What are you going to do when you grow up? We ask our kids that all the time.
To answer that, first you have to know what jobs are even out there. That’s why students in Cherilyn Keily’s class at Bonaire Middle School have been raising chickens.
On a recent morning, the officers of the school’s Future Farmers of America club worked with Keily to move the young birds, which at this age are called pullets, from the pen in the back corner of the classroom where Keily teaches agriculture and into another cage that would carry them to their brand new hen house behind the school. There they will grow into laying hens. This is really all about eggs.
The birds are about a month old, but for Keily this started last summer at a seminar at the poultry science department at the University of Georgia.
“One of the things that I was surprised at was about how few students are enrolled,” Keily said. “They would love to have more students there.”
The students they do have get multiple internship offers and almost always land jobs right out of school. These are good jobs, too. Eggs are the second largest agricultural commodity in the state.
So can you convince a teenager to be a farmer? Mary Catherine Maloy is sold.
“I always wanted to be a farmer, ever since I was a little girl,” she said. Her father is a small business owner and her mother is a nurse. Now she is sold on chickens, too.
“Each chicken has a personality. Some of them are really hyper,” she said. “Some of them don’t like people. Some of them are really loving and calm.”
The students have even given the chickens names. There’s Gigi, Buttercup, Gracie, Bella, Ruby, Sapphire and others. Do the names relate to their personalities?
“Not really,” Molloy said.
After a ribbon cutting and some thanks to Perdue Farms of Houston County for donating the chicken coop, Keily and her students move Gigi, Buttercup and all the other birds into their new home. Later Keily will show the students how to examine eggs for quality control the way machines do in the big commercial farms. Her hope? That as they look at eggs, these students will find their passion.