MUCH-awarded Tamworth poultry fancier Peter Smith has had a lifelong interest in chooks, starting his hobby as a schoolboy in Mudgee.
Mr Smith in April returned from the Sydney Royal Easter Show with a haul of 10 champion ribbons, with one of the chooks, a light Sussex, winning the same class as he did in his first Royal showing back in 1952.
Sixty-one shows later, he’s still on that winning streak and has amassed more ribbons and trophies than he can count.
He started out buying a few young cockerels at the local Saturday morning market in Mudgee, with a mate from up the road.
He’d buy the birds, fatten them up, kill them and dress them and sell them to the neighbours – or his mother – for pocket money.
Then he’d use his pocket money to buy more birds.
Growing up in town, Mr Smith said the neighbours didn’t seem to mind four roosters crowing in the backyard next door, but, sadly, kids these days wouldn’t have the same opportunities he had back then, due to various regulations limiting what you could and couldn’t do in your own backyard.
Although he doesn’t name them, he knows his birds by sight – and, despite what some people might think, no two chooks look the same.
“The only time I call any of mine by name is when they peck me,” Mr Smith said.
He can tell you which bird was the Royal winner a few years ago, or which one did well at the Tamworth Poultry Club Show.
“Some breeders put leg tags on them, but I just know what they are. They’re all easily identifiable,” he said.
There’s a lot of competition in the poultry industry, as well as a great camaraderie among competitors.
“All the top breeders have that will to win,” he said.
“Every year you try to breed something better than last year.”
Mr Smith has several breeds of fowls – a Sussex with two colours in them, a black langchan, light and buff Sussex bantams, and black and white pekins.
Their temperaments vary and they’re infinitely trainable – but if they’re “ratbags and hard to train”, you don’t persevere with them, he said.
“You train them to show themselves to their best advantage, to be handled, and not to be flighty,” he said.
Mr Smith has not only bred birds, he’s also judged at the highest level of competition through most states of Australia and served on the Royal Agricultural Society council.
He retired as group company secretary of Broadcast Amalgamated Limited in 1994 and enjoys retirement with wife Rhonda, who doesn’t exactly share his passion for poultry – but she does support him in his endeavours.
“We have a great life together. I couldn’t have done it without her,” Mr Smith said.
“We often joke about it and she says that the gate where the horses and chooks start is where her marriage finishes.”
Mr and Mrs Smith will have been married for 53 years next month, so he feels their union has stood the test of time – and poultry.
Mr Smith is an active member of the Tamworth Poultry Club, which has one major show each year – the first weekend in July. The club also runs the poultry section of the annual Tamworth P&A Show.
“We had a great show this year. With sponsorship from Steggles we were able to brighten up the pavilion and we had a lot of excellent trade exhibits,” he said.
In among all the activities,
club members showcased their love of birds with chook-
washing demonstrations, incubating chickens and allowing people to pet a chicken.
“Having the chickens hatching generated a lot of interest,” he said.
He said anyone with an interest in joining the poultry club in Tamworth could phone the president, Ron Brown, on 6765 6452.