“$5,000 for a turkey coop? Really?”
In 2014, Environmental Learning Centers of CT, Inc. (ELCCT) received a grant award from the Foundation to build a new turkey coop.
The design will allow for optimal housing conditions for the Center’s flock of turkeys at ELCCT’s Indian Rock Nature Preserve.
ELCCT is a private, non-profit education and land preservation organization serving the residents of Connecticut. Each year, more than 44,000 children and adults participate in ELCCT programs. Its educators provide quality environmental programs and activities to over 200 schools throughout the State. Additionally, ELCCT has preserved over 640 acres of land in central Connecticut.
According to Erin O’Connell, Coordinator of Volunteer Services and Animal Care, “We have urban areas within a twenty mile radius of ELCCT with limited access to farms. One program we offer is called Turkey Time. This program is often the first opportunity many children have to observe and interact with real, live turkeys up close.”
ELCCT’s three turkeys, two toms and one hen, help students understand Connecticut’s heritage of having native wild turkeys, their niche in the natural environment, and their relationship with people throughout history. The “Broad Breasted” turkeys were bred from a native breed to produce meat. Turkey Time stimulates curiosity, therefore students become interested and excited about learning where their food comes from.
The turkeys will need to be replaced within the next year or two, as they are nearing the end of their life expectancies. One member of the flock died of natural causes last year. “The new turkeys will look similar to wild turkeys, rather than domestic meat producers,” explained O’Connell. “We are exploring the possibility of obtaining chicks of the Narraganset or Standard Bronze breeds.”
Ms. O’Connell explained that summer camp at Indian Rock offers age-appropriate programs to extend learning about animal science and farming. These programs provide opportunities for children to learn to care for animals under adult supervision: feeding, watering, grooming, cleaning stalls, conducting health and wellness checks, and documenting animal care.
Adolescents have access to more in-depth learning opportunities that teach them about specialized farming techniques, genetics, and how to preserve heritage breeds. ELCCT’s partnerships with area high schools, including Southington High School and Wamogo Regional High School’s agriculture programs, enable students to earn academic credit through their experiences at Indian Rock Nature Preserve.
The new turkey coop is essential to sustaining and expanding current programming. The coop will be built inside a paddock, and will be designed to provide optimal housing conditions for six turkeys. The toms will have separate areas in the coop as well as in the paddock, encouraging them to forage in the field naturally and live peacefully with one another. The larger design will include an indoor viewing and seating area, a display area for the educator’s props, electricity, large windows for natural lighting, and improved ventilation. It will also be much easier to access and clean.
The grant award was made from the following funds at Main Street Community Foundation: Bristol Brass General Grant Fund, Merriman Family Fund, Turkus Family Fund, and the Ciccarelli-Vitale Community Advancement Fund. ELCCT plans to begin construction of the new turkey coop in the Summer of 2015.