Wednesday, September 19, 2012

4-H Fun with Chickens.

Ah, Friday...such a happy, longed-for day! Some people celebrate Friday's arrival by going out for dinner. Others might bar-hop, catch a movie, play Scrabble with the kids.

Our family, however, drove an hour... a chicken show.

This was no ordinary chicken show. Friday's chicken show launched the career of Kiki, a.k.a. Chicken Mama--and her baby, Sugar.

The chicken showmanship event, part of the Greenville County 4-H program in which Kiki participated, caused major excitement at our house. Rehearsals, studying, and primping--all to ready the girls--feathered and not--for the show.

Did I ever think we'd participate in 4-H? Honestly, I always thought only farm kids participated in 4-H.

Instead, we introduced Kristen to ballet...

She tried to ride the mat like a horse.

We tried piano...but found practicing painful. 

We signed-up for gymnastics...she didn't give a flip.
 We tried horseback riding...

 Guess what stuck?

Of course, any extracurricular activity involving animals is exactly what our animal whisperer loves. Zoo Camp, Humane Society Camp, riding, chicken-wrangling...these things make her happy. (However, the kids start piano again next week. Some things, like music, are just important. Sorry, kids.)

So, when my friend, Cyd Brown, mentioned the 4-H Poultry Project, I knew our girl would love it.

The 4-H Poultry Project, managed by Clemson University's Extension Office, teaches kids how to raise and show chickens. The kids each receive newly hatched chicks, which they care for throughout the course of the program. Our girls, of course, will be with our family forever. Other families, though, embrace more practical aspects, raising the chicks as livestock. (Honestly, though, from what I saw at the show--most of the chickens become pets.) 

Not only do the students raise and care for the chicks, they also must keep records of how they care for their flock. Then, as part of the program, they learn the anatomy of the birds, as well as the specific habits of their breeds. Finally, the students learn how to "show" a selected bird.

Did you know that chickens need baths if they will be shown?

Sugar post-bath. She fell asleep in Chicken Mama's arms. 

Who knew showing a chicken could be so complicated?

Shortly after we arrived at the show, Dr. Mickey Hall, a professor at Clemson University and an amazing expert on poultry, arrived with several of her students. The first step of the show--blood testing the chickens to ensure they were disease free--caused the most stress for Kiki.

Poor Sugar!

(I really wish I had a photo of Kristen's reaction to Dr. Hall handling Sugar...if looks could kill--!)

 Whew...the worst is over.

Dr. Hall appointed one of her students--who also shows poultry--as the judge for the event. A few weeks prior to the show, Dr. Hall presented a showmanship workshop for the kids, organized by Cyd. She definitely knows her chickens!

During the first stage of the show, the students present their birds and perform an examination of the bird for the judge.

Kristen shows Sugar's wing...

...the undercolor of the feathers, the feet, the head and the vent. What's the vent, you ask? Well, it's the multipurpose opening in the hen's rear--and by multipurpose, I do mean multi-purpose...egg laying, breeding...and, yes, pooping. 

Aren't you glad you asked?

After the examination of the students' birds, it's show time!

First, pose the bird...

(Sugar! Your supposed to keep your head straight!)

Now, the bird takes a little stroll...

...while Kiki shows Sugar when to turn.

Honestly, I held my breath while Sugar walked. She's a flighty bird. I feared we'd be chasing her around the shelter. Whew.

Kristen thinks this guy has a crush on Sugar. He's handsome!

After all of the students finish showing their birds, the judge asks the student questions about his or her chicken and its breed. The kids need to demonstrate that they've learned what to feed the chicken, how to care for it, what color eggs it will lay (if a hen or pullet), and where the breed originated. 

Do you know that the color of a hen's earlobes usually indicate the color of its eggs? White earlobes = white eggs. Red earlobes = brown or green eggs. (There are some discrepancies, though, among breeds.) 

After all of the questions were answered, Sugar decided to cause a scene. When the chickens are blood tested, they receive a numbered tag pinned to their wing as proof of the blood test. Somehow, Sugar managed to remove the small metal tag--and Kiki panicked, fearing she might swallow it. 

Dr. Hall to the rescue! 

She reassured Kiki that Sugar's "bling" wouldn't bother her anymore.

And then...

Blue ribbon!

So proud of our girls!

Honestly, even though I never expected to become a 4-H mama, it's a wonderful program and terrific experience for animal-crazy kids. Cyd Brown, the Clemson Extension Agent in charge of the Greenville 4-H program, is fantastic--she's a terrific source of information. 

Of course, now Kristen thinks we need a goat.

I've threatened her to stop talking about a goat...

or she's going back to ballet!

Happy chicken-wrangling!

