4-H Poultry Projects engage youth in learning life skills while having fun raising chickens. In the Midlands Region of South Carolina, youth have the option to participate in one of two projects. In the The 4-H Pullet Chain, youth raise either 12 or 25 chicks. The chicks are 1 day old when they arrive. The 4-H Laying Flock Project is designed for youth that already have laying hens at home and are not interested in raising new chicks this year. Participants in this project have the same access to shows as the Pullet Chain participants. Periodically throughout the project year, youth and their families will receive a project newsletter that will provide valuable information to ensure that the youth are setup to succeed.
Youth will receive trophies and/or ribbons, in addition to small cash premiums, for placing in shows and judging of the record books. Senior level participants (those who turn 14 on or before January 1, 2017) are eligible to compete for a $250 cash award.
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The following counties are part of the Midlands Region: Aiken, Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lexington, Newberry, Richland, Union and York. Not a resident of one of these counties? There may be a poultry project opportunity in your area. Here is a map that shows 4-H poultry project opportunities across the state along with contact information of the coordinator for the region.
The objectives of the Midlands Region Poultry Projects are that youth will:
Registration for 2017 is now CLOSED
Youth participants have the option of raising 12 or 25 pullets (female chicks) and must choose one of the following four breeds: Golden Comet, Buff Orpington, Ameraucana, and Barred Plymouth Rocks (descriptions of the breeds can be found below in the FAQ section). 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, 2017) will compete throughout the project for a $250 cash award.
The objectives of the Midlands Region Pullet Chain are that youth will:
Timeline for 2017 Project (runs March - November)
The Laying Flock Project is designed for youth that already have laying hens at home and are not interested in raising new birds this year. Participants in this project have the same opportunities to show as those in the Pullet Chain. Senior level participants (those that turn 14 on or before January 1, 2017) will compete along with the Pullet Chain participants throughout the project for a $250 cash award.
Timeline for 2017 Laying Flock Project
What's the refund policy?
For the Pullet Chain, refunds are allowed only through the end of the registration period on March 15, 2017. Chicks will be ordered on March 16, 2017. Once the chicks are ordered refunds will not be allowed. For the Laying Flock Project, there will be no refunds after May 1, 2017.
Can I participate in both projects?
While we will not turn anyone down that wishes to compete in both projects, the only difference would be that the participant would be expected to complete two separate record books. Access to the shows is open to participants from both projects.
What are the breed choices?
Golden Comets - Golden Comets have earned the reputation of being one of the best layers of large brown eggs available today. They mature early 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.
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. 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 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.
Ameraucanas - This is a new addition to our project and one that we feel will be a popular selection. Having originated in Chile, South America, they are often called the "easter egger' because they lay colored eggs: blue, green, pink and/or olive drab. These birds will vary in size and color and will not mature quite as fast as the Golden Comets. They are very tolerant of our winters and at maturity will weigh around 5 to 6 pounds. A great bird for your backyard flock. Please note: These birds are technically Ameraucanas. Often times there is confusion between Ameraucanas and Araucanas. Araucana's are the original breed from Chili. While these birds owe their heritage to the Araucana, they are slightly different. True Araucana's are considered a rare breed in the United States and are identified as being rumpless and no beards or muffs. Even experts sometimes disagree on certain aspects of the heritage. True Araucana's will also lay only blue eggs while the birds offered in our project may lay a blue egg with a greenish or pinkish tint or an olive drab color. They also will not be rumpless and variations of feather coloring is normal.
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 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.
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).
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 them.
Can cockerels / roosters be used as the show bird?
No. All show birds must be pullets / hens.
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 show bird and, for those in our pullet chain project, the birds that you intend to bring to the final auction in November. 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.