NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. November 17, 2023 – Clear Creek’s Student Council has big plans. The students are fundraising for a chicken coop, complete with a fenced-in run and will involve all classes in the care of the flock.
The students will have expert help from Kindergarten Aide Rylie Jeffers and the Student Council’s Advisor, 7th Grade Teacher Andrea Guild. During a recent visit to the campus, students and staff shared the plan with us.
The campus, located on McCourtney Road, has a playground, basketball court, a lush grass field, a soon-to-be-revived garden for the 165 students. In Mrs. Guild’s classroom, the student council members were ready, if a tad nervous, to share their plans. Class pet GusGus, a very friendly rabbit, was on hand to provide stress relief.
Rylie Jeffers provided some background on the idea of a chicken coop at school. “I’m a crazy chicken lady, and so I thought, why not bring that to work? I went to school here and I remember always wanting to be involved with very hands on projects and doing stuff for the school. If you love a school, why not help out and do as much as you can to make it a fun place, fun for learning.”
The students were quick to add details for the fundraising. “We’re going to try to get a coop donated, have a fundraiser to make sure we have all the stuff we need to keep them healthy and nurtured. And then we will get volunteers from our classes, for the people who want to do it, and then we’re going to get our chickens donated,” Makena said.
Shelby added, “Something like a pizza party for the class with the biggest donations or something, which is what we normally do. We will just see how much we can get. We can have a bake sale, like on a Friday after school. We can sell the eggs, once we have the chickens.”
Jeffers submitted a proposal to the PTC on behalf of the student council. Community, commitment, science, keeping green and love are all included and very well explained in the document.
A chicken coop typically costs between $500 and $1,000. The student council would love to find a used one which would cost less and could be refurbished. They’re even willing to enlist they help of parents to build one out of donated lumber if that’s the only option.
The monthly cost to feed the flock is about $20, because the school’s kitchen can provide food scraps. Every day, people go home with bags of wasted food to feed to their animals, but even so there is plenty of food waste left over, the proposal explains. “Having chickens in our ‘backyard’ would help to minimize that waste!”
On the walk across campus, Hunter explained they could get chickens raised by Jeffers, which is better than buying chicks – because you might end up with a pack of roosters instead of egg layers.
As we walked past the basketball court to the dormant garden, Guild said several students are in 4H right now and plan to carry that through high school and FFA. The old garden is one of the possible locations for the coop. Jeffers added, “We have a couple of options. PTC is looking at putting the new garden down on our field and if that’s the case, then this spot would open up for the chickens. But we also kind of want the chickens next to the garden for ease of access for the fertilizer, the pest control and all of that. It’s possible that we could put it down there too. It’s just all going to depend on the size of the coop that we can get donated and afford and the amount that we can fundraise for the fencing, because that’s going to be the more expensive part.”
Taking care of chickens
Raising chickens does entail work. The plan is for each class to participate in the care of the animals, and spend time observing them (applied science!) Jeffers gave an example in her proposal: Seventh Grade has a week (or two) for chicken tending. On Monday morning Shelby is going to grab the eggs, Sydney is going to refill the food, Hannah is going to refill the water, and Cody is going to write down the attitude of the chickens in our observation book. On Tuesday it’ll be an entirely different group of kids from that same class. How long each class has a turn with the chickens will depend on what the teacher feels is best for their schedule.
Besides the hands on science, students will learn collaboration by working with one another and get their hands dirty together – and washing them before and after their tasks!
Commitment to this long-term project will be a concrete example students are absolutely capable of, according to Jeffers. Knowing where food comes from is another benefit. “Ever since the first grocery store, children have been disconnected from where their food comes from. It’s no secret that chickens give us eggs and our chicken nuggets, but having that relationship and love for the animal that gives us those things, makes people more grateful for what food they have before them. Knowing what work went into that egg or chicken wing is something that everyone should know.”
“I think bringing this coop to the school can help with students’ social, emotional well-being. It can help with teaching responsibility for student council. It will help with learning how to problem solve and compromise – just those basic skills they’ll need and how to plan stuff out. Because I still don’t even know how to plan a trip and I’m an adult! I feel like planning this can help students planning things in the future. It will benefit science learning because I know a crazy amount about chicken anatomy and about sicknesses and everything related to chickens. They take care of us by giving us the eggs and the compost for the gardens and the pest control, and we take care of them. That’s just something that we all need to learn.”
Jeffers is as excited as the students to start, “What we’re trying to promote is responsibility, teaching these younger children the importance of animals and the food that we have on our plate. How they can appreciate that and use that in everyday life. I even know how to show a chicken, and so I could even teach them how to show a chicken if they’re interested.” She’s also willing to reach out to other schools once their project is up and running. “If this ends up going really well, which I think it will, and other schools are interested, then I’d be happy to go help them.”
Student council’s advisor and teacher Guild agreed, “Riley is the chicken expert. She’s going to be the director of this entire program. I think as it expands from year to year, she can definitely go and help other schools get it set up. Not only all of the animal things, but again, it’s in their proposal about how we’re helping kids with their social, emotional development. We’re going to have these lovable creatures that students can come and you see. I have a class pet because of that reason. It helps kids be able to have that safe space and a place to share their angst.”
Free manure and pest control
For the city folks among us, you need to know that chickens provide both fertilizer and pest control for free. “Not only do they eat like crazy, they poop like crazy! And did you know that their poop is a natural fertilizer? That’s right! Chicken poop is one of the most recommended natural fertilizers for garden beds, which we have. Chickens are also useful for a natural insect ‘repellent.’ Meaning they LOVE to eat bugs!”
Meet the future residents of the coop
Jeffers is so confident in the student’s ability to launch the project, she is already raising the initial four chickens for the coop. Now about eight weeks old, these four will move in once the coop and the run are set up. Meet the two Welsummers (laying speckled eggs), one Cuckoo Maran (chocolate eggs) and one Easter Egger (green eggs) chicken.
Once the project is off the ground, more chickens will be added to bring the flock size to about a dozen. Jeffers will take care of the flock when school is not in session, or during winter storms.
Let’s help these kids
Besides the cost of the coop, an additional $90 are needed to get going in the initial month. After that, the cost drops to just the feed, some $20 a month. Once the Cougar Chicken Coop is up and running, egg sales will finance the feed and occasional buys of pine shavings.
The PTC has agreed to receive online donations (100% tax-deductible) for the chicken coop via their Venmo account Clear-Creek (please mention chicken coop in the comment) or you can send a check or cash to the school:
Clear Creek School
17700 McCourtney Road
Grass Valley, CA 95949
Do mention the funds are for the chicken coop.
We will bring you photos and updates of the “moving-in day” and let you know once the future Cougar Chicken Coop has eggs for sale!