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Chicken People

Chicken People

Chicken People - Sn 1/Ep 1Chicken People - Sn 1/Ep 1

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Chicken may be just food for most people, but raising the perfect chicken is an all­ consuming passion for some. A real life “Best in Show” but about chickens, the film follows the struggles and triumphs of both humans and their chickens on the road to compete at the Ohio National Poultry Show.

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Transcript

- When I'm working with my chickens, I feel that it calms them. Maybe it doesn't, maybe they hate it. But, you know... ♫ Someday ♫ When I'm awfully low ♫ When the world is cold ♫ I will feel a glow ♫ Just thinking of you ♫ Just the way you look tonight - I've studied my Standard of Perfection. Time and time and time again. - We're trying to create a bird that looks exactly like the Standard of Perfection. That's a book that was drawn over 100 years ago. Each breed has an excellent illustration of what it should look like. We have a written description of every feather, what it's exactly supposed to be. And everyone strives to get the bird as perfectly to that standard as you can. - Instead of reading a novel or, you know, fiction, I get out my chicken Standard, and I'm constantly striving to educate myself on things that I might not be so well-versed at. - If you understand your breed and you understand the Standard, then you know you're confident in what you're raising. And you really want the judge to see that. - We've never created a perfect bird, but we're all working on it. That's the goal. - I bet she's happy to get out of that box. - I know, she's very happy. - Really, Mom? - I can-- - Really? - I've been washing chickens for five days straight. I mean, every day. It's so rewarding. When you put all that time and effort into something and then you raise a bird that makes it all the way to champion row and then potentially a best in show, I mean, what else could you ask for in life? That's perfect for me. - When you come to the Ohio nationals, you expect to just get your butt whupped. - All the best breeders are here. They all bring their best birds. Everybody brings the best stuff. - There's 10,000 birds here. And there's people from 40-plus states, and they all do what I do, and they're passionate about it just like I am. - Everyone comes with that goal ultimately to win the show. I mean, it's like the Westminster of the chickens. - Patty has a mind of her own. She does whatever she wants, whenever she wants. - Oh, yeah, you're not happy. - Stanley. - This is my all-time favorite show, Ohio nationals. It's just huge. And in order to... - She got a little yucky. She laid an egg, and-- - Uh-oh. - I'm currently in a show in Branson, Missouri, called #1 Hits of the 60s. ♫ You know make me want to ♫ Kick my heels up and ♫ Throw my hands up and... I put my performance job in jeopardy to be here with the chickens, so... Get her little beak clean here. - She just doodled on the floor, there. He just basically wants to spend his whole life messing with chickens. - Look at the head too, look at that skull. - Yeah. - The best thing about this is, I get to do it with this guy. - Yeah. - You know? - That's a good thing, yeah. - Or you could do the two cocks. - Sure, let's do the two cocks. Oh, boy. You can tell that some of these still have old feathers. - No way. You've got to be kidding me. He didn't like her a bit. Doesn't know what the hell he's looking at. Look at that back. There's a flat back and then a... He doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground. I know what my birds are, and I know how good they are. It's a very natural thing for me to get quite, um, upset... When a bird of mine doesn't do as well as it should. Because I study my Standard constantly, so I know what the breeds require. - Judging is not an exact science. The Standard of Perfection is a guideline, and it tells us, for example, a Brahma should have a moderately long back. So how long is that? Is that this long, this long? - See how all those that he picked had flat backs? And mine go whoosh. He needs to read his Australorp Standard again. - People ask me, "do you eat them?" And my usual answer, "you got kids?" "Yeah." "Do you eat them?" 'Cause these are my babies, and you don't eat them. - People think of a chicken, they think of, like, a white chicken, pretty generic. And they don't think that it can be something beautiful like this. - This is actually not nasal spray. It's called VetRX, and we put it on their combs to make them redder. - This is smooth and shine polishing spray for hair. Changes a farm chicken to a show chicken. - Needs a facial, doesn't he? - You can't show her like that. Gonna have to go blow-dry her butt. When you compete at this level, they're nitpicking everything. It's the eye color, it's the feather quality, it's the wings, the feet, the toes. It's the whole package, so everything counts. - Shari is the mama hen. I guess I was gonna say mama bear, but mama hen is a better word for her. - Do you have bacon on your burger? - I have five children, my four dogs, a llama named Comet... 200 chickens, oh, my gosh, and 40 bunnies. It's a big family. - She's really nice. - My family comes first, my children and my husband, but my poultry is my life. They listen to you. They interact with you. I mean, they really are a lot like... I hate to say a human, but they are. - They all have their little quirks. This one's a little ditzy. Yes. - They recognize voices and can tell who they don't like and who they do like. - And they recognize other chickens too. Some hold grudges against other birds and never forget how mean another bird was. And others are best friends. - Not much of a crest on him, though. - He's looking at that cockerel now. - Wow. - That's a nice bird. - Nice crest. Pretty good quills on that one. - Yeah. - Smells good. This is the best Silkie of the day. - You gave me fourth. - Well, that's not too bad. - Congratulations, Foley. - Thank you very much. I am over the moon. My black pullet was second out of a class of probably 40 birds. I didn't come here to lose. I came here to win, just like the rest of us. Hopefully next time, it'll be a little bit better. I'll be best of breed and champion of show. - How's the wings on her? - She's actually a little narrow-laced. She could be, you know, sharper and wider. - But it gives-- - But look how even it is. - Yeah. - What makes me tick is creating a bird that nobody has. This is the best silver-laced Wyandotte I've ever had. This bird is the 5,494th silver-laced Wyandotte that I've took out of the incubator and put a wing band on. And the light Brahmas, I'm up to 11,500. I'm a hatch-oholic. They call me that because I hatch a lot of chicks. Took me 15 generations to get 5,494. 