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Alexis Pigg: It’s not putting eggs in one basket to own chickens

Alexis Pigg • Jul 24, 2018 at 4:09 PM

Backyard poultry has become increasingly popular in recent years. In a time of increased awareness of where and how food is produced, especially when it comes to food additives and animal welfare, owning chickens is one of the ways citizens have gained power over what is fed to their families.

Having your own flock of birds has its perks. Imagine going into your own backyard and collecting fresh eggs to make for breakfast or to use to bake cakes and pastries -or even having a hen to cook up for Sunday dinner. However, there are more added bonuses to owning backyard poultry than fresh meat and eggs. 

Free-range chickens have been found to reduce the number of outdoor pests like insects and ticks. Chicken litter and waste compost makes an excellent fertilizer for gardens. Lastly, owning chickens can be a great educational project for kids. Gaining hands-on experience with poultry can allow for the development of life-long skills, like responsibility, work ethic, leadership and even financial management. Not to mention the pride manifested from the ability to consume and share a product you invested first hand. 

UT-TSU Extension has developed a project that allows 4-H members to get a jumpstart with the backyard poultry business called the 4-H Chick Chain Project. In the poultry project, participants receive 25 one-day-old chicks to manage until they reach the age they begin laying, which is typically around 20 weeks. It is the 4-Hers duty to feed, water, and manage their flocks, with some help of course, to develop their pullets. 

At the end of the project, participants are required to bring six of their best pullets, or hens, to the 4-H Chick Chain Poultry Show and Sale. The remaining members of the flock are for the 4-H’er to keep and many opt to retain the chickens and collect the eggs produced to eat and share with friends and family. 

I have had the pleasure of visiting some of the farms of the children in this project, and I can tell that much effort and creativity has been invested in building coops and making sure their birds are healthy and safe. Their hard work will pay off at the upcoming 4-H Chick Chain Show and Sale. 

This year’s 4-H Chick Chain Show and Sale will be Saturday in the PopSmart Barn at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center. The poultry show will begin at 9 a.m., and the auction will take place immediately afterwards at 10 a.m. Breeds exhibited with be Rhode Island red and black sex link, which are both known to be excellent layers. I look forward to this year’s show, I know there will be some tough competition from what I’ve witnessed so far.

The 4-H Chick Chain Project in Wilson County begins every spring, usually in March. Contact Morgan Beaty at the UT-TSU Extension office at 615-444-9584 for more information.

For more information, contact the UT-TSU Extension Office in Wilson County at 615-444-9584. You can also find us on Facebook or visit extension.tennessee.edu/wilson. Alexis Pigg is a summer intern with UT-TSU Extension.

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