National 4-H Poultry Judging Contest

Poultry judging can be fun, educational, and rewarding. And you can do it! Give it a try. 

A poultry judging contest is divided into three divisions: production, market eggs, and market poultry. Here’s how judging works:

Production Division. Judges evaluate one or more classes of four white leghorn hens and place them in order from the hen that laid the most to the hen that laid the least. In the national contest there are three classes of hens, and oral reasons are given on two of them.

The hens are evaluated for the level of pigmentation in the skin, the amount of fat in the abdomen, and their abdominal capacity. All these criteria are used to decide which hen has laid the most eggs in the past and which hen is laying the most eggs right now. This is a useful tool when thinning out an egg-laying flock to remove any hens that haven’t been or aren’t laying eggs right now.

Market Egg Division. Judges grade table eggs for exterior and interior quality. The interior quality classes include both candling and broken-out eggs. The grading is done according to the standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

All the eggs you buy in the grocery store should have been inspected for any blood or meat spots, graded for interior and exterior quality, and sized. Each carton typically includes the USDA seal indicating the eggs’ grade (AA or A) and size (medium, large, or extra large). These standards are set to make sure the customer gets a high-quality egg with minimal damage to the shell while it is being transported from the hen house to your house.

Market Poultry Division. Judges grade ready-to-cook poultry carcasses and identify the parts of a cut up chicken. In the national contest they grade two classes of fryers, one class of heavy fowl, and one class of turkeys. They also identify one class of chicken parts.

Carcasses are judged according to the standards set up by the USDA. The grades pertain primarily to the sale of whole chickens and turkeys that consumers will either cut up for cooking or roast whole. The standards relate to the presence of exposed meat, and broken and disjointed bones, as well as whether there are missing parts. A Grade A chicken or turkey carcass must have minimal skin missing, exposing flesh (that is the meat). It must have no broken bones. And it can only be missing the tail and wing tips, which most people don’t eat anyway.


Poultry judging is a great way to make new friends and gain an important skill. And did we mention it’s rewarding? Top performers win awards.

Get started today! The National Poultry Judging manual can be purchased at

Have an ordering question? Contact:
Michael Riese
Extension Marketplace Coordinator
University of Nebraska – Extension
211 Ag Hall, P.O. Box 830703
Lincoln, NE 68583-0703
PH: (402) 472-9053
FX: (402) 472-5557


Webinar: Coaching a poultry judging team

National 4-H poultry and egg conference


Dr. Jacquie Jacob
University of Kentucky