15 generations. When I started with silver-laced Wyandottes, they didn't even have tails. They were bad. The color was bad, the heads were bad. - The heads, I think you've improved on the most. - She needs a better head. - Right in the front of the comb here, we've got just a little indentation. You see that? - I see it. - OK. - OK, Lindsay, she can go home. - OK. - I thought this fella was pretty well colored, hackle and saddle. I think their best two are over here. - Do you? - Yep. - The silver-laced Wyandottes, when I started with them, they never won. They never beat the whites or the blacks, ever. The color pattern is so complex, judges see the faults in them very easily. And, you know, there's a lot of other good birds up there. - Black Wyandottes, reserve of breed. Silver-laced is best. - Did he win? - Yes. - Wow. I won best of breed. That's huge here. Wow, that's really neat. - Congratulations, buddy. You're gonna go all the way. I'm telling you right now. - Wow, I didn't expect that. 600 Wyandottes, and he's the best one. Pretty cool. Normally I don't get like this, but I am, so... This is big. A lot of work to get to this point, so... I've never won the show, the whole thing. This would be pretty serious, if I won the whole thing. - Reserve grand champion of the show, second place, silver-laced Wyandotte by Brian Knox. - Biggest win I've ever had, by a long ways. This is huge. - Super grand champion of the show, a White Rock pullet by M&J Farms. I'd like to thank everybody again. Have a safe trip home. - What can you do to bump up from third place to first? What can I do next year, planning for this show, to win? - Takes a lot. You know, you just have to keep at it. So I'm not quitting now. - I'm good to go. I'm ready to go home and start hatching me some more chicks. - You got to photograph my bird. Did you do it? - Oh, yes. - You already got him? - Yeah. If ever there was a more perfect subject, I never had one. - Really? - He stood there, it was like Paris Hilton. - Every piece of the puzzle is out in the barn. I have all the pieces to make the ultimate perfect bird, but the complex part of it is putting it all in one. This is the champion male from the Ohio national. He was the best show chicken that I've ever showed in my life. He's got a phenomenal head on him. The comb is supposed to be wide, and then it follows the head. He's got nice, even wattles. He's got the black with the edging, really hard to get. He's got a few little issues that I want to correct on him. These feathers aren't quite as sharp as I'd like to see. I'd like to see a little bit sharper black. This saddle feather, it's not bad, but it's not perfect, and perfect is what we're shooting for here. I have a plan, and I think I can do it. I'm gonna breed this bird to daughters of another male that has better saddle color. OK, so you're gonna come out. I'm an engineer. I do that for a living. I'm always coming up with ways of making a motor run better and beat somebody on a track. Building motors for tractor pulling and competing there, that's my job. In my job, I cut back to half days. I only work half days, I work 12 hours. So then you got to work at the chickens after that. This male here, I'm leaning towards putting him on that hen down there. I got to just see what the genes are behind him. 348, 532. This is the bird's number. I got the family tree, who its mother and father is and who the grandparents are. I can picture every one of them in my head. I just remember what they look like. You probably know thousands of people. You could walk up and you'd see a person, you know them. Well, I know chickens, I just know them. Oh, and 3091. She's still here. She's five years old. 4125, he was a little short, but he had awesome color. He's been dead for eight years. - The whole chicken-oholism, I think, is a huge growing problem in the nation today. - It was a really short journey, going from, "let's just have a couple chickens," to... - A goose. - My wife, she always says, "how many birds does one person need?" We started off with, like, 500 this year. So I still got a ways to go to get them down. - What aggravates me more than anything about people who don't understand chickens is that they think chickens are dirty and they stink and they're nasty. Or, like, we're a bunch of yahoos over here, raising a bunch of chickens, and they're just crapping everywhere. That's just not true. I spend anywhere from three to four hours a day cleaning or breeding or setting up pens. I mean, hours. I've been called obsessive, which, you know... I wouldn't go that far, but I do think about it a lot. - Yeah, we started out with, like, maybe five little chickens, and it's exploded. - I didn't think that we'd end up with this many chickens. But I am really honestly happy for her. - You know, and she takes over all these areas. It was the little playhouse, and then she's moved to the garage, the back porch, and that entire pole barn. - Kyle, get off of there. Hey, come on down, because you're getting all the animals upset in there. No, Zoey, don't chase the cat. Watch out. My goals coming out of Ohio nationals are to improve on what I already have. I like his nice, full beard. Very nice turquoise lobes. I really would like to work on that crest. When it's shaped correctly, it's actually kind of like a ball on the top of their head, like, almost like a hat. This group of birds will produce potential champions. Each has great qualities about him. This bird's pecking me on the ass. Somebody just pecked me on the ass. - You can tell, like, by what sound they make, like, what they want or what's going on. ♫ Don't you say that we must part ♫ Don't you break my aching heart - It's pretty lonely in Branson for me. Being in an apartment, I don't have my chickens. I don't have the dogs. I don't have that agricultural release that I need. - Hey, little girls. - So this one in here needs washing now? - Yes, yes. - Being in Branson, I'm obviously not able to care for my birds. So that responsibility falls to my