enough protein in a hard grain mixture, generally spoken of as scratch feed; yet a majority of beginners, and many who have been raising chickens for years, seem to think that a scratch feed ration will form a complete ration. Get that idea out of your head and keep it out, if you expect to get the best results. While a good scratch feed will contain about ten per cent of protein, this is not enough and you must furnish the balance in some other manner and the best form is through a good mash feed and green vegetable feeds. Plants store up a great deal of energy from the sun’s rays. Also the sun takes away that which it gives, and any vegetable dried in the sun will lose a great deal of that energy. Therefore, shaded dried green food for Winter feeding is much better. Also the leaf plant will furnish more than will the root. Clover and alfalfa leaves will furnish more protein and nourishment than will such roots as mangels, turnips, etc.
There are many good dried mash feeds on the market and they are better and cheaper than anything you can mix at home because they contain a larger variety of ingredients and are better mixed than you can mix by hand. D. K. Hale