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Something to Cluck About
Written by Kelly Chandler Staff Reporter

Sarah Grace Ferber, 11, of Upper Hanover Township, lets some of her fancy chickens eat from her hands as she feeds them cracked corn. Ferber is an avid writer who recently placed in her age bracket for a Backyard Poultry magazine writing contest.  

                You wouldn't call Sarah Grace Ferber a tomboy.

                But while many girls her age are engrossed in jewelry-making, gossip and fashion, the 11-year-old is more interested in her two golden-laced wyandottes, two speckled sussex and a bearded d'uccle bantam.

                Oh, and a buff brahma standard and bantam, mild cochin bantam, salmon faverolle, self-black polish, guinea hens and a peachick.  And while there isn't a partridge in a pear tree at present, Ferber said she is also interested in getting a bobwhite or two in the future.

                 In case you don't speak poultry, she is an avid fan of fowl.

                "I've always loved chickens," Ferber said.  "They are so gentle and each of them has their own personality."

                Ferber and her mom, Barbara, have been raising chickens and other poultry for a few years at their Upper Hanover home.  In fact, the family moved from a development in Dublin to the wooded property to accommodate their hobby.  Over the years their flock grew as they took in abandoned guinea hens and also inherited several peacocks, geese and emus from a friend who passed away.

                In addition to Sarah Grace's birds, which also include recently adopted ducks named "Dahlia" and "Daffodil," they have a dog, a cat and a bearded dragon.

                While many of the fowl are kept at a farm in Bally, Sarah Grace makes it her mission to routinely care for them at both locations.  In Upper Hanover she changes the water in the kiddie pools for the geese and waters and feeds the flock each morning; even in freezing cold temperatures.  She visits the Bally farm about every other day. 

                She has raised many of the birds by hand.

                "We choose them based on their compatibility with children," she said.  "When they are little I bring them in the house, I have them in my lap.  I read to them.  They are very intelligent."

                The young Ferber has accomplished some pretty amazing things with the poultry.  The peachick, a 6-month-old named "Peachy Caramel" whose mother survived a traumatic spinal injury, has learned how to climb up and down the stairs and ride in an electric Barbie car around the house, thanks to her owner. 

                Many of the birds are tame enough to ride in an outdoor infant swing and Ferber even taught a chicken named Hannah to play the xylophone, an act which has garnered her interest at area pet shows.

                "I can teach them easily," she explained.  "Some people say, 'they're just chickens', but they are like a cat or a dog to me."  

                She has participated in local 4-H clubs, like Montgomery County's Birds of a Feather, but she and her mother, a former vet tech, are now looking into starting an animal sanctuary called "Heaven's Hens and Feathered Friends" once the family finds a suitable property with a pond.

                Sarah Grace said she wants to pique other kids' interest in the birds.  She stressed the health benefits of being outdoors and not being tied to a computer or gaming device for hours at a time.

                "With today's technology kids are not spending a lot of time outdoors in God's creation," she said.  "If you have animals outside it teaches responsibility and caring for other living things."           

                But she is also passionate about something else.  In addition to fishing, hiking, canoeing and photography, the homeschool student is an ardent writer. 

                She recently won runner-up in her age bracket for a submission to Backyard Poultry magazine.  Dubbed Gertrude McCluck and Chubby Mealworm's 2014 Writer's Contest, it asked children to craft a story on McCluck, a fictitious chicken detective.  Her name is listed, along with her peers', in this month's issue. 

                According to the magazine's editorial staff, there were approximately 800 entries, Barbara Ferber said.  Sarah Grace's story revolves around a mysterious egg which appears in the nest of a Jersey Giant hen.  McCluck has to unravel its origin.  

                Sarah Grace, who said she has loved reading and writing poems for as long as she can remember, is humble about her achievement but said she wants other kids to know how worthwhile raising poultry can be. 

                "It's really rewarding.  It's not just about the eggs you get," she said, although the family agreed that was an added bonus.  "You can also get a really good companion."    





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