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Poultry squawks: 4-H'ers share trade secrets before today's show

Julie buntjer/daily globe Graham Lake Braves 4-H'ers in the poultry project show off their birds Thursday afternoon. They include Isaac Williams (from left), Khloe Gehl, Christine Frodermann, Quinn Bos, Rob Kuhl, Christian Bos, Cody Frodermann, Kenneth Magnussen, Paul Duerr, Evan Williams, Corrine Frodermann, Kody Magnussen and Karter Magnussen. Missing from photo is William Gehl.

WORTHINGTON -- With 14 members of the Graham Lake Braves 4-H Club enrolled in the poultry project, there's bound to be some sharing of trade secrets between kids on the best way to get their birds beautiful before their debut with the judge.

No one is looking over their shoulders or whispering behind bird cages. If you want to know what it takes to get a duck's bill Colgate-clean or a chicken's comb a brilliant shine, all you really have to do is ask the kids who raise and show them.

Young Christine Frodermann, in just her second year in 4-H, has had plenty of time to watch her older brother get his ducks ready for the fair. In fact, it was Cody's competition in the poultry show that made her realize showing a pen of feathered friends was actually rather fun.

"I wash them and use a brush to brush their beak and teeth and get them clean," Christine said.

Not just any brush will do, however -- it has to be a toothbrush. Christine said her family saves them throughout the year so there's a stash ready for fair time. Lest you think toothpaste is also involved, Christine shook her head as if to give an emphatic "No." These birds get cleaned with just some good old-fashioned soap and water.

The Frodermann family takes up an entire row of pens inside the Nobles County Fair's poultry barn with their three duck varieties. They have the traditional white ducks (Pekins), and a couple of new breeds they're trying this year.

"We got them from a breeder up by Gaylord," said Cody Frodermann of the pens of Cayuga and Saxony ducks. "The Cayuga, when they get in the sunlight, they turn a grassy green (color)."

Cody will show two pens of market ducks and two pens of breeding ducks in the poultry show, which begins at 5 p.m. today.

"It's fairly easy to raise them," said Cody of his poultry project. "I like to spend time with them and wash them."

The ducks have their own swimming hole on the Frodermann farm -- it's actually a blue, child-sized swimming pool, but the ducks love it nevertheless.

"They like to play in that just about all day long," Cody said.

That's probably a good thing because, as Cody knows, ducks can be rather messy. They like to spill their water, make a mess of their feed and, well, the stuff that comes out their backside isn't the most pleasant either.

Cody said he'll spend the next few days of the fair making sure his pens are kept clean and his animals eat more food than they spill.

As for who will do the best in today's poultry show, it is Christine who is banking on besting her brother's birds.

If the Frodermanns brought the messiest birds with their ducks, Paul Duerr perhaps brought the loudest fowl with his geese. The long-time 4-H'er will show both market and breeding geese in his final poultry show today, in addition to a pair of pens of egg production chickens.

"It's easy," Duerr said of the poultry project. He added geese to his list of projects a year ago for "something new."

As of yet, he said he can't share any horror stories of being chased around the yard by geese.

Next to the geese pens in the poultry barn, Rob Kuhl has it relatively easy with his pairs of breeding and market turkeys. After all, turkeys are pretty good about keeping themselves clean, and they are kind of fun to listen to.

"I feed it and make sure it's clean," said the 19-year-old Kuhl about his white turkeys. He dipped them in a water tank at home to get them clean.

Kuhl has shown turkeys at the Nobles County Fair for four years, and earned trips with them to the Minnesota State Fair on three occasions.

"Nobody else does it, so it's a guaranteed win here," he said with a laugh.

While Kuhl may have the only turkeys at the fair, the Bos family has some stiff competition in the chicken division -- including a little brother-sister rivalry. That may not come into play so much this year, considering Christian Bos brought Bantam Rhode Island Reds and his older sister, Quinn, is showing the large Rhode Island Reds.

The Bos family has raised Rhode Island Reds for the past two years, and Quinn, 18, said the birds are much friendlier than those she's shown in the past.

"I've always wanted to take Rhode Island Reds," she said. "They're such a fun chicken to show. They're just so big and nice. I've never seen a chicken act so nice. They're very tame."

Quinn Bos has shown chickens in 4-H for the past 10 years, and has mastered some of the steps it takes to show poultry at the fair. Not only does she wash her birds in soap and water, she also uses a fingernail clipper to groom the toenails on her birds.

"You don't want the chicken scratching the judge," she said.

Bos also uses "just a little bit of baby oil -- not a lot" on the bird's comb and wattle to make it shine.

Perhaps the funniest thing she has to do to prep for show day is weigh her birds. It's a question the judge is bound to ask, she said.

"We weigh ourselves first on the scale, and then we hold the chicken, and then we go back on the scale and subtract the difference," she described with a laugh. "The chicken doesn't stand still long enough."

Nearly all of the poultry exhibitors in the Graham Lake Braves 4-H Club are hoping their birds are good enough to win a trip to the Minnesota State Fair later this month, although they realize there aren't enough trips open for all of them to go.

At the very least, they're excited to be able to show their birds at the county fair today and a bit disappointed that three of their fellow 4-H'ers won't be competing against them this year. The Magnussens -- Kenneth, Kody and Karter -- had intended to each bring pens of Black East Indies ducks to show, but the ducks got sick last week and they've lost more than two-thirds of their 75-bird flock.

"We don't want to risk getting anything else sick," said Kody of their decision not to bring any of their remaining ducks to the fair. "It's kind of sad. It's kind of fun showing poultry."

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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