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They're raising the roosters for Ag Expo

July 29, 2000

They're raising the roosters for Ag Expo



By KERRI SACCHET / Staff Writer


Brian Forsythe doesn't mind going to his family's farm every morning and evening to feed the white-feathered capon roosters that lack the comb on top of their head and have white feathers instead of the usual reddish-brown coat.

The 15-year-old, along with his sister Tracey, 9, and his cousin Ben Calimer, 14, is ready for the challenge of presenting and selling their six capons during this year's Ag Expo.

Ag Expo runs from Aug. 5 to 11 at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Md. 65, about six miles south of Hagerstown. The 4-H/FFA Market Animal Sale will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11.

The three youngsters, who share all the duties of caring for the roosters, take turns weighing the birds every other week, bathing them and feeding them. They keep the capons in a pen off of Downsville Pike at Linden Hall, an orchard and dairy farm owned by their grandparents.

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They started out with eight capons they purchased June 1, but two of the castrated roosters died last week.

Joanna Calimer, Ben's mother, said the capons must be raised delicately to prevent complications that can arise quickly with the roosters.

"Their hearts are weak, and if they eat too much they grow too quickly and could die," she said.

The loss of two capons has not discouraged the group, which continues to take care of the remaining six.

Forsythe said the roosters will need to grow larger before the Ag Expo competition, so he will increase the amount of feed they receive.

"I feed them more now than I did when they were chicks," he said. "I give them a little bit of cat food because it gives shine to their coats."

Joanna Calimer said the judges at last year's poultry contest wanted plump, filled-out capons. It can be difficult trying not to overfeed or underfeed them, she said.

Washing the live poultry, with the claws at the end of their big feet, and rinsing them in a second bin is an adventure, the youngsters said.

"We washed them and then they went and rolled around and got dirty again," Ben Calimer said.

Joanna Calimer said this is the first year the capons will be sold in the Washington County 4-H Market Animal Sale.

The group had to find their own bidders for their poultry. "I got my orthodontist, Dr. (Breese) Dickinson, and Leiters' Catering," Forsythe said.

Finding bidders is only one step in the process of raising and presenting the roosters.

Each youngster spent about $10 on the capon project, which is much less than the cost of maintaining their other livestock, such as the cattle. It can cost as much as $600 to maintain one cow, Joanna Calimer said.

Receiving a profit from the sale is not a big concern for the group. They just want to break even, the three agreed.

When not taking care of the capons, all three 4-H club members attend dairy and poultry club meetings, and Brian and Ben also attend the gardening club.

"Brian grows potatoes, carrots, onions ... Ben grows tomatoes, peppers, and he just started growing cabbage," Joanna Calimer said. "They then sell it in the orchard business to save money for the expenses."

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