Two sisters teach other kids lessons in chicken handling

CORVALLIS — Two young agricultural entrepreneurs made a return to business this summer by popular demand.

Kelly and Ginger Becker, of Corvallis, began an encore week of chicken camp July 5. Chicken camp was a day camp project the sisters started last year as a way to make some summer cash and expose their friends to the world of livestock — a world they've been immersed in since a young age.

"This year, we hung up fliers at the OSU Extension office and made announcements at school," Ginger Becker, 11, said. After also recruiting from their church, the end result was about 10 campers for the week.

For a few of the kids, chicken camp is the first time they've ever handled an animal. "I'm learning that I'm really good with animals," 12-year-old Cory Pattishaw, one of only two boys in the camp, said as he held Comet, one of the Beckers' 17 chickens.

The goal last year was to gather friends and local kids who were interested in learning about poultry — everything from showmanship and handling to cleaning coops — in hopes of creating a member base for a new 4-H poultry club. For $30, each camper got five hours of chicken time each day for one week, Monday through Friday.

John Becker, Kelly's and Ginger's father and the camp's chaperone, said that the idea for the camp came to fruition entirely because of the girls' hard work and planning.

"They figured this out themselves," he said. "I told them if people didn't like it, they wouldn't come back, and they did."

Because of last year's success, the Beckers garnered enough interest to start their 4-H poultry club, the Feather Friends. They will be taking their chicken show on the road for the first time as a club at the Benton County Fair in August.

This year, as demand for the camp grew, they upped their weekly camp fee to $35, which includes arts and crafts, lunch and snacks each day.

Their sophomore season brought with it a new approach to camp. The Beckers chose to use large-breed chickens this year instead of smaller, less manageable bantams. They've become more organized — they realized that camp would be more efficient if they split the campers into two smaller groups by age. Kelly Becker, 14, takes the older campers and teaches their classes separately.

"In the morning, we have an art class," Ginger Becker said. "Then we have a duck lesson, a poultry lesson, lunch, coop cleaning and then we prep for showing."

Prep for showing includes teaching the proper poultry handling techniques for 4-H. Campers learn how to properly lift the chickens' wings to check for lice, how to safely flip them upside down to check their vents and how to examine their talons for possible bone breaks. The kids also get lessons in making the chickens walk and stand still for judging.

"We put it on again because it was a success last year," Kelly Becker said. "People today are way more into technology, and we want them to be into farming and agriculture. I want people to go outside more."

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