The bird whisperer: Turkey handlers win big at poultry show |

The bird whisperer: Turkey handlers win big at poultry show

Kali Walton keeps her turkey calm during the intermediate showmanship poultry show at the Routt County Fair on Wednesday morning. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

HAYDEN — Kali Walton spoke softly to her turkey Wednesday morning. As judge Randy Anderson made his way down the long line of competitors during the intermediate showmanship poultry show, Walton kept her bird calm with gentle pets and positive words.

“My family calls me a chicken whisperer,” Walton said. “I feel really comfortable with birds. I feel like they’re super controllable, and you don’t have to say much to keep them calm. As long as you’re calm, they’re calm.”

She pets his breast and assures him he was being good, almost like he were a dog or cat.

Walton, 13, was so good at keeping control of her bird and maneuvering him and talking about him, she was named grand champion in the intermediate showmanship class at the Routt County Fair.

Walton’s bird was a 30-pound, broad-breasted bronze, about six times heavier than the chickens she was competing against. Last year, Walton was named reserve champion in her first year working with turkeys.

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Trevor Hagenbuch, 13, had the best chicken showmanship skills, earning reserve champion at the intermediate level. When the contestants switched birds to show their handling abilities, Hagenbuch volunteered to handle the turkey, a bird he is somewhat familiar with from helping a neighbor. Despite being swatted in the face with its powerful wing, Hagenbuch managed to keep the turkey in one spot and change which direction it faced with little issue.

In the junior category, Jett Schalnus, 10, also had a turkey. He managed the bird well and was named reserve champion. This was only his second year working with turkeys, and he handled the bird with confidence. Sharing his knowledge of the bird and its breed helped him do well in the large junior class.

Judge Randy Anderson examines Jett Schalnus' turkey at the poultry show at the Routt County Fair on Wednesday morning. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

Amelia Hagenbuch, 10, was crowned grand champion in the junior class, obviously doing something remarkable to beat out a turkey.

“I have to admit, I was a little nervous,” Amelia said. “There were a lot of kids, and they looked to be all pretty good chickens. I was wondering if my chicken would get that good of a prize.”

Amelia’s chicken was ready to go long before her competition. Amelia sat with the chicken on the bleachers throughout the senior and intermediate showmanship competitions, hardly having to touch the bird. The dark brown chicken remained by Amelia’s side like a loyal puppy, accepting pets and kind words from Amelia and interested spectators.

“She didn’t crack under the pressure,” Trevor said of his sister. “She stayed calm.”

“I didn’t say, ‘I think’ or ‘I believe,’ Amelia said.

When the judge lined everyone up at the end of the display, he put Amelia on the far end, where the last-place finisher in the intermediate class stood. So, when he pointed to Amelia as first place, she was pleasantly surprised. As was her older brother.

“I’m very proud,” Trevor said. “I’m mostly proud of her because I had no idea she would do this well.”

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