Students are maintaining Merry Lea’s new livestock barn each day in the environmental education graduate program.
Students in the sustainability semester care for the chickens in the fall and graduate students care for them in the spring. During May term, the Ornithology class members have the opportunity to care for the chickens.
Abbey Bradley, a 22 year-old student in the graduate program, currently cares for the chickens every morning at 8 a.m. They are currently being changed over to an organic feed so the chickens are healthier and the eggs will be a better quality.
Each chicken usually lays one egg a day. However, the chickens need 14 hours of sunlight to produce this egg. They get this artificial sunlight from heat lamps inside the barn, which also keep the chickens warm in the freezing temperatures. The eggs are sold to local farmers markets and are sometimes brought to the Goshen College campus to be sold.
If the chickens eventually stop producing eggs, as they usually do at a certain age, then the chickens will be eaten. Along with the chickens, Merry Lea also has Guineas, which are tropical birds that use heat lamps like the chickens, but they do not lay eggs. Instead, the birds are used as protection; the spotted guineas have a loud squawk that would scare off any snake, fox, or deer that tried to eat them or the chickens.
Merry Lea’s "egg-mobile," which is a moveable chicken coop, is not currently being used because it is too cold for the chickens outside. During the warmer months of the year, the chickens are free range but come back to the egg-mobile for the night. It is insulated for warmth and also protects the chickens from being attacked at night.
In addition to their chickens, Merry Lea hopes to finish a new animal barn that is currently under construction that eventually adds cows and goats to expand their livestock.