St. Paul: State Fair chickensby Marc Sanchez, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Roosters crow at sunrise. That's simply a false statement. It's 5 a.m. and dark outside the Minnesota State Fair poultry barn, and there's already a racket.
Roosters, hens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and doves are all in their cages waiting to be judged. Eric Bengston tends to them all. He's part of a team of people who throw out chicken scratch and make sure the cages are clean.
Bengston has been working with the chickens for 20 years. His grandparents ran the rabbit show, starting in the 60's, so he's been coming to the fair since his whole life. Through 4H, he showed rabbits and chickens.
Being part of the crew that takes care of the chickens means sleeping in the poultry barn to make sure there's no "fowl" play. Sometimes birds will get out of their cages in the middle of the night, and Eric has to wrangle them back.
Birds are judged on very specific qualities, which can be found in the American Poultry Association book, "American Standard of Perfection."
In addition to plumage, size, and shape, there's also a crowing contest. Whichever chicken crows the most in a specified half hour wins the contest. Listen close and see if you can pick a winner.
- Morning Edition, 09/06/2010, 8:25 a.m.