7/31/2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Norfork High School FFA chapter members with one of the 15 portable chicken tractor/houses they built to donate to local families. From left, are Jami Barnett, Marissa Greer, Jordan Teegarden, Railyn Stokes, Jacob McGowan and Tyler Reaves.
By Ken Moore,
ARFB public relations
Story originally published in the summer issue of Arkansas Agriculture magazine.
Members of the Norfork High School FFA chapter in Baxter County wanted to do something different and sustainable for their project as part of the National FFA’s Food for All program.
How about a “chicken tractor”?
After researching different concepts on the web, the 40 students in Leanna Martin’s chapter decided on building the portable chicken houses as a means of giving area families the opportunity to raise egg-laying hens.
“The National FFA introduced the program last year, and our chapter decided to participate, but we wanted to do something unique,” said Martin, vo-ag instructor and FFA advisor for the school.
The Norfork chapter applied for and obtained a $2,500 grant from the national organization which supplied funds for construction of 15 units.
“We brainstormed and talked to the operators of the local food bank. They told us eggs and fresh meat are things they don’t get a lot of. So, we came up with the idea of giving needy families some chickens and educating them about how to feed and care for them, so they would have a steady supply of eggs,” Martin said.
Rather than build traditional, permanent chicken coops to house the hens, the students came up with the concept of constructing the “tractors.”
Chapter president Tyler Reaves said there are several reasons for this.
“These 5.5-foot x 8-foot A-frame units are designed to be portable and allow the chickens to free range, cutting down on the cost of feed requirements,” Reaves said.
“We will supply each family that qualifies for a unit with two hens to get started. Each tractor includes a small roosting and nesting area for the chickens to sleep and lay their eggs in. They are on wheels and designed so two people can move the units around their yard to new ground.”
The students came up with a design that costs only $150 per unit to build.
The chapter also will provide a rooster for the families to borrow to fertilize the eggs in the event they want to raise their own chicks.
Martin explained their program this way.
“Rather than just giving the family fish (so to speak), we will be teaching them to fish, or in this case, raise laying hens, by writing and delivering educational pamphlets each month on such topics as good nutraition, how to deal with potential diseases, predator control, etc.,” he said.
“There are a lot of families here that live on a restricted food budget and would benefit from being able to produce their own eggs, so we expect to receive a number of applications for the tractors,” chapter member Railyn Stokes said.
Other FFA students involved with the project include Jami Barnett, Marissa Greer, Jacob McGowan and Jordan Teegarden.
“I’m very proud of how they came up with this design and tackled the project with such enthusiasm,” Martin said.”