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Four-H chicken project has brothers eyeing future profits

Ty Johnson, age 10, wants to be an architect, with some farm activities on the side. His older brother Tell, age 12, is thinking of raising sheep.
For now, however, both Washington County boys are actively involved in the chicken industry and looking down the line when extra eggs might turn into cash.
“You can sell the eggs,” Tell said from his home off of Tenn. Highway 107.
Of course, first, the brothers admit, you have to keep the chicken safe and healthy. And that requires a great deal of diligence and an extra dose of care.
The duo became involved in chicken farming through the 4-H Poultry Project, a program through the Washington County Agriculture Extension Agency that helps students obtain first-hand knowlege of the joys and challenges of raising chickens.
“The main thing the kids are learning about is responsibility,” said Connie Sharp, Washington County 4-H agent and extension director. “But the number one thing is to introduce them to agriculture.” Chickens are the least expensive livestock to start out with, Sharp added.
Children in grades 4 and up pick up their chicks in March.
“They can buy 12 or 25 for about $25-$40,” Sharp said. At the end of the summer, they are required to bring back five to sell at the Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington County 4-H Poultry Show and Auction, this year set for Saturday, Aug. 2, at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray.
“As long as they bring the chickens back, it’s like they can do it for free,” Sharp said.
Local vendors supply a portion of the growing chickens feed, as well.
Ty and Tell are looking forward to the show and sale, especially since predators decimated Tell’s flock in 2013 and there were no chickens to show.
This year, they’re taking extra care. “We feed them chick starter (a high protein mix), and then egg layer feed,” said Ty of the daily feeding schedule.
And they’re working hard, the boys said, to protect them from coyotes and raccoons.
The chickens have already begun to lay. “They check for eggs all day long,” said their dad, Tommy Johnson.