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Top Of The Pecking Order: Local Teen Raises Chickens For Show

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -

The New York State Fair is a chance for farmers from all over the state to show off their livestock. Johnson City high school student Juney Palmer, is taking the opportunity to put his prized birds in the spotlight.

"Ya, he was probably about that big," Palmer holds up his thumb and forefinger to illustrate the size of a chick.

Only a few inches tall when Palmer picked him up at Tractor Supply, now Zeb the rooster sits full grown in a pen at the New York State Fair. Zeb is a Black Laced Sebright, with speckled feathers and a red crown.

"They're used for how their appearance is," says Palmer, "Not really for their eggs or meat."

Zeb is a show bird. One of five Palmer has raised at his Binghamton home. Palmer's other four chickens are hens. Raising chickens for two years now, the 15-year-old is known as "the bird guy" in Broome County 4-H.

"In the mornings, I go out feed them, get them water," says Palmer, "And then I work with them, to show them."

Getting these birds ready to take home a blue ribbon takes a little training. 

"I handle them a lot, so they get used to being picked up and put down," says Palmer. 

Zeb still needs a little practice... When Palmer reaches into his cage, the rooster flaps and squawks, trying to avoid being picked up. But, he's young yet, only 5 months old, and this is only his second fair. Eventually Zeb will have to hold still long enough for judges to check him over for any bent or broken feathers.

"You have to do different poses with them and stuff," says Palmer.

So, how on earth do you get a chicken to pose? You can't bribe them with food like you would a dog.

"You just kinda push them into the position that you want," laughs Palmer, "Most of the time they stay there."

Two of Palmer's hens are veterans of the sport, earning blue and red ribbons in showmanship over the weekend.