Family welcomes end of chicken-judging ban

The Craig girls from Florence most likely will get a renewed chance this year to dominate the 4-H chicken classes judging at the Marion County Fair, and probably move on with the resulting state eligibility to show at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.

Besides having high quality purebred bantams and large breed chickens, the Craigs usually provide nearly all of the Marion County chicken exhibit classes.

It?s all happening because the state ended its ban on public poultry shows in December that began last March after one case in the state at Leavenworth of avian flu.

Now Natasha Craig plans to bring her three daughters, Aubrey, 13, Kalea, 11, and Cadence, 9, and a trailer-load of 35 to 40 chickens this summer to participate at the county fair in Hillsboro.

Craig said they?ll have mini-bantams, Cochin bantams, Rhode Island Reds and her favorites, the Buff Orpingtons.

Husband Aaron enjoys the chickens, she said, but she and the girls manage the production.

Marion County has commercial egg-laying flocks, but the producers say they leave the fair contests to people like the Craigs. Other than that, they try to follow state admonitions to keep flocks isolated.

Kansas Animal Health Commissioner Bill Brown lifted the ban on showing all poultry, including such species at turkeys, guineas and water fowl.

Brown encouraged all poultry owners to continue to closely monitor flocks, and to contact their veterinarian immediately if any birds appear sick.

Craig keeps 13 Buff Orpington hens where the family lives in Florence in a chicken house she built, and the rest of the family flock lives on her parents? farm outside Florence.

She also is known in Florence for her lush gardens, averaging about 60 tomato plants fed with bone and blood meal. Plus, she?s taken on several carpentry projects.

Craig said it matters to her and the children what happens at the fair with poultry, but they do participate in other projects: horses, flowers, vegetables, decorative displays, and painting up to about 40 projects for each girl.

Still, the poultry brings a level of fun to the fair they don?t get elsewhere.

?Still, I was nearly heartbroken about the chickens,? she said.

Aubrey said she loves to hear small children when they ?ooh? baby chickens, and want to touch one.

Kalea loved the experience of bringing a bantam hen, Miss Flappers, to the state fair in 2014.

Nicole said the entire family just loves the experience of the fair.

?And, why bring just a few chickens when you can bring a trailer-load?? she asked.