DAYS CREEK — After a donor gave Milo Adventist Academy 350 chicks last March, the school is now harvesting eggs daily for both meals and profit.
Since August, about a dozen high school students participating in the school’s agricultural program are now gathering about 220 eggs daily. The chickens roam free range or live cage free.
“That slightly surpassed our cafeteria needs,” said the school’s agriculture director Jeff Birth.
Milo is a boarding high school with grades nine through 12, with nearly 100 students. Its cafeteria serves three meals daily with a vegetarian menu.
“We were able to stop buying very cheaply factory farm produced eggs and now we have more wholesome home produced eggs,” Birth said.
Besides providing eggs for the kitchen, chickens assist with pest management in school gardens and accelerate compost operations.
Now in its third year, Milo runs an all organic and non-GMO program that benefits from about 50 free-range chickens that live in the school garden of about 60 trees. The chickens eat insects, grass and weeds, as well as providing fertilizer for the trees.
The free-range chickens live in a mobile chicken coop that’s surrounded by a solar-powered electric mesh fence that protects the birds from local predators such as foxes. The students move the mobile coop and fence from lot to lot to benefit the garden.
The other 300 cage-free birds are kept in campus greenhouses. The school is currently building a second mobile chicken coop to house the remainder of the 300 chickens that will rotate through compost piles and pastures, thereby reducing the amount of chicken feed that must be purchased. The mobile coops allow chickens to be free-range.
“We try to make them all free-range, because we believe that is the healthiest way for the chickens, and, because of that, it’s the healthiest way for our eggs,” Birth said.
According to Birth, the school participates in a vegetarian menu that avoids meats but includes eggs and cheese because, “in our way of thinking, somebody who is healthy has a clear mind and can maintain a close spiritual connection with God. One of our goals is to provide healthy food for our students while they live here.”
According to a written statement provided by the school, junior Kat Brus has had a positive experience working with the chickens.
“It’s not a big deal,” she said. “You just roll the hen to the side and take the egg. We move them around in the pen to fertilize different areas of the orchard.”
Other students have felt the brunt of the chicken beak and their varied persona.
“You have to reach under the hen and they peck at your hands,” said freshman Dylan George. His classmate KarrLee Miller described the chickens as having different personalities. “Some are kind of mean and some are really friendly,” she said.
Collecting more than 220 eggs daily has surpassed the needs of the school’s cafeteria, so students will soon participate in marketing the eggs by building a produce stand that’s part of the school’s garden market program that began in 2015. This is the program’s second growing season.
“Our goal is to sell to the community at our produce stand within the next six months,” Birth said, with students already having sold produce at the Canyonville Farmer’s Market held at Seven Feathers Casino Resort.
Birth said this program is beneficial for students who come from urban families who have never seen where an egg comes from or how produce is grown.
“It’s so neat to watch the student’s faces light up when they can take a fruit off a tree or a tomato off a plant and taste it and see what flavor it has compared with what they buy in the grocery story,” Birth said.