Chickens at school (and now I am in charge)

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by babsbag, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. babsbag

    babsbag Chillin' With My Peeps

    724
    4
    131
    Jan 12, 2010
    Anderson, CA
    The school where I work has a pretty nice coop that was built for them and now we are thinking about how to populate it. Somehow I got placed in charge of this project, even though I am the technology supervisor, I am now the chicken lady too. This wasn't my idea...

    What I am wondering is if anyone can share experiences with me regarding incubating eggs in a classroom and how that worked, and what do you do with them after they hatch? Has anyone raised chicks at a school? I don't know what I will do for weekend care for the chicks or how to keep them warm, safely. I just burned down my chicken shed with a light so I am very light shy right now.

    They have said they all roos will be re-homed, they want about 10 hens when all is said and done.

    They also think that 1st graders are old enough to care for the chickens once they are moved into the coop. Does anyone other than me think that they are too young?

    Let me hear all the stories, good and bad. I know there must be some members with school experience with chickens.

    Thanks for all the help.
     
  2. Chemguy

    Chemguy Chillin' With My Peeps

    681
    32
    131
    May 30, 2011
    Springfield, Ohio
    You can do this.

    My second-hand experience as a parent of a first grader (twice) is that someone is going to have to stop into the room over the weekend, and in the morning before students arrive. Dead chicks are real downers. Especially if they happen to be bloody. There are folk on this site who are teachers who have done this, so I hope they chime in with first-hand experience.

    As for 1st graders caring for chickens....why not? At least some of them are going to be great at it. It will be a real reward for them.

    One passing, random thought: should county health be involved in this? It would be another downer for the chicens to suddenly "go to live on a nice farm," which might be very true, but is nonetheless a bit unsettling for a young one if it happens suddenly.

    Last, you might find someone here who would be more than happy to help with any extra roosters.
     
  3. babsbag

    babsbag Chillin' With My Peeps

    724
    4
    131
    Jan 12, 2010
    Anderson, CA
    Thanks for the vote of confidence. I can see where dead chicks would be a downer and that is a good tip.

    As far as the health dept...our school is brand new, built for us by a philantropic foundation and therefore our chicken coop actually had to have a building permit. Probably the only permitted coop in the county. We also have a "chicken policy" that our school board has approved talking about such things as washing hands, wearing masks, and wearing boots when in the coop.

    The thing is we are an art school. Even though we are in a very rural area we are not an ag school at all. But our new school is very "green" with gardens, recycling, orchard, and compost bins so the chickens were only natural. They also have a healthy lunch program and hope to get some eggs eventually. Our chickens are already nicknamed the Oemlet sisters. :)

    I take taking care of animals very seriously and I want to make this a successful venture, not just for the children, but for the chickens too. I am not really sure how I got this job, last Friday I was asked "what if" and today I hear "you are it".

    If we were raising chicks and finding them home I would be much more comfortable than I am with the ongoing maintenance and care of chickens, especially during vacations and summers.
     
  4. Chemguy

    Chemguy Chillin' With My Peeps

    681
    32
    131
    May 30, 2011
    Springfield, Ohio
    Ah, the old "you're it" strategy. I work in education, too (small private college), and it is not any different. Usually, when something to do comes up, people find something interesting about their shoes. The conversation often starts out as "We should do this" with an unspoken "but count me out."

    That's really neat about the charter of the school. Ag, art or otherwise, you know that some of the kids will get a lot out of the experience and others will not. I remember that my kids were so thrilled when it came their turn to do something for the chicks. Unlike guinea pigs, though, the chickens just aren't going to be able to go home with someone over breaks. Is there a way you could entice some of the staff to sign up for turns over break, maybe with a promise of eggs? As for the kids, like I said, tending to the chickens will be a very popular activity. Maybe a club of some sort?

    One other comment.....it's hit and miss as to how well the teachers might buy in to the project. I remember that there were 2/3 first grade teachers that wanted nothing to do with taking care of the chicks, on grounds that they were disgusting messy and gross. There were others in the building, though, who shared your idea of caring for animals. These people will come forward when the time arrives.
     
