FAIR OAKS RANCH — Van Raub Elementary School has gone to the birds with the newly created Chicken Club.
Students in the group, which was funded by a $1,000 grant from the city’s Wildlife Education Committee, began raising eight chicks in September and also received four hens from the Cantu family.
“Everything we have has been completely funded through the grant. That was a big, big part of it,” said Principal Jamie Robinson. “We’re extremely grateful.”
The idea for the organization came from a Nature Club student at Robinson’s previous campus, Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary School. Robinson started the association to teach kids about wildlife and plants.
As of Oct. 19, Robinson said expenditures totaling $600 included the chicks, a metal tub for them to live in, a mobile coop for the hens, heaters and heat lamps, galvanized and plastic feeders, waterers and food.
The remaining $400 will be used to purchase another coop. Each structure can hold up to eight birds.
WEC Chairman Bruce Nicholson said the committee’s mission is to create awareness about wildlife in the community while fostering a symbiotic relationship with local animals.
“We feel like the most effective (approach) is to start young, exposing all of the kids to all of the wonders of wildlife early on,” Nicholson said.
Besides studying the proper care of chickens, Nicholson said students must figure out how to keep predators away from the coops.
Fifth-grade pupils organized the club during Genius Hour, a time set aside on Friday afternoons so children can participate in school-based activities.
“We’re doing things different out here on Fridays, and the kids are running with it,” Robinson said.
The principal spent nine weeks training the fifth-graders who, in turn, will teach the fourth-grade class. Those schoolchildren will spend another two-plus months caring for their feathery friends before giving third-graders a chance.
Students are receiving instruction about responsibility, animal adaptations, where food comes from, and managing the fowl.
“I’ve never dealt with chickens before, and I think they’re really interesting,” said fifth-grader Sofia Richardella, 10.
The chickens represent different breeds, which students are learning to identify. They already know how to differentiate females and males, as well as understand what they eat.
Duties include taking turns at feeding time, cleaning up and monitoring the birds as they frolic in the yard.
For now, the eight chicks stay in an empty classroom.
“My favorite is handling them, like picking them (up), feeding them. They’re all just so sweet,” said fifth-grader Hannah Roller, 10.
The donated hens are located in a coop near the playground. Watch D.O.G.S., or Dads of Great Students, an initiative to get fathers more involved in school, helped build the mobile hutch.
The birds, which are let out during the school day and on weekends to peck around and eat insects, have already produced several eggs. Students with permission, and staff, take them home.
Robinson said hygiene and health are priorities; together he and the kids arrived at a procedure. It includes using gloves when necessary, and washing hands before and after handling the animals. The chickens aren’t allowed near allergy-awareness zones or the cafeteria.
When visiting the chickens, a friend or teacher must accompany the pupil.
“They’re just really fun to play with. They’re really calm, but if you mess with them too much, they’ll fly away. I like every animal,” said fifth-grader Max Preston, 10.
The fowl are for educational purposes only and won’t end up on the dinner table, educators said.