Setting Up A School Flock

Published on Fri, 08/01/2014 - 1:16pm

Keep the excitement of the hatch going by providing your students with more opportunities to learn a variety of concepts in every subject area by setting up a school flock.

The best time to plan this is before putting the eggs in the incubator: There are approvals you must obtain, decisions you need to make, and steps you need to take to prepare this learning environment.

Approvals
The first step you’ll need to take is to check your local ordinances. Look up your county and city regulations to determine if chickens are allowed in the area and what requirements they will need in order to be compliant. 

The next set of approvals will come from the school district. All schools are different, but below is a list of authorities you may need to check with. Some of these positions may require you to turn in a proposal describing your desires, buildings, and how this project would benefit the learning of students. 

  • Superintendent
  • Board members
  • Principal

I encourage you to be prepared to share your plans on where the chickens will be located, your strategy to provide for and maintain the chickens, and what benefits the chickens will provide to the school prior to initiating your request. This will show that you have researched and are educated in this matter.

If your request is denied, try to find out why: zoning issues, cost, negative opinions from school officials? Whatever the case may be, brainstorm ways to counter the objections. Remember, parents are your greatest resource—they have a significant amount of influence when they stand together. It may be a slow process, but just by hatching chicks in your classroom and getting your students excited about learning will excite their parents, too. Including your parents and the community in the hatching process will get more and more people on board. 

Share your thoughts about starting a school chicken coop with students, parents, and community members. The more people you can get to jump on the bandwagon, the better. When the time is right, you can contact your students and parents from over the years as well the outside community and encourage them to write letters to school board members or talk about the benefits during a board meeting. 

Decisions you need to make
Look around your school site and find multiple areas that would work best for your “chicken learning center,” or CLC. Keep in mind that the area needs to be accessible for all students, including those with special needs. It might be a good idea to place them near your school’s greenhouse or garden if available since chickens and gardens benefit each other. 

Consider what types of predators you may encounter, whether they are animals from a wooded lot behind the school or people from off the street. If you plan to house your chickens in an area that is fenced-in and locked when school is closed, you’ll need to discuss how the chickens will be provided for on the weekends and holidays. 

Think about where you will store the feed for chickens. You don’t want it on the other side of the school, and it needs to be secure. Also, make sure there is access to nearby water to provide the chickens with fresh water and when cleaning the coop. In addition, you’ll want the area to be relatively quiet. This will be an outdoor classroom, so you don’t want to make teachers have to yell louder than the children playing on an adjacent playground or compete with the distraction of people going in and out of a frequently used door. 

Cost concerns
How are you going to provide the chickens with the things they need, like a coop, run, food, feeders, and waterers? While you can always purchase these materials yourself, let’s look at some other options. 

  • See how receptive the principal is to purchasing these items through school funds. 
  • Find out if the PTA is open to contributing toward this learning experience.
  • Approach local feed stores to see if they are willing to provide the school with free or discounted items. 
  • Email online coop and chicken supply companies to inquire about discounted or free items they can provide for your school.
  • Make a written request for specific donations from local hardware stores. They may provide you with materials needed like wood and nails for the coop, or even the manpower to build it for you.
  • Look into clubs in your community where members support the community through donations of time and money, like Kiwanis International. If your school is in a low-income area, organizations like Heifer International may provide some assistance.  
  • Organize a school fundraiser to raise money to purchase items you will need for your chickens. You can find some fundraising ideas along with resources and printables at www.thelearningwagon.com

If any help is provided by the outside community, I would encourage the school to celebrate the generosity provided with a sign, banner, or plaque displayed near the coop as well as one that the store or organization can display.

The upfront cost of starting a CLC isn’t cheap, so below are some examples of fundraiser ideas you can organize for your school—and even this can be educational for your students. 

First, have your students add up the cost of the items needed, including the coop and run, feeders, waterers, food, shavings, etc. Together, you can create the visual aid to keep track of how much money has been collected, how much more is needed, and when you are able to start breaking ground. 

Also, fundraisers need to involve everyone in the school, so you will need to advertise what you are doing to all students and staff. You can make this a fun writing activity by having your students study persuasive qualities of advertisements and then create their own posters to hang up around the school. They could even write, plan, and film a commercial to be aired on the school news. Also, encourage your students to write a classroom newsletter to share information about chickens, the financial goals that need to be reached, upcoming fundraisers, how donations can be made, and progress updates.

Fundraiser examples
Sell tickets during the your school’s fall festival for children to play egg games like racing with a plastic egg on a spoon, trying to toss a real egg to a teammate without breaking it, or rolling plastic eggs on the table to see who can get closest to the edge without falling off. 

Place a large clear plastic box in the office filled with plastic eggs. Sell tickets to students who want to guess how many eggs are in the box for a prize. Students can fill out the tickets with their name, teacher’s name, and estimate to place in a box near the eggs with a slot cut out of the top. The prize could be choosing the paint color of the coop or allowing the winning student to name one of the chickens.

During recess, allow students to pay to play egg games. Partially fill a kiddie pool with water. Fill eggs with fun kid prizes and place them in the water. Students can pay to choose a prize-filled egg.
During PTA meetings, book fairs, and any other school gatherings, set up a table where parents, teachers, students, and others can make donations toward the cost of the coop. Provide each person that donates with a decorative paper they can write their name on to display in a specific location in the school. My website has coop donation papers you can print out. 

Preparation
Once you have been approved, preparations can begin to setup a new home for some lucky chickens. Although you don’t want to consume people’s time, it’s a good idea to incorporate school officials, parents, students, and community members in setting up the coop as it builds excitement and buy-in to the project. Organize your time and volunteers so everyone knows their role and what they need to do. This beginning stage is also the perfect time to elicit future volunteers to help care for the chickens over the weekends and holidays. Have people fill out their contact information on a volunteer sheet so you can connect with them later. 

Involve students as much as possible to create memorable and purposeful learning experiences. For example, have students mark off the area where the chickens will be located with stakes and rope using the dimensions of the coop. Have students write in their journals about the daily progress as the coop is built. Enlist the students’ help to protect the chickens from digging predators by spreading gravel around the edge of the run. Students can predict how many bags of rocks they will use or add up how many pounds were used in the process.

And don’t forget to take pictures—this is part of your school’s history. It may be a long process, but don’t give up. You will be providing students with meaningful learning experiences, lasting memories, and a connection to their world.