Youth Poultry Program

Chickens in Grass

South Carolina 4-H Poultry Projects 

  • About

    4-H Poultry Projects engage youth in learning life-skills while having fun raising chickens. The objectives of the South Carolina 4-H Poultry Projects are that youth will:

    • Set goals and plan activities and strategies to achieve those outcomes, even in the face of challenges.
    • Reflect on their yearly work by documenting their skill development and learning experiences.
    • Give back to their communities through educational and service activities.
    • Learn valuable skills in record keeping, financial management, and written communication.
    • Gain valuable life lessons by caring and providing for their 4-H birds.

    South Carolina 4-H Poultry projects are open to all youth, ages 5-18, that are active members of South Carolina 4-H. There are two unique opportunities for youth to participate in 4-H Poultry Projects:

      1. Pullet Chain – The youth will receive chicks that are one-day-old and raise them.
      2. Laying Flock - Any youth that already has chickens at home may participate with their existing birds without having to raise new chicks.
  • Who

    The South Carolina 4-H Poultry Projects are maintained by the SC 4-H Poultry Committee, a group of 4-H agents and state specialist tasked with providing oversight and guidance for youth poultry projects and activities in South Carolina.

    Committee Members:

    Jennifer Mountford (4-H Agent, Abbeville Co., Upstate Representative) grier@clemson.edu
    Steve Hucks (4-H Agent, Lancaster Co., Midlands Representative) chucks@clemson.edu
    Dawn Stuckey (4-H Agent, Colleton/Hampton Co., Savannah Valley Rep.) dstucke@clemson.edu 
    Elizabeth Snipes (4-H Agent, Marlboro/Dillon Co., PeeDee Rep.) esnipe2@clemson.edu 
    Dr. Mickey Hall (South Carolina Poultry Specialist) mahall@clemson.edu
    Brian Bolt (Livestock Specialist) bolt@clemson.edu

    For questions, please contact your local 4-H Agent or any of the committee members listed above.

  • Pullet Chain

    Registration for the 2022 Project is open until March 1, 2022

    Overview

    Youth participants have the option of raising 12 or 25 pullets (female chicks) and must choose one of the following breeds: Golden Comet, Barred Plymouth Rocks, and Buff Orpingtons.  Those choosing 12 birds will pay a deposit of $40 while those choosing 25 birds will pay a deposit of $80. Upon successful completion of the project, the deposit will be returned to the participant. The chicks will be one-day old upon arrival and should come near the first part 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). 

    Guidelines

    • Age Divisions: (all ages are as of January 1, 2022)
      • Cloverbud, 5-8 years of age
      • Junior, 9-13 years of age
      • Senior, 14-18 years of age
    • Fees for the project are:
      • 12 bird option requires a $40 deposit
      • 25 bird option requires a $80 deposit
      • Additional siblings may participate for $10 each
    • 4-H Membership for the 2021-2022 year is required. If membership in 4-H has not been confirmed by the date we order chicks, we reserve the right to cancel your registration in the Pullet Chain. Not already a member? Join Here
    • Each youth will receive a project record book that must be completed and turned in to their local 4-H Agent at project completion. The top Junior and Senior book in each county will advance to region/state judging for additional awards.
    • Youth are expected to show in a minimum of one showmanship opportunity during the project year of August through November. Check the youth livestock show calendar for the opportunities nearest you. Show schedules are typically announced by mid summer.  
    • Youth participants are expected to return birds to our pullet auction (Details will be shared in the fall). Those originally choosing 12 birds must return 3 to the auction while those originally choosing the 25-bird option must return 5 birds. 
    • Youth that successfully complete the project, which includes submitting a record book, showing in at least one show, and returning birds to the auction as stated above, will have 100% of the initial deposit returned and the rest of the birds are yours to keep. It is like getting chicks for free!!

    What are the current breed choices?

    Golden Comets:

    Golden Comet adult  Golden Comet chick Golden Comet eggs

    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. The females top out at about 4.5 to 5 pounds and have an excellent feed conversion/egg ratio. Golden comets can be expected to lay 300+ large to extra-large brown eggs per year.  Comets are a quiet and docile bird that adapt well to the small flock owner. Comets are not a heritage breed but rather a hybrid that is obtained by breeding a Rhode Island Red male with a Rhode Island White female. The result is a bird with excellent laying characteristics and hybrid vigor. 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 almost always be pullets. With the other two breed choices below, there is a better 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:

    Buff Orpington Hen Buff Orpington Chicks Eggs Buff Orpington

    Buff Orpingtons are an excellent starter bird for those looking for a general-purpose chicken. While they may not lay quite as many eggs as a Golden Comet, they make up for it with their calm, pet-like disposition. They tolerate children and being handled better than most breeds. This makes them ideal for the novice flock owner. They have a low and broad body giving them a curvy, fluffy appearance. They are a beautiful buff color and will lay, on average, between 220 and 250 eggs per year. Buff Orpingtons are considered a dual purpose bird. A dual purpose bird is one that lays a good number of eggs but is still large enough to process extra roosters and older hens. Buff Orpingtons mature and start laying at around 6 months of age. Buff Orpingtons are a larger breed with hens maturing between 7 and 8 pounds. As a result, it is not always the best option for our younger participants to use as a show bird, simply because many of our youngest cloverbuds may struggle to hold the bird for longer periods.

