LINCOLN There are plenty of differences between 14-year-old freshmen Madison Lane and David Lindsay. Competitive by nature, she's an athlete, and wants to snare top prize at this summer's Alcona County Fair. He's a self-described nerd, looking for farming experience.
Together they are taking care of 30 Rhode Island Red chicks at Alcona Community High School as part of an FFA supervised agricultural experience.
The birds were ordered in advance and arrived as day-old chicks in the middle of a deep freeze Jan. 23.
"We were all excited they survived," said David. "We ordered 25, and when we opened the box at the Harrisville post office we got 31. They were just little puffballs and they've doubled in size in two to three weeks."
Although one eventually died, the rest of the flock is doing fine in a large steel trough, kept warm by light bulbs and tended by the two teens.
David will take home a bulk of the birds when school is out for the summer. Part of his goal is to raise the birds to be egg layers and learn how to process some for the meat.
"I've always wanted some sort of farm animal," he said. "My neighbor always has had chicks and we had fun with them. We'd play with them and collect the eggs."
Madison said she'll have to limit herself to one bird, because her participation on the school's basketball, volleyball and baseball teams eats up her spare time.
Her goal is to find one perfect hen among the chicks, then aim for a championship ribbon at the fair in August. Last year, Madison said she took home the reserve grand champion ribbon for a feather-legged bantam she raised.
"A Rhode Island red needs to have good coloration, and good confirmation, such as a good sternum bone so they can cover their eggs," she said.
Madison will also have to check and make sure the best candidate has good feet and claws, weeding those out with broken toes and other weaknesses.
"Right now they're all pretty flimsy and you can't tell," she said.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.