A 4-H family affair!
When it comes to all things 4-H—but especially 4-H Poultry—the Rios family of Uniontown, Alabama takes advantage of opportunities that come their way, including participating in the Marengo County 4-H programs.
This year’s winner of the Alabama 4-H Golden Egg Contest is Alyssa Rios, along with her 4-H agent Beth Yates, the Alabama 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent in Marengo County, Alabama. Her county has won this statewide contest for an unprecedented three times.
The family aspect? Alyssa’s sister, Anna Rios, has won the Alabama 4-H Egg Cookery Contest and is heading to Nationals where she will compete in the 4-H Egg Chef Challenge Contest.
Mrs. Yates is a dedicated agent who tells her 4-H members about contest details and takes them through the rules and videos to make sure they are prepared. Mrs. Yates suspected the Rios Family would enjoy participating in this program.
All about Alyssa
A sixth-grade homeschool student, Alyssa has been in Alabama 4-H for 3 years and participates in Poultry, Rabbits, Rifle, Archery and in the county youth council. Alyssa is also a member of the state’s STEM League and also 4-H Tech Changemakers. She has gone to 4-H Summer Camp and her local 4-H Tractor Supply Pet Show in Demopolis, Alabama.
Alyssa and her mom worked to build their chicken coop on a pre-existing 10 x 12 foot cement pad in their backyard. Essentially it is aluminum conduit, chicken wire, and a tarp. It cost a total of $250 and was purchased from Wayfair online. The coop has survived a hurricane and a tornado.
As soon as the chicks arrived, Alyssa was nothing but infatuated with them and thought they were the cutest little biddies. As Alyssa says, “I couldn’t not hold them!” In fact she had to change her shirt seven times one day because the chicks kept defecating on her!
Alyssa and her family keep laying hens mainly for the eggs, but Alyssa will readily admit that the chickens are just cool.
All about Alyssa’s chickens and eggs
All of her chickens are White Plymouth Rocks. They started with ten but one died.
All of her chickens are named. They are Motorcycle, Nubby, Gibidith, Colase, Boc, Michael Chicksen, No Name, Cinco, and Dumpling. And yes, No Name is technically a named chicken!
She whistle-trained her chickens to come when called. She can also call “Bedtime!” at night when she locks up the coop.
Alyssa heard about the contest from her 4-H agent and watched the videos. She immediately began to evaluate her eggs, selecting the best ones for the contest. She also candled her eggs and made sure to pick them up often in the coop.
She also washed her eggs and kept them in the refrigerator.
Alyssa also fed marigold petals to her chickens for a couple of weeks before the contest to see if that would help darken her yolks. She dried the marigolds in the oven and crushed them up to blend with collards and water to make a sludge that the chickens ate. The greens and flowers came from their garden and they fed them for two weeks before the contest. They also cleaned the nest boxes more often to keep shell stains at a minimum.
She was surprised that the eggs grew from size medium to large very quickly as the hens matured in their egg laying.
Alyssa carefully weighed the individual eggs and the whole dozen to make sure she entered the correct size. They just used a kitchen scale to make the measurements.
Presenting for the contest
Once Alyssa was satisfied that she had the best possible dozen put together, the family drove the dozen to their 4-H Agent at the County Cooperative Extension Office. Alyssa was showing her dozen to Mrs. Yates and one of the eggs rolled off of the desk and fell on the floor—and it broke!
Alyssa was heartbroken, but her mom drove home with her and they chose a backup egg from the ones she kept in the refrigerator and returned to Mrs. Yates with the complete dozen. Mrs. Yates carefully drove the eggs to the contest after she put them in a cooler with ice packs to make sure they did not become temperature-abused.
Mrs. Yates brought only one dozen, but it only takes on dozen to win the award. Many of the eggs entered were dirty or had stains so this contest evaluates both the inside and outside quality.
Alyssa won 750 pounds of chicken feed and Mrs. Yates won 250 pounds all donated by Nutrena Feeds. Alyssa also won a huge ribbon, an egg basket, and a signed copy of the Chicken Whisperer’s Guide to Keeping Chickens.
4-H strives to educate students and reward them for applying their knowledge through contests such as this one.
So 4-H Poultry really is a family affair! I hope you will join me in congratulating Alyssa on a job well done!
About the author
Dr. Brigid McCrea, PhD, is a poultry scientist who has worked with small flock owners for more than a decade. Her expertise is being utilized at Auburn University in the development of curriculum for 4-H Youth Development's Animal Programs.