Peep, peep, peep! Chicks teach lesson

Friday, March 5, 2010
Chicks' cafeteria, above, at the Farm Center are the kind of livestock that the 4-H gets so youngsters learn responsibility and the realities of the food chain.

Sweet peeps and real chicks are just around the corner as Easter will soon be here, despite overcast skies and lingering winter temperatures.

Pretty soon, hundreds of baby chickens will be mailed to the Marshall County 4-H program from an out-of-state hatchery and letter carriers will have noisy packages.

4-H Youth Development Agents went to the clubs in January or February and youngsters signed up for the Chick Chain project, University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Agent Rick Skillington says.

Young chicken farmers raise the birds, care for them, harvest eggs and there's a show to determine who's done well, said Skillington who's served as a judge of such shows. They earn ribbons and sell the chicks and use the money to buy more chicks and feed.

They learn economics, general management skills and time management, he said.

It's an inexpensive project when compared to buying dairy cows, or beef cattle, horses, sheep or goats.

They realize that they can't always play Nintendo. They will have to go out and feed and water their chicks at certain times.

The chicks will arrive in April. About 96 percent are female.

"We're looking for egg production," Skillington explained.

"They bring them back in September for a show and they're judged on how they've raised them, how they've grown and how close they are to egg production expectations," agricultural extension agent said.

As an inexpensive farm project, the Chick Chain is legal in Lewisburg. Other livestock is, too, but it's controlled through a city code.

There's not to be any noises, smells and/or the attraction of pests in the city, Lewisburg Codes Officer Greg Lowe said.

Speaking from his office desk in the Hardison Office Annex on College Street, Skillington agrees.

"There is a rooster crowing outside my window here about every day," he said.

In contrast, there's a new set of chicken houses near Petersburg. It's the biggest one in the county, Skillington said.

However, those birds are raised only for meat instead of eggs.

Meanwhile, Skillington advocates the eggs from local chicken farmers.

"Country eggs look better," he said. "They're more attractive."

Store bought eggs are usually from chickens that are raised in cages and they're raised strictly for egg production," he said. "Ours are of a duel purpose. If you want to harvest the meat you can."

Currently, 4-H Extension Agent Trent Jones issued the following tentative schedule for the Chick Chain: Chicks arrive on April 7th; and the Marshall County 4-H Chick Chain Poultry Show and Sale is planed for August at the Marshall County Show Grounds.