Chick Chain

Moore County 4-H members Elam Brown, Jessica Burton, Rileigh Bre Cole and Kaitlin Sanders all stand with their awards from their prize-winning hens from last fall’s chick chain. This spring new chicks will be delivered to members to raise and learn from.

Even though the weather has been cold and dreary lately, spring will be here before we know it.  The Coffee and Moore County 4-H extension programs are gearing up for a spring full of tiny peeps, and they aren’t talking about the marshmallow treat.

Both 4-H clubs are offering a spring project for their 4-H members called a Chick Chain, a program that teaches kids how to properly care for, financially manage and raise chickens from babies to show-quality livestock.

“Members of 4-H grades four to 12 are able to purchase 25 baby chicks,” said Coffee County UT Extension Agent Anna Duncan. “These chicks will be picked up by the 4-H’er and then taken to their home to be raised.”

The chicks available to Coffee County are female red and black sex-links. A sex-link chicken is a hybrid, or crossbreed, of two chickens. In this case, the red and black sex-links are hybrids of the Rhode Island Red breed. These chickens are known for their production of brown eggs.

Moore County will be receiving gold sex-link chicks that are also a hybrid of the Rhode Island Red chicken.

The purpose of the project is to teach children responsibility and the value of livestock.

“The baby chicks are very fragile when they are distributed to the 4-H’ers,” Moore County UT Extension Agent Lorie Burts said. “The participants have to learn how to keep the chicks warm. They have to stay in the house until they’re old enough to go outside. They have to keep the cage clean. They have to keep them watered and fed. The chicks teach a lot of responsibility and an appreciation of life.”

Members participating in the Chick Chain are also given a book of information material that covers chick and chicken care. Visits are also made by the extension agents to ensure that the kids are learning how to properly take care of the chickens.

“My favorite part about participating in the Chick Chain what getting to interact with the hens and watch them grow,” said 4-H member Rileigh Bre Cole. “I learned what it was like to raise them from chicks to laying hens. The project gives you more responsibility.”

“I made a trip to see the chicks after about two months,” Burts said. “I like to make sure that the kids are learning about the chickens and not letting their parents do the project for them.”

The project teaches kids how to make the most out of egg laying, how to financially manage their small flock, how to protect the birds from danger and the business management skills necessary to profit from the chickens.

The members are also given record books that help them keep track of their chickens. The books are used to log feeding times, how often the chickens are fed, how many eggs are produced, how much money is spent on food and how much profit they have turned.

“A benefit of the Chick Chain program is that kids learn how to work with chicks,” Duncan added. “They learn that chickens are a financial responsibility and how to manage their money. They learn how to sell eggs and make a profit, but then also how to turn around and spend that money on feed for the chickens. They learn a lot about the poultry industry and get a basic introduction to it.”

The project will officially start in April, but 4-H members are encouraged to get their chick orders in to their local extension office by the beginning of February.

After months of managing and caring for the chickens, the 4-H’ers will bring their chickens back to their county show, usually in September. Then the members will have the opportunity to show their chickens’ success and will have the option to auction their chickens off for profit.

In addition to the Chick Chain, Coffee Country 4-H is also offering a similar class for kids who reside within the Manchester and Tullahoma, where chickens cannot legally be kept within city limits. The project is called Root.

This new 4-H program has been developed by extension staff and Master Gardener volunteers, and is now being offered to members for free. This program teaches members about plants or the nursery industry.

The member must attend two workshops in order to receive a small plant. The workshops will cover topics such as plant anatomy and terminology, propagation skills, nursery industry basics, record keeping and business skills.

In the same way the Chick Chain operates, participants in Root will be able to grow new plants, learn how to raise plants, sell plants and establish a small nursery or garden.

The deadline for 4-H members to RSVP to Duncan for this program is Feb. 1. Workshops will be at 4:30 on Feb. 12 and 19 at the community meeting room at the UT/TSU Extension office.

For more information about Coffee County 4-H, the Chick Chain or the Root program, contact Duncan at aduncan@utk.edu, call 931-723-5141, or visit www.ex.tennessee/coffee.

For more information on Moore County 4-H, call the extension office at 931-759-1763, or visit www.ex.tennessee/moore.

Faith Few can be reached at ffew@tullahomanews.com.