Pomona College Magazine
Volume 45, No. 2
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Pomona College Magazine is published three times a year by Pomona College
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Down on the Farm / Raising Chickens
Fine Feathered Friends

By Cindy S. Hernandez ’10

Egg production may be paltry—one or two per day per hen—but students say they’re getting a lot out of the experience of raising poultry at the College’s Organic Farm.

Day in and day out, the members of The Order of the Sagehen take turns attending to their three birds: letting the chickens out of their coops before 9 a.m. each day, and back in before sundown, changing their food and water and collecting the eggs. For folks raised on a farm, these are known as chores, but they are a labor of love for this dedicated group.

“Spending time watching them run around in their pen has made me believe that chickens are beautiful,” says Carl Norlen ’10. “I feel like I’ve created a bond with the chickens and I think that bond is part of what animal husbandry is about.”

Adds Paul Ort ’09: “To see these little buzzards squawking around at the Farm reminds me of the simple joys of life, of taking care of our fellow creatures and taking responsibility for others.”

It was Ort, an environmental analysis major from Oreland, Penn., who lobbied last spring for permission to add chickens to the Farm, set on two and a half acres at the southeast edge of campus. He sensed something was missing in this mini-Eden. “We needed chickens at the Farm just because they are animals,” says Ort. “We needed them to be able to feed them scraps of food, get their compost, use them to eat pests and harvest the eggs.”

The year-old chickens came from Myra House, a holistic living center a few miles from campus. Norlen laughs when he remembers how he, Christopher Gomes ’09 and others were schooled in the art of chicken handling by owner Myra Sohn: “None of us knew how to grab a chicken. Chris grabbed one, and the owner said, ‘No, no no. You grab them by the wings so they won’t flap.’” The rest they learned from reading books about raising chickens and from Pomona’s Farm Technician Juan Araya.

The student-farmers hope to add more chickens to reach a total of 12. And while the students gain valuable experience caring for the birds, the chickens, too, may find their horizons broadened from living on a college campus. The students are trying to attract artists to help decorate the coop. Already, last semester, art major Rody Lopez ’09 placed a movie screen inside it, handed out small bags of popcorn to the chickens and showed the film Chicken Run, in which cooped-up birds escape a cruel owner who plans to turn them into pies. “The chickens were watching it and then they got bored and left,’’ recalls Ort, undeterred. “We really want to encourage more art projects.”

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