Chariho welcomes some nine fowl new students to campus — chickens for the agricultural program

Chariho welcomes some nine fowl new students to campus — chickens for the agricultural program


WOOD RIVER JCT. — The nine newest arrivals on the Chariho campus protested loudly as they were lifted out of their coop to pose for photographs with Chariho Tech students.

The chickens and the students are participating in a new agriculture program that not only provides students with opportunities to care for the birds and sell their eggs, it has also involved students in the electrical, design and construction programs, all of whom worked on some aspect of the new coop.

Architecture and design student Shane Briggs, a senior, designed the chickens’ new home.

“It’s just pretty simple,” he said. “I did it the simplest way I could.”

Briggs’s instructor, Jeffrey Domingoes, said designing the coop hadn’t been all that simple. The design requirements he received from Agriculture instructor Christine Haberek were slightly different from conventional projects.

“The materials you could use, the chickens can’t come into contact with any pressure-treated wood because of the chemicals,” he said. “A chicken coop is very similar to a shed, but in a shed, you use a lot of pressure-treated materials and for this, you could still use the pressure-treated materials but it had to be covered by natural wood.”

Electrical instructor Ryan Northup’s students will be putting the final touch on the coop in the form of wiring which will allow a heat lamp to be used in the winter.

“We need to install the wiring for receptacles to power a heat lamp and a water heater, so the chickens don’t freeze,” he said.

David Bannister, who teaches in the construction technology program, said his students had built the coop.

“That was a good experience for my kids, to talk about building codes and proper materials to use in certain circumstances,” he said. “It’s not a human-habitable place, so it required not using any kind of chemicals that the chickens can ingest and get sick and in turn, get people sick.”

Bannister’s junior students did the framing and the seniors added the roof, the siding and the doors.

“I call it the chicken Taj Mahal,” he joked. “It has a courtyard.”

Looking like a small, rustic barn, the new coop sits on the Chariho campus near the agriculture classroom. There’s a fenced outdoor space where the chickens can safely go outside, protected from avian predators like hawks and mammals that might try to dig under the fence.”

Agriculture students were responsible for fencing the yard and sinking the fence into the ground so predators couldn’t dig under it.

“All the wire, we nailed it in,” Alexandria Williams said. “We dug the trenches.”

The coop ended up costing approximately $1,500 to build, with most of the materials donated by local businesses or paid for with grants. The Westerly Community Credit Union donated $500 and there was another donation from a memorial fund for a member of Future Farmers of America who had passed away.

Thompson Lumber donated half of the pine siding, and Bill Smith of the Morgan and Smith home-improvement company in Ashaway donated the storm door. The wood for the chicken yard was donated by Arnold Lumber. Even the chickens themselves were donated by Chariho student Miranda Hoxie.

Haberek said she had chosen chickens because they would be easy to keep on the Chariho campus. The birds are laying hens, and will not be raised for their meat.

“We are building our agriculture program and chickens seem to be a nice fit,” Habarek said. “They provide a product that we can sell to faculty and staff and they do require daily care and they’re small, so it works out.”

“It was a real-world project, instead of make-believe projects,” Domingoes said. “There’s no good enough. It’s either right or wrong in the real world. It was more challenging than I expected it to be. Chickens have a lot of needs. Who knew?”


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