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Marengo County student earns ‘Golden Egg’

(This guest column was written by Dr. Brigid McCrea from the Alabama Extension Office.)

You go to the grocery store and head to the dairy section. Your eyes wander over the egg section and see the variety of choices. Brown shells, white shells, organic, cage free, and of course plenty of traditional eggs. What if your egg purchase could exercise a little more power? Did you know that you can do that here in Alabama? How, you ask? What if you purchased your eggs from a budding young poultry entrepreneur? Yes, indeed it is possible, so let me share with you how you do aid in the development of a young poultry professional.

Sariah Smith stands next to her chicken coop with prizes she won in a statewide Extension System 4H contest.

By now I am sure you have heard of the Alabama 4-H Chick Chain program.  It teaches 4-H members from ages 9-18 how to start a flock of egg laying chickens.  At the end of the program, youth participants enter a show and auction 2-3 members of their flock.  After the show, however, some members sell their started pullets while others keep their flocks.  And a good egg laying flock they shall soon be!

So that means the 4-H members that keep their chickens will have plenty of eggs for sale.  That is if they are not feeding their families with the eggs from their flocks.  Most families will have at least a couple extra dozen a week and those 4-H members will be looking for ways to sell their eggs.  Word of mouth only gets you so far.  Some members sell at their local churches, farmers markets, or have even started small businesses of their own! 

In Alabama 4-H we like to reward members who do their best to raise their flocks well and produce fresh wholesome eggs for you the consumer.  In the spirit of friendly competition, we have developed a contest called the 4-H Golden Egg Contest where we seek the best dozen eggs by a 4-H member in the state of Alabama.  This is a new contest which was piloted in 2017 and has now been popularized throughout the state’s 4-H program. That means any 4-H member, regardless of where they sourced their chickens, can enter the statewide contest. A 4-H member that has chickens, but did not participate in 4-H Chick Chain, is still eligible to participate.   

Marengo County 4-H agent Beth Yates displays a sign as well as a Jiffy-Way egg scale awarded to help local 4-H members.

I would like to proudly introduce you to the 2018 Alabama 4-H Golden Egg Contest Winner.  She won with a dozen brown-shelled eggs that were of very high interior quality. Her name is Sariah Smith and she hails from Marengo County where she is very active in the 4-H Poultry program. Her 4-H Agent is Beth Yates who kindly drove the eggs all the way from the county Cooperative Extension office in Linden to Auburn University. The egg testing for the contest is performed in the Auburn University Poultry Science Department by the Poultry Extension Team of Drs. Hess, Macklin, and Bourassa. Sariah’s eggs met all of the exterior and interior criteria for an EGG-cellent dozen!  Congratulations Sariah Smith!

Sariah is a serious chicken aficionado.  She has participated in 4-H Avian Bowl and also likes the idea of learning more about her flock.  She is looking carefully at AU’s Poultry Science program for college but at age 14 she still has a few years to wait.  Sariah has been doing 4-H Chick Chain for a couple years and her flock has had its ups and downs.  One of the first challenges they faced was designing and building a coop for her chickens.  After that was done, she found that a predators was trying to get into her coop by stretching apart the chicken wire!  Oh no!  Once that problem was solved she said her flock is doing really well. 

Sariah was not sure that she was going to participate because her family of seven tends to go through the eggs very quickly!  But Sariah watched the nine 4-H Golden Egg Contest educational videos to help guide her in choosing her very best eggs. What?!  You didn’t know about the 4-H Golden Egg Contest videos? Well, now you do and I encourage you to watch them on the Alabama Cooperative Extension Video YouTube page.  There is also a written 4-H Golden Egg Contest Planning Guide for members to read through to help them choose their best eggs for completion.  The 4-H Golden Egg Contest Planning Guide is available on the 4-H website. How do you find it?  Click on Resources, then choose Animal Science and click on Poultry. You will also see on this site that we now offer a plethora of poultry programing to take members beyond the basics.

Sariah and her flock won 500 pounds of feed, a signed copy of Chicken Fact or Chicken Poop, a beautiful ribbon, and a bag of mealworm treats for her flock.  If you are cruising through Marengo County, you may notice the sign in front of her house that declares her as the 4-H Golden Egg Contest winner.  Or maybe you will drive by the county extension office which also has a sign that notes it is the home of the contest winner. 

Do you think your chickens have what it takes? Then put your eggs to the test!  Read through the Planning Guide, watch the videos, and get ready to head out to the coop. 

If, on the other hand, you want to support a young egg entrepreneur, then call your county extension office and talk with your 4-H agent.  He or she will likely be able to put you in touch with the next great egg CEO in junior executive form.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, August 11 issue of the Demopolis Times.)