parents. My parents are not chicken people. I'm chicken people. It's a whole lot of work for them that they don't enjoy, that they're not passionate about. - You really don't need to clean all that, because it will just get nasty again. - Well, periodically, you do. - It does take a toll on you, you know, when you can't hear the roosters crowing every single day or you can't go look at the baby chicks or mow the grass. You know, these are all things that I love to do. ♫ After you've gone away And there's the '60s show. When I approached my bosses about missing two performances to go to the Ohio national, they said, "Great, great. "You go to Columbus, "and you don't have a job next year." And at the end of the season, it was understood that they weren't going to offer me a contract for 2015. But that's how it goes. - Of course we're concerned for him. - No question there. - No question, because he'll know that missing two shows out of 200, whatever they do for the year, if you miss two shows, they'll fire you. - Branson is the type of place, I have come to find, that a lot of entertainers go to die, basically. You get stuck and mired in the mud, and you spend 20 years being a chorus girl. Two, three. Perfect, thank you. Right on down, we'll get you seated. We'll get a picture of the three of you together. Then we'll get you seated, OK? One, two, three. Perfect, thank y'all. Right on down the aisle. I'm here because I've got my job with extreme photo. - Will you just watch for blurry pictures? - For me, right now, this is a transition time to just figure out where I want to be, what I want to be doing, that sort of thing. It's an odd dynamic tonight. - Thank you. - So this is where I am right now. There's good to it, there's a lot of bad to it, but... That's life. - I miss everything about my chickens when I'm away. They're my best friends. - They get to sleep next to my pillow. And that's another one of those, "you let the bird in the house?" Things. You know, yeah, I do. - See, if you hear my voice, then you're better, huh? Huh? If you hear my voice, then you're better. - This grass is still growing. My birds are a little leggy, or longer in the leg than I would like to have them. My black Silkies. So I paired my breeding pen with a male I feel will fix that. Stud muffin. I call him a stud muffin 'cause he's just a really prolific breeder. He thinks that this is his kingdom and these are his women. 12, 13. 13 girls. And every egg for the last four weeks has been fertile. I'd call that a stud muffin if I were you. He's just really good at what he does. - This week, I'm returning to Anna to help my parents and work on my breeding program. We're right in the prime time to start hatching for the Ohio national in November. This building is where I keep all of my show birds. Leghorns and Reds and Australorps. They all have single combs. This is actually one of my favorite females. She's my buddy, aren't you? You see how calm she is, and many people, you tell them you raise Leghorns, they go, "Oh, Leghorns are crazy." Does that look crazy to you? I haven't done much drastic changing of my white Leghorn bantams in eight to ten years. They can compete with anyone the way they are. The Standard says the first two points on the comb should stand straight up. After that, it should lop to the side, but not to cover the eye. And as you can see, that's an exemplary comb. That's exactly what the Standard calls for. Breeding chickens is not rocket science. You can sit and make anything difficult if you want to. You can make how to fry an egg way more difficult than it needs to be. I've used one of my foundation males, and I've taken daughters of his, and I've put the daughters in with their sire. This is what we call line breeding. And when you line-breed, you're strengthening those genetic markers. Now you're gonna get some female action. That sounded filthy, didn't it? Ha, female action. - Oh, chicken sex. Well, looks like I'm gonna get fertility out of that one. That was, that was quick. - When you have a male in with females and he finds food on the ground or he finds a worm, which is just like gold to a chicken, you'll hear the male, "bok-bok, bok-bok... Bok-bok-bok." He's calling those females. "I found food." He invites them to dinner, and then they're close enough that he can just hop right on and get down to business. So there it is. Leghorns have a tendency to be a little more vigorous. - In preparation, the male dances. He puts his wing out, and it's, like, something like this. And then the girls just kind of, like, know to just drop it. There's no pleasure involved, because it's not like, they don't make noises. This is like wham, bam, thank you, ma'am. It's over with that fast. - And the roosters, they love their hens, and they will absolutely take a bullet for them. If there's a hawk, the rooster will go, "braw!" And all the hens and the chicks run for cover. And the male stands right there and flaps his wings and says, "You want a piece of me? "You want a piece of me?" And he'll absolutely sacrifice himself for the hens. - Yeah, this is one of my older females. That's probably why she hasn't been laying. I'm so intense on what I do. I get up in the morning, I'm wide open, I never quit. And so I won't give up anything that I'm doing to have a relationship. I'm gonna pick a different one to put in with that male. There's a couple out there that caught my eye today when they were running around. I know I can find them again. I got their face in my head now. Little family. My lifestyle is not right for having a family or even a permanent girlfriend all the time. But I had Jackie for a while, and it worked pretty well for quite a few years. And I met her at a chicken show. So we had a great relationship, but it just didn't turn out in the end to be right. And now we're good friends still. Here's a group that they've been in there for 10 days, and they have never been candled. I don't know which is fertile, which isn't. That one is fertile. You can see the blood vessels in it. Oops, I just dropped that one. It's still OK, though. That one's no good. That one's really good. This is a silver-laced Wyandotte. It's another possible champion baby, you know, every time. - Everything really has to be done almost perfectly. They have to pip into the air cell, the air cell has to be dry enough that they don't drown. I think they kind of gather their energy at that point. And then they start