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Barton Countyl 4-Her attends National Poultry and Egg Conference
new vlc schneider poultry judging
Heather Schneider overseas a poultry judging workshop with junior members of her 4-H Poultry Judging team. She attended the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference Wednesday and Thursday, having placed first in the state in Poultry Judging. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Heather Schneider, Great Bend, has been working with poultry through Barton County Extension’s 4-H since she joined 10 years ago. She remembers her dad always had birds around, including ducks, turkeys and chickens. She learned early that she didn’t enjoy turkeys because turkeys “don’t like people,” and one year an unknown intruder managed to kill all the ducks. Now, the family raises chickens, along with other livestock.
Starting with 20 chicks, Schneider started her first poultry project. Her long years of learning the ins and outs of judging paid off this year, when she placed first in the senior division of the State Poultry Judging Contest. It earned her a ticket to Kentucky for the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference that took place in Louisville last week.
What made this year’s contest unusual was the fact that live birds and eggs were not allowed at either county fairs or the state fair. Entries had to be made using only photographs. That meant one of the competitions she excels in – candling – was out.
By shining light on the egg, she can see how large the air pocket inside the shell is, and thus the quality, and thus the grade of the egg. She can even tell if there is blood in the egg, a sign of malnutrition.
She’s also an expert at judging carcasses, and can judge the quality of eggs a chicken will lay simply by looking at it.
“Basically, if the beaks, legs and feet are a brighter yellow, the nutrients the chicken is taking in are going to them, and the paler they are, the more the nutrients are going to the eggs,” she explained.
Heather has had the opportunity to try several varieties of chickens over the years, and declares Bar Plymouth Rocks her favorite variety. She raises them for egg production, and likes to give the eggs to family and friends.
While her future plans include going to Kansas University to study nursing, she said 4-H will continue to be part of her life later.
“Heather was our lead poultry judging coach this year,” Barton County 4-H Director Berny Unruh said. “She planned and organized a training for the junior poultry judging team. These younger members learned a great deal from Heather about the poultry judging contest, but more importantly she gave them the confidence to step up and try something brand new.”
Being part of 4-H has really enhanced her life, Heather shared.
“When I first joined, I was really quiet and shy, and 4-H helped me learn a lot about life,” she said.
Two of her best friends, Kayleigh Bitter and Betsy Snell, she met in 4-H. According to Unruh, all three girls have supported and challenged one another to try new things and embrace new goals.
“We’re good friends,” Heather said. “We do a lot together and enjoy each other’s company. Betsy and I are going to room together at KU.”
Heading to Louisville, she was looking forward not only to the competition, but also to spending time with her dad attending the exhibits and the barbecue contest, and touring the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum. She was also excited about meeting other participants from around the country.
Heather’s other 4-H projects include showing cows and swine. She is a senior at Great Bend High School, a varsity cheerleader and a member of Kayettes.