Margaret Day washes one of her Indian Runner Ducks, Doris, ahead of the Royal Canberra National Poultry Show. 


rt120607Ducks-3471.jpg

Margaret Day washes one of her Indian Runner Ducks, Doris, ahead of the Royal Canberra National Poultry Show. rt120607Ducks-3471.jpg Photo: Rohan Thomson

Washing Doris on her sunny front lawn yesterday morning, Margaret Day begged her champion Indian runner duck not to eat the grass.

''If she eats the grass and does a poo it'll be green and stain her feathers.''

Doris will strut her radiant stuff at the record-breaking Royal Canberra National Poultry Show this weekend where more than 5250 chooks, guinea fowl, turkeys, geese and bantams will pack into the poultry pavilion at Exhibition Park.

Organisers bill the event as the biggest in the southern hemisphere. Numbers are so high they've knocked back more than 1000 entries from around Australia.

A drop of ''Bluo'', which brightens whites and colours, a splash of dog shampoo in the lukewarm bath and moisturiser on her egg yoke-yellow feet and beak have turned Doris into film star material.

Ms Day, of Carwoola, near Queanbeyan, bought Indian runner ducklings for pets, fell in love with them, joined a poultry club and five years later has 25 ducks.

Friendlier but messier than chooks, the ducks need daily watering to clean their eyes.

''They get a beak full and slop it over themselves and groom themselves, '' Ms Day said.

When the Canberra-Queanbeyan Poultry Club recently offered 250 birds for sale, demand out-stripped supply. Ms Day said backyard chooks returned to favour because of their promotion on lifestyle shows.

Don't tell Doris, but poultry has taken over the dinner table from red meat and three veg, according to analysts at IBISWorld. This year, fresh poultry makes up 17.2 per cent of the meat, fish and poultry retailing sector, contributing $1.96 billion of its revenue. This compares with 16.3 per cent for the fresh beef and veal industry, which is worth $1.86 billion.

Feathers will be preened, not plucked, at the Royal National this weekend, where 58 judges from all over Australia will join international guest judges Graham Hicks from Britain and Ian Selby from New Zealand. Doris will be among eight ducks from the Day family, along with Dora, Daphne, Dolly and champion drake Dirty Beak and his son, Dirty Beak Junior.

Ms Day said she was lucky to get ducks from an excellent breeder with good bloodlines.

''When they are startled they will stand with a very straight back. They need to be able to stand when the judge comes along and rattles on the cage. They need to have a bottle-shaped body - if you image a wine bottle that sort of narrow neck tapering down to a round body shape.''

Be rest assured - Doris has still got it.