  5. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    6,771
    128
    281
    Apr 15, 2009
    My daughter is in first grade and she does some limited care for the chickens. She feeds and waters the birds, collects eggs, will catch them for me as needed, helps to treat them as needed for various problems, etc. I never let her clean the coop though. Ever. She is not even allowed to be around when I clean. In my mind, there is too much potential for her to get sick from being around air-borne chicken waste during cleaning. I wear a respirator when I clean the coop and practice very good hygiene (immediately remove and wash my clothing, take a shower, change my shoes) to prevent any chance of illness being spread to me. I don't think that most 6-7 year olds are responsible enough to follow that level of care during coop cleaning, and that is the time that they are most likely going to be exposed to something potentially dangerous. And the main reason I use a respirator instead of just a dust mask is because those masks block large particulate matter, but don't do much to block air-borne viruses and bacteria, which are much smaller. Those masks are better at preventing the wearer from infecting the chickens with something rather than the other way around.

    Just a thought. Add to your list of tasks you are suddenly responsible for: coop cleaning.

    Good luck.
     
  6. ECBW

    ECBW Chillin' With My Peeps

    812
    34
    133
    Apr 12, 2011
    NJ
    My kids’ school had hatching projects in science class but would give away the chicks.

    Because of the low maintenance nature of chickens, keeping a flock as a long-term science project is very doable. Just keep in mind that someone needs to check on the flock on weekends and holidays. We have taken in iguana and other classroom animals during long breaks.
     
  7. Gullygarden

    Gullygarden Chillin' With My Peeps

    209
    5
    81
    Jul 2, 2011
    i have seen it done tragically wrong in a school by an over enthusiastic but inexperienced teacher. The coop was donated and very badly designed - a concentration camp for hens. cannibalism was inevitable because there was no run and it was too small. other design flaws injured and even killed chickens. The coop must be well designed, the run larger than absolutely necessary,the teacher in charge either knowledgeable or really willing to learn. you want to show kids chicken keeping at it's best, not as at it's worst!

    I have also seen it done really well at a school. Big shady run, comfy, spacious coop. and a team of volunteers with a carefully maintained schedule of twice daily care. you need someone who has raised chickens successfully to then train and teach both volunteers and kids alike. You want it to inspire good chicken care, not teach it wrong! the kids can do a lot but cannot be in charge because they need someone to learn from. Learning from mistakes is not a good way for kids to learn where the well being of living beings is at stake!
     
  8. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    6,771
    128
    281
    Apr 15, 2009
    [​IMG]
     
  9. babsbag

    babsbag Chillin' With My Peeps

    724
    4
    131
    Jan 12, 2010
    Anderson, CA
    I completely agree with the well being of living creatures and that is my concern. To me, they aren't just chickens that are expendable. Not only are they alive and need to be respected, but I am sure that the kids will get attached as well.

    I guess one of the teachers has an incubator, probably a Little Giant one, so the first thing I will do is run some of my mutt eggs through it at home to see if I can get it stable and if it has any quirks. then we will get the "real" eggs. once we get past incubation I have to deal with brooding and I am not sure how or where. The dust is out of control as we all know. Also the light issue and how to make sure they are kept warm and not cooked on weekends.

    I am very concerned about having the care during vacations and weekends. I know that chickens can't just be moved for a few days and brought back, at least they shouldn't be. They are planning on large feeders, and have an auto waterer, but things don't always work and I would like them checked on,especially when it is 110 outside in the summer. They are installing shade cloth for them, and I have asked for some misters for the really hot months. In a few years there will alot of shade, but not this year.

    The coop has a run, not as big as I would like. Can someone remind me what the sq. ft. to bird recommendation is? My birds all free range at home so I don't have to worry. Eventually I believe they are expanding the run to allow chickens access to the orchard, but the trees aren't even planted yet so that is a ways away. The coop/run is well built with good wire and walls so predators should not be an issue, so at least we have that. They have a nice roosting area, and NICE nesting boxes (galvanized metal). We also have power and a network drop if we want a video camera.

    I agree with the kids not cleaning the coop. Even though I might let mine if they were not grown and gone, the last thing we need is a child getting sick and/or a lawsuit when a parent THINKS thier child is sick. Better to head that off before it even starts, good point. Thank you.
     
  10. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    6,771
    128
    281
    Apr 15, 2009
    Inside space requirements are 2 sq.ft./bird and outside requirements are 10 sq.ft./bird. These are the minimum requirements.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by