Urban 4-H group is raising chickens at Abiding Missions in Allentown


Last updated 7/22/2021 at 9:55am

Chaplain Christine Rotella at Abiding Missions herds the 4-H group's chickens back into their enclosure. The group has raised chickens from peeps and eggs as part of their program.

In Allentown, on Eureka Street, a unique program is taking place for neighborhood children ages 5 to 15.

At the end of last winter, Abiding Missions Church planted the seeds of a 4-H group for an embryology project to hatch chickens. More than a dozen children participated in the initial project. There are two other 4-H groups in the Pittsburgh area, both focused on equine projects.

"I chose this activity as a way of helping them to talk about life, the joys and the sorrows," explained Chaplain Christine Rotella. "Our children have experienced much trauma already in their short lives. Some have the added sadness of separations caused by incarcerations."

The children meet for several hours a week with the younger children meeting on Wednesdays and the older ones on Thursdays.

In their first attempt to incubate fertilized eggs and learn about the chickens' development the clutch didn't result in a single live birth. The children decided collectively to continue to incubate them for nearly a week after the hatching window before gathering to open the eggs to see what went wrong.

The kids then asked for a small group of peeps to raise as if the first clutch has hatched. They were able to raise five peeps into adolescence and successfully hatched four of the second clutch.

"They are parenting these birds with great love. They are something that all of the children hold in common," Chaplain Rotella said. "They come and sit with the birds, hold the birds, feed and water the birds, and introduce them to new foods. What a delight is will be when the hens lay the first eggs!"

In addition to taking care of their flock of chickens, the children in the group also help distribute fresh produce each week provided by the Hilltop Urban Farm.

Abiding Missions is at 731 Excelsior Street in Allentown. For more information, call 412-481-1161.


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