PERU – Squawks, squeaks, quacks, clucks and cock-a-doddle-doos filled the Miami County fairgrounds Monday afternoon, as 34 kids vied to have their animal named the grand champion from chickens, hens, roosters, ducks and geese entered into the annual 4-H poultry show.
The congregation of birds made for a colorful display beneath the poultry, rabbit and goat barn roof.
The large barred-rock hen breed displayed black-and-white-checkered feathers that looked like some kind of optical illusion.
The black-crested Polish bantam hens sported bizarre head feathers reminiscent of large, poofy, 1960s-disco wigs.
Silky-splash cockerels lay quietly in their cages like small, furry, gray pillows.
Then there were the typical white-meat chickens most people think of when they think of poultry.
But casting a critical eye on all of them was poultry judge Guy Studebaker. Hailing from Rossville, Studebaker assessed, critiqued, reviewed and evaluated the hundreds of birds entered in this year’s competition.
As the 4-H students stepped up to their cages wearing white jackets that looked like science lab coats, he quizzed the kids about their birds’ weight, posture and build. He offered kids advice on the best diet and keeping their birds away from too much sun.
And then he did what all the kids were waiting for: he handed out the ribbons.
Some kids burst into big grins after landing a top-notch blue ribbon. Others frowned dejectedly after their bird didn’t make the cut.
“There is going to be someone who’s extremely happy with me and someone who’s extremely unhappy,” Studebaker told the students. “That’s just part of the judging process.”
One of those kids who was extremely happy was 10-year-old Jadelynn Richards, who turns 11 this Friday.
Her two Welsh harlequin ducks landed champion, and took the grand champion title in the waterfowl competition.