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Tucked into the rural folds of southeastern Wisconsin, you’ll find an extraordinary place called Zachariah’s Acres (ZA). ZA connects children and young adults with special needs to nature and agriculture on its universally designed 48-acre campus. The campus boasts rows of raised bed gardens, orchards, apiaries, walking trails, greenhouses, butterfly gardens, fishing ponds, and yes, chickens.
ZA is home to 63 happy hens. These girls are downright spoiled. That’s because they are cared for by dozens of volunteers, three full-time staffers, and the hundreds of guests the non-profit serves weekly. And you know what that means — plenty of scratch grain treats and leftovers from the ZA gardens.
The ZA layers give back in many ways. On the day Backyard Poultry visited the campus, ZA was hosting guests from the Service Without Boundaries program of YMCA at Pabst Farms. Service Without Boundaries connects young adults with disabilities to programs where they can access vocational skill training. ZA hosts many groups during the week, including school groups of all ages. Most groups visit bi-monthly or monthly. The Service Without Boundaries folks are among the regulars. Emily Enockson, Director of Community Impact, jokes: “They basically own the place.”
Guests like those from Service Without Boundaries help with the chickens, whether that’s filling waterers or feeders or collecting eggs. The two full-time coops are wheelchair accessible, and eggs are easily collected from the back side of the coop. Each nesting box is accessible through a small external door. “We build everything to the chair, whether that’s our chicken coops or our raised beds or our paved greenhouse. We never want any guest to be excluded from our activities,” says Enockson.
Once the outdoor chores are complete, the guests wash and package the bounty. The eggs are sold through ZA’s CSA at $6/dozen. Extra eggs are sold locally at Stone Bank Market in Oconomowoc, near the campus. All egg sales go to funding the non-profit’s programs and operations. In addition to fresh eggs, there are plenty of chicken cuddles for guests from the likes of Clementine, Rosalita Jr., Esmeralda, and Chick-a-dee — a few of the calmest hens. ZA raises Easter Eggers, Sex Links, Australorps, Brown Leghorns, and ISO Reds, among other breeds.
So how does a non-profit go from zero to 60 when raising chickens? Two words: Chicken Math. In 2015, the first year of full operation, ZA ordered their first flock: 12 chicks. It seemed like a reasonable starting point. Through a clerical error, they received 24 chicks instead — no turning back now! Even with a few early stumbles, the chicken operation runs smoothly now. They acquire new chicks each year — about 30 — to support their CSA egg share. When the pullets start laying, the third-year flock lives out the remainder of their days on a nearby independent farm, happily free-ranging and continuing to lay fresh eggs.
The expense of the operation is lightened through a partnership with Nutrena. Nutrena provides the flocks with feed, scratch grains, and oyster shell supplements at no cost to ZA. Nutrena also covers the expense of the yearly chicks, which are supplied through Adentroth’s Hatchery in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Friends of Nature, a local pet food supplier, chips in bedding and egg cartons.
To learn more about Zachariah’s Acres, visit https://www.zachariahsacres.org/
Originally published in the April/May 2020 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.