Ashlyn Winney

Ashlyn Winney’s pink silkie chicken does its best to stay on her shoulder at the Wyoming State Fairgrounds July 19. The colored chickens can’t be shown in the fair, but are always a big hit whenever the Winney family takes them out in public. Ashlyn and her sister Katie dye the silkies for special occasions, using food-grade coloring, water and water bottles.

What started out as an incentive for good grades quickly turned into an obsession.

Katie Winney, 9, and her sister Ashlyn, 11, were told by their grandparents that if they got straight As in school, they could have anything they wanted.

What they wanted were chickens.

The family started out with six chickens just three years ago. Now they’ve got 55 chickens at the home of their grandparents Bob and Vickie Winney, where they live with their little brother Carter, 6, and their father Justin.

“They always want to buy chickens,” Vickie said with a laugh.

The Winney Girls – as they are affectionately known in the county fair circuit – have recently broadened their scope of animals from birds to pigs.

This year, Katie and Ashlyn decided to raise and show New Hampshire pigs in the Converse County Fair.

And, they brought home the bacon – Katie’s pig, Tiny Dancer, weighing in at 216 pounds, won the Converse County Ultrasound Championship in the 4H Juniors’ Class, earning Katie a commemorative belt buckle. She also won a county fair blue ribbon in 4H Juniors’ Class for Market with her pig.

Katie took home ribbons for Reserve Champion in Showmanship, 4H Juniors’ Class and third in breed for her black silkie chicken.

And while the black version picked up ribbons, the girls’ colored silkies – pink, yellow and purple – steal the show in other ways. They cannot enter them in the fair – they are dyed after all and not considered “natural” – but they are easily the people’s choice when it comes to attracting a crowd.

Katie’s been in 4-H for two years and has been involved in raising chickens and rabbits, too.

“Katie won the belt buckle Friday evening before the market sale. It’s so big it will knock her over,” Vickie joked.

Ashlyn and her 260-pound pig Chubby also scored notably with a county blue ribbon in Market in the 4H Juniors’ Class and fifth place in the Showmanship division.

Her Rhode Island red chicken earned first place in the One-Year Cockerel division and fourth in Showmanship (Juniors’ Class).

Ashlyn has been involved in 4-H for three years and loves it, she said.

“The animals are fun to mess around with and play with. The pigs are kind of like dogs. They bark. We take them for walks. It’s been fun to raise and show them,” Ashlyn said.

Her sister laughed.

“When we let the pigs out, they’re fast. They run around the whole yard. They’re a lot of fun, but sometimes they don’t go where you want them to. I’ve had to learn how to control them and learn to walk with them. I think they’re pretty smart,” Katie said.

The girls have found raising pigs to be a learning experience.

They’ve discovered that pigs love to eat just about anything, including Popsicles, licorice vines, pancakes and even gummy worms, which the girls give them when the pigs have worked hard for them.

“I love spending time with the animals I show. I love winning ribbons, too,” Ashlyn said.

Friday night brought buyers to the fair, where they take a look at the livestock up for sale and make offers to buy the critters, including the Winney Girls’ pigs.

The girls, although sad to sell their pigs, found buyers for Tiny Dancer and Chubby.

Their grandmother declined to say how much the girls’ pigs sold for Friday night, but she did say there was a bidding war over Katie’s pig.

“They did considerably better in the market than they’ve ever done. Very well. It was very exciting,” she said.

It’s occasionally been a struggle during the last year to get the girls to walk and feed their pigs, but they do it.

Some days, the girls want to quit, they admitted but they never give up. And, once the county fair hits, the girls are up and at ‘em, and ready for the next year ahead.

“They want to try some other classes, other animals, too. It’s wonderful to watch them grow in 4-H. They’ve learned a lot and have to learn a lot, especially if they have different animals or chickens each year. It’s fun watching them enjoy the animals. They’ve had a really good time at fair this year,” she said.

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