Sustainable Backyard Egg Production from a 9 Year Old's Perspective

Final report for YNC08-029

Project Type: Youth
Funds awarded in 2008: $394.35
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information

Summary:

The purpose of this project is to explore the sustainability of raising laying hens in my backyard. For the last several years we have raised laying hens in a moveable A-frame. Through this project I want to improve on housing - making it habitable for four seasons and easier to move. I also want to demonstrate that even my 9 year old sister is able to manage this enterprise, giving her this learning experience as well. Then we want to share this experience and show how it is healthful, profitable, and environmentally friendly.

Project Objectives:

Goals

  • Explore how to sustainably raise laying hens ina way simple enought for a nine year old to manage.
  • Share the research with other local students and donate books to our school libraries.
  • Demonstrate that even youths can do sustainable agriculture in their backyards.
  • Show how raising laying hens can be profitable, healthful, and environmentally friendly.

 

Research

Materials and methods:

Background (previous experience)

  • Gardening
  • Making maple syrup
  • Raising chickens

Process

  • Production
    • Purchased ten Isa Brown day-old chicks in May
    • Prepared for their arrival by crating their first home. WE used a kiddy pool, filled it with residue from local seed processer, and layered the top with paper towels. We hung an adjustable heat lamp over the kiddy pool.
    • We picked up the chicks on June 2nd from the local elevator
    • Maintained these growing conditions
      • Temperature
        • 95 degrees the first week
        • Decreased by 5 degrees F per week until ambient
        • The heat lamp was also their source of light, and we would turn off the light for about .5hour/day, incrementally going longer without light so as not to shock them when they were ready for living outside
      • Location
        • In the corner of our garage without a draft
      • Feed
        • We fed them Gower Pellets until they started laying eggs
        • We also added some vitamins to their water for the first three weeks
      • Care
        • During the first two weeks, our 9-year-old sister would check on the chicks almost every hour during the day
  • Observations and Timeframe
    • The chicks grew for almost 5 weeks before we had to add a small fence around the kiddy pool to keep the chicks inside, (they enjoyed flying up and perching on the side of the pool, but would sometimes fall off the side of the pool until we added the fence)
    • When the chicks were 7 weeks old, we moved them to their outside house, an A-framed, moveable coop
    • When they beagan living outside, they no longer required a light or heat source
    • The chickens started laying eggs the end of September/beginning of November
    • October 3rd, we switched their feed from grower pellets to layer pellets
    • With the adaption of laying boxes to their coop, Ellen (the 9-year old) was able to collect the eggs with ease
Research results and discussion:
  • Teaching and Learning
    • We have had numerous opportunities to share our experience with sustainable backyard egg production as well as with writing grants (see table below). We have received very positive feedback on the presentations from various sources (e.g. the middle school teacher wrote in a note "You ladies are a powerhouse! My kids are still talking about your presentation."). We also wrote several papers about our project/egg production for classroom assignments.
    • Post Script: At the National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference, we saw a coop that we adapted for our use. The coop is winterized, has more convenient-to-access laying boxes, and will be moveable once we attach wheels.
Date Audience Where Total in Audience
November 3, 2009 Mrs. Daly's Fifth Grade class Perry Elementary in Shaftsburg 25 students and one teacher
November 4, 2009 Mr. Kiesling's Advanced Agronomy (FFA/agriscience) Perry High School 15 students and 2 teachers
November 7, 2009 NCR-SARE Farmers Forum National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference, Columbia, MO 30 adults and a handful of children
December 16, 2009 Mrs. Kittleson's seventh grade science Perry Middle School 29 students, one teacher, one principal, and one librarian
Participation Summary
2 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

4 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

30 Farmers participated

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Discussion

Through the project we brought sustainable agricultrual production to our own backyard and have shared our experience with many others who might want to do the same. In the process we have learned many new things: how to write a research grant proposal, how to conduct a case study involving animals and theircaretakes, how to keep records, and how to present research results. Moreover, the project has been a resume enhancer.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.