Hen House project teaches skills to Agriculture students

A recently-completed project by the Animal Science Class at the Arcadia Valley Career Tech Center is a hen house designed and built by the students.  From left are class members and FFA officers Emma Wadlow (Chapter Reporter), Jacob Barnhouse (Chapter Sentinel), Katelyn Young (Chapter Vice-President) and FFA Advisor and Ag Education Instructor Richard Brummett.

As a part of a study of food insecurity in communities, the Agriculture Education classes at the Arcadia Valley Career Technical Center decided on a hen house project.

“Primarily it was the Animal Science Class that did it,” said Instructor Richard Brummett. 

“We designed it on a computer and, of course, like in the real world not everything works out, so we made some modifications on the fly,” Brummett said. “We looked at buying a hen house, but they were $1,100-$1,200 and they were small and flimsy.”

So the students designed and constructed the coop behind the CTC building and spent a little over $800 on it. 

“It was a nightmare from time to time, but the kids did a great job on it,” the teacher said. 

The project was funded by a grant from the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) organization through its “Living to Serve” grants. This particular grant was supported by donations from CSX Railways, Donaldson Filters and Tractor Supply Company.

In fact, the students have been awarded grants totally some $40,000 over the last five years, the instructor said, which allowed projects such as the Community Garden and a garden at the Elementary School and a worm composting project.

The goal of the hen house project is first, a teaching tool, and second some eggs to sell to keep it going by providing funds for feed and other supplies, and hopefully to be able to give some excess eggs to the Community Food Pantry. The manure will be composted for the gardens.

While construction was going on, the students researched types of chickens to decide what breed to raise.

“I told them I wanted something that was early maturing and a good-sized bird that laid a large-sized egg,” Brummett said.  The Golden Comet fit the bill. “It lays an extra-large brown egg and it is a cross between a Cherry-egger Rooster and a white 

Leghorn hen. One of the neat things about it that the F1 generation, the first generation of chicks, all the hens will come out a golden color and all the roosters will come out white. So we learned a little about genetics, also.

“They came in in great shape – we had 16 chickens shipped at one day old.  Shipped the day they were hatched.”

The students had also constructed a brooder with a heat lamp and a water system and the chicks lived there until they were old enough for the hen house.

The hen house was the big part of the project that took a good portion of the first quarter of the school year to build. However, it also included electrical work (a cooling fan and vents and a heat lamp with a digital thermometer) and many of the students were inexperienced carpenters.

“Building the hen house took a lot longer than I thought it would,” Brummett said. “Mostly my animal science class was responsible for it. We were scrambling to get it outside.

“The kids has a good time with it and it was a good learning experience over all.

“We didn’t want a lot of birds that would cause a big mess and we did have to stay within a budget. Technically we are in the city limits of Ironton, so we looked at the city ordinances and they said you could have ten birds, so we thought that was perfect.”

That led to the “Great Chicken Giveaway” where the excess 6 chicks found homes with students who had to explain to their instructor what chicken experience they possessed and how they were going to take care of them.

Brummett said the egg-laying life of the chickens would be about two years. Six months before that, they will order a new batch of chicks to keep egg production going.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “We are going to keep this going.”