4-H youths learn to raise chickens in the city.
WRITTEN BY SARAH PARKS
PHOTOS BY SHAUN HUNTER
From left, Elia Keating, Riley Pulver, and Dahlia Keating display the Keatings’ show chickens
About 20 members of the 4-H group Carson Cluckers gather in a room and begin their meeting by reciting the 4-H pledge. Young boys and girls and their families motion with their hands as they say the mantra. But they’re not the only ones present. Scattered around the room in cages and on tabletops are chickens, clucking and trilling.
“All right, everyone, I’m going to show you how to handle your chicken,” says Elia Keating, a 14-year-old member of the poultry 4-H club.
Elia and her 9-year-old younger sister, Dahlia, have both been members of the club for the past five years.
There’s something that sets many of these students apart from what you might imagine typical 4-H-ers to be.
“These kids live in the city; they don’t have farms,” says Vicky Fogelman, club leader. “They raise their chickens in their backyards.”
The Keating family’s show chickens wander the family’s backyard while (from left) Dahlia and Elia Keating and Riley Pulver watch from the porch
Rules of the roost
According to Fogelman, Carson City residents have plenty of interest in raising poultry, with many households owning birds. City regulations allow a maximum of five hens on properties less than one acre.
Fogelman believes raising chickens is a great way for young people to get started raising animals, especially if they live in a more urban environment and don’t have a lot of land.
“It’s a fantastic hands-on activity,” Fogelman says. “They can do anything from raising the chickens and learning how to show, to selling the eggs and learning how to start and run a business.”
Dahlia Keating holds two eggs taken from the laying coop
Elia and Dahlia found their first chicken abandoned on the side of a road and instantly fell in love. Named Littlebit, the chicken inspired them to find the club and learn more about raising the animals. Littlebit then helped a new member, Riley Pulver, find her place in the club. When Pulver expressed interest in chickens, Elia and Dahlia lent her Littlebit so that Pulver could learn how to show.
For 12-year-old Pulver, getting involved with the club and learning showmanship has had an impact on her life.
“The first time I showed, I was a little scared, but then I got best in show!” Pulver says. “Once I got used to chickens, I became more focused and confident. I used to be really quiet, and now I can speak louder and be more confident with my words.”
Fogelman says that showing chickens has helped many of the members boost their self-confidence and be engaged in leadership activities. Showing chickens even has helped with the girls’ lives outside 4-H — it’s encouraged Dahlia to try out for plays and even start a side business with her sister selling the eggs.
“It’s more of a challenge to raise them in a confined environment,” Elia admits, “because some of the chickens are lighter and like to fly over gates, so we have to go find them. But overall, it’s been a great experience to try and raise them in an urban home.”
Fogelman agrees that it is easy and inexpensive to raise birds in the city.
“You don’t need that much space for chickens,” she says. “If you have a good coop that they can go into at night, where they are protected and can have some warmth in the winter, and a little area where they can be outside in the yard, that’s perfectly adequate.”
As for the members in the club, they love raising their backyard flocks, and learning more about their animals, and building their confidence.
Sarah Parks grew up in 4-H herself and loves to see members expressing excitement over their animals and their commitment to learn more.
The Nevada Junior Livestock Show is May 2 – 6, 2018. For details, visit Agri.nv.gov.