Bonaire Middle students find niche with chickens

awoolen@macon.comApril 17, 2013 

BONAIRE -- Maybe they aren’t questioning what came first, but four middle school students are finding out about the chicken and the egg.

Through Bonaire Middle School’s FFA Poultry Team, eighth-grader Madison Smith and seventh-grader Garrett Wurdeman, along with sixth-graders Jake Bourke and Ryan McDuffie, have learned about egg production and quality as well as how to identify cuts of meat.

Ryan is the only student who has chickens, although the rest have asked their parents after they joined the team.

“I tried. It didn’t work,” Madison said.

The team, only in its second year, placed first at the area competition against seven other teams. The went to the state competition March 23 at the University of Georgia and finished 10th.

Students are graded on 10 different areas. Some of the areas are grading an egg based on appearance, telling what part of the body a particular cut of meat came from and judging a hen on her egg laying ability by her size and body structure.

Madison thought the hardest part was the short amount of time to evaluate the chickens.

Ryan said it was the exterior egg quality check that stumped him.

Because the school does not have chickens, the students used flash cards and local egg producers, who raise hens for eggs, to practice for the competition.

Buying from the grocery store doesn’t work because all of the eggs there are Grade A, whereas the students had a scale of A, B and C to grade eggs on.

One test the four did in the classroom was egg candling where an egg is held against a bright light to evaluate the shell as well as the interior quality of the egg.

“We check for blood spots and cracks,” said Garrett.

Also evaluated was the air cell, which told the student how old the egg was. The smaller the air pocket, the younger the egg.

Rotten eggs are identified by their dark color.

“I definitely know more about chickens than I did before,” Jake said.

Bonaire Middle teacher Cheralyn Keily said she wanted to get students interested in poultry because it is an industry that is still prospering, despite the economic times.

“The poultry industry is thriving in Georgia,” she said.

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