their journey. All of a sudden, it's like, you're dark, you're in the shell, you're, like, working your ass off to get out, and all of a sudden, bam. It's like, hello, world, you know? I mean, you think about going from the dark into the light. Welcome to the world, little guy. As soon as they come out of the shell, they open their eyes. It's like the world is like, boom. I love that part. You ready to come out of here, bubba? Just show him where the water is. Come on, babies. This guy might have to have a hobble, because his little leg is sticking out to the side, and that happens sometimes. So what I'll do is see if he's able to get up on it so it's sitting underneath of him. If not, then I'll make a little string, like the other one, to help keep his leg in place. I believe everything should have a chance. - God love him. Didn't quite make it out of his shell. He's not gonna make it. We're gonna have to-- gonna have to take care of that guy, and that's not a fun job. One, two, three, four Reds, six Leghorns, and two Faverolles. Good job. Two Faverolles. - Two Faverolles. - 21 total. - I knew there was a-- - Well, 22. There's one down there that didn't make it out of the egg, and you're gonna have to take care of him for me, because he's not well. - OK, I'll do it. - All right. - He was willing to separate with the horses, and he was willing to separate with the sheep. But don't ever try to take his chickens away from him. I think you'd take his heart out, you know? - I want to take the workload off of my parents. That's one of my number one goals. I want to purchase a farm of my own where I can take the birds with me. My dad's done nothing but help me my whole life. I feel like I'm doing the opposite of that, because as much as I love chickens, my dad's my dad. And, you know. - I messed up on the humidity, and they got a little dry. And he was stuck, but he's doing fine now. When I was nine, I got chicks in the mail from a hatchery. You open the box, and you got these little chicks. And it was my first real pet. I mean, I had a dog, but... Since I've started, I've probably hatched 30,000 chicks. I don't know. I'm just gonna take some water and spray the eggs a little bit. - When he was about eight years old, we set up an incubator in his bedroom. As I remember, he was like a nervous mother with a new baby. - They'd lay right out on the newspaper asleep, and I'd wake up in the night and I'd look at them, and I'm all upset because I thought my chicks died. So I'm poking them, and they wake up, and they're like, none of them were dead. They were all fine. But I just wasn't used to chicks sleeping like that. You can hear the difference in that male, right? White wings, voice? It's definitely a male. - It didn't take too long that we were thinking that our house was starting to-- - Smell like a chicken house. - Smell like a chicken house. We had this old garage that we actually didn't use, so we let him put his chickens in there. - Newspaper and 250-watt heat lamp is not a good combination. So, anyway, that didn't go well. - All I know is, we looked out the window, and the place was all in flames. And by the time the fire department got here after we called, it was, like, burnt right to the ground. - That was a bad day. - It burned everything up. He was really torn up over that. So I said, "Well, don't worry about it, Bri." I said, "we'll go down and get the lumber," and I said, "You and I will build a brand-new one." And we did. - It was only six or seven miles from where I lived. And some friends told me about his loss to the fire. And I think, initially, that's how Brian and I got together. - And he started taking me to the shows with him. - The first show we went to, his enthusiasm was obvious. - Wow. You know, I had never seen some of these birds. They were, like, incredible. That was it, I was done, I was hooked. Now we got to move on to the silver-laced Wyandotte. This is gonna be 6,003. And I use wing bands. They have a number on them. They go in the wing, and I record the number of the bird, because my old mentor Dick Stevens, he always said, "You got to know what's behind them," he says. - Otherwise, how do you know what you're doing? - 'Cause I see so many grandparent traits pop out in these birds, it's incredible. - And we're very sorry that a poor bird had to lose his life so that we can eat well. - Amen. - Amen. - Bless the turkey and damn the skin. Open your mouth and cram it in. - Yeah, I do eat chicken. I like chicken, I eat chicken. I don't eat my chickens, but I eat chicken. - We do, we eat our chickens when they don't quite make the Standard of Perfection. - Sure, I eat my own chickens. - No way I could ever do that. - I have fried chicken anytime I want it. - This is like the biggest damn chicken, I think, on earth. You know, there's bantams and large fowl. This is like jumbo fowl, here. - I've got a good idea, this is so fun. One person starts making noise, like, ting-ting-ting-ting, then somebody joins in with a different noise. And you got to keep going. Ting-ting-ting-ting... - Boom-t'ss, boom-t'ss... - I'm next? - Yeah. - Dee-Dee-Dee-Dee-Dee-Dee-Dee... - Go, Kyle. - No. - Oh, there it is! Nobody helped me! - I met Larry when I was divorced, living with my kids. Larry and I got married in 2000. - Are the brats cheesy or regular? - I don't know, they're brats. - I don't want one. - Have they been soaked in beer? - I can make them beer brats if you want. - I'll take a beer brat. - OK, no, I can't eat that. - Mom, alcohol burns out of sausage. - Now they're beer brats. - I like beer brats, I guess. - Oh, great. Yuck. - Oh, great. - Back when I was drinking, I mean, there was no way that I was there for my kids like I should have been, I mean, because you can't. I mean, you may think you are, but you're really not. - She'd get us up for school every morning, but by the time we got home, I mean, she was completely drunk. - She got to a point where, you know, she was basically miserable. - I didn't do anything with myself, you know. And then I found something that I really loved to focus on. When I switched over to really concentrating on my chickens, I started to get really more involved, kind of like an outlet for me. I just wanted to give it my all, which, that's what I did. - We would much rather her be spending all this time doing something healthy, where, you know, she could be drunk and in bed by the time we have dinner. We take it, I mean, it is