Romans family excels in Poultry at 4-H Fair


There’s one thing for certain. The Romans family knows poultry, and knows poultry well.

They prove that every year at the Switzerland County 4-H Fair. Since the year 2000, the Romans family has had either the grand champion or grand champion reserve poultry in the meat category for every year except one, and 11 of those years they’ve had the grand champion.

This year, the tradition continued as Andrew Romans won both the Grand Champion Poultry and Grand Champion Poultry Reserve awards.

But it’s not so much that they keep track of which Romans received the honor. They can’t really remember for sure. They just enjoy hanging the plaques on the wall of their house. “Right now we have a whole room with plaques, and now up the steps to the hallway,” said Nathan Romans. “We’d like to keep it going until we’re going from the basement to the third floor.”

The plaques aren’t all for poultry. They also compete in other 4-H events including the shooting events. And it actually wasn’t poultry that the Romans family got its first taste of competing at the 4-H Fair.

Rhashell Romans competed in swine and rabbits in third grade, her first year to compete animals in 4-H. But she got them started with Grand Champions in Poultry with the first one in 2000.

Now, that’s been followed up with Rebecca Romans, Nathan Romans, Hannah Romans and Andrew Romans all coming away with Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champions in Poultry.

No doubt, poultry has been a big part of the lives of all five of these Romans, children of Billy and Nancy Romans of near Vevay.

“We’ve had chickens all my life,” said Rhashell Romans.

Taking care of chickens is a lot of work but they enjoy it. “I like to be outside working with the animals,” said Nathan Romans.

The Romans family has Cornish Rock Cross chickens, a hybrid variety of chicken produced from a cross of a male of a naturally double-breasted Cornish strain and a female of a tall, large-boned strain of White Rock hen. These chickens tend to not want to move, but it’s important to keep them moving so that they mature properly. “We have to keep them moving every day,” said Hannah Romans, but they have to be careful because they are fragile, and can easily die from a heart attack if they get shook up. “They die easily,” she said, noting the heat is also an issue for the chickens. “We keep the fans on them,” she said.

Most Cornish Rock Cross chickens are mass produced with hormones, but the Romans farm is smaller so they raise their chickens without hormones which Rebecca Romans noted is healthier and tastes better. “There’s more flavor and it’s a whole lot more tender,” she said.

For the Romans family to succeed at the county fair, they said the judges look for their chickens to have “plenty of meat to go around the bones,” said Hannah Romans, but they also judge on cleanliness and whether the chicken has sores. They admit that cleaning chickens can be a messy job. “They’ll flap and get you all wet and dirty.”

Besides the meat category of poultry, they’ve also received awards for layers, hens, production and roosters. Layers are judged by how they lay eggs; they must be productive so that they’ll lay an egg every day, and that’s something the judge can easily spot through characteristics of the egg on the day of judging. Hens are judged by pairs by how closely they share the exact characteristics. Likewise, production involves two chickens being judged on how closely they share the same characteristics. Roosters are judged on whether they can breed with the right characteristics.

Still, the Romans family competes with more birds besides chickens. They’ve also competed with other fowl including turkeys, ducks, quail and guinea.

Rebecca and Nathan Romans were both 10-year 4-H members while Hannah is in her eighth year and Andrew is in his third year.

The Romans family’s Grand Champion Poultry in Meat have been in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. They have had Reserve Grand Champion in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.