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August 28, 2009

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Chickens Take Up Residency at MRH Early Childhood Center

In August, 14 young chicks became the newest residents of the MRH Early Childhood Center. Soon they will have their own coop, which will be connected to a new fruit tree orchard on the center’s grounds.

“I believe the introduction of chickens to our program is the next natural step in reaching our goal of preparing our students to be stewards of the earth,” said Debi Gibson, seed to table program director and “mother hen.”

The chicks, which are expected to be full-grown hens in five to six months, will help reconnect young people with their environment, food, and animals. They will also help with bug and insect control in the orchard.

Superintendent Linda Henke notes that the tremendous amount of benefits comes with very little costs to the district. “Children can be fully involved in looking after the chickens so that no additional staffing time is required,” she said. “We plan to have high school students serve as chicken stewards to help out.”

Purchased from a hatchery in Lebanon, MO, the chicks started as one- and three-week olds. Among the breeds calling ECC home are a silver spangled hamburg, a sultan, a blue cochin and a golden sebright.

The Maplewood ordinance allows six chickens per household, but they were pleased to grant MRH an exception because the school will help educate the community about properly raising hens. The district will be hosting a class soon on raising backyard chickens, the first in a series of classes to be offered (check the website for future classes).

Among the items discussed are the incorrect assumptions about chickens, including that they’re too noisy (they’re not, it’s the roosters that are loud), that they carry disease (no more likely than a household dog or cat, and significantly less than the large-scale farm operations), that they produce too much droppings (not true, plus it’s good for composting), and that they attract predators (chickens do not attract predators any more than rabbits, cats and even small dogs).

Check out our chicken reference guide here.

For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.