Village Elementary School fourth graders had the chance to learn about and see the structures and functions of chickens when several members of the Emporia High School FFA presented a lesson on agriculture Thursday afternoon.
Using a Powerpoint presentation, EHS FFA Junior Cristian Aguilar and Sophomore Noah Wagner, along with five recently-hatched chicks, explained what each body part is called and how it works.
Wagner explained that a chicken’s comb — the fleshy growth or crest on its head — and wattle — the fleshy growth under its chin — are both temperature-regulating. Chickens, like a number of other animals, do not have true sweat glands.
“Chickens can’t sweat,” he said. “As the air passes through the comb and the wattle, it cools down their blood.”
Male chickens grow larger combs and wattles than females, making it easy to identify the sexes once they start to mature.
Chickens are also naturally poor fliers, due to their wing size.
“If you think of them kind of like a T-Rex with tiny arms, they can’t really fly very far because their wings are so much smaller than their bodies,” Aguilar said.
While chickens may not be good fliers, they can see almost all the way around them. With eyes positioned on the sides of their heads, chickens can see 300 degrees around them, compared to humans being able to see roughly 120 degrees around them.
Students were able to get up close and personal with the five chicks after the presentation, some gently touching their down feathers and remarking at how soft they were.
Aguilar said FFA had incubated about 24 eggs. Of those 24, about 10 - 12 chicks were hatched.
“Sometimes it happens because the egg wasn’t fertilized,” he said. “Sometimes the conditions just aren’t right, like it was too warm for the chick or the chick was too small.”
One student was curious about how long a chicken’s lifespan can be. Aguilar and Wagner said that, depending on a chicken’s breed and lifestyle, it can live anywhere from 3-10 years.
Aguilar and Wagner also encouraged the fourth graders to think about joining 4-H if they were interested in learning more about agriculture. This is a good time to join, they said, since its National 4-H Week.
“You get to do activities like we do all the time,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar said FFA has been giving weekly ag-based lessons at Village for the past three weeks. The program is part of FFA’s participation in the Kansas 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge, which helps connect youth to ag-related careers, businesses and more.
“I like growing a relationship with each of the kids and understanding what they know and what they don’t know,” he said. “That way, if they ask me a question and I don’t know the answer, I can come back to them the next week.”
“We do the challenge every year and we do a presentation on a problem we are trying to solve in the agriculture industry. This year our topic was awareness of agriculture in elementary students.”
Last month, the group presented during Ag Innovation Day at the Kansas State Fair. The group will compete in the Science of Agriculture Challenge competition next month at Kansas State University for a chance to win $1,000.