what it is. - The guys at work call me queen feather legs. I work with all men. - We make fun of our mom sometimes, because she goes to sleep and has, like, gel in her hair, and wakes up, she looks exactly like a Polish chicken does. Maybe we both look a little fluffy today. - No, I do not look like my chickens. My chickens are about 30 inches tall. - Everyone always wants to know, how was your trip? I have no memory of my trip. Zero. I don't remember where I stayed in a motel. I don't remember where I stopped for gas, because all the time I'm driving, my head is thinking about stuff. Oh, yeah, she's good now. How am I gonna make this thing run better? How am I gonna make this bird better? I started building engines when I was 14, with my dad. In my early 20s, I took over. He let me do it, and I just did it ever since. Tractor pull, it's a contest to pull a weight-transfer sled down the track, and the farthest distance wins. It's just like NASCAR, drag racing. It's a motor sport. My parents started drag racing when I was four years old. So I don't ever remember not having a race car in the garage. Originally my dad drove, and she drove the same car, but she can make it go faster. - I didn't grow up saying, "Gee, I want to be a race car driver." I just did it because I wanted to be with him. - My dad liked to win better than he liked driving, so... - That was it, I never drove in competition again. - [Announcer] The country girl will be in lane number one on your side of the track. - We gradually moved up to faster and faster cars. - Those cars were really dangerous at the time. I remember being at a race and watching a guy die. Then it was Mom's turn to run the same kind of car. It was pretty scary. They were not safe. She had a fire. The car going down the track, and the next thing you know, it's a big ball of fire. - I could see the fire. The flames came under the seat and up the back. - Boy, when I saw the ball of flame, I thought, "Oh, man," 'cause the motor was eating itself up, and that's why it lit the finish line up just about like day for an instant. - She got out of it, and it was OK, but it was close. It was very close to being bad. - [Announcer] Pennsylvania, this is Jason Hathaway. - Everything we get into, we check it and measure it. Everything has to be perfect. - [Announcer] Well, ladies and gentlemen, he got number one winner tonight. Let's give him a nice round of applause. - That's how I've grown up my whole life, with things being perfect. And I guess I may be a little too much that way with my chicken program, a little too perfectionist maybe. But I guess it comes from this world. - Broody grump. Oh, oh, look. She's sitting on a spoon. Oh, my goodness. What is this? That's not an egg. Did you want this back? Crazy chickens. I have had a lot of bad luck lately, I guess, here on the farm. I noticed our llama wasn't feeling well, so I called my neighbor down. He came down and looked at him on Sunday, and then Monday morning, he was dead. And then my oldest chick pen, everybody gets sick. Coccidiosis is something that can happen. They start dying, and then you see blood. You hatch them, and then they're starting to look like little, you know, little birds. And then they die. I mean, it makes me sad. But I have so many other birds that depend on me and so many other things to do that I can't just sit and fixate on one thing. It's just like a big cycle. You know, things die, things are born. Things die, things are born. You know, it's just part of what happens. I mean, it's like, when you watch them grow and you kind of get to know them, you know? I mean, it's like you just really kind of get bonded with them. With animals, I think it's, like, a lot deeper than what people think. Animals have been a sanctuary in my life. OK. We're gonna pull over right here. Well, there's something right there, see? Red-winged blackbird, male. I call myself a baby bird, because there's so much to learn. I've always loved birds. My mom, she always had a birdhouse outside the window, and she'd have a bird book, so I kind of grew up with just that love. I had some really difficult times growing up. My dad started getting into drinking really heavy, and things got really rough at home. On more than one occasion, I was upstairs in my room, and next thing you know, you hear dishes breaking, and, like, a table's turning over, and, like, I can hear it like it was like yesterday, just that sound. I couldn't feel safe. It was like a war zone at times. Always used to dream about flying when I was a kid. I was like, I could fly amazingly well. And I would float above my house, and I remember looking down, and I could see, like, the neighbors' driveway and their house. And maybe I thought maybe if I was too high and I wrecked, maybe I would get hurt. But I never would wreck. I'd always land really, like, perfectly. It was just amazing, you know, the feeling of being able to... Little chickadee around the... Sorry, I'm very distracted by birds. The feeling of flying was just, it was amazing, I mean, you know, 'cause you're just so free. - Test, test, one, two, three. One, two, three, four. Test, test, test. I'm in the process of putting together a solo show. I could go out tomorrow and announce that I'm doing a show in Anna, and I would pack the house, so... I don't mean to, you know, don't mean to brag, but I have enough of a following that I can make it work. - [Announcer] Southern Illinois' Q106. - [DJ] Got a special guest on the phone with us this afternoon. Brian Caraker is doing classics from the great American songbook, and we've got him on the line. Good afternoon, Brian. - [Brian] Hi there, how are you today? - [DJ] I'm doing great, how about yourself? - [Brian] Oh, just great. - [DJ] So tell us a little bit about you. - I am traditionally a jazz standards singer. That's the music that I grew up with, and that's the music I want to bring to everybody. You put on a show, you put on an act, you put on a face, and you put on a persona, so to speak. And it's fine and it's good, but it's false. So what this show allows me to do is just totally be myself. - [Announcer] Ladies and gentlemen, Brian Caraker. - This time, I picked all songs that meant something to me, that touched me in a special way. And when you're true to yourself and then people can see that, like, that's a pretty incredible feeling. ♫ When sunny gets blue ♫ Her eyes get gray and cloudy ♫ Then the rain begins to fall