A bird in hand: 4-H students prepare for chicken sale

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

SHANNON – Eggs don’t come from grocery stores. They come from chickens, and pretty soon, they could be coming from a backyard near you.
In July, 4-H students from throughout Lee County started raising chickens to get them ready for a show and sale from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at Tupelo Creative Commons, a city park just south of the Tupelo Farmers’ Market on Spring Street.
“When we started this project, we had nine kids and 180 chickens,” said Belvia Giachelli, 4-H livestock agent with Lee County Extension Service.
A dog got into one of the participant’s coups, so there aren’t exactly 180 chickens any more, but there will be plenty for sale for urban farmers interested in fresh eggs on demand.
“Anybody can have chickens in the city limits, as long as they’re confined,” said Sherrie Cochran, environmental planner for Tupelo.
She said the rule is 10 square feet per hen in each coup. The operative word there is “hen.”
“We really don’t want roosters because of the noise,” Cochran said. “I don’t think people want that in their neighborhoods.”
A pair of roosters were crowing back and forth to each other on Monday, when 4-H volunteers stopped by a Shannon farmhouse to immunize Coley and Hunter Aldridge’s chickens.
All chickens in the sale will be immunized for pneumonia and fowl pox, another way of saying chicken pox, so they’ll be ready for new owners.
“Me and my brother take care of them,” said 12-year-old Coley. “I’ll water and he’ll feed, then will switch up sometimes.”
They’re raising black sex-linked show chickens. “Sex-linked” means females are a different color than the males when they’re chicks.
Coley said the chickens will be ready to produce big brown eggs sometime in the fall.
The young chicken farmers – at least the ones who didn’t have a dog break into their coups – expect to profit from the venture, and that’ll help them buy chickens next year. Coley and Hunter are planning on keeping some of their hens and breeding them.
Lee County Extension Service will give a seminar on raising backyard chickens on Sept. 25 at the Lee County Agri-Center in Verona. Anyone who needs information about building a coup or the proper care and feeding of chickens before then is welcome to drop by the Extension Service office at 5338 Cliff Gookin Blvd. in Tupelo, or call (662) 841-9000.
In addition to the sale, kids will be competing to see who has the top chickens in the county on Sept. 13.
“The Lee County winner will go to the state show in Raymond in October,” Giachelli said. “There’s a lot riding on this for them.”
scott.morris@journalinc.com