More than two dozen youth from Cherokee and DeKalb counties in north Alabama learned about the responsibility of a small business and about a billion dollar Alabama industry through the 4-H Chick Chain program.
Youth participated in the program that began in April and ended in October at the DeKalb County VFW Fairgrounds in Fort Payne with a show and sale of their flock. In its second year, the program has taught entrepreneurship as well.
Justin Miller of Cherokee County says he raised his flock at his grandmother’s home because he couldn’t at his house. “I really liked it a lot: watching them grow, recording their eating and weighing them.
“I had three roosters in my chicks, which is not supposed to happen, but it was cool,” says the 17-year-old. “I want to keep my flock producing and selling eggs and birds.”
Brittany Burr of Fyffe in DeKalb County says she thought the program would be something different to be involved in and fun to learn about. “They take a lot of care, feeding, watering and recording their growth almost every day. I think I’ll keep raising the ones I’ve kept and sell them.”
For second-timers Matthew Crabtree and Spencer Hubble, both DeKalb County 4-H’ers, they enjoyed the competition. Competing in the 2010 Chick Chain gave them experience, and they wanted to see if they could grow better birds. “I learned a lot about their feed and what helps a bird increase their protein county so they will grow bigger and faster,” says Hubble, who placed second in several divisions of the contest.
“There is something about a kid and an animal, no matter what kind of animal it is,” says Danny Miller, Cherokee County Extension Coordinator. “With DeKalb and Cherokee counties steeped in the poultry industry, we thought it was a great program to teach youth about responsibility and a way to create a live animal home project.”
The purpose of the program is to teach youth poultry management skills, to develop record keeping and business management skills and to give youth an opportunity to learn about an animal they likely are not familiar with, says Amy Burgess, Etowah County Extension Coordinator, who helped Miller coordinate the program.
And, as a leading industry in Alabama, it is a way to tie in education about Alabama’s economy, she adds. Alabama poultry industry is a multibillion-dollar corporate enterprise and the major agricultural business in the state, accounting for slightly more than 10 percent of the state's economy and exceeds $9 billion. There are about 3,500 poultry growers in the state, mostly in Cullman, DeKalb, Marshall, and Coffee counties.
Youth who participated in the 4-H Chick Chain received 25 chicks in April and cared for the farm animals at home. At the show and sale, the youth who wanted to participate brought their five best birds for the auction and show. For the show, the birds were judged in best of breed and grand champion. Following the show, an auction was held where local residents bid on the birds.
For Neil Johnson of Geraldine, it was an opportunity to pay back to an organization he believes contributed much to his youth. “I was in 4-H and it really meant a lot to me. I participated in public speaking and beef cattle. I came last year and bought some Rhode Island Reds, and they were good chicks and produced well,” Johnson says. “I came back this year for some more.”