For the birds: Topsfield Fair extends new poultry deadline | News

On Friday, Ted Costa was on his way to the Topsfield fairgrounds to lay some eggs.

Costa, who, when he is not “playing mother hen,” serves as Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr’s community outreach aid, is reaching out now to the local poultry raising community with the news that the Essex Agricultural Society has extended its deadline application for Topsfield Fair poultry exhibitors until Sept. 28.

Actually, said Costa, thanks to lingering pandemic uncertainties, “no one was even sure if there was even going to be a fair this year, so things got going much later than usual and with the shorter window, there’ve been smaller numbers.”

Those numbers are growing, he said, “as information to old and new exhibitors is slowly getting out there.”

Local poultry raisers — whose hundreds of fine feathered turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, waterfowl, pheasant and quail are popular attractions each year at the fair — have until Sept. 28 to get their exhibition birds blood tested, banded and entered for the Oct. 1 opening of this year’s Topsfield fair poultry competition and all the prizes, pride and trophies that come along with it.

For more information, rules and regulations, poultry raisers should visit www.topsfieldfair.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Poultry-Exhibition-Handbook-Entry-Form.pdf.

As for why Costa should be laying eggs? Well, poultry raising is a family endeavor in the Costa household, and for Ted Costa, who along with his daughter Jenna had over the decades helped his daughter Sophia win armloads of awards for her fine feathered birds, the poultry barn’s biggest draw — the baby chick hatchery — continues to draw him as a volunteer.

After a year off the job due to last year’s pandemic cancellation, he’s back to his familiar daily labor of love: Playing mother hen.

More than a thousand baby chicks are hatched every year in the fair’s poultry barn, Costa explained, and because eggs take 21 days to hatch, all of them have to be laid in carefully timed daily batches in the barn’s incubator. It’s a job that must be done every day leading up to the fair to ensure daily hatchings as the fair progresses — a job, he said, that more than pays off watching children watching wide-eyed while baby chicks peck their way out of their shells and into new life.

“For the little kids,” said Costa, “it’s the big event.”

Newborn baby chicks aside, all birds except waterfowl must get free blood tests, a long standing bio-security requirement of the State Poultry Inspectors. The procedure, said Costa, is non-invasive and carried out in exhibitors’ homes by state poultry inspector Megan McGrath. Test turnaround takes four days, he said, and blood test results must be turned in with applications.

“Today, as we speak,” noted Costa, “we are up to 250 exhibitor birds, and as more word gets everything out, we’ll do we can help late comers.

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