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4-H Poultry Project Registration Now Open

10 April 2013

US - From fluffy chick to egg-laying hen to money-making livestock, the 4-H Poultry Chain Project engages young people in the process of raising chickens and is now accepting applications for new participants.

“This project is a great way to introduce children to the process of raising livestock and where food comes from,” said Jessica Wells, Extension instructor at MSU’s Department of Poultry Science. “Participants start with 20 day-old chicks and raise them for about five months. They provide proper flock management throughout the project’s duration.”

Children ages 8 to 18 are eligible to participate in the annual project. This year, 4-H’ers in kindergarten to second grade, known as Clover Buds, are allowed to participate at the county level. After training, all participants agree to abide by the project’s rules and responsibilities, including keeping records and caring for a feeding their flock properly.

After the hens are fully grown, each 4-H’er selects his or her top six hens to show at the county level poultry chain fair. Then the birds are auctioned.

“It’s important for the children to see the full cycle, including selling their birds as livestock for food,” Ms Wells said. “Participants keep the profits as a reward for their hard work. Some of the kids have a hard time parting with their chickens, so I encourage them to get their grandparents or other family members to attend the show to buy their birds if they just can’t part with them.”

Judges select a county-level Grand Champion exhibitor and Reserve Grand Champion exhibitor for both the junior and senior age groups. These 4-H’ers then take their prize-winning birds to compete at the state poultry chain fair, which will be held at the Mississippi State Fair this fall.

“The poultry chain is ideal for children interested in joining 4-H as well as existing members curious about raising livestock. Chickens don’t need a lot of space and the start-up cost is minimal,” Wells said.

Sarah Byrd, a 16-year-old from Starkville, participated in the chain project last year.

“My cousins in North Carolina show turkeys, and they encouraged me to try showing poultry,” Ms Byrd said. “I’ve been in 4-H since the third grade, and I showed calves in fourth and fifth grade. I like showing livestock, so I thought this might be fun.”

Ms Byrd got her 20 project chicks when they were just 1 day old.

“We grew out all 20 hens and selected the six largest to show,” she said. “It was really a lot of fun and a lot of work. We raised them in our back yard in dog pens, and as they would eat the grass, we’d move them around the back yard. So now we have square sections in our yard that look like a grass quilt.”

Ms Byrd placed first in the Oktibbeha County show in the senior division. At the state level, she finished fourth overall.

“At the end, once you win something, it makes it all worth it,” she said. “But even if I hadn’t won, I would still say the work was worth the experience.”

For more information on the 4-H Poultry Chain Project, contact the county Extension office or Jessica Wells at (662) 325-3416.

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