By Chris Donnamiller
At the entrance of the chicken barn at the county fair stood Cade and Elle Everhart, members of the Buckeye Bunch 4-H Club. The siblings shared their first year showing meat chickens in the Market and Showmanship classes this past September. Cade, 10, said that he likes holding his chickens and that his favorite part of the chicken is the feathers because “they are soft.” His eleven-year-old sister, Elle, added, “I like holding them because they are warm. I hold them snugly to keep them from being scared.”
Their parents, Ben and Courtney Everhart, along with their four children, nine turkeys, sixteen chickens, a pig and two dogs live in Burbank, Ohio. “It is a family thing; we all have chores,” Courtney said. “A couple of weeks before the fair, the chickens did not have very many feathers and we dunked them in a bucket of warm water and this helped the new feathers grow in.” This process is known in the bird world as molting. (Molting occurs once a year in mature birds, normally in late summer or autumn. The birds will lose their feathers and regrow new ones--a way of refreshing their plumage for the winter so they will stay warm, according to “My Pet Chicken.”)
Elle explained about how getting used to the chickens had been a challenge for her. She had to learn how to hold them and the technical names of each of their parts. She said, “I spent five to ten minutes daily working with my two girls in the months prior to fair time.”
“The beard on the boy chicken is called the waddle and the comb is on the top of the head, the boy has a bigger and darker comb,” Caded added. He said he spent more time than his sister, 20 minutes daily.
“He is my animal lover, he played with them a great deal of the time,” his mother Courtney said with a smile. Most of the summer the children would have the daily chores of feeding, watering, laying new bedding, handling and weighing their chickens. As fair time drew close, they washed them more often and increase their handling time. “During fair week the kids would tuck them under their arm and carry them around, to prepare them for judging,” she added
Cade and Elle received eighth and ninth in Showmanship respectively. The family experience has been good, Courtney said and added that their youngest, five-year-old Sami, will be following the footsteps of the two older siblings and “is our future 4-H’er.” Children, chickens and combs seem to flow together at the Everhart farm, creating everlasting memories and life lessons.