As Boundary “C” 4-H Club reporter Marijka Van Kuik wrote last week, the club is launching a chicken pilot project as part of this year’s celebrations of 100 years of 4-H in British Columbia.
The first 4-H project in B.C. in 1914 involved some 200 kids each with a dozen chicks to raise, so what better way to celebrate 100 years!
The projects is being spearheaded by Nathan Harpur and the idea has been met with enthusiasm. Fertilized eggs from local flocks and heritage breeds have been incubating since early February and the kids have been busy building brooders and coops.
He said that 20 kids have signed up to take on the chicken project in addition to their regular 4-H club project. The plan is for enough birds to hatch so each member can get six or seven chicks.
“They will bring their best rooster and best pair of hens to the fair—that is how they will achieve.”
He said the B.C. Poultry Association is planning to set up a mini-barn at the fair this year too.
Harpur had six incubators going in his house, four filled with locally donated eggs and the other two set up with some purebred heritage chickens purchased in Kelowna.
“There is a bit of a science to it,” Harpur said as he explained the incubation process.
“It takes 21 days to hatch a chick, and during these last days humidity is precious.
“When you are hatching them it has to stay 80 to 90 per cent humidity so it will stay wet enough that the chicks can turn as it is picking inside of the shell. The chick turns inside there and it saws the shell. Then it pops off the top and comes out of the shell. The humidity keeps the membranes moist inside the egg—if the membranes dry out then they stick and they can’t rotate around to open the shell.”
Harpur says these birds will start laying eggs in about five and a half to six months. “So by the time they get to the fair they will be laying eggs so they can have something they can show as well.”
He said the kids would also be shown how to butcher chickens and prepare them for the table.
The chicks should be distributed to the 4-H kids this weekend, he said. Then it’s up to the kids to give them a good home.