August 25, 1999 | By: Aimee D. Heald

The 1999 Kentucky State Fair is a time to show off skills learned over the past year. Many 4-H clubs across the Commonwealth have members involved in poultry events. It may be judging, which is very hands-on, or it may be avian bowl competition, which is more academic-based. Either way, the students are learning a lot more than eggs, beaks and feathers.

"We call them a team, but this is not really a competition where they have to work together so much on a state level," Pam Hay, Lawrence County 4-H agent, said. "When they go to the national level, the thing we concentrate on the most is teamwork and bonding, whether it's studying or just going out and having fun together."

In poultry judging, students must evaluate different classes of birds and poultry products. There is usually four birds or products in one class. The 4-Hers compare the items and then make a decision to rank them, based on rules and guidelines in a standard poultry judging manual.

"We're trying to teach life-long skills of being able to evaluate a situation and make a decision," Tony Pescatore, Extension poultry specialist for the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, said. "We want them to defend those decisions with a set of reasons. We also teach them (4-Hers) the consumer grades for poultry and egg products and what factors go into that; then we use those factors as a way to identify some of the product defects."

"My favorite thing (in judging) is candling," Kelly Greene, Lawrence County 4-Her, said. "That's where you take an egg and you hold it up to the light and measure the air bubbles."

"We judge the bleaching of the shanks, the molt and the feathers, " Tiason Lockridge, also of Lawrence County, said. " We get to judge dead chickens, skinned chickens, and turkeys – big turkeys."

The avian bowl competition is a different kind of event that requires some book knowledge of poultry and poultry products. Students on each team listen to a question, then have to beat the other team to the buzzer and give a correct answer.

"Before nationals (for the avian bowl), we normally go to the (video) arcade," Hay said. "This gets them ready to use their fingers on the buzzers. We got a grant this year that allowed us to purchase our own buzzer system. It will help us prepare the kids. We lost at nationals last year because of speed. We were second. The other team was just faster; our kids knew the information."

Whether it's in judging or in quiz bowl-style competitions, Kentucky 4-Hers are learning life skills for their future. They're learning how to work with a team and how to defend their opinions and judgements.


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 606-257-9764

Source: Tony Pescatore 606-257-7529