Teaching kids how to create a nest egg

Courtney Ruth, on left, and Amber Ruth are shown with four boxes of chicks that will become their 4-H project this summer. The Ruths are two of nine 4-Hers that will show poultry this fall.  (Floyd Ingram / Buy at photos.chickasawjournal.com)

Courtney Ruth, on left, and Amber Ruth are shown with four boxes of chicks that will become their 4-H project this summer. The Ruths are two of nine 4-Hers that will show poultry this fall. (Floyd Ingram / Buy at photos.chickasawjournal.com)

HOUSTON – The winners of state and regional 4-H poultry programs can easily pull down a couple of hundred dollars at the sale – and that ain’t chicken feed for any teenager.

Chickasaw County saw 266 chicks delivered to nine kids this summer with youngsters now embarked on the task of getting the best flock to Jackson.

“This is my third year,” said Amber Ruth. “The money’s nice, but I like holding my chicks.

“They’re cute, but they can be a lot of work, too,” she added, holding a downy yellow chick. “I think it’s worth it.”

Courtney Ruth said she sells eggs on the side and that has become a money-maker, too.

“They can be noisy and you’ve got to gather eggs every day and keep them clean,” said Courtney. “We sold eggs to our friends last year and did Ok.”

Angie Abrams, executive director of the Chickasaw County 4-H, said like all 4-H animal project, it teaches bookkeeping, salesmanship, showmanship, science and responsibility.

“It’s a great 4-H project and one the kids can really cash in on,” said Angie Abrams, executive director of the Chickasaw County 4-H program. “Not everyone makes money, but the grand champion usually pays $1,000 and reserve about $500.

“You are just about guaranteed $100 if you make it to the sale,” said Abrams. “We have seen some kids come home with $1,500 at the end of the season.”

Youths can compete in activities at the county, district, state and national levels of competition. Rewards include an increased appreciation of the influence of the poultry industry and recognition in the form of awards, prizes, trips and even collegiate scholarships.

And all this for an $18 investment in chicks, a pen and chicken feed.

“I’m not saying it’s easy, but 4-H will help you and it can be a lot of fun,” said Abrams. “And there are the side benefits of fresh eggs and teaching your kids a little about animal science and the responsibility of caring for their project.”

Projects are aimed at either laying hens or meat broilers.

Abrams said caring for them is about the same.

“The hardest part is getting your chicks to grow to pullets,” said Abrams. “Baby chicks do require a lot of care early on. And of course your dog or other predators can eat them up, too.”

The details are pretty simple.

The “Home Flock” usually consists of 20 to 40 chickens kept to supply eggs and an

occasional fat hen.

Chicks can be started at any time during the year, but chicks started in March or April

are normally the easiest to raise up to laying age of about six months.

A brooding area is needed for new chicks’ arrival and the rule of thumb is one square foot of floor space per chick.

The brooding house should be dry and provide the chicks with protection from cold or rainy weather. It should be well ventilated. The house should allow easy access to electricity and water and should prevent entry by rats, dogs, cats and wild animals.

Parents do need to have a chicken coop and pen ready for older birds.

Keeping the pen and nests clean is the biggest job in raising chickens. But litter can be composed and makes great top-dressing for gardens or shrubs.

The eggs should be gathered daily in mild weather and at least two times daily in hot or cold weather.

“With a little help, kids get the hang of it real quick,” said Abrams. “We have already started this year’s projects, but we are always glad to talk with parents or kids about this project. Like I said, it’s a great way for kids to break into showing 4-H projects.”

For details about 4-H contact Abrams at 456-4269.

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