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updated: 2/18/2012 6:58 PM

St. Charles farm shows kids the ins and outs of raising chickens

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  • Tessa Muenz, 3, of St. Charles, touches a chicken during a hands-on tour and seminar Saturday at Primrose Farm in St. Charles.

       Tessa Muenz, 3, of St. Charles, touches a chicken during a hands-on tour and seminar Saturday at Primrose Farm in St. Charles.
    George Leclaire | Staff Photographer

  • Children who attended the hands-on tour and seminar Saturday at Primrose Farm got a chance to feed the chickens with the help of domestic interpreter Kelly Lienza. Their families went home with a gift of a dozen eggs.

       Children who attended the hands-on tour and seminar Saturday at Primrose Farm got a chance to feed the chickens with the help of domestic interpreter Kelly Lienza. Their families went home with a gift of a dozen eggs.
    George Leclaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

Children sure do ask interesting questions when they learn about chickens.

Questions such as "Do chickens like fire?"

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Tessa Muenz, 3, of St. Charles, asked this at a class Saturday at Primrose Farm Park in St. Charles.

But St. Charles Park District employee Kelly Lienza took the question in stride: "No. They are very flammable," she replied.

Lienza is a domestic interpreter at the farm.

Primrose Farm, at 5N726 Crane Road, is a former dairy farm. The district is restoring it to operate much as it would have in the 1930s.

That means Lienza -- dressed like a 1930s housewife in a kerchief, floral-print wrap dress, apron and rubber boots -- feeds and cleans up after chickens.

"An apron is really essential for living on a farm," Lienza said, showing how she flaps it to chase chickens in to the coop at night, and how it protects her clothing from dirt.

Taking care of the chickens would have been a woman's job, she explained, because chickens weren't the moneymakers of the operation -- the dairy cows were. The housewife would use money from selling the eggs for things like sewing notions and groceries -- thus the terms "butter-and-egg money" and "nest egg."

The coop can hold as many as 400 chickens, but the most the district has had is 200. It recently got rid of some roosters, as there were too many. "The hens were too pestered" to lay eggs, Lienza said.

The kids got to feed the 35 Columbian Wyandotte hens and roosters in a coop and a fenced-in yard, and they even collected 23 eggs. The park sells the eggs, at $3.50 per dozen, at its farm stand in the summer and in its office all year. A mom asked if you can taste the difference between them and store-bought eggs.

"They taste more eggy," Lienza said.

The farm sells fertilized eggs to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry for its well-known Baby Chick Hatchery. The farm also buys chicks from local schools that have hatched them for science projects. And every couple of years it orders chicks from a supplier, to bring in a fresh, pure Columbian Wyandotte bloodline to keep the flock healthy.

The farm also has Belgian draft horses, pigs, sheep and dairy cows.

"Dairy cows are the sports car of the dairy world," Lienza said, noting they are bred for prodigious milk production, not for meat.

For more information about classes and special events, visit stcparks.org/VW-Systems/Flipbook/flipbook.asp.

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