The Dubbing Debate

People are usually ready to share their opinions, whether asked or not. Well, when the topic is the dubbing of game birds for exhibition, people have strong opinions!

What Is Dubbing?
Dubbing is the practice of cutting off the comb, wattle and earlobes of chickens.

An Old English Game Bantam that has not been dubbed

Currently, game roosters entered into exhibitions must be dubbed in order to compete, according to American Poultry Association standards. Those breeds include:

  • Old English Game
  • Modern Game
  • American Game

When a roster is dubbed, the wattle, the earlobes and the comb are removed using sharp scissors. It is best if two people handle the task. The bird is wrapped in a towel or other cloth so that only it’s head is visible. Then one person holds it while the other cuts. The scissors are sterilized with alcohol and some kind of blood stop should be on hand – just in case.

First, the wattle is cut from front to back, then the earlobes, and finally the comb from back to front. It is important to remember that, once the skin is cut away, it cannot be put back. Most experts recommend cutting less instead of more.

Why Dub Chickens?
Dubbing of game birds has a long history and there are a couple of reasons it is done today. One of those reasons is simply

An Old English Game Rooster that has been dubbed

tradition. As the name “game” implies, these are chicken breeds that were traditionally bred for fighting purposes. During a fight, the wattles, combs and earlobes were almost like handles for the opposing rooster to grab hold of, and terrible wounds could result if they were torn off. As chicken fighting is now illegal in 48 states, no one needs to worry about that anymore.

However, the look of a dubbed roster is still appealing to many. While the birds are not actually fighting, lots of people like them to look like they could win in a fight. It makes sense that if, all of your life, you’ve seen game birds dubbed you would think that’s the way they should look. This is the reason I believe the APA Standard of Perfection calls for dubbing.

The second reason people maintain that dubbing is good for game birds is more reasonable. If a bird lives in a cold climate and is not dubbed, frostbite can cause serious problems. However, there is fault in the logic of dubbing only game birds in cold climates because other birds with similar wattles, combs and earlobes can suffer frostbite as well. No one suggests that other breeds should be dubbed.

A Simple Solution
Reading through forum threads, chatting with poultry fanciers, or reading blogs reveals that people are divided over the question of dubbing. Some people believe that it is a sign of good animal husbandry and that a flock will be healthier for it. Others think it is unnecessary at best and, at worst, cruel. Regardless, of the plethora of opinion, the fact remains that the APA and ABA requires dubbing of game breeds for competition.

There is a simple way to solve the whole debate: don’t make dubbing a requirement, but also don’t penalize birds that have been dubbed. Dubbing just should not be a factor in the judgement of game birds. My guess is that, eventually, dubbing would fade away and eventually disappear.

Do you raise Old English Game Bantams, Modern Game Bantams or American Game Bantams? Do you dub your birds? How do you feel about dubbing?

11 responses to “The Dubbing Debate”

  1. klrrider - Learn Affiliate Marketing says:

    I raised Old English Game for years in N. Calif. I usually dubbed them but the ones I didn’t, I thought, always looked better. The demand for the dubbed ones was higher, sold tons of them in Gilroy to DeCarlo’s Feather Haven.

  2. mark says:

    NO to dubbing,I hatched and raised Old English Game and they are sweet little things,why hurt them, NO DUBBING

  3. B says:

    NO to dubbing! If they were born with it it was there for a reason. If they are subject to freezing, KEEP THEM WARMER! Would YOU cut off your fingers because of frostbite, no, you’d wear gloves.

  4. Bill Hill says:

    There is no need for dubbing in this day and age.

  5. Kalvin Moore says:

    Dubbing is essentail for cleaning up the bird. It also helps with winter stress ( frost bite is horrible and lasts longer) . The dubbed chickens do do much better in the winter. The process of dubbing might seem a little cruel ,but in the long run beneifts the bird tremendously. Healthy chickens recover from dubbing within days. With no worse for ware.

  6. Sarah says:

    I agree with the article. We raise moderns in California and I LOVE LOVE LOVE my cocks to have combs and waddles. It is my preference and I think I should be allowed to show my cocks intact. If others want to dub, go for it. I think you should be allowed. Im in America…. we should be free to show what we like!

  7. Geoff says:

    We don’t dub, don’t like the concept. Have had many heavily combed birds in cold winters that did fine. It’s understood that some people may like it, but feel standards should be changed to either choice being accepted when entered in a show.

  8. Ellie Williams says:

    I feel like it’s the equivalent of removing a human mans junk. You’re taking your roosters manlihood. I never dub and never condone it, my roosters are in beautiful condition and dubbing makes a bird look so weird. Their combs and wattles are so big and beautiful… what if you had to have your ears cut off by some lunatic with scissors? And as for frostbite, I live in a state that gets below freezing for most of winter, and usually reaches 10° at points. Never had a problem with frostbite, as I keep my coop warm. There is no logical reason to require it for show whatsoever and really should be taken off the standard

  9. Shannon Mock says:

    Thanks so much for your honest and respectful comment! We appreciate you participating in our articles! I look forward to seeing additinoal respectful debate on this subject.

  10. Melissa Davis-Cate says:

    My daughter started showing Old English Game Bantams last year. We love them and they are beautiful birds. This year we are raising babies for the first time. They have to be dubbed for show, I know how to do it, I’m just not sure of the age or how long it takes to heal? I personally like the look of dubbing. I had a turkey hen rip a comb off of a game rooster once, I thought he was going to bleed to death before we was able to catch him. In all honesty I don’t feel dubbing is any different than cropping a dogs ears, docking a tail or cutting off a dew claw.

  11. jim SHonts says:

    If your going to dub a stag why in the world would you leave a quarter of an inch on the comb !! whoever came up with the concept of following a white line in the comb makes no sense ,if your going to dub then take it as close to the skull to end up with a clean appearance as with wattles and ear lobes, or leave them on im sure there there for a reason. one to attract a hen, they were put there for a reason….. i have both on my farm and yes you do have to watch and maintain different approach in the winter but thats part of having BIRDS if you don’t want to take care of them properly then get out of being a CARETAKER.

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