History of the American Poultry Association

There are almost as many reasons to raise poultry as there are breeds of chickens. You might want eggs or meat, you might want pets, entertainment, or to teach your children about responsibility and where some of their food comes from, or you might want to raise poultry to show. If you are new to the poultry fancy, you might wonder if there are associations or clubs that you can turn to for education and information.

Most people are familiar with the American Kennel Club and their dog shows, but not as many people are aware of the American Poultry Association and the fact that there are poultry exhibitions in which poultry are judged according to a Standard of Perfection.  In fact the APA actually pre-dates the AKC by a few years. The APA began in 1873, and the AKC in 1884.

Raising poultry has been part of the culture in this country since before the first settlers arrived. Turkeys were raised domestically by the natives. Unlike now, most families historically raised their own poultry for eggs, meat and even feathers. Those who had outstanding, flourishing flocks were understandably proud of them. Until recently, there were not large, commercial operations to supply grocery stores and restaurants as there are today.  However, there were poultry breeders who sold chicks for people expanding or replacing their birds.

The APA began as an association for those breeders. Showing their birds and winning competitions helped the breeders because they could tell their customers “This bird is directly descended from the bird that won the XYZ prize at the 19XX American Poultry Association Show.”  The shows and competitions were so popular that, in the beginning, more birds than could be judged were brought in. The first couple of competitions didn’t work out because there were too many birds, not enough judges, and no standard by which the birds could be judged.

The APA eventually did compile standards, along with processes for people to enter their birds and for people to become licensed judges. They began publishing the Standard of Perfection in 1874, and it continues to be an essential resource for people who raise poultry for show.

The membership of the APA changed over time as well. As commercial operations grew, there began to be some tension between the hobbyists, or those involved in the poultry fancy, and the larger, commercial producers. The commercial producers needed an organization that would represent their business interests, while the hobbyists needed an organization that would fit their needs.

As American culture changed, the commercial poultry operations became more about egg and meat production rather than about selling chicks. The exhibitions were less important to them, and as the science of genetics advanced, the shows were even less important. The commercial producers were much more interested in how many eggs and how much meat could be produced than about the colors, form and behavior of the birds.

The APA became an organization for the hobbyists. They continue to certify judges and publish breed standards and sanction poultry shows all over the country. If you want to raise chickens to show, you should learn more about the APA and become a member.