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Toms, poults and red rangers
Hog showers normally use squirt bottles to keep their swine clean before a show, but Mason McCoy, 10, and Luke VonKrosigk, 8, turned the sprayers on themselves and each other after they competed. Both boys are from Riverton. Photo by Eric Blom

Toms, poults and red rangers

Aug 1, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Contestants learn the finer points of showing fowl at fair

Win or lose, Madeline Logan and Ashlyn Wagon are going to get a good dinner for their hard work.

The two girls are showing turkeys at the Fremont County Fair, and the birds are scheduled to be the main course at Thanksgiving dinner in a few months.

Madeline, 10, of Lander and Ashlyn, 12, of Fort Washakie are school friends and raise poultry together.

They keep their birds in a cooper Madeline's mother built at Ashlyn's house. Both are in 4-H.

Madeline was showing a month-old broad-breasted white turkey tom poult , or juvenile, and a red ranger chicken hen in the junior age group.

Ashlyn showed birds of the same species but opposites sexes in the intermediate age group.

On Wednesday morning before they showed their animals, the birds stayed in wire cages in the Fur and Feathers barn.

The poults were thin, white birds about a foot tall. The girls brought them out to let young children hold them. The red rangers were larger, reddish-brown birds standing about 18 inches tall and had fluffy feathers.

The girls spent their morning watching the hog show and looking at sheep and goats.

They cannot spend all their time having fun, though. Showing poultry takes work every day.

At the fair, the girls clear out their birds' cages and add new wood chips, clean their feet,. and give them food and water.

At home, the chores are a little different. The girls keep their animals at Ashlyn's home and have to move their cage periodically.

"They live at Ashlyn's house," Madeline said "We move them every few weeks to a new spot."

They have been showing turkeys for two years and originally were inspired by Madeline's mother.

"My mom slaughters turkeys and I thought I would just like to show them," Madeline said.

They pick the best birds to show.

"Some of them have black scabs from picking on each other," Madeline said. "We try to pick the ones that don't have that."

They also look for ones with strong feet and full feathers.

This was the first year either of them showed chickens, but the transition was nothing they could not handle.

"They just look different," Madeline said. "They just have a little bit different kind of food."

The male and female chickens also look a little different and pose distinct challenges.

"Roosters, they're prettier than a hen. A lot more people show roosters," Ashlyn said. "The roosters are more aggressive, and hens are not.

Judges evaluate competitors on several criteria in showing poultry.

"How they look, how much you know about the animals and how you handle it," Madeline said.

The judges will ask about the animals' age and species, she said.

One trick the girls learned for handling the birds is to always put them in head first.

"If you don't do it right their feathers will break," Madeline said.

She is thinking about putting what she has learned in 4-H to use and follow the family business raising and slaughtering turkeys and chickens.

Ashlyn, on the other hand, said she would "probably not" have a career in poultry.

Even if they do not make a career of it, though, both girls will always know how to put a turkey on the table.

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Fremont County Fair