Bonaire Middle School in Houston County has a new home for its feathery friends.
Twenty-two chicks raised in the classroom moved into a henhouse, donated by Purdue Farms of Houston County, on March 21.
The school’s FFA club bought the bedding and supplies for the shelter, which has an indoor and outdoor area, said Cheralyn Keily, the agriculture science teacher who is overseeing the project. Eighth-graders put together the henhouse’s outside section.
The school has nine breeds of hens, including the common white leghorn, and most of them will grow to be about 4 pounds. Thirteen of the birds are staying at the school, and the other 10 are going to new homes. The hens will start laying eggs in the fall, and the eggs will be sold to help pay for additional supplies.
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“This has been a perfect hands-on application to what we’re learning in class,” Keily said. “Now the students aren’t going to just hear about how a hen produces an egg, but they’re actually going to see her produce an egg.”
The new facility is giving students in all three grade levels real-life lessons in math and science while teaching them about the poultry industry. The students and teachers are excited about the henhouse, and some of them stop by every morning to see the hens.
The students want to help with the project, and they feed and water the birds and clean the coop. Taking care of the animals instills a sense of responsibility in them, Keily said.
Sixth-grade students study a unit on poultry production, learning about egg growth and development, safe handling practices, breeds and more. Seventh-graders study genetics, and the hens provide practical, real-life examples of those lessons.
Some of the school’s 101 FFA members show hens in competitions or do poultry judging, and they get extra practice through the new henhouse. Eighth-grader Samantha Boedicker, who’s on the school’s FFA poultry judging team, said she got to watch the hens grow up from “itty bitty” chicks.
This isn’t Bonaire Middle’s first live animal project. A rabbit barn was added last year, although Keily kept bunnies in her classroom for several years before that. There are now 11 school rabbits, and most will start having babies in about a month.
Sabrina Maine, an eighth-grader on the FFA rabbit show team, loved playing with the rabbits that her grandfather owned,and she jumped at the chance to help take care of rabbits at Bonaire Middle.
Seventh-grader Mary Catherine Maloy, also on the FFA rabbit show team, said she had never worked with rabbits before but has learned about breeds and how to take care of the animals through the club.