The funny thing is, I can promote my chickens all day long every day, no problem. When it comes to talking about myself... I've always had pretty low self-esteem. So, pretty hard on myself. ♫ When sunny gets blue ♫ She breathes a sigh of sadness I don't know, sometimes I don't feel very special, you know? So you have to... I've got to work on getting over that. Past experiences in my life and people bullying and always trying to bring me down, no matter how much success I would have in whatever I was doing. ♫ Weird and haunting melodies I didn't really let my dad in to how I was treated in my high school. To be honest, I didn't want to talk about it to anyone. One of the things that helped me get through the torment that I experienced every single day was, I could come home, and I could forget about high school, because me and my dad could go to a chicken show. The poultry is a bit of an oasis for me. The chickens don't judge you. They don't judge me. ♫ Hold her near ♫ When sunny gets blue - Son, that was awesome. I have heard you sing for years. It was never, never as good as it was tonight. Thank you. - Thank you. - It was awesome. If you go with numbers of people here, could be termed as disappointing. - Super outstanding. - But you can't stop something like this. And there'll be more. Stay tuned, I guess I should say. - This is, by far, the most highly pathogenic avian influenza strain we've ever seen. - More than 21 million birds in commercial and backyard flocks have been destroyed in the worst outbreak of avian flu in United States history. Ohio officials today canceled all poultry shows this year, in addition to county fairs and swap meets. - A lot of the shows have been canceled. And the Ohio national was one of the main ones that was canceled. - These would have been my Ohio national hopefuls. But no more, there's no Ohio national, so... It was like, darn, you know. I was, like, so looking forward to going back to Ohio nationals. I just saw on Facebook a few days ago that Knoxville was still on, which is, I believe, the Tennessee Valley Poultry Club. - OK. Oh, them stupid guineas. Early in the year, we were targeting for Columbus to be the big show that I was gonna go to. We backed it up a month because Columbus was canceled. And my light Brahmas were in better shape a month ago than they are now. All right, light Brahmas. A lot of molty hens. In the light Brahmas, some of them were still in feather for Ohio, but then they recently molted. Not quite all there. Where are you guys at? I saw one the other day that looked... It's disappointing. I got a lot of nice birds here. But they just don't have enough feathers to win. Here's one that's not too bad. So that's all I got, for now. - I really have to think about the Tennessee thing, because I don't mind so much traveling within a couple hours of home, but it's, like, going away overnight. The whole thought of, like, driving away from my home, you know, the comforts of my safe bubble here, that's... A little weird. Feels unsure. I really did not know exactly what a panic attack was until I had one. It's like a snowball effect. It starts with a little snowball rolling downhill, and it turns into a massive boulder. I just don't know if that's something that I'm willing to risk for a show. - Over the past 20 years that I've had the white Leghorn bantams, I've been extremely successful with them. And Knoxville's coming up, and it's like, I've done it. You know, this year in particular, I'm ecstatic. I'm ecstatic. Just beautiful. When I look at this bird, the tail does not stick out like, bam, look at that tail. - Last year, I raised the best bird I ever raised, the male that was champion bantam in Columbus, Ohio. And I had a really good year with him reproducing males. I picked out ten males that I'm gonna show at Knoxville that are all sons of that male. The best ten males I've ever shown, other than that one. - I've been thinking about this for months. And, yeah, I want to win Knoxville. It would be amazing. I've had that feeling where you're just afraid to do something because you're afraid you're gonna have a panic attack. I don't want it to control me. I want to control it. Getting ready for Knoxville. I'll wash today. I'll wash all day tomorrow. I'll do straight 12, 14 hours of washing in one day. I mean... Not now. Not now. The beard, his is kind of sparse. But he has an awesome body. He is the son of stud muffin, yes. Two down, 32 to go. I'll be washing chickens for the next 24 hours. Look at you. You are a warrior. - Stop looking at my cock, guys. Forrest Gump. I talked bad about you, and now you're being sweet. - I gave her all the trophies. She was liking it. This one will go to the show. - You know, far as it goes for my breeding goals, from where I was last year, I think I definitely improved. I love the crest shape. I'm gonna call him White Tornado. This guy, of course, needs his bath yet, but... White Tornado. - When you put them in warm water, they just kind of go to sleep. You actually kind of have to hold their heads up sometimes so they don't drown. - I've seen them get water in their crop, and I've seen them choke. - And I saw a fellow exhibitor take that bird, breathe into its mouth... - I'm resuscitating her. - Beak-to-mouth, and resuscitate that bird. - I think we might have needed to turn there. - Are we almost there? - Uh... Yes. - In exhibition poultry, there's a certain order on how birds are judged. Where we start out is, in each color of each breed, there are four basic classes: Cock, hen, cockerel, and pullet. The first place cock, hen, cockerel, and pullet are all evaluated for best of variety. Each variety winner is considered for best of breed. The best of breed goes on to compete for their class champion. In the bantams, you have seven classes: Game bantams, modern game bantams, single comb clean leg, rose comb clean leg. - Rose comb clean leg is a class of all the birds that have a rose comb and no feathers on their feet. - Feather leg, all other comb clean leg, and bantam duck. Hi, Rich, how are you? - Good, how are you doing? - Oh, I'm doing well. - You brought a bunch of birds, huh? - Uh, 32, I think. I'm excited to see them. God... Terrible. You spend months trying to get a single male in condition, and you put him in a show box for five hours, and all of that work is out the window. He's not gonna do a darn thing with a tail like that. You work so hard, and you get to the