Eric Rosolen, pictured here with a Minorca Cockerel Bantam, says the poultry section of this year’s Casino show will be worth a gander.
Eric Rosolen, pictured here with a Minorca Cockerel Bantam, says the poultry section of this year’s Casino show will be worth a gander. Doug Eaton

Casino Show: Nothing paltry about poultry for Eric Rosolen

ONCE again Eric Rosolen will oversee the poultry exhibition and competition at this year's Casino Show, a job he has held since 1997.

With strong family links to the interest, he said showing poultry as a pastime was strong and enduring.

"I started with poultry aged nine and I turn 59 this year," Mr Rosolen said.

"When you're into poultry breeding you spend most of your life with birds.

"By the time a hen lays an egg and a chick is hatched, a good eight to ten months can pass until that bird is ready for show.

"It can take that long for birds to get to their peak.

"The key to presenting a good show bird is to start with the feed. You need a good quality feed with plenty of clean water. This will lead to good condition and good feather quality. You don't like to show birds with damaged feathers."

For that reason, Mr Rosolen expects numbers of exhibitors of soft feather breeds to be down a bit, compared to shows at other times of the year.

Most breeders will have their best in the pens, making sure that lineage passes the test of time.

And, as anyone would know, a bit of breeding can leave your feathers fairly ruffled.

Despite all that, showbirds are expected from southern Queensland to the Coffs district including Lismore, Kyogle and Casino.

"Perhaps a few from Bangalow might show," Mr Rosolen said.

Breeds on display will include Mediterranean types such as Leghorn, Ancona and Minorca. There may be some Spanish varieties and of course the Rhode Island Red, a successful all-rounder developed in the 1800s in, you guessed it, Rhode Island, just south of Boston, Massachusetts.

The Sydney Royal shows modern hybrids, developed for industry productivity, but the country shows rarely bother.

However, it is of interest that the modern meat birds are descended from the old Sussex and the Wyandotte, and the superior egg layers have links with the Rhode Island Red, the Leghorn and the Aussie Australorps.

"The show societies tend not to promote hybrid lines, said Mr Rosolen, noting that those types will, over time, revert to dominant traits.

"They will go one way or the other," he said.

Interestingly fowls were not identified as individual birds but as a "breed" or "variety".

"Individual birds are rarely in condition to exhibit at a number of shows and breeders rely on a team of bird to display the breed characteristics over that time," Mr Rosolen said.

"We have a 'Standard of Perfection' we work towards," he said.

. "While this is almost impossible to achieve it's the struggle towards perfection that keeps us interested."

Australia suffered a narrowing of the poultry gene pool in the recent past, with quarantine preventing easy access to overseas eggs.

"Australia was regarded as a closed breeding stock," Mr Rosolen said.

However, recently breeders have been importing pure stock from England.

Artificial insemination is also practised, but the cost for the ordinary fowl hander was beyond the home budget. Some serious show goers use the technique, because a best bird can be shown while inseminated, without losing or abusing those precious feathers.

"It's far easier to bring in fertile eggs," Mr Rosolen said.

"But this is still very expensive and beyond the budgets of most breeders," he said.

Aussie genetics still play a part in local show competitions, with the dual-purpose Australorp, the Australian Langshan, the Australian Game bird and the Pit Game. These four breeds were celebrated by printing their likeness on stamps issued by Australia Post.

There are also Australian-designed water fowl: Australian Settler Geese, also known as Pilgrim Geese in the Northern Hemisphere, the Australian Call Duck, a bantam variety of ducks bred specifically for exhibition, and the Elizabeth Duck bred in 1972 in Merrylands, NSW.

For those keen to gather their own eggs Mr Rosolen recommended buying birds not up to show standard, but which would still produce plenty.

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