DeKALB – They gain a pound a week, and three can bring more than $550 at auction.
Bailey Hunt, 15, raised his market pen, or trio of female chickens, to compete at this year’s Illinois State Fair Grand Champion Poultry contest.
“It was fun taking care of them,” Hunt said.
The Sycamore High School student beat out 30 competitors at the state fair in Springfield on Thursday and gets to auction his chickens at the Governor’s Sale of Champions at 5:30 p.m. today. Hunt plans to put his auction proceeds toward college and future 4-H projects.
Hunt has been raising chickens for 10 years. His father, Greg Hunt, said he’d never raised livestock before then, but they soon decided to exhibit the chickens at fairs.
Both Greg Hunt and his wife taught their son how to care for the chickens and how to make them healthy so they can attain the proper quality.
“It’s the culmination of all the kid’s hard work to be able to have the luxury to put [the chickens] on champion row,” he said.
Last year, Bailey Hunt earned reserve champion, or second place. The judges, who are certified in poultry and hail from the American Poultry Association, decided his was the best for this year.
The market pen birds are judged on uniformity. Judges want chickens who look the same and have the same quality. A hard, high-quality chicken breast is one of the markers of a quality chicken.
Competitors must be a member of 4-H or the Future Farms of America organizations in high school. Bailey Hunt was able to compete because he’s been a Green Meadows 4-H member for eight years.
His chickens will be processed after the auction, but the hard work was worth it.
“It pays off in the end, as you can see,” Bailey Hunt said.