Allison’s brood in fine feather
Allison Whited got a startled look when she asked her boss for time off — to wash chickens.
She needed a week to beautify her brood of 50 for the Bermuda Poultry Fanciers Society show this weekend.
“The people at work were like, ‘You're taking a week off to bathe chickens?' They sit there saying, ‘All this work for chickens?' But it's just like preparing for any other sport,” she said.
The corporate administrator has spent the past few days scrubbing, buffing and blow drying her birds; most of them love it.
She got interested in the annual competition in 2014 after she went to the BPFS show with her husband Charles.
Mr Whited keeps horses and goats on their farm in Devonshire; Mrs Whited was looking for something of her own to raise.
Within months she was collecting chickens, and took part in her first show last year. She won several blue ribbons, which are proudly displayed in the Whited barn.
“What I didn't realise was how addictive it was going to be,” she said. “I'll be looking on the internet about one thing and suddenly I'll see another type of chicken that I just have to get.”
She now has 15 different breeds. The Whited refrigerator is never short of eggs.
“I love all my chickens, but I do have my favourites,” she said. “I like the more delicate birds such as the golden sebright bantams and the Belgian bearded d'anvers.”
Lifestyle visited the Whited farm only days before this weekend's competition. One chicken was sitting calmly with her wing outstretched, as a hair dryer worked its magic.
Because the chickens don't stay squeaky clean for long, Mrs Whited will take an emergency beauty kit with baby wipes and a comb to the BPFS event. The chickens will be judged on such things as eye colour, a nice comb, good legs and having all their feathers in place.
Most people don't realise how affectionate chickens are, Mrs Whited said.
“Some of them come up to be petted. They look at you when you talk with them. It is such pleasure and joy.”
There is a bully in every flock. Mrs Whited has a blue Sumatra rooster that likes to push the others around.
“I call him my husband's problem child,” she said. “He'll come right at you sometimes. He's housed in cage number one, naturally.”
During the day, the chickens roam the farm yard.
“We have a cat, Jake, but he doesn't bother them. Sometimes they'll be out there with Jake, and the horses will be stepping over them, and everyone is one big happy family.”
The challenge was keeping them all happy and healthy, she said.
“I am learning now I have to pay attention to their feed. A little bit of mucus in the eye might mean they have a cold. I have to learn to recognise these things. They are all well taken care of, but I have to learn how to look at the little things. If someone has a comb that is not quite red enough, the bird might need some vitamins.”
She's also found that chickens can get depressed, especially when their eggs are taken. Mrs Whited said: “They want to sit on their eggs for three weeks, but we don't allow that.
“They get mad at you when you take them away and they go into their cages and sit with their face into the corner. They get over it, though.”
Mrs Whited believes that showing poultry is regaining the popularity it once lost.
“There are over 500 entries in the show this year,” she said. “That includes things like ducks and pigeons. At the show the atmosphere is very supportive. Everyone wants to give you advice.
“The judges write cards for every entry explaining what was done right and what could be improved on. I enjoy reading that advice and then trying to follow through to make my chickens better for next year.”
The BPFS show takes place tomorrow and Saturday from 9am to 5pm in the Jack King Building at Botanical Gardens, and on Sunday from 9am to 3pm. Rabbits, pigeons, and guinea pigs will also compete for ribbons.
Look for Bermuda Poultry Fanciers Society on Facebook.