Leading up to the Victoria Livestock Show, Weldon Bowers had a lot of what he and his family calls "five-gallon bucket time."
From atop a blue five-gallon bucket in his chicken coop at his family's Victoria County home, the 11-year-old watches his broilers closely.
The only time Weldon is not tending to the chickens is when he is at school, doing homework or eating, said his mom, Lindsey Bowers.
Broilers are a six-week project, which is shorter than some other animal projects but those six weeks or 42 days are intense.
"It's getting up early and going to bed late," Weldon said. "Chickens are the first priority before breakfast and before dinner."
A member of Wood Hi 4-H Club, Weldon showed broilers at the Victoria Livestock Show in 2020 and 2019. Last year, he came in third place — a significant improvement from his first show in 2019.
He is saving up his earnings from the livestock show for college, which he hopes to attend Texas A&M University.
Weldon said he has learned from his past experiences and built new strategies since he started raising chickens.
"This year we've maintained a better temperature so they're not as huddled up," he said. "We've also done different temperatures with the water when we first got them."
Every little detail matters, down to the quality of the shavings in the chicken pin and the color of the feeders, he said. To raise high quality birds, you have to figure out what the chickens like best and keeping in mind what the livestock show judges are looking for, Weldon said.
Both of Weldon's parents said they enjoy watching him build character through the broilers. The project has taught him time management, responsibility and accountability, his mom said.
"He knows that how much effort he puts in is directly correlated to how he does at the show," she said.
There is also the reality that things don't always go your way, said Darrell Bowers, Weldon's father.
"He can work his butt off out here, and do the best he can, and go up there and place high or sell and he is rewarded. Or it can be life and he can work his butt off and go to the show and not get anything," he said. "Those are lessons that people need to start learning at a young age."
Weldon, like most all youth exhibitors, is aiming for grand champion this year. He is eagerly awaiting and preparing for his favorite part of the project — showing. The market broiler show is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday.
"It is kind of a relief when you get to the show and first check them in," Weldon said. "When it comes to show you're nervous and excited at the same time because you think you have the biggest bird in the ring."