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Some contend that judging is an art rather than a science. Many scoring systems, the majority very elaborate, have been devised to standardise judges’ responses but, in the end, their evaluation on these individual points is still subjective. Their views are coloured by their own interpretation of the breed Standard and their experience. Experience, together with a good eye for stock and integrity are the requirements of a judge. Experience can be gained over the years by breeding and by discussing the Standard with other fanciers, for example.
So how does a Show Society select a judge? How do you start judging? In Great Britain, the Poultry Club produces a list of qualified judges in the Yearbook - the Judges? Panels. Local show committees can select whom they would like to judge their shows but, if they wish the show to be recognised by the Poultry Club and so offer Club Specials, a majority of the judges must be from the official list. Not only does this help to ensure high standards of competency, it also provides an assurance that the stock on display will be judged expertly, with the utmost attention given to careful handling of the birds on display.
The list is divided into four categories - Panel A, Panel B, Panel C, and Panel D. Judges work their way up from Panel D to Panel A over a number of years. From a first ‘unofficial’ judging appointment to Panel A could be achieved in eight years but, in practice, it is usually ten to fifteen years before the top panel is reached. Judges usually start their judging careers by judging the breeds they keep at a local show. In Britain, Breed Clubs exist to promote their breed and they stage classes at several Area shows as well as staging a main Club Show, usually held at the Poultry Club’s National Show in December. Once a judge has been elected by a Breed Club to officiate at their main Club Show, they can be listed on Panel D with the name of the breed or breeds they have qualified to judge.
To gain promotion to Panel C an examination has to be taken. This is set and organised by a sub-committee of the Poultry Club Council. The examination tests both theory and practical knowledge and can be taken at one of three show venues: The National Championship Show, The Scottish National, or Stafford Federation. The exams test one group of poultry only. Four such exams need to be passed to gain automatic entry to Panel B from Panel C, and only one test may be taken each year. Seven exams passed, together with considerable experience of judging at major shows, and approval from Council, qualify for Panel A.
Panel A: Judges must hold all seven qualifications and have gained experience judging major shows as approved by the Poultry Club of Great Britain.
Panel B: Judges must hold at least four group qualifications.
Panel C: Specialist section judges as approved by the Poultry Club Council. Judges in
Panel C holding at least four certificates may be automatically upgraded to Panel B on request.
Panel D: Single breed judges who have taken a test marked with * or members who have judged, or have been selected, and agreed to judge a Breed Club Show are eligible for inclusion on Panel D for that breed. The relevant breeds are printed in italics.
These are available for: Asian Hard Feather, Rare Breeds' minority list, Geese, Heavy Ducks, Light Ducks, Bantam and Call Ducks.
A. Hard Feather
B. Soft Feather
C. Soft Feather Light
D. True Bantam
F. Rare Breeds
- N.B. Waterfowl members who have passed one of the group judging tests set by the BWA (Geese, Heavy Ducks, Light Ducks, Bantam Ducks, Call Ducks, Indian Runners) qualify for Panel D. When all these are passed they are upgraded to Panel C.
- N.B. if no address is given on the Judges' Panel, this indicates the judge is not available at present for judging appointments.
The written part of the examination lasts for 30 minutes and consists of questions based upon the British Poultry Standards book and the Poultry Club Show Rules. Some questions just require factual recall, others demand judgements to be made on given facts. All only require a tick or cross response.
The practical assessment is carried out by one of the thirty senior judges appointed by The Poultry Club. They have about an hour to observe the trainee judge who should judge at least three classes of birds as well as discussing the merits of other birds on show. At the end of this, the examiner rings the appropriate marks on the judging test sheet. He will be assessing under four headings: competence, speed, handling, and theoretical knowledge.
Both parts of the exam are marked out of 50 and an overall total of 70% is required to pass. This is confirmed at a Poultry Club Council meeting and a laminated judge's card is issued. To gain entry to Panel A, all seven certificates must be held and experience gained by judging at major Poultry Club shows. A letter of application detailing such experience has to be presented to the Poultry Club Council, who decide by majority vote whether Panel A status should be granted.
To apply to take a judging test, simply contact the Poultry Club Secretary, and ask for a judging test application form. Complete the form and return it, together with the £12.00 administration fee. There are two important things to remember: (1) only one test may be taken each year; (2) the closing date for applications is the end of October. Perhaps the golden rule in applying for a test is to time it right. Don’t apply until you feel confident, but don’t leave it so long that you are so well-known and so experienced that you will embarrass the examiners!