Thoughts on Poultry Health and APA/ABA Sanctioned Poultry Shows
Joseph Marquette of Yellow House Farm
January 15, 2018
The internet is alive with information and misinformation. Some of it is truly beneficial. Unfortunately, though, a significant quantity of what is available to the public as bona fide chicken information is extremely superficial and, again unfortunately, many times, more frequently than not, it is regurgitated with a twist from another source. Most rare in the last one hundred years of poultry media, print or digital, have been the original voices who present accurate and factually relevant material to the public. As one of the very top breeders of poultry in North America frequently repeats, “the difficulty is that the people who know poultry do not write about poultry.” Sadly, this assessment is majoritarily accurate.
I cannot speak for Kathy Mormino, aka “The Chicken Chick,” but with my educator’s ears I listened to her video, and I was quickly able to ascertain that she possesses extremely limited knowledge of “The Principles and Practice of Poultry Culture,” as J. Henry Robinson referred to it in the early 20th century. Her statements and those bloggings of hers which I have consulted, admittedly rather few, are in no way information rich, and are the product of a mind which in no way masters poultry, but which is highly conversant in the backyard cult-ure of poultry which is frequently wrapped in the emotionalism and alarmism that is the hallmark of the ignorance natural to the debutant.
The difficulty is, of course, when the debutant poses as an educator.
Thus, I offer for your consideration:
1. The discreet yet powerful presences that were safeguarding the North Eastern Poultry Congress this past weekend. (At no point shall I reveal names for it would be unacceptable to discuss others’ professional engagements without their direct permission)
2. The modus operandi that is the general culture of APA/ABA culture.
Firstly, Ms. Mormino and, indeed, many others, might be interested to know that there were multiple veterinarians present at the Congress both as paticipants and simply as visitors who came to enjoy the poultry. They perused the show hall, and although their presence was there not as inspector but as leisurely observer, I know, as a professional, that one never really turns one’s profession off. Thus, I feel confident that there was copious VMD inspection occurring throughout the entire show hall and sales area on both days of the Congress.
Secondly, there were present at the Congress several professionals directly implicated in the NPIP program. These are people who train and maintain strict certifications in poultry health, people who attend annual conferences on poultry health, people who work directly with the veterinary diagnostic laboratories of their states, as well as with the state vet of their state. Indeed, they probably report to the state veterinarian and work in her/his office.
Thirdly, there were, as an “off the cuff” count, at least twenty-two certified APA and/or ABA judges on the floor, some on duty, some exhibiting, for the entire weekend. Judges are hardwired to be vigor and health aware. It is, perhaps, the very first thing a judge notices.
Fourthly, there were dozens of seasoned breeders at that show, many of whom have been involved with poultry, in one aspect or another, for their entire lives. The amount of poultry knowledge held in common on that floor among veteran breeders of prestige and renown is alone more than most internet folk could ever wish to attain.
Now, beyond the Congress, there is the general MO of the wider APA/ABA culture which not only has specific published rules for the dealing with of disease on the show hall floor, but also maintains specific committees to address poultry health concerns within the fancy. Moreover, just as there were several veterinarians and poultry health care professionals at the North Eastern Poultry Congress, there are multiple veterinarians and poultry health care professionals who serve the APA and ABA in both elected and appointed roles.
Furthermore, although the APA and ABA foster camaraderie and friendship within their ranks, it is still a highly competitive hub where friends are assessing each other as well as each other’s birds at every turn. Seasoned breeders are ashamed of broken wing tips and inaccurate tail angles—so much so that otherwise beautiful birds will never see the show hall, be it for an overly mottled neck to skulls that just don’t carry the width, from backs that taper inappropriately to shanks with barely perceptible stubs.
Who, then, is concerned about health? In the overly Bambi-ized world of diapered, online hatchery fowl, few are the references to the old-timers who recommended walking through the coops at night to listen for irregular breathing with capital punishment conferred for the mere cough. On very thin ice is the flock member that does so much as sneeze. Most breeders are maintaining lines that date for years, decades, and in some cases, even generations. Our poultry yards are stock holds of living history and genetic artistry passed down for a hundred and fifty years from one breeder to another. Most of us invest multiple thousands of dollars a year into our hobby. We do not suffer the sloppy illnesses for which the newcomer would run to the internet for squash seeds and herbal cures.
Very few are those who will ever rise up from the ranks of online hatchery fowl aficionados to that of breeder, for their fear-based emotionalisms and hand-ringing assumptions will keep them from actually discovering the truth about standard-bred poultry culture and the many joys it offers those who would be so wise as to stop talking and start listening; perhaps, this is for the best, for it is from them that disease becomes a concern.
It would be a falsehood to assert that there are never health concerns at poultry shows; were it so we would not need committees for dealing with them. Nevertheless, I can assert from the basis of my personal experience that they are seldom, and when they occur they are dealt with immediately. It has been my experience that—almost exclusively—a diseased bird brought to a show is brought by a new-comer without the knowledge to see what is before them. Just as they cannot yet see the subtleties of type and color, they have yet to learn the layers to health and vigor that ensure the long-term viability of their future line.
Thus, as a word to the wise, practice the three pillars of poultry health: diet, cleanliness, and floor space. Then, in the rare event that it may be necessary, steel your will so that, should you ever need to, you deal with the inevitable need to cull appropriately. Practice careful observation, and know your birds.
And lastly, and perhaps, in the long run, most importantly, if you need to learn about poultry, do not frequent poultry sites where APA/ABA breeders and judges do not visit. We’ve all been there, but the world is full of tales and trickery.
Poultry exhibition is a bit like Latin. To the uninitiated it might seem unnecessary or irrelevant, but rare, indeed, is the seasoned practitioner that does not cling to it as to one’s alma mater. An old Roman farmer and grammarian, Varro, once said: Mundus vult decipi ergo decipiatur—the world wishes to be deceived, then let it be deceived.
See you at the shows and thank you once again to all of those who make the North Eastern Poultry Congress one of the most beautiful, most prestigious, most artful, and most professional poultry shows in the world