Spring symbol: 4-H'ers get hundreds of baby chicks

Friday, April 22, 2011
At $1.80 a chick, the birds are sold to 4-H members, raised, judged and some are sold at auction.

The peep, peep, peep sound of baby chicks could be heard again this week in the halls of Marshall County's Hardison Annex Office Building.

There were 300 chicks in the office of the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service where county director Rick Skillington reports about 225 of the birds were purchased by 18 members of the 4-H Club.

Youngsters can learn about responsibility, nutrition, health needs through the annual program and the economics of having livestock, Skillington said.

The fluffy birds may be seen by many as a symbol of spring and now some four weeks into the season, Skillington reports, "The chicks have come in late this year. The hatchery just didn't get enough fertile eggs and that backed us up about 30 days."

Meanwhile, the number of 4-H'ers participating in the "Chick Chain Program" has dropped a bit this year.

"There are a few less than what we have had in the past," he said. "There are probably different reasons: The down-turn in the economy; and some of the kids who've had chicks in the past aren't having them any more. Some feel too old to raise chickens.

"The majority of the kids who raise them are eighth graders, or younger," Skillington said.

Raising chicks is a safe way to introduce the youngsters to farm life responsibilities.

"There's very little chance of them getting injured by a chick," Skillington said.

A horse or cow might step on a youngster's foot and that could require a trip to the hospital, he explained.

In the next couple of months, Trent Jones, the youth development agent at the UT Extension Service office here, will be visiting the children to see how the chicks are doing and offer suggestions if that's needed.

Thereafter, the children will be offered the opportunity to show their birds and auction them off to be paid by buyers. It's a way to learn the business of farming.