Psychedelic Poultry. The Comstock Hot Shots. The Virginia City Hoppers. Their names sound a little like misguided motorcycle clubs, but they're actually some of the area's premiere players in the surprisingly competitive field of poultry showing.
The crossed but flirty eyes of a cartoon chicken face welcomed the public to the Fuji Park fairgrounds Sunday for the Northern Nevada Poultry Fanciers Association and 4-H Club's Poultry Clinic.
The event featured booths explaining poultry breeds, proper grooming, showmanship and health tips.
Cliff Lewis of Silver Springs has been into the sport for most of his life.
"When I was a little boy I lived in a neighborhood where everybody had bantam chickens as pets," he said.
Lewis opens up the thick encyclopedic trade staple published by the American Poultry Association entitled "American Standard of Perfection."
He points out some of the many breeds of poultry, including one show chicken that looks strikingly like a poodle.
"There's a lot of genetic engineering going on in the chicken world," he says.
Under the bright heat of an incubator lamp three just-hatched peepers move around: An Australian spotted duck, a black Jersey giant and an Old English Game bantam chicken. A magpie duck struggles to break away from a fourth egg. Slowly it emerges, small pieces of eggshell sticking to its yolk-covered body.
Lewis says incubation averages 21 days for chickens and 28 days for ducks.
At the grooming booth, Shannon Jacobsen, a member of the Reno-based Feathered Friends 4-H Poultry Club, explains some idiosyncrasies of bathing a chicken while her black bantam chicken "Polka Dot" struts around the table.
"I had this rooster who could take a bath every day of the week and a chicken who absolutely hated water," she said. "The birds definitely have their own distinct personalities. I had a rooster who liked to perch atop my handlebars when I rode my bike," she laughed.
Several days before a show, the birds are bathed in water with a little dish soap.
"That's to make sure their natural oils come back in time for the show" says Jacobsen's mother, Janet.
They say that while poultry shows used to be centered around the bird, these days, the handler is just as important.
"The kids are judged on the way they handle themselves, how they're dressed and how they present themselves and the birds," says Janet Jacobsen. "They learn a lot of skills like public speaking that are invaluable later in life."
- Contact reporter Peter Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.