By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Sarah Oden is a veteran of the 4-H Chick Chain program.
During the 11th week of the program, which has local students raising chickens to keep or to sell at an auction in September, representatives from the Alabama Extension Service visited Oden to inspect her chickens and talk to her about how her project is going.
They also got to see the chickens Oden kept from last year’s inaugural Chick Chain project in Etowah County. Oden has nine layers she kept from the 12 chickens she received last year.
Oden said not only are the chickens laying well, she has a deal with Local Joe’s in Rainbow City, selling eggs to the business. Her mom, Sonja, said Sarah makes more than enough selling eggs to pay for the feed for her chickens.
Teaching that kind of business plan is only a part of what the Chick Chain program is designed to teach young people.
Through the program, students get 12 young chicks in the spring and raise them through the summer. Students have to keep records regarding their chickens and what they spend caring for them.
Students must be responsible enough to care for the birds daily, and must learn about issues of biosecurity, proper care and feeding, monitoring the birds’ health and protecting them from predators and the elements.
“She’s doing excellent,” Alabama Regional Extension Agent Landon Marks said, after inspecting Sarah’s chicken coop and her chickens. “She’s right on schedule.” Marks had a few suggestions: moving the feeder a little lower and monitoring what appeared to be loose stool from some of the chickens.
Sarah explained that when she changed the bedding from the chicken coop she takes it to the Master Gardeners, so that it can be used to fertilize their plants.
“I have to say, your chicken business is thriving,” said Danny Miller, who is an extension agent in Cherokee County. He said he was observing on the visit to the Odens and other students in the Chick Chain program.
He talked to Sarah in detail about one of her chickens, showing her how the bone in the center of the bird’s chest is an indicator of its growth. As chickens mature and add muscle, he said, she would not be able to feel that bone.
Sarah is one of 38 students in Etowah County participating in the program.
County Extension Coordinator of 4H Youth and Development Amy Payne Burgess said that’s about the same number as last year.
She said eight students who participated last year are involved again this year.
The group of extension agents toured all the participating Chick Chain student’s chicken coops in recent days to report on their progress and to make recommendations where needed.
Marks said in grading Sarah’s attitude about her project, he noted her enthusiasm.
For Sarah, the enthusiasm isn’t limited to Chick Chain. She’s involved in a number of other 4-H programs, and she said she would recommend everyone to get involved with 4-H.