Morgan Chaviers is 10 years old and a 4th grader at Central Elementary and is raising broilers for her second year as she competes in the Angelina County Fair. She is the daughter of Eric and Renee Chaviers. Morgan has one younger sister, Maceyn.
Morgan’s “mamaw”, Dalene Swift, was with her when she picked up her 50 day-old chicks. Swift says she hopes she learns responsibility and how to take care of animals.
A “broiler” is a chicken bred specifically to grow muscle efficiently and to be eaten. Their genetics are very different from the egg producing breeds we have in the back-yard egg-laying flock. Raising broiler chickens is an excellent youth project for beginners to livestock exhibiting. Chickens are considerably easier to handle, require less space, and are less expensive than other species.
When asked why Morgan chose to raise broilers, she said her family was the reason, “My parents and my mamaw said chickens were easier for first time 4-Hers.”
Her favorite part of the broiler show is when they are “little and cute and soft.” Morgan says the hardest part is holding up them at the show for the judge to evaluate them. She says, “You got to hold them by their feet upside down for a long time!”
Chickens are excellent for several reasons. Show birds can be raised in a backyard shed or a garage; they do not need a large amount of land. And broilers can often be raised in urban areas where larger animals would be impractical. In fact, it is recommended that broilers be raised in a good shelter to maximize growth and prevent attack by predators. Morgan raises her chickens in a special pen behind the house.
This is a short-term livestock project lasting only six weeks. The quick time frame of only 6 weeks is very typical of market conditions. On a commercial scale, it typically takes only 6-7 weeks to raise a broiler to market weight.
The broiler show certainly provides everyone an equal starting point on their way to the competition. All chicks that students receive for a show are provided by a single hatchery. These chicks are the same breed and hatched on the same day. The birds are wing banded and randomly assigned to each student. This removes all bias in the selection of chicks and their assignment to the participants.
A broiler chicken eats less than two pounds of feed for every pound of body weight gained. Therefore, a six-pound broiler requires only 12 pounds of feed to complete its 6 week grow-out cycle.
At the county fair, only the best 3 broilers are shown in competition by a student. Thus, the remainder of the birds never make it to the showgrounds.
‘Mamaw’ Swift said she believes, “It’s a good experience for kids to be involved in raising animals as well as other projects. It’s a ‘life-growing’ experience.”
This year’s broiler show at the Angelina County Fair will be on Tuesday, March 24 starting at 6 pm in the main arena at the George H. Henderson Expo. The entire County Fair is from Monday, March 23 thru Saturday, March 28 concluding with the sale on Saturday evening. The auction will be Saturday evening in the main arena starting at 4 pm.