How to start a Poultry Project in 4H

Raising poultry in 4H is fun!
Raising poultry in 4H is fun!

Starting a new project in 4H, especially a small animal project such as poultry, is both easy and fun!

Things You'll Need

  • A current 4H Leader in good standing who has an interest to work with youth of all ages and learn more about raising chickens for show, eggs, and meat.
  • 4H youth interested in taking on a more active role in a project by participating as a Jr or Teen Leader
  • 4H youth members who are interested in learning more about chickens

If you are a 4H leader interested in starting a new poultry project, first contact your club's Community Club Leader and talk about what's needed; every club, county, and state may have different guidelines. You will need to determine if there is enough interest among the youth, where you will hold your project meetings, and what curriculum you will use. What are your goals for the project? Do you want to plan any field trips? What forms are needed by the members to participate? These are all things your CCL can assist you with.

Contact your County Resource or Key Leader for Poultry and see if they can offer any tips or ideas on how to begin. Visit other established poultry projects and see what they do...many clubs will combine project meetings with other clubs so that they can share resources. Design a project plan with dates, so you can prepare topics, guest speakers, and activities in advance. Utilize your Jr and Teen leaders, as well as parent-helpers, in this planning process.

Chickens come in all shapes and sizes!
Chickens come in all shapes and sizes!

Be active during your club's open enrollment and talk about the project at 4H meetings/events to entice youth to sign-up for the project. Provide updates during monthly meetings (or have your youth volunteers do this) and give demonstrations so that 4H members will get a better idea of what your project is all about. Find out what 4H events are being planned in your area, and ask if your group can participate - it will encourage others to learn about poultry, and your project may also gain community service experience.

Here is a sample Project Plan: 1st Meeting: Introductions, explain that there are "different birds for different purposes", the difference between pure-bred chickens and those from the feed-store or catalog. 2nd Meeting: The different parts of a 4H poultry project - showmanship, market poultry, breeding poultry, production (eggs). 3rd Meeting: Demonstration on how to find out if your bird is sick, discussion on parasites and disease control. 4th Meeting: Building coops and raising chicks. 5th Meeting: Showmanship techniques and chicken body parts & terms. 6th Meeting: Preparing for fair and poultry shows. 7th Meeting: How to wash your chicken, grooming. 8th Meeting: How to process a chicken and raise meat birds. 9th Meeting: Discuss egg layers and how to maintain your flock for production. 10th Meeting: How to start a business with your chickens and pay for feed. 11th Meeting: BBQ/Potluck and Poultry Trivia Game. 12th Meeting: All about breeds and varieties.

You will also want to incorporate field trips, games, do more on chicken health, the different feeds and bedding available, what to do when it's cold or hot (weather concerns). There is a great deal of material available, so be creative and make learning about chickens fun!

Provide your members with a list of: -Internet Resources -Books -Poultry Shows -Poultry Clubs and Organizations they can contact -Important Poultry Dates -What to do if your chicken becomes ill/biosecurity -What to do when a predator attacks your flock -Who to call when a question comes-up and help is needed

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't re-invent the wheel! Learn from others and don't be afraid to ask for help.
  • Use your local 4H office as a resource, including what is available online.
  • Consider starting a yahoo or online group, as long as it's protected (because you are working with youth under the age of 18).
  • Delegate and encourage others to get involved - don't do it all yourself.
  • Always consult your 4H office regarding policies and procedures
  • Always be safe - follow state guidelines on poultry health and products. Biosecurity is of utmost importance!
  • Never transport a sick chicken - have it quarantined and do not move it from one location to another. Use Biosecure techniques at all times.

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