Far from the cry of the poultry industry, there's a group of people in Ireland, thousands in fact, who love and breed all different types of chickens for all different types of reasons. They're all over the country, both rural and urban, from all walks of life. They all share one common theme though - they love their chickens.

On Saturday, February 18th 2012, many of them travelled to Gurteen Agricultural College in Co. Tipperary to compete in this years Irish Society of Poultry Fanciers National Show. This is one of the highlights in the Irish chicken calendar. People travelled from all over, both North and South - Why? In the hope of winning best in their class, for their particular breed of chicken. They don't just turn up on the day in the hope of winning - oh no. Months and years of preparatory work take place to ensure their show chickens are in peak form and conform to all the breed standards.

Apart from the obvious wash and blow dry that each show chicken gets before competing, there's years of breeding goes into these birds. Choosing the right hen and the right cock to breed from to get the best possible results for that particular breed is where the real skill comes in. You may even import some breeding stock from the UK and mainland Europe!

Jenny and Willie O'Meara from Fethard, Co. Tipperary were competing at this years National - as they do every year. Their chosen breed are Cochins - a big fluffy bird, feathered from head to toe (literally) that originally came from China.

Jenny and Willie have about 60 Cochins and breed for show from the best of these. And so 'The Secret Chicken Society' tracks Willie and Jenny as they prepare for and compete at the National Show - and through their next generation of show chickens - as everything is always about the next generation and improving on the last.

In the case of Cochins, big is good - in fact very big is good. So you're looking for heavy but not fat birds, straight toes, big fluffy bottoms, lovely straight red combs, long red wattles, and certain coloured beaks depending on the colour of the plumage. Jenny and Willie have most of the Cochin colourings - Buff (gold), Blue, Black, White, Splash, Partridge, Cuckoo and some rare Silver Laced Cochins. Within each of these chickens lies a 'dream' - to become a National Champion in their class - both cocks and hens.

All the while this is happening, their next generation of eggs are incubating away, either under a hen or in an incubator - in the hope that these new chicks will be the best yet - National Champions.

'The Secret Chicken Society' glimpses inside the Irish chicken lovers world - the up's and down's, in's and out's - and along the way tells a humorous and lively story of people who love their chickens - just because they're chickens.

Narrated and produced by Liam O'Brien

To visit the Irish Poultry Fanciers Website, click here

For further information on all things Cochin, visit the Cochin Club and/or the Coach House Cochins

You can contact Jenny and Willie by email here or visit their Facebook page

To check out upcoming poultry fairs, show dates and see what chickens are for sale all over the country, click here

Special thanks goes to Jim Power who first introduced Liam to the world of chickens - and who is now responsible for insuring Liam's own All-Ireland winning show chickens (2013 and 2014)

And to Keith O'Donoghue for giving Liam his love of chickens.

First broadcast RTÉ Radio 1, May 12th 2012

Repeated RTÉ Radio 1, May 09th 2020

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