CASA GRANDE — Through a hen-egg program at Casa Grande Union High School, students are learning the ins and outs of egg production, how to care for the laying hens and how to market and sell the eggs.

There are five students involved in the laying hen project: sophomores Riata Boyle, Canyon Teel, Hannah Hartman, Reid Barnes and Brooklynn Lopez.

“We all work together to raise 45 pastured laying hens and we each have a share of the project,” Boyle said. “We split up the weeks to take care of the hens.”

Among the tasks the students do to run the project are feeding the birds, collecting eggs and packaging the eggs to sell.

“As each have their own week, each student has access to sell an unlimited amount of eggs. At the end of the month, we all cover the cost of feed and the remaining is individual profit,” Boyle said.

The group sells eggs in small, medium, large and extra large sizes.

Small and medium eggs sell for $2 a dozen. Large and extra large are sold for $4.

The eggs are sold mostly through word-of-mouth and at Desert Water & Ice in Casa Grande, but the students have also set up booths in places like the C-A-L Ranch retail store, where the school also sells its processed chickens.

“We were able to organize that with one of the managers at the store,” Boyle said. “We were able to get so much from this experience and people were even kind enough to make donations to our program.”

For the students in the program, the experience in valuable, Boyle said.

Boyle, who competes in high school rodeo barrel racing and poles competitions, uses the profits from her share to care for her horse.

“I’ve done rodeos since I was 5 years old,” she said. “It’s nice to have the extra money to care for my horse.”

Hartman said she has learned about the different aspects of egg production through the program.

“Personally I have learned how to put in work and effort into marketing and taking care of a small production,” she said. “As well as handling money and basic animal care.”

Expenses and responsibility are the key lessons Barnes has learned from the program.

“I have learned how to care for chickens and the responsibility needed to care and collect from them. Also I learned how to manage my expenses and to keep my clientele close so that I make a pretty substantial profit per month,” she said.

Lopez said the program taught her about the business side of egg production.

“I have learned how to create a customer list and be reliable to them. I have also learned how to handle my money and set goals for how much profit I want to earn for each month,” she said.

Teel said she enjoys the program and has also learned a lot and feels it will help make her be a better salesperson in the future.

“I have learned so much from this program. I have had the opportunity to buy into it and make a profit from it. I have also learned so much about the laying hens, that I spent more money on my own. I have been able to make a profit from this and have learned how to communicate with customers,” she said. “I have learned how much time and effort you have to put into your business to receive an outcome.”

While the hen project is a new program for students, the school for years has raised chickens and turkeys, immersing FFA members in all aspects of production — from raising chicks, feeding them, watching them grow to humanely slaughtering, processing, packing and marketing the birds.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.