In the 2017-2018 year, over 100 youth participated in the poultry project in Lake County 4-H. Youth involved in the poultry project gain valuable life skills that will help them become successful, contributing members of society.
Responsibility is an essential life skill that successful adults utilize daily. Responsible people do what they are supposed to, even when they don’t want to. Raising chickens and livestock in general, is a daily task and it is critical that you remain dedicated to your animals. Like most 4-H livestock projects youth learn how to feed, groom, and care for their chickens. Poultry participants learn to keep a record of expenses, feed, problems they experienced, and provide a summary of their project in an essay. Youth also have to plan and organize for their project. Youth need to plan the best location for a coop, feeding time, and a cleaning schedule. Completing the poultry project teaches youth to be responsible for their chickens and youth begin to apply responsibility in other areas of their lives.
Youth in the chicken project also set goals and expectations. In Lake County 4-H, we encourage youth to set S.M.A.R.T. Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound) for their 4-H projects. By teaching youth to set SMART goals they learn how to clarify ideas, hone in their time and effort, and increase the chance of completing goals which will help them as they transition into adults.
Green practices are learned through the chicken project. Chickens can be a biological plant and insect control. Chickens will take care of unwelcome insects and pests in your yard such as beetles, grasshoppers, slugs, and ticks. Chickens can also help manage invasive and undesirable plants. Weeds and other unwelcome plants pulled from your garden can go straight into your chickens’ feed. Owning chickens could possibly eliminate the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Chickens can also help reduce food waste, as they are fantastic composters for your kitchen scraps. Chickens will eat fruit and vegetable skins, bread, oatmeal, pasta, and other leftovers that reduce the amount of food that goes into your trashcans. *Please double check what food scraps chickens should avoid. Using chicken poop is another green principle. Chicken poop is an excellent, natural fertilizer for your garden. Chicken poop has high nutrient levels that is high in nitrogen and containing some potassium and phosphorus. The chicken project teaches youth to be environmental stewards as they learn to help their environment one chicken at a time.
Leadership is taught through the poultry project. During the Lake County Fair, I witnessed multiple senior youth mentoring younger youth on showmanship and basic care with their chickens. These senior youth provided encouragement and knowledge to younger youth participants. Leadership is not a skill that is easily learned, 4-H youth are often immersed with opportunities to lead. Leadership, is a valuable life lesson that