    Barred Plymouth Rock:

    Barred Plymouth Rock adult Barred Plymouth Rock chick Barred Plymouth Rock eggs

    Barred Plymouth Rock - An old time favorite, they are known for their coloring and efficient production of large brown eggs. Hens will mature in approximately 6 months 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 and will lay approximately 250-275 large brown eggs per year.

    To access a printable project detail form click here    

    *** Registration will remain open until March 1st, 2022 at 10:00AM ***

     

    Register Online  Click here to access printable registration

     

     

  • Laying Flock Project

     

    Overview

    The 4-H Laying Flock Project is designed for youth that already have chickens at home and are not interested in raising new birds from 4-H this year. Participants in this project have the same opportunities to show as those in the 4-H Pullet Chain.  

    Guidelines

    • Registration Deadline: May 2, 2022 at 10:00AM
    • Age Divisions: (all ages are as of January 1, 2022)
      • Cloverbud, 5-8 years of age
      • Junior, 9-13 years of age
      • Senior, 14-18 years of age
    • 4-H Membership for the 2021-2022 year is required. Not already a member? Join Here
    • Each youth will receive a project record book that must be completed and turned in to their local 4-H Agent at project completion. The top Junior and Senior book in each county will advance to region/state judging for additional awards.
    • Youth are expected to show in a minimum of one showmanship opportunity during the project year. The show season begins near the end of August and continues through October. Be sure to check the youth livestock calendar to fine a show near you.

    To access a printable project detail form click here

    Registration

    • Open to youth 5-18 years of age, as of January 1, 2022.  
    • Cost is $10 per participant (4-H membership also required).
    • Register and Pay on Line:

     Laying Flock online reg button     

    • Access a printable registration form and pay at your local extension office.

    Laying Flock Printable Registration Button

  • Important Dates / Project Calendar

    This calendar will be updated throughout the year as events are added.

    2022

    • Tuesday, January 25: Registration opens for Pullet Chain and Laying Flock projects
    • Monday, March 1 at 10:00am:  Registration closes for Pullet Chain
    • March-April: Pullet Chain participants prepare for your chicks' arrival
    • May 2 at 10:00am: Registration closes for Laying Flock Project
    • May: Projected delivery of pullet chain chicks and kickoff for all poultry projects. Precise date TBD
    • August through November:  Showmanship Show season (Show dates and locations will begin to be announced by the end of July)
    • November: Final auction for Pullet Chain participants

    2023

    • January 2023: The top Junior and Senior winners in each region will have their books submitted for state level judging for additional awards/recognition

     

  • Backyard Flock Health

    Resources to help keep your flock happy and healthy.
  • Project Communications

    Here you will find all communications that have taken place with the participants across the state for the 2022 Poultry Projects. The first communication will take place near the beginning of February, 2022.  If you have an idea for an article that should appear in our "News From the Hen House" publication, email 4-H Agent Steve Hucks, at chucks@clemson.edu or call (803) 745-5004. 

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    What's the refund policy?

    For the Pullet Chain, refunds are allowed only through the end of the registration period at 10:00am on March 1, 2022 at 10:00am.  Once the chicks are ordered, refunds will not be allowed. For the Laying Flock Project, refunds are allowed through May 2, 2022 at 10:00am.

    Can I participate in both the Laying Flock Project and the Pullet Chain?

    There is no advantage to registering for both poultry projects. The 4-H Poultry Project record books are identical for each of the projects offered. If you are registering for the Pullet Chain, you can also include your entire backyard laying flock in your project story and activities.

    Did the cost for registration increase this year?

    Yes. Due to a significant increase in cost for the chicks from the hatchery, we had no choice but to raise our registration fees. Over the past two years our average cost per chick has risen by $0.43 per bird. 

    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 youths 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 (this is for the entire order). 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 an area that does not allow roosters, Golden Comets are your safest choice. 

    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 are 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 set up 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 showmanship 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 make sense 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, such as a bantam, that may be a 'better fit' for the youth. 

    Can cockerels / roosters be used as the show bird in the showmanship shows?

    In almost all cases for South Carolina 4-H the answer is no. All show birds must be pullets / hens. However, there could be shows not organized by 4-H that may have different rules. If you attend a show outside of 4-H be sure to check with the organizers on the rules they have set.

    Will our birds have to be NPIP blood tested?

    All show birds will have to be NPIP blood tested within 90 days of a show. Your 4-H Staff will provide multiple opportunities for you to have your bird tested. Since our last potential show is the middle of November, we will begin scheduling clinics for the middle of August. This will ensure that your testing is good for our entire show season.

    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. 

    Will I need nesting boxes in the coop for the birds?

    Yes. It is recommended that you have at least one nesting box for every 4 to 5 birds. A flock of 12 pullets would need at least three nesting boxes. A flock of 25 birds would need 6 to 7 nesting boxes. Nesting boxes should be approximately 12 inches square.

    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 with added calcium.