To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the APA, a new, 45th Edition of The American Standard of Perfection was released at the 2023 Ohio National.

Standard of perfection

By Matt Reese

The crowing, cawing sea of poultry at the Ohio National is truly something to behold, especially at the 2023 event commemorating 150 years of the American Poultry Association (APA). More than 900 exhibitors from around the United States and Canada brought almost 11,000 birds representing every shape, size and color of poultry and waterfowl to the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus the second weekend in November. The constant roar of the widely divergent bird calls packed wall-to-wall in the Voinovich Livestock & Trade Center made it difficult to have a conversation without shouting.

All the hubbub is built around one book: The American Standard of Perfection.

“All of the standards for all of the breeds are covered in a book that is called The American Standard of Perfection to give an example of what you are trying to accomplish with your breeding. Each breed and each variety, or the color, is represented in that book, which has all the specific parameters on each bird — the size, the height, the comb, the right curve, the correct number of points. Then at the show, it’s just like any other poultry or livestock competition, you’re there to get somebody’s opinion, but that opinion is an interpretation from that book,” said Jeff Wolfe, a director for the Ohio Poultry Breeders Association that coordinates the Ohio National. “There’s a procedure to become a judge. You clerk for a judge for so many hours as part of the learning process through the American Bantam Association and the APA. Once you have your hours in with the judges, you can take your written test and then there’s a practical where you set birds and go through and place them with a judge and see if they agree with you in in your placing. It’s about a 2-year process.”

According to the APA, the first compilation of standards of all poultry breeds was done by the London Poultry Club in the mid-1860s and the first American version was in 1867. After this, there was some discord over the status and specifics of several breeds, including Plymouth Rocks, Dominiques and Brown Leghorns. These disagreements were debated, revised and (mostly) resolved with the first American Poultry Association Standard of Excellence in 1874. A revised version came out the following year with the first distinctly American poultry breed standards, according to the APA.

The name, and some of the instruction for judges, was changed in 1888 to The American Standard of Perfection. After this, a series of editions come out with various updates to the breeds, the addition of illustrations and considerations of the economic advantages of different breeds. There were few changes from 1953 until the first color edition was released in 1983.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the APA, a new, 45th Edition of The American Standard of Perfection was released at the 2023 Ohio National, which includes specifications for around 60 breeds of poultry and waterfowl.

“A new Standard comes out every few years. The APA is bringing out a brand new one as part of the 150th anniversary celebration with some updates from the older one,” Wolfe said. “When they do the updates, they consult many judges and there’s a breed club for every breed of bird so they’ll ask the breed clubs for input too. Then there’s a committee that will compile the changes and then they go back to the judges and the breed clubs to see how they feel about the changes. It is quite a process.”

With this Standard in mind, exhibitors bring their best birds — often in custom trailers — to the Ohio National where judges evaluate them.

“When my son started showing he had a gentleman who had been breeding birds for 25 years tell him, ‘You want to take three birds for your class. You want to take one that you like, you’re going to need to take one that you think the judge might like — you need to know that judge and how he picks — and then you need to take a third one to try to match that book as close as you think it needs to be.’ That’s how you learn. You watch that judge as he looks at those three birds and see if he matches them up the way you thought he would. If not, then you know you need to change something,” Wolfe said.

And, when inevitable changes are needed, poultry breeders from coast to coast all know exactly where they need to look.

The 45th Edition of The American Standard of Perfection is available for purchase at:

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