The first week of Spring has come and gone. Baby chicks are peeping from brooders in feed stores across the Country; I could not help but think of those chicks and where they may end up, specifically as 4-H projects for many of the nation’s youth.
What exactly is 4-H? 4-H is a “Youth Development Organization” that focuses on building characters of young people through education and hands on activities. While it is not just for farm kids, in my area there is a large focus in animal sciences as well as robotics and gardening. In Michigan, 4-H is overseen by Michigan State University’s Extension Offices. The program is backed by a university with a great Agricultural School. The 4-H fair in my county is one that we look forward to attending every year. I enjoy seeing the next generation of leaders, farmers and scientists at work.
The Poultry Barn is one of my first stops. The rows of animals displayed are a testament to the hard work and care that these young people put into their “projects”. The birds all look amazing, turned out for the world to see beauty in the form of chickens, turkey, ducks, game birds and other fowl. The 4-H showmen (and women) are found throughout the barn caring for their animals. Theses barns are bustling with activity. Poster board displays of care, work, spreadsheets and pictures line a table. There is more to the 4-H fair than seeing the birds on display. The Club members have worked for months caring for these animals and taking scientific data as well.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with some students who are members of a local 4-H Club about their experience owning and showing chickens. One 5th grade girl explained to me that when she is showing her chickens they are not allowed to be present during actual judging of the birds. They wait in anticipation as the judges walk through the barn. Judges walk up and down the Poultry Barn and look at each individual bird. They are looking for size, health and overall care. Breed standards are also on display. Characteristics for the various breed specifics
are noted. Then after much anticipation, prize ribbons are placed on the cages for all to see.
What exactly goes into a chicken keeping 4-H project? I was told that first members fill out logs and data sheets then support this work with pictures all on a poster board. They record feed amounts and schedules. Pictures are taken of the chicks at various sizes as they grow. Notes are made on egg production for the laying hens and meat birds are readied for auction. Everything is written down and collected to display at fair.
These children are learning so much from raising chickens and participating in 4-H Clubs. They are learning how to take down scientific evidence by observing and making note of all the data that goes into their projects. Financial awareness is being shown when birds are sold at auction as well as crunching numbers on the feed they bought and if they sold any eggs. Responsibility is being taught as they take care of their animals. These young people are
connecting with where their food comes from. This is farm to table mentality at its best.
If you are interested in finding 4-H Clubs in your area, check out their website at:
There are also great articles right here on Community Chickens about taking care of Chicks. Be sure to check them out and subscribe to the free e-newsletter.
*What Fair experience is complete with out checking out the tractors too…