show, and they look like garbage. - Man, there's a lot of white Silkies. OK. Here, here, here. - Two males that have lived at my house their whole life, right, I take them to the show. I wonder if they stand in the cage, look across the aisle, and go, "Did you see that black rose comb female over there? "Wow, she's hot." Guys do that, so maybe they do that. Hey, your cages. - Oh, thank you, thank you. - How you doing? - Hello, hello. - Jackie's a great chicken friend that I have, probably the most special one. But she was my girlfriend for a while. And Jackie was better at grooming than me. She was a dog groomer, so she's better at chicken grooming than me by a lot. - Well, they line up nice too. She really lines up good in rows. - This is a small chicken. - Yes. - But she's good. - So I got your seal of approval? - What? Yeah. - Thank you. - Oh, boy. - That's great. - Yeah, big-time. - Everyone knows that Vicki and Shorty are the people to beat, the top breeders in the country. First and second cockerels. Come on, boys. - All I want is a crest. I think I remember how the back line is supposed to go into the tail, but I'm having some doubts, so I'm going back to reading the Standard of Perfection. Thanks, Steve. Come on out of the corner, girl. You have about one minute to show me your stuff. More of a real chicken, I liked her mobility. All right, put her away. - No freaking way. - Got stuck at you at first. - My gosh. - He had one of mine and one of yours. - Oh, my gosh. - And he did yours first and mine second. - Oh, my gosh. You really could blow me over with a feather. I mean, I'm so excited. It's so amazing. Larry, I got best of variety white. - What about best of breed? - Not yet, 'cause you got to do all the blacks, whites, the buffs, the splash, and then they'll pick. - 14 cockerels, that's a lot. - I could see this one here, but I couldn't walk down to see who did what yet. - He's looking at my male against the pullet. - What'd you win? - Best of breed Wyandotte. Holy shit. That's awesome. That's the son of 5494, the male that won in Ohio last year. So that's pretty huge. The next step is champion rose comb clean leg, so I think I have a really good chance. - I'm picking champion rose comb clean leg. I got it narrowed down to three birds out of almost 400. It's a black rose comb pullet, silver-laced Wyandotte cockerel, and a silver Sebright hen. The silver-laced Wyandotte. This is what we call smuttiness. Right here on the saddle, the black should be more distinct. I do raise these in large fowl, so I know how hard it is. - Yeah. - And I also raise black rose comb, so I know how hard it is to get that. The rose comb, she's pretty much perfect. - Yeah, he could be better. Just gonna keep working at it, and hopefully we can get one that's perfect someday. So that's the plan. I showed ten males all out of that male that won in Ohio. - Oh, really? - Yeah, he's kind of reproducing himself. - Wow, he looks awesome. Beautiful, all of them, nice coloring. - That girl is the meanest girl chicken I ever had. I miss her. We didn't work personally, but I do miss her as a friend being around. We have a common interest, so we have a blast when we're together. That's a male. - Really? - It's a baby male. See his saddle color? - Yep, yep. - It's a weird bird. - That's pretty awesome actually, that's right. I can't wait to see. - I don't like doing anything that you can't do perfect. So I've kind of given up some things. I tried once, it didn't work out, so... I can't be perfect at it, so I don't want to, you know, I don't want to do it. - [Announcer] Attention, there is a chicken on the loose outside. If anyone sees that chicken, please capture it and bring it to the office. - The first male right there, that's mine. And he's the best one in there, but we'll see. - He's looking at those cards. - Those are the ones he likes, which I don't see any of mine turned up. - He's got three of them turned up. Your cockerels are turned up down there. That's a 45-degree angle, or better. - Or better, yeah. - More than 45, yeah. Keeps going back to her, but I don't know if he's ever gonna do anything with her or not. He give her first? The highest tail in the... Doesn't even know what he's looking at. - Well, out of the four males, he had the best type. I just don't like this comb. It's too perfect. - I don't show chickens to be on champion row. I love my birds the same now that I did when I came here. So, you know... - Behind you, the drawing. - Mm-hmm, yeah. - "Faveolle." - They did pretty good, though. Just recently, I received a phone call asking me to return to the '60s show. I'm going back in 2016. So I'm really excited about it. - Brian was hurt. But he overcame his feelings to do the show. - Life's not perfect. Situations aren't perfect. And you have to do what you got to do. - This is something like I would draw, here. - Oh, yeah, right. - I am not a drawer. - I get to do something that I really enjoy, with a good raise. Basically, in the not-so-distant future, I'll be able to find a "home" for myself in Branson that's not an apartment, where I can actually have my chickens with me. And look how they did the beard, how it's kind of elongated, like a real bird would be, like a real Faverolle would be. - To see him be independent is, it's up here. He's definitely a young man now. - OK, we're looking for the best Brahma at the show. It's gonna be pretty difficult to get past this chicken in my hand right now, light Brahma female. She gets best of breed. - So that's pretty awesome. I thought my males were better, but the males are harder. Sometimes when you get a bird that's harder to get, you forget how good the pullets are. So I'll still have a shot at champion of the show. - We're doing best of breed Silkie. Silkies are done. - Oh, my god. - You won. - Well, here we go, now it's on. - Yeah, now we go against each other. - All right, that's awesome. Oh, my gosh. Anytime you're up against Brian Knox, you just know that you're in for a fight. I'm ready. Ready for the fight. - They all look good. - Really anybody's game. - You have a damn good chance. - Silkie is a pretty girl. She's exceptional, and she's standing like she's supposed to. - God, I'm so nervous right now, I could fall over. - When I won that union show in Georgia, over 1,800 birds, I thought I was actually gonna piss in my pants. - There he goes, back to Brian's again. - Light Brahma, outstanding specimen. Well, the Brahma's