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Coop for a classroom: North Carroll Community School students care for chickens

In Carroll County, it’s probably not hard to find a student whose chores including caring for the family chickens. But at North Carroll Community School, the chickens live right at school, in a coop near the playground.

Second- and third-grade students take turns caring for the school’s flock of seven chickens who live in a run right behind the school. The wooden coop was donated to the school and the school built the enclosure for their run.

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“In my classroom, I try to bring experiences to the kids as much as I can as far as ... promoting empathy," teacher Sarah Seymour said. “I feel like animals do a good job of that.”

Recently, students have been diving into learning about the different breeds of chicken in their flock. They learned that naked-neck silkies, like their rooster, have all-black organs, bones and skin.

The chickens have been part of the school for about a year. Most of them grew from chicks indoors in the atrium of the school where everyone could check in on them.

Currently, taking care of the chickens for a week is one of the rewards students can choose for good behavior. Their responsibilities include checking the chickens’ food, water and pen. They get to keep all the eggs they collect.

“We weren’t supposed to have this many,” Seymour said. But when she saw a chicken who appeared to be missing an eye, she had to add the hen, now named Cyclops, to the flock. After a vet visit and some medicine, the infection around Cyclops’ eye cleared up and they discovered that she had an eye after all, but no eyelid.

The chickens all have multiple names, depending on which student you ask. Some are based on S’mores ingredients. Others, White Llama and Grandpa Llama for example, are all llama-related and possibly based on one silkie chicken’s fluffy white feathers.

It was not immediately clear where Marshmallow Bigbutt Jr. came from.

The chickens don’t seem to mind.

On Thursday, a group of students helped distribute a mix of feed and oyster shells, which gives the hens more nutrients so they can lay eggs with stronger shells. The second- and third-graders collected three eggs⁠ — one white, one blue and one brown. Seymour said she can tell which chicken has laid which egg based on the color and size.

After taking care of feeding, several of the students started catching and scooping up the chickens.

“She walked right into my arms,” exclaimed Alex Van Leeuwen, 9, as she walked over to Seymour carrying Caramel the chicken.

Remy Ford, 8, even managed to hold Grandpa White Llama, who he said is the most difficult member of the flock to catch.

Later, they took turns dumping food into their hands and seeing which chickens would directly eat from their palms. They couldn’t agree on which chicken was gentlest and which had the strongest peck.

“I want chickens so bad,” Ford said to his classmates.

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“Me, too,” they replied.

More information about North Carroll Community School is available at www.nccs.school.

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