In the mid-seventies I started keeping bantams, Speckled Sussex and White and Buff Pekins, the Pekins became my specialist breed.
It was around this time, one of the foremost exhibitors chose to import Cochin bantams from America. This caused a fair amount of consternation amongst the Pekin breeders and exhibitors and even when crossed with our Pekins these Cochin /Pekins were still too big to meet the then Pekin Club Standard. These birds had an abundance of feather, were the correct shape or type, but a much larger bantam. This resulted in Judges using their own personal preference when choosing the awards at shows. These Pekins gradually became the norm and The Pekin Club became what is today the Cochin and Pekin Bantam club. The Pekins we have today, with their abundance of feather show the influence of the American birds crossed with our smaller Pekin. Today we have so many different colours. Back then Black, White and Buff were the most common. Black Mottled were just on the scene followed a little later by Lavender, and Cuckoo.
Showing was enjoyable, meeting fellow breeders to compete against and debate breeding, the Judges placements, which unless you had won were always a contentious matter.
Bathing birds prior to showing, making sure the birds feet and legs were clean was an important job such as removing any dirt carefully from under the birds’ scales. Bath night for the white meant a complete wash and included in the water was a small amount of mother’s blue bag,(something mother used to put in her white wash ) not too much or rather than a snow-white bird you had a slightly pale blue bird. then gently blow dry its feathers Then ensuring the birds had constant clean shavings in their show pens, which were used prior to a show to familiarise the birds with a show pen environment.
When selecting the birds for showing, the colour of the Buffs’ feather needed to go right down to the base of the feather similarly with the lavenders. The blacks needed the green sheen rather than a purple one. On Mottles the white tip to the feather needed to be like an arrow point rather than a blob on the end of the feather.
In1981 I was fortunate to win Show Champion at The Surrey County Show in Guildford with one of the few Black Pekin females I had of show quality and 5 years later at the same show, Champion Trio with my whites. Numerous first places in classes over the years at National shows, local ones such as Ashdown Forest, Arun Valley, Kent Poultry Club shows
My other interest was egg showing. Trying to match 3,6,12 eggs for plate was difficult, then it was more challenging to try and match 3 distinct colours for which I used Maran, Araucana and Ancona. When egg showing, once you had bred a bird with the correct shape, you needed a poor layer because a good layer would lay an egg each day for 5 days but each day the egg would be slightly smaller. A bird that laid every other day was preferred as it maintained the same size and shape.
Showing was good fun if not challenging. I met interesting people made new friends, sadly many are no longer with us but birds from their breed strains probably still are. I enjoyed showing so much, I took the Poultry Club of Great Britain judges’ exams, passing and qualifying for Soft Feather birds and Eggs. Numerous years later I’ve come back to keeping bantams which were purchased from Mantels, more for the fun, just sitting and watching, each with their own personality.
by Paul Goldsmith October 2021