Hot Springs students raise chickens at campus coop
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) – The sounds of clucking and crowing can be heard from the front entrance of Hot Springs Junior Academy thanks to the success of a new project by EAST students.
The EAST program has set a new standard for tying in student-led technology and creativity with agriculture, and with that, a fully operational chicken coop was built near the school’s garden at the front of the building, according to a news release.
The chickens who call this space home were raised through the Arkansas 4H program under the guidance of EAST facilitator and district 4H adviser Aspen Ham, the Sentinel-Record reported.
The school partnered with Garland County 4H adviser Linda Bates, who explained the agricultural opportunities through the program and helped secure a donation of eggs and incubators for the students.
“We incubated a few of them,” said Isaac Booth, an eighth-grader. “Most of the older ones, the bigger ones, we incubated from eggs and they hatched, so those are the originals. Then some other ones, we bought when they were small.”
The students got the eggs in February, he said, and the first chickens hatched shortly after the EAST Conference in March.
During the incubation period, students developed a plan for the chickens and an eventual business plan for selling the eggs to staff and parents of the school district. Thirty-four of the 36 eggs hatched.
“Originally, we wanted to let them grow up and bring them to the fairgrounds, see how they did there, and now that that’s passed we’re going to start making it more into an EAST project instead of a 4H project,” Booth said. “It will still remain in 4H, but we’re going to start doing things like which ways are better for feeders and waterers.”
Booth said over the summer, different students came to the school to care for the chickens.
Booth, along with eighth-graders Dallas Mitchell and Sloane Nutt, had very little experience raising chickens before this project, but have all grown attached to their feathered friends.
Ham said watching the students connect with the baby chickens last spring was interesting to see.
“When we were in the classroom, they’d be doing EAST projects and everybody would have a chicken at their desk while they were typing,” she said. “It was kind of funny. It’s definitely taught them a lot about leadership, for sure, and that you definitely can’t not do what your responsibilities are.”
Ham said the school has gotten attached to the chickens as well with several classes visiting the chickens for different projects, including the art classes.
Mitchell said before settling on their current coop location, the class moved the chickens around a lot. According to the release, students worked to keep out pests like area raccoons and used online programs to track bird data related to health, eating practices, and routine checkups for health and maintenance of the grounds.
The chickens in the EAST program took home 11 ribbons during the Garland County Fair last month – five first place ribbons, five second place and one third place. To receive ribbons, the chickens must be healthy in their body weight and overall appearance, correct and bright in color, and properly cleaned and prepared for showing by their owners.