SAN ANTONIO – It is one of least-known competitions at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, but poultry showing continues to be one of the most intense.
Interest from members of 4H and FFA in raising chickens has grown tremendously over the years.
"It is something that everybody can get involved in, and that is what makes in popular," poultry judge Dale Hyatt said.
The process is like no other, short but very intense. The contestants get their birds and spend six weeks raising them to show.
"Really, it is the fairest show on the grounds because everybody gets birds from a common breeder flock, so the genetics are extremely similar," Hyatt said.
The birds come from Texas A&M and to help keep the process fair, each bird is banded and checked at the showing.
Poth sixth-grader Hadley Harris, 11, is one of some 200 youth showing chicken at the rodeo this year.
"I like raising chickens because it's like agriculture, and I want to be a vet when I grow up," Harris said.
Hadley along with her brother and sister all raising chickens this year. They started out with 225, and caring for them was not easy. Harris was up at 6:30 a.m. every day to help care for the chickens.
"In the morning right before I get ready for school, I walk out there and make sure they are doing good, and then I get dressed for school and then I check them after I get dressed," Harris said.
After a day at school, she checked them again after she got home. Of course, she also had to continue the process on the weekends.
Each week, Harris narrowed down her choices until she finally got down to the five she brought to the show. She then selected three for the judges to inspect.
She pointed out one particular chicken she was fond of, Fred.
"It likes to eat a lot of food and water. It's like my best one, so I named him Fred," Harris said.
Harris hopes that Fred or one of his companions will get the judges' attention when it comes to picking the top bird.
"It's all about meat. These birds are the meat birds," Hyatt said.
The contestants hold the bird upside down so the judges can get a closer look at the breast of the bird.
"That is the prime cut of the bird, so that is what the judge focuses on. It's just a good squared out meat package," Hyatt said.
Last year's Grand Champion chicken brought in $28,000. The Reserve Champions went for $18,000.