Chatfield sisters have ‘egg-cellent’ time at state fair with their chickens

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Ramie and Rachel Johnson of Chatfield hold their winning state fair chickens. The sisters recently participated in the Fillmore County Fair earlier this summer and earned a trip to the state fair at the end of August.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Ramie and Rachel’s first chicken year went egg-cellently.

“I got second in brown eggs and overall egg production,” said Root River Rabbits 4-H member Ramie Johnson.

Her younger sister, Rachel, also shared about her Fillmore County Fair poultry competition effort, and said, “I got third in brown egg production and I don’t know what I got in overall egg production.”

The girls weren’t certain what to expect when taking chickens to the county fair for the first time — they’d originally imagined themselves showing rabbits, but the rabbits they had were too-chubby bunnies that didn’t qualify as fair project candidates. So, that led the girls to consider showing poultry instead after some advice from fellow club members.

There were some learning curves rounder than the outside of a brown egg, such as how to care for chickens and prepare them for showing, how to choose a pair to show, how to wash birds and more.

In the end, Ramie observed, they each earned themselves a trip to the Minnesota State Fair, where their chicken-showing skills were put up against even higher standards.

“The state fair went really good, too,” Ramie said. “We were both kind of nervous at the county fair. But we learned at the county fair that color-matching a bird is a plus.”

Rachel contributed, “The comb has to match, sort of, and the body shape and color are just a plus.”

So far, they’re pleased to have been directed to give chickens as fair livestock projects a try, but they’ve learned there’s a big difference between the way judging is carried out at the county fair and the way it’s done at the state fair. At the county fair, the judge asks questions of one competitor at a time, whereas at the state fair, judging is done in groups.

Rachel commented about their first venture into the fairs’ show rings. “I wasn’t really worried about anything,” she said. “I was at first, but I got over it. I learned more about the showmanship.”

Ramie cited, “I wasn’t worried going in there, and it wasn’t bad at all. I learned a lot during showmanship…it was a lot of fun, and getting reserve champion with that was fun.”

Following the county fair, they had to quarantine their birds for ten days to ensure that the chickens chosen to compete hadn’t been exposed to anything that could obliterate the rest of their flock or carry a virus that could persist and carry over to the state fair.

Additionally, they had to rewash their birds before the state fair to get feathers shiny and fluffed for the judges’ appraisal.

Ramie highlighted, “There are more people at the state fair, so it’s harder work, and the judges look at everything at the state fair, from the chickens’ pelvic bones to their feet to their comb.”

Rachel explained the reason for examining a chicken’s pelvic bone structure. “They can tell what stage the bird is at in laying, and apparently, ours are at an inch and a half apart.”

Ramie pointed out, “So it’s really technical.”

Rachel registered, “We got red ribbons at the state fair, and that’s average for the state fair. If you get red, it’s like blue at the county fair.”

Ramie related, “We learned from the judges that our birds were paired up very well, beside their pelvic bones being very uniform.”

Before and after showing was done, the Johnsons did what 4-H members are meant to do while at the state fair – serve as ambassadors for agriculture and leadership.

Ramie stated, “A lot of people like to pet the chickens, and kids would put their hands in the cages, so we’d get them out and let them pet the chickens for half an hour. A lot of city people came by, and they’d ask, ‘What if it pecks or bites?’ Chickens don’t bite. The state fair was a lot like the county fair, but there were a lot more birds and a lot more people.”

It was the people who ate anything fried on a stick, and Ramie made certain to stop at the fried pickle booth while she and her sister were at the state fair. “The fried pickles were pretty good. They weren’t as good as JAC’s or anything, but pretty good,” she added.

The young ladies are already planning for the 2020 county fair, but Ramie had more state fair competition ahead of her after they showed their chickens.

“I got blue at the state fair with my jelly, and I have goats to show with FFA. We want to thank Chris and Kari Goldsmith because they helped us out a lot with our chickens, and thank Kaci and Kelsey, too, because they helped us with everything, and we’re so thankful for them.”