What Poultry Can Do For Your FFA and 4-H Experience

Joining FFA and 4-H is an excellent way to improve your agricultural knowledge, meet people with the same interests as you, and compete in fun activities. It’s not a requirement to have poultry to join these clubs, so you may be wondering how owning poultry can enhance your FFA or 4-H experience. Get all of the details below!
How can poultry benefit me if I join 4-H?
Although there are many activities that you can do in 4-H, one of the largest and most recognized is showing livestock. This includes poultry! You can raise purebred birds and show them in poultry classes. You’ll take your birds to livestock shows near you and they will be judged against other birds. You can win prizes and money in these competitions.
Owning your own poultry will give you a leg up in competition if you’re interested in doing poultry judging competitions. These are different than taking your birds to a livestock show. Instead of the judge comparing your chicken to other birds, you’ll be asked to perform the following tasks:
• Judge live meat and egg birds
• Grade ready-to-cook carcasses
• Evaluate egg interiors and exteriors
• Identify cuts of meat
• Complete a written test about the poultry industry
It’s much easier to complete and do well in the poultry judging competitions when you’re already familiar with birds. You’ll have a better understanding of what’s normal and what’s not, as well as what goes into raising healthy birds.
I’m not interested in 4-H, but I am joining FFA. How can poultry benefit me in FFA?
Owning poultry may benefit you even more if you’re interested in joining FFA. There are several competitions and contests that you can benefit from owning poultry. Just like in 4-H, you can show poultry through FFA. There is also a similar poultry judging contest in FFA. In FFA, this is called the poultry evaluation CDE. CDE stands for career development event and is used to describe many of FFA’s contests. The poultry evaluation CDE is a bit more in depth than the 4-H poultry judging contest, and looks at both live chickens and chicken products. Your knowledge will be tested in:
• Evaluation of live meat and egg birds
• Grade and evaluate ready to cook carcasses
• Evaluate and grade the interior of intact eggs
• Evaluate and grade egg exteriors
• Identify exterior egg problems
• Evaluate processed poultry products and identify problems
• Identify cuts of meat
• Written exam on poultry production, management and science
Again, owning your own birds will give you a leg up in the competition since you’ll already be familiar with what’s normal and what isn’t. Although this contest is pretty in-depth, it’s a favorite for many students that own chickens.
If you decide that you just want to own chickens for fun and you aren’t interested in competing, there is another way that chickens can benefit you if you’re a member of FFA. Most FFA chapters require you to complete a supervised agricultural experience, or SAE. In an SAE, you will come up with a plan with your agriculture teacher to gain additional agriculture experience outside of the classroom. This can be through a paid job, volunteering, or raising your own livestock. If you have chickens, you and your ag. teacher can come up with a plan to make your chickens part of your SAE. If your SAE is successful and profitable, you can turn your SAE into a Proficiency award.
Proficiency awards are given to FFA members that have SAE projects that go above and beyond the normal SAE. These are typically profitable and the student has managed to turn their SAE into a business. You can raise poultry for a profitable SAE by selling eggs, hatching eggs, chicks or even meat. To apply for a proficiency award, you and your ag. teacher will complete an application together. You’ll be asked for photos, management records and any other information that involves your poultry business, so keep detailed records. Proficiency awards often come with scholarship offers and large checks, so it’s worth looking into if you’re raising poultry.
Raising poultry is an excellent way to ensure that you get the most out of your 4-H or FFA experience. You’ll come out being more knowledgeable, possibly more profitable and you meet new friends that are into the same things that you are.

       A Buff Cochin Rooster is in a cage in front of other roosters and chickens at an American County Fair judging exhibit.

Published by Shelby DeVore

Shelby is an agricultural enthusiast that shares her love of all things farming with her husband and two children on their small farm in West Tennessee. She is a former agriculture education teacher and is also the author of the blog Farminence, where she enjoys sharing her love of gardening, raising livestock and more simple living. You can see more of Shelby's articles at: www.farminence.com