UHS Poultry Project - 2016
University High School Students
Students in University High School science classes have found a unique way to use chickens to connect with nature, to learn about our food system, and to understand various complex ecosystems. Student volunteers and community members are maintaining and caring for the chickens on campus on a daily basis. Waste from the chicken coops will be composted and used to fertilize the UHS teaching and pollinator gardens.
Students at UHS wanted to teach adults and kids in their community about the importance of keeping backyard chickens. They started by pitching their idea to school administration and followed with a school-wide assembly. They next held a “chicken party,” introducing students and faculty to friendly chickens on loan from Providence Wildlife.
Students in the school's Zoology class incubate eggs and study the embryology and development of chickens. From fertilization to hatching, the incubation period is 21 days.
Candling involves holding a light under the egg to check for a growing embryo. It is an important process in artificial incubation. Students look for the development of the blood vessels and the attachment of the embryo membranes in the first candling near Day 6. The second candling, near Day 18 is completed to ensure the eggs have turned toward the air sac and are ready for hatching.
While the chicks were growing, student leaders worked with neighborhood partner Naptown Chickens to build a chicken coop tractor and painted it in their school colors. This fall, volunteers will be trained to care for and maintain the flock of chickens through a student club called Poultry Pals.
Their small flock has gotten a lot of attention in their school. Students hope to teach the community about the benefits of keeping chickens in residential backyards and awareness of the food industry, the environment, and animal rights.
Youth leader Greta brought Lewis the rooster to school for a presentation to show that a rooster can be as cuddly and friendly as a dog. Here students are gathering to meet Lewis and learn how to hold a chicken properly.
Students are responsible for measuring and recording the temperature and humidity daily. They also candle the eggs individually two times during the process, by using a bright light and shining it through the shell.
A couple days after hatching, the chicks are moved to an area with a heat lamp called a brooder. Chicks stay in the brooder inside the classroom until they can regulate their own body temperature or until the outside temperature is warm.
Student volunteers placed the special enclosure for the chickens on school grounds. Students in charge of the project had already carefully researched the type of living space and care chickens require, and are confident with their results.
Project Poultry plans to keep 6-8 of the chickens in the school coop while others will be re-homed to local individuals with established coops. The students have found extra ways to make their project have even more environmental impact. They use kitchen scraps to augment the bird feed and use the cured chicken manure as compost for their community garden.