Farmer teaches about agriculture, one chick at a time
Allen, who raises beef cattle, laying hens and vegetables on her 50-acre Fresh Branch Farm in suburban Chesterfield, visits elementary, middle and high school students in the spring to tell them about chickens and embryology. The program was developed by Chesterfield County 4-H and is supported financially by the Chesterfield County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee.
“As a kid, I wanted to be outside and grow things,” Allen told students at Manchester High School during an April presentation. “So now I have a job that allows me to do both.”
For the past five years she’s been using her passion for agriculture and chickens to help teachers and students who are hatching chickens in their classrooms.
“It started with the 4-H Youth Development Agent Bethany Eigel contacting me when someone had a question about hatching chicks,” Allen explained. “I started providing that support mostly via email. But the teachers were really wanting more education for themselves and their students. I worked with Bethany and we created a more encompassing program that met the needs of the school system.”
Allen taught a workshop in March for teachers to help prepare them before they received hatching eggs for their classroom embryology projects. She answered questions and taught the teachers how to care for the eggs and the resulting chicks.
When classes get ready to incubate their eggs, Allen will visit their classrooms and share her knowledge with the students. She comes with eggs and a chicken. At Manchester High School she brought a chicken named Noodle. She held Noodle as she explained a chicken’s anatomy and quizzed the students about hatching eggs.
It takes 21 days for an egg to incubate and a chick to be born. An incubator must be kept between 98 and 103 degrees, and the humidity must be kept around 60 percent. “If the incubator goes over 103 you will have boiled eggs, not chickens,” Allen shared.
She also explained the importance of rotating the eggs while they incubate—like a mother hen would do—so the chicks do not get stuck to the eggshell.
“I have a passion for education and farming, and this program is a wonderful fit,” Allen noted.