XO ~



  1. 4H really is a great program. It gives the kids lots of responsibility, and it's fun. I did it for a while as a kid. Mine would LOVE to all have riding lessons -- if it wasn't so dear. Heck, I'd like lessons, too!
    Enjoy, enjoy.

    1. I'm honestly a little jealous that I didn't have a chance to participate in 4-H as a child--it's a great program! Now, however, my girlie is talking non-stop about a goat. Did I mention that we live in a subdivision? I think our neighbors' goodwill might end with the addition of a goat. Yeesh. (And yes, riding is a bank-breaker. Just yesterday, I said to Kristen, "Why don't you take up a nice sport, like swimming?" Not only is it less expensive, but my nerves might last longer. An 80 lb. girl jumping a 1000 lb horse just makes my tummy hurt. I didn't convince her.

  2. What fun! I think the kids participating in this program really have a head start as so many are now keeping chickens. I plan to get some chickens soon but have NO idea how to care for them. Perhaps your girl can teach me?:)

    1. Tina, you will love your chickens! Who knew they had such personality? Honestly, we'd rather be outside watching the chickens than inside watching TV. Kristen read at least a dozen books about raising chickens, selecting breeds, etc. prior to getting the girls. I'll ask her which books she thinks are best and let you know! I know she likes the website Have fun selecting your girls!

  3. What a fabulous learning experience. 4-H wasn't something that was available where I grew up, and sometimes I think even now I'm trying to make up for lost time ;) I wish that every child (that wanted to) could do something like this. It's an experience that Kiki will never forget. Congratulations on the blue ribbon, very well deserved!

    1. CVF--honestly, with our menagerie and my business, I think I'm also trying to make up for lost time! ;-) I also didn't have 4-H available where I grew up, and I'm so happy our kids have the chance to participate. I spent two weeks every summer at my aunt's farm when I was a child, and it was the happiest two weeks of the year. Ah, to have just a little bit of farmland...

  4. How wonderful! what a fun post. Love to see programs like this. Educational, fun and family oriented.

    1. Thank you, Deanne! My friend, who is in charge of the 4-H poultry project, is just wonderful with the kids. Kristen really learned a lot--and had so much fun! Now, she's preparing for the State Fair! ;-)

  5. These are some great photos. Enjoyed looking through them all and the process. Thanks for stopping by. Was going to follow back on linky but couldn't find it on your site. Was going to just follow on GFC but yours isn't working there either. LOL I put a separate place on mine so people could use that to follow. Take care.

    Cher Sunray Gardens

    1. Cher, thanks for letting me know that GFC isn't working--I wonder why? I know several people recently followed. Hmmm. Thankfully, my tech-savy oldest son will be home from college this weekend. I'll have him take a look--I appreciate the heads-up! ;-)

  6. Julie, I enjoyed reading this a lot. What a great event for her. I feel for you with all the activities....ballet, piano, no horses (allergies), scouts, Odyssey of the Mind, Forensics, band, and on and on......been there. :-)

    1. Janet, every time I think we're going to slow down and have more family time, something new pops Scouts for Mikey. He was so excited, I just couldn't say no...and really, I love Scouts. Still, we try to keep Fridays and Sundays with nothing--and once soccer is done, nothing else is allowed for Saturday. The kids need some down time, too!

  7. Julie,

    Your post really makes me feel like I was there! Those old shots of your daughter are so cute and bring back memories of all the things we did with our children over the years. Never did 4-H, but I'm sure my youngest daughter would have loved to have chickens once upon a time.

    Finally responded to your comment on my blog...I am still running a day late and a dollar short, but would love to get together for a garden visit sometime soon!

    1. Thanks, Daricia! It's funny how we have to let our kids find their way to what they love. With Kristen, I should have known better than to involve her with anything that didn't involve animals--waste of time for her! ;-)

      So glad you're feeling better. We definitely need to plan a garden trip in the near future. I'd love to see you!

  8. Wow...that is wonderful! They learn so much in 4-H and all such valuable information. It is always comforting when one finds where they fit.

    1. Isn't it the truth? With our oldest son, now a college senior, we tried every sport--soccer, baseball, football. He just wasn't an athlete. When he picked up a violin, though--it was magic. Now, he's a violinist and a music composition major, looking to become a professor. Kristen is an animal whisperer--it's just her nature. Our youngest, though, is interested in everything--soccer, riding, animals, music--who knows where his passion will take him? I'm just here to chauffeur them! ;-)

  9. Dear Julie, I read this post with total fascination and suspense. Was Sugar going to win? Yay! She won a blue ribbon! Never had chooks, so never had experience with that world as a child or an adult. Yes, I was deprived, but I seem to have survived. I'm involved with chooks nowadays vicariously by reading posts like this one! A goat sounds fun ... (lol)

  10. Julie, I really enjoyed reading about Kristen's chicken odyssey. Thanks for sharing!