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New hens rule the roost at Canmore coop

Introduced in 2016 as an educational partnership between the two schools, the idea was born in an Alpenglow classroom when the teacher and students started talking about what animal the class pet should be.
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CANMORE – Meet the new chicks on the block.

Eggs-cited to present the new flock, Canmore Collegiate High School vice principal Hans Holthuis and Alpenglow School teacher Maureen Fraser introduced the dozen new chicks that will be part of the educational poultry journey.

"Some kids say it is the highlight of their year," Fraser explained at the coop in between feeding the chicks, noting at the end of the school year the Alpenglow students have a sharing circle to discuss their favourites part of the year which often include skiing, snowboarding and the chickens.

Introduced in 2016 as an educational partnership between the two schools, the idea was born in an Alpenglow classroom when the teacher and students started talking about what animal the class pet should be. Throwing around ideas about bringing in a gerbil or some type of fish, the teachers said the discussion then switched to where food comes from and what goes into your food, resulting in the Alpenglow children settling on a classroom chicken.

Classified as a restricted animal in the Town of Canmore bylaw, the school then began working with Alberta Health Services, Alberta Conservation, Canmore Collegiate High School and the Town of Canmore to figure out how to move to project forward.

Living so close to wildlife corridors where bears and cougars roam, teachers decided to built the coop in the CCHC atrium that was underutilized at the time and give the space a new sense of purpose, as it also provided the security needed for the brood with a double door enclosure and chicken wire at the top to prevent any "fowl" play.

Once approved and built, teachers said third time was the charm to get two chicks from the incubated eggs, named Storm and Frosty, due to their birthdates during a winter snow storm. By the fourth time incubating eggs, they had a full hen house with 12 chicks, as approved by the amended bylaw.

A couple years later and no longer winging it, Holthuis explained the teachers decided to have a whole coop 'refresh' rehoming the older hens to farms in Alberta and bringing in a whole new brood.

Hatched in June, at almost 10 weeks old, with students from every grade involved with the incubation process, 12 new chicks are part of the poultry program awaiting to be renamed.

"We know this one is Lemonade," Fraser said with a laugh, pointing out the lightest chick who was camera shy. "But everyone else has changed so much I don't know if we would be able to tell who is who."

With families volunteering to help over the summer to feed the chicken and clean the coops, Fraser said the new flock should be ready to lay eggs by mid-November.

"Originally we thought we could use the eggs in the food program but we can't," Holthuis explained.

While not meeting the standard for certified eggs in the province, the teachers explained they are allowed to sell the eggs to school families and those interested who understand they are buying non-certified eggs.

"There are a lot of people interested – these eggs are in high demand," Holthuis said, noting the money from the egg sales goes back into chick care such as food.

The educational programs start up again this fall in partnership with the older grades from Alpenglow and CCHC students in agricultural classes.

"It is an all around learning process," the teachers said.

For those interested on keeping updated with the new chicks at the Canmore Collegiate High School as part of the Alpenglow Educational Poultry Journey visit alpenglowschool.ca/chickens 



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Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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