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When face-to-face district-level Poultry Judging contests were cancelled in April 2020, 4-H programs across the state were in need of an avenue for 4-H’ers to showcase their knowledge and skill sets. Through collaborative efforts and assistance from the University of Georgia Poultry Science Department, a live virtual district-level contest was developed for both Northeast and Southeast region participants. The virtual event included all aspects of the Georgia 4-H Poultry Judging contest including oral reasons.


The COVID-19 pandemic halted all in-person youth development in-school and afterschool programs in March 2020. Most 4-H programs work with students for competitive events in afterschool programming and research shows that participation in afterschool programming is associated with better work habits, improved academic success and gains in self-efficacy (Auger, A., Pierce, K.M., and Vandell, D.L., 2013). During the pandemic quarantine it was vitally important for youth to have a way to stay connected with their 4-H programs and peers. 4-H programming is driven by the essential elements of belonging, independence, generosity and mastery. To continue to provide these essential elements to our youth during a global crisis, 4-H programming had to adapt its delivery method to continue to meet the needs of youth in a positive way. Amidst the pandemic quarantine, many county 4-H programs were preparing for district-level poultry judging contests, which were cancelled leaving county programs across the state without an option to compete at the district-level. This cancellation resulted in Cloverleaf and Junior 4-H’ers (grades 4-8) having no official contest planned for the year. With poultry judging being one of the largest competitive events in the state with 671 youth participants at the district-level in 2019, it was clear than an alternative option was needed for 2020.


4-H programs across the state adapted their poultry judging practice and preparation delivery methods to include the use of digital technologies such as Google Classroom and Zoom in an effort to remain connected with youth. In April 2020, conversations began about hosting an alternative district-level poultry judging contest. These conversations led to the formation of a cross-district effort to develop a contest for 4-H’ers in both the Northeast and Southeast districts of Georgia 4-H. Through collaborative efforts, Susannah Lanier and Carole Knight created a virtual poultry judging contest open to Northeast and Southeast district counties that included all aspects of the Georgia 4-H Poultry Judging contest to include the following: - Live Birds - Ready to Cook - Knowledge Test - Broken Out Eggs - Exterior Quality - Candling - Parts Identification - Oral Reasons The goal in planning was for the virtual event was to mimic an in-person event as much as possible thus being a live, timed event with all classes included. Competition organizers consulted with Heather Shultz, Georgia 4-H Livestock Program Specialist and Steve Walker, Georgia 4-H IT Associate Director to develop logistical and programmatic plans. Counties in Northeast and Southeast district were invited to register in advance of the June event. Lanier and Knight created classes using video and photo images to be shown via Zoom to participants during the contest time. The completed competition was critiqued by Dr. Casey Ritz of the University of Georgia Poultry Science Department in advance of the competition. With this being the first competition of its kind in the state, team coaches attended an Orientation meeting prior to the event to view the format and better understand procedures. Competition organizers also selected 4-H professionals from the two districts to serve as oral reasons judges.


On June 9, 2020, 47 youth from 10 counties competed in the first ever live virtual poultry judging contest through Georgia 4-H. Of that total, 24 participants were in grades 4-8 meaning this was their only opportunity to compete this year. Four 4-H professionals and volunteer coaches also participated in the event as oral reasons takers. At the conclusion of the virtual event, 13 participants completed a Qualtrics survey. These 4-H’ers reported the following: - 77% were either extremely or somewhat satisfied with the difficulty of the classes. - 77% were either extremely or somewhat satisfied with the virtual format of the contest. - 85% were either extremely or somewhat satisfied with the oral reasons format of the contest. Based on feedback from participants, the contest maintained its competitive integrity and gave 4-H’ers the opportunity to exhibit their skill sets in a competitive format. Skills that 4-H’ers identified developing through Poultry Judging not only include knowledge about chickens and eggs but also how to compare and contrast, analyze, critically think and communicate. The impact of this event is best seen from the perspective of youth that participated. One 4-H’er said “virtual options should continue to be provided for those that can’t go to the live contest” and another was very thankful “for giving Junior 4-H’ers an opportunity to compete.” Jakyn Tyson, Emanuel County 4-H Agent said, “I can’t thank you enough for taking on something as time and labor intensive as this competition seems to be. If you two hadn’t stepped up to be willing to do this, I know my 4-H’ers wouldn’t have been able to get this experience…I feel like this experience is priceless in helping to prepare them for the state contest in a few weeks. Thank you for the high quality videos, the fair classes, and your patience with the kids as they worked through it. I have 2 graduating seniors that have done this competition since 5th grade, and they were both very disappointed when they thought that poultry judging was just going to be cancelled. Thanks again for being a team player and making this opportunity available to others.” On June 10, 2020, a virtual awards ceremony was held to recognize those individuals that placed in the top 10 individually and top 3 as teams. During this ceremony, competition organizers also reviewed each class with participants and coaches. At the conclusion of the virtual contest and awards ceremony it was clear that the initial goal of providing a way for 4-H to continue to reach youth in a positive way during a global pandemic was achieved. 4-H’ers were able to experience belonging, independence, generosity and mastery. Due to the success of this contest in a live virtual format, organizers of the state-level Virtual Poultry Judging Contest adopted many of the best practices used to execute a similar event for Senior 4-H’ers (grades 9-12) across the state in July 2020.

State Issue

Youth & Family Development


  • Year: 2020
  • Geographic Scope: District/Department
  • County: Bulloch
  • Location: College Station, Athens
  • Program Areas:
    • 4-H Youth
    • Agriculture & Natural Resources


  • Lanier, Susannah Martin


CAES Collaborator(s)

  • Knight, Carole Hicks
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