Saraya Rowley, age 10 – almost 11 – has been raising chickens for about four years. In the past year, she started selling eggs ...
OKEECHOBEE – An Okeechobee 4-Her has turned her animal project into a business.
Saraya Rowley, age 10 – almost 11 – has been raising chickens for about four years. Her first project chicken turned out to be a different breed than they thought. It was a breed normally raised for meat rather than as a laying hen. She said the judges at the county fair explained the difference and were surprised at how large the hen was.
While that first project chicken did not go as planned, Saraya found she really likes chickens. She now has a flock of 21 hens and four roosters.
Saraya spends a lot of time handling and caring for the chickens, feeding them, keeping the chicken coops clean, collecting the eggs and making sure they have fresh water.
A 4-H project animal needs to be tame, so it’s important to get them used to being handled by people. “My first rooster was a Dominique. It was like a chicken rodeo. He was running me across the yard,” she recalled. “I still have a scar from him.”
She knows each chicken by name. For example, Gracie is an as Easter Egger chicken. Easter Eggers can lay eggs that are blue, pink or green. Reddy is a Rhode Island Red rooster. Applejack is a Dark Brahma rooster. He won a blue ribbon at the last county fair.
More chickens means more eggs and Saraya’s hens are good layers. She collects about 18 eggs every morning. With the rising price of eggs at the grocery store, she found the eggs are in demand. This past year, she started selling eggs to neighbors. Not only did the neighbors like supporting a 4-H project, they also found the fresh eggs taste better than those sold at the grocery store. Some people say they don’t want to ever eat the ones from the store again. The family has even found customers knocking on their door in the morning, wanting eggs to cook for breakfast.
Fresh eggs do not have to be refrigerated, she explained. They have a natural protective coating on the shell. Washing the egg removes this coating, so eggs sold in the stores have to stay refrigerated. “If you don’t wash the eggs, you can store fresh eggs on the counter for up to two weeks,” she explained. Store fresh eggs with the pointy side down, she advised, because there is an air pocket in the egg.
While most of the eggs Saraya’s flock produces are collected for consumption, one hen is being allowed to nest and hatch her eggs. Sayara said it takes 21 days for chicken eggs to hatch. If you want the hen to hatch the eggs, you can’t touch them, she warned.
Saraya occasionally sells chickens. Laying hens are going for about $25 each right now.
In addition to her chicken project, Saraya also plans to show a pig and a heifer this year.
The Okeechobee County Fair will be held March 14-19 at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center. The livestock competitions are March 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17. The livestock sale will be on March 17. For more information, go online to https://okeechobeecountyfair.com.