On the early morning of April 29, the Dong Nai Province Museum precinct saw plenty of vehicles, whose owners were from the Mekong Delta, southeastern provinces, and Ho Chi Minh City, coming and going.
They came and brought chickens hidden in bags to attend the contest, hosted by the Ornamental Chicken Association in District 6 of Ho Chi Minh City.
Before the contest’s opening, the names of the candidates and their owners were kept secret. They used codes to register for the contest and the organization board gave each an order number.
“It aims to ensure fairness and encourage people to participate. If the chickens are not kept secret, some people might find that their chickens are less beautiful than others and withdraw from the contest,” said Pham Ngoc Hung, head of the contest organization board.
When the contest began, the chicken owners opened their bags, showing colorful chickens with long and smooth hair.
The chickens walked around in cages, flapping and napping or cackling. Some threw out their chests and turned their tails to perform.
Of the 55 candidates, the jury chose 20 chickens for the primary round, and the ten most beautiful ones for the final round. The jury members marked each chicken for appearance and feathers as well as color and crest, beak and eyes.
According to Hung, the first requirement of the contest is that candidates must be of the Vietnamese Tre chicken variety without cross-breeding or cosmetic surgery. In the final round the chickens were carefully examined to make sure that they were naturally beautiful.
The jury members were experienced and knowledgeable chicken breeders. They were invited from different provinces that did not have chickens attending the competition to ensure fairness.
At 3 p.m. the same day, they agreed on a result and announced the contest winner after many nervous arguments.
The first prize went to a chicken from Ho Chi Minh City. The Mekong Delta provinces of Long An and An Giang won the second and third prizes, respectively. There were also two consolation prizes given.
Rural pleasure in urban area
On an afternoon in May, Tuoi Tre reporters came to the ornamental chicken coop of Thanh Nhan in District 7 of HCMC. The 50 square meter area is built in his yard, with a lean-to above and a drainage ditch below.
Inside the coop are separate sections supplied with feed and water. The floor is covered with rice husks to keep the area clean, warm and hygienic for the chickens, Nhan said. He has even planted banana trees to create shade.
Appropriate cross-breeding is the most important thing to have beautiful chickens. Nhan has to travel to the mountainous southwestern area bordering Cambodia for good chickens.
Most chicken breeders in HCMC don’t have a spacious area for the chickens like Nhan’s. They usually utilize corners or narrow terraces
It takes a lot of time and effort to take care of chickens. Breeders have to feed them, clean coops, vaccinate them against diseases, and spay chemical to prevent bird flu. “Breeding chickens is a passion. It creates amusement and recalls childhood memories in the countryside,” said Quach Nguyen, chairman of the Ornamental Chicken Club in District 6.
It is so pleasing to see the lovely and plump chickens grow up day after day. A lot of Saigon’s citizens originate from the countryside, thus the cock-crow is a rural pleasure in the city, he says.
In the Mekong Delta, most people have spacious gardens to breed ornamental chickens. Most provinces have ornamental chicken clubs. Breeders usually bring their chickens to meet every weekend to look at and comment on the chickens while exchanging breeding experiences.
Every year, the provinces host their chicken beauty contests to vote for the most beautiful ones. After each competition, the prize winners are usually hunted down by rich men who are willing to pay up to one hundred million dong (US$4,800) for a chicken.
Cocks at the chicken contest in Dong Nai
A jury member is observing a colorful cock during the contest