Links to registration are below. Please read all of the details before proceeding to the registration page as there are several new opportunities this year. The breed choices are also highlighted below.
Youth participants have the option of raising 5, 12 or 25 pullets (female chicks) and must choose one of the following four breeds: Golden Comet, Buff Orpington, Barred Plymouth Rocks, and Speckled Sussex (descriptions of the breeds can be found below in the FAQ section). Those choosing the new 5 bird option will pay a deposit of $20, those choosing 12 birds will pay a deposit of $35 while those choosing 25 birds will pay a deposit of $60. The chicks will be one-day old upon arrival and should come near the first of May (an exact date will be given when the birds are ordered and we will share that date with you before the end of March). Senior level participants (those that turn 14 on or before January 1, 2018) will compete throughout the project for a $250 cash award.
Timeline for 2018 Project (runs March - November)
Golden Comets have earned the reputation of being one of the best layers of large brown eggs available today. They mature early (5 months on average) and lay eggs of excellent size and quality. Comets are a quiet bird that adapt well to the small flock owner. The comet is a 'sex-link' strain. This simply means that the gender can be determined at hatch by their color. With very few exceptions, pullets are red -- cockerels are white. Due to this characteristic, you can have confidence that the birds you receive will all be pullets. With the other three breed choices below, there is a chance that a cockerel may be in the mix as the hatchery will guarantee a 90% success rate at determining the correct gender. If you live in an area where having roosters is not allowed, this is an excellent choice to minimize the chances that you have male birds in your flock.
Buff Orpington - An old time favorite in backyard flocks. They are a nice quiet breed with a beautiful buff (golden) color and are considered a good layer of large brown eggs. They are cold hardy. Buff Orpingtons tend to be slightly larger than the other three breeds (maturing at 7 to 8 pounds). In the backyard flock, Buff Orpington tend to be the most docile and biggest pet. They mature at around 6 months of age. There is nothing like the sight of a flock of Buff Orpington in the back yard.
Barred Plymouth Rock - Another old time favorite, they are known for their coloring and efficient production of large brown eggs. Hens will mature to around 6-7 pounds. The birds are cold hardy and do very well in the backyard flock. As with the other breeds, they are a calm bird that adapts well to human interaction. They mature at around 6 months of age.
Speckled Sussex are great layers of tinted or light brown eggs and they lay well through the winters. Historically, they served as a dual purpose bird, meaning that they are prized as table fare in addition to being good layers. They are a slightly larger bird, similar in weight to the Buff Orpingtons. Sussex are a friendly bird and more easily handled than many breeds. They are also curious in nature and will often follow you around the yard, especially if they think they can beg a treat from you.
Assorted Bantams - This is a new option this year and cannot be your primary bird, however, you can use these birds in the show ring if you choose, as long as you show a pullet (female bird). NOTE: THESE WILL BE STRAIGHT RUN (BOTH FEMALE AND MALE BIRDS) AND THE BREEDS WILL BE THE CHOICE OF THE HATCHERY. THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL GET A SPECIFIC BREED FROM ABOVE, BUT YOU SHOULD HAVE A COMBINATION OF A FEW OF THE BREEDS. OUT OF THE 5 BIRDS YOU RECEIVE, WE WOULD EXPECT AT LEAST 2 OR 3 TO BE FEMALE... BUT AGAIN... THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES.
What's the refund policy?
For the Pullet Chain, refunds are allowed only through the end of the registration period at 8:00am on March 12, 2018. Chicks will be ordered on March 12, 2018. Once the chicks are ordered refunds will not be allowed.
Can I also participate in the Laying Flock Project?
While we will not turn anyone down that wishes to compete in both projects, the only difference is that the participant would be expected to complete two separate record books. Access to the shows is open to participants from both projects.
For the Pullet Chain, can I split my selection between two breeds?
The short answer is "No", but there is a way to get multiple breeds. We require birds to be selected in quantities of either 5, 12 or 25 with no exceptions. However, there are no stipulations that keep you from getting more than one 'flock'. Each year we will have a few youth that will select 12 (or 25) of one breed and 12 (or 25) more of another. This is completely acceptable. In cases like this, where 2 separate flocks are ordered, the expectation is that you bring birds to the final sale from both flocks as stated above in order to have the initial deposit returned. (The new 5 bird option this year does not require birds to be brought to the auction)
Will all of the chicks for the Pullet Chain be female (pullets)?
The hatchery guarantees a 90% success rate in determining the gender of the chicks. There is a chance that you could have a cockerel or two in your flock. With Golden Comets, the hatchery tends to have a higher success rate in determining gender as they are a "sex-link" strain. This simply means that the chicks, when hatched, can have their gender determined by their color (pullets are red; cockerels are white). If you live in a town that does not allow roosters, Golden Comets are your safest choice. Also note that if you choose to add bantams to your order, you can expect that you will end up with several roosters.
How will I care for them when they first arrive?
When your chicks first arrive they will only be one day old. It is very important that they be kept warm for the first few weeks. The day they arrive you will need to have a 'brooder' that will maintain a temperature around 95 degrees. Each week you can lower the temperature by 5 degrees. We always try to target an arrival date around the first week or two of May because this time frame enables the birds to get outside at a younger age due to the warmer daytime temperatures. If you have never setup a brooder before it is not difficult. The first newsletter, that should arrive by the end of March, will have instructions to help you get prepared.
Will Laying Flock participants and Pullet Chain participants compete against each other at the shows?
Yes. You will have participants from both projects competing together. The focus of the judges at the shows is on the youth, not the bird, so there is no advantage given to one project or the other.
Do I have to use my project bird at the shows?
While we encourage youth to use their project bird, it is not a formal requirement. There are instances where it may be warranted for youth to use a different bird. For example, some of our youngest 4-H'ers have difficulty holding a larger bird. In these cases it is acceptable for them to use an alternate bird that may be a 'better fit' for the youth.
Can cockerels / roosters be used as the show bird in the regional shows?
No. All show birds in the Midlands Region shows must be pullets / hens. However, shows outside of our region may have different rules. If you attend a show outside of our region be sure to check with them on the rules they have set.
Will our birds have to be blood tested?
In South Carolina, you cannot legally bring a chicken to any type of public setting where it could potentially come in contact with birds from other farms unless it has been blood tested (and banded) for pullorum within 90 days of that event. Your 4-H Agent will arrange a time to blood test your birds as needed. Blood testing is generally done near the end of August.
How much space will I need in the coop?
As a general rule of thumb, you will need about three square feet per mature chicken inside the coop, and 8 to 10 square feet per bird in an outside run. More square footage is better. For roosting, it is best to have 10 to 12 inches of roost space per bird. It is recommended that you have one nesting box for every 5 hens (although, without fail, there will be one or two boxes that most pick as their favorite).
Can I raise the birds on a scratch feed ration?
While chickens love to eat scratch feed, it does not supply the needed nutrients for them to develop properly. Think of scratch feed as 'candy' for your birds as it only delivers about 6-8% protein content. If you use it at all, only do so as an occasional treat. When your birds are growing, they should be on a balanced ration that provides a minimum of 18% protein (20% is better). When you see the first egg, they should be transitioned to a layer ration that contains 16% protein.