By Billy Ward III
Johnson County Extension Office
“Covid Cluckers.” I read the headline twic, thinking my coffee was not doing its job. The Associated Press article details the rise of backyard chicken flocks due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Acresso the country, families are enjoying the benefits of chicken ownership. What benefits, you ask? Eggs, of course.
I remember the excitement of finding the first eggs laid by chickens that I proudly brought home s day old baby chicks in a cardboard box months earlier. I ate eggs three times a day for two weeks- then I gave eggs away for a month until my appetite returned. However, an avalanche of fresh eggs is not the only reason to raise chickens. The 4-H Chick Chain Project is an extension’s premier program teaching youth lessons on financial management, animal care, where their food comes from, nutrition, and responsibility in a fun and interactive way.
Participants receive 16 pullets and an optional rooster (take the rooster; he’s more effective than your alarm clock) as chicks in April. In the fall, each participant returns four pullets to the annual 4-H Poultry Show and Sale. Everyone producing pullets receives a small monetary prize, and youth with the top pullets win a cash award. Proceeds from the show and sale underwrite this program, as well as generous donations from our community partners. Thanks to those partners and our local community’s support, all students in 4th grade and older receive their chicks for free.
I do not know a better way for youth to learn so many valuable lessons while enjoying the fruits of their labor for years to come. The deadline to register is February 4th, so do not delay! To register your 4th grade or older youth, stop by the extension office at 212 College Street or call (423) 727-8161. We can also provide information on caring for poultry, backyard egg production, and what to do with all those eggs.