A few years ago, my oldest niece, Sophie, who lives in Colorado with her family, acquired her first chicken. To say she fell in love would be the understatement of the decade. In late 2015, I was out visiting her and her younger sister on their little farm on the Front Range. She had just turned six years old then and was already a chicken expert. Soon after I arrived on my visit, I was given a full tour of the farm and introduced to every animal on it – by name and with a full description of its breed, sex, current gestation status, and health condition. But the chickens held a special place in Sophie’s heart.
Many little girls would ask for a variety of items for birthday gifts related to princesses and toys, but not Sophie. Sophie asks for new chickens to add to her flock. When her family traveled to our house for Christmas this past year, she brought along one of her Christmas gifts – an illustrated guide to poultry breeds. Needless to say, she loves caring for and learning about chickens.
Sometime last year, she exhibited at her first show – a local jackpot. She had a great time, really enjoyed sharing her knowledge with the judges, and learned a lot about showing. So earlier this year when I heard she was getting ready to head to another show, I was excited she was going to get to experience that again. I soon found out she wasn’t just heading to another local show. No, she was taking “King Chicken” to the National Western Stock Show in Denver!
By the end of the weekend at the show, “King Chicken” and Sophie brought home a couple nice ribbons, but the other things she brought home are so much more fulfilling and lasting and important.
One of the photos my sister-in-law posted was of Sophie with a few fellow exhibitors. She and her little sister had the chance to meet other kids from all over who also loved animals. They became instant friends. She practiced her showmanship skills and was able to share her expertise with others. Not only did she discuss her project with the judge, but she was also happy to answer questions about “King Chicken” from other exhibitors and folks attending the stock show. What a confidence boost! It was a long weekend for two little girls, but the sense of accomplishment made it all worthwile.
Sophie can’t wait to go to her next show – and she’s not even old enough for 4-H!
Please don’t ever believe that you must have the most expensive animal, the largest equipment, the biggest barn, or the fanciest trailer. “King Chicken” traveled to Denver in a small travel carrier in the backseat of a truck between two little girls. He required only a few products to get ready for the show. His living quarters at the farm are smaller than those typically found for a steer, lamb, goat, or pig. His feed rations are measured in ounces, not pounds.
But none of that matters. What matters is the experience a young girl has showing a project she has fed, cared for, and prepared for exhibition. It didn’t even have to be the National Western Stock Show; it could have been a local jackpot or the county fair.
That experience can come with any animal at any show. So please, don’t wait for the right year with the right animal at the right show. Please, just get out there and show.
Go to a show. Get an animal – a lamb, a goat, a pig, a steer, a rabbit, a turkey, a dog, or a chicken – and work hard taking care of it, and then go to a show.
No matter the size of the project, there will be some big rewards.