a great bird. I'd like her a little sharper in coloration right there. So we're down to two birds, light Brahma and a Silkie. So our champion feather-legged, for those listening in the next row, is the white Silkie, Brahma reserve. - You won. - I did? - Yeah, you did. - Oh, my god. - I got reserve. They did good. - No way. - I told you. - That's wonderful. - What'd I tell you? - I can't believe it. Oh, my gosh. I just feel like I'm gonna pass out. - So now she's up for champion of the show. - That was a hell of a Silkie. I have no problem getting beat by that bird. So that's, when you get beat by a good chicken, you don't mind. I want the best one to win. If I don't have the best one, I need to go home and make a better one. That's the challenge of it. Dick. - Hey. - How you doing, buddy? - Good, and you? - Dick Stevens, that was the game changer for me. That was what got me into the world of real show chickens. - Well done on the red tails. God, I'm really proud that, after all these years, Brian is still doing the same. I got something I want to give you. - Oh, wow. - I didn't know who I'd pass it on to. You're the candidate. - Wow. It's been 40 years since we started doing this. I'm 51, and I was 11 when you took me to my first show. That's a waterer? - Yeah. - Unbelievable, I've never seen nothing like that. - I have no idea, Brian, how old it is. - "I would like it to pass on to you "with the hope that you will hold on to this fountain "and someday pass it on to a person "that has interest in poultry. "They will continue to do the same in future years. "Dick Stevens." Thanks, buddy. - Thousands of people in this country know more about poultry than I, but there's millions that know less. - Yeah, yeah, that's true. Yeah, yeah, yeah. - We always have one or two chickens living in the house. - We have diapers we put on them if they're gonna stay in the house long enough. - It's made out of, the part here is elastic, and it clasps with snaps. - Never know when you come home and try to go sit down on the couch to relax after a long day of work, and here's a chicken sitting there. - And you want to make sure that this part is definitely covering up her vent so it does collect the waste. - Good luck, hope you do well. - Thank you. Come here, little girl. Let me get you a little bit of water, OK? Hi, pretty girl. Today is the final judging of all the champions, the best of the best. I got to put her up there right now. - My guess is, it's the Rhode Island Red and the modern. There are some nice large fowl here. - I like the Sumatra. - Yeah. - Look at that Rhode Island Red. Oh, my gosh, look at that Brahma. - Don't get in a fight with that Brahma over there. - Ready to go to work, boys? - Whenever you are. - She's a little soiled on the top of the crest. - It's not bad, but as a cockerel, he should be a little greener. - I had more chickens yesterday that didn't have their beaks and toenails trimmed. I mean, some good chickens. - Join the club. - Jeez. - Now they're looking at the turkey. - You know, I had a female turkey that looked like that, and when the grandkids would come over, she would lay down on the blanket and let the kids pet her. One of the neighbor's dogs come up and killed her. - You could have left that part out. Hold on, they're looking at my Silkie, Mason. Look out. - I like the Silkie. I really liked her body. And by that, I don't mean so much in my hand as the way she stands all the time. - Let's look at this Sumatra once more. I'd like that saddle up and covering a little more. - Right. - All those things being said, we do have to make a decision. - That's right. - Yeah, let's go over a little closer. - About right through this part of the crest, it's just a tick lower and less full than the remainder of the crest. It's probably a half to a point. Not a big deal, but when you got really good birds, you got to see who's got some faults. - Our first award we'll give out, this will go for the best Rock, and that award goes to Jerry Little. Next is gonna be reserve grand champion bantam. Will be a white Silkie hen, Shari McCollough. - Oh, my god. Thank you so much, thanks. Yay. - Yes! Wow! - I just believe that everybody has things in their life, you know, that they have to deal with. You can let them bring you down, or you can fight through those things. And, I mean, when you get to the other side, you're victorious. - And the grand champion of show, it's the black Sumatra, Doug Akers. - Good bird. He picked that bird. - I just said. - Reserve champion bantam, champion feather leg. You ready to go home? It's really, really awesome. Biggest win I've ever had, for sure. I think she deserves a name like Victorious. So I'm gonna call her... Vicki for short. - A lot of people are searching for something in their life, and they never find it. Now, I don't know if it's chickens or football or basketball, whatever you want. But you got to have a goal. - People will say to me all the time, "Why do you do this?" And I say, "Well, I do this because... "I love the birds." - It's nice to have good birds that win, but that's not what it's all about. When I go out, I don't see a show winner. I don't see a show loser. I see part of my life. You're singing too, aren't you? Animals enrich people's lives, period. Raising animals is a spiritual experience for me, because I see the beauty in life, and there is nothing more beautiful than to see a creation like that. - I see so many grandparent traits pop out in these birds, it's incredible. - I don't know, I've always been detailed. The whole family has been detailed. - If I get to where every silver-laced Wyandotte I raise is perfect, I'll probably get rid of them and move on to another breed that needs help. I like fixing things. Maybe I could find something else that I might like better, but I'd have to give this up to do that, so I'm not going to. I'm gonna stay on course. - I thought you didn't like cheeseburgers. - Guess what, college changes a person. It's called hangover food. - Remember, she used to not like hamburgers. - What are you talking about? - Which is what your mom wants to hear. - Do you like ketchup now? - No. - I'm my best witness. I think it's amazing that my kids can see me fight through things and be victorious over things and they can see chickens make me brave. They help me face fears head-on, and, like, they just really help me be a brave person.

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