Port boys' hobby has everyone clucking

By Katie Curley , Staff Writer
Daily News of Newburyport

NEWBURYPORT - For Orren and Willy Fox, it started out a hobby - an unusual one, to be sure, for middle-schoolers.

But in less than a year, their interest in chickens has paid off handsomely, in the form of blue ribbons and countywide accolades.

The two brothers got a huge surprise Monday when they found they had won the Grand Champion Youth title in the poultry division, along with other prizes.

"This is just beyond what we ever thought, although we never even thought this could happen," Henry Fox, the boys' father said.

The two brothers are by no means chicken experts and had no prior experience raising chickens. But after entering their 11 chickens named after the two boys' favorite foods, such as Macaroni, Paprika and Biscuit, into the Topsfield Fair, they walked away with seven first place finishes and three best of show awards in the youth category. The 11 birds, all of various breeds, beat out 500 other birds and at least 150 youth entries to win, the Foxes said.

The most popular chicken, Cheesecake, won Youth Best Bird in Show. Orren, 10, and Willy, 13, also won the title of Grand Champion Youth and Youth Best Eggs.

"I was really proud of them when they won," Orren said. "After they came home, I know they were really happy so I was glad to bring them home."

It all started less than a year ago when Orren asked his mother and father if he could raise chickens in their newly constructed garage.

"When we told him no, he started to cry," Henry Fox said.

In efforts to appease their son, the Foxes spoke with the owner of the Oak Valley Farm in Newbury, Julie Price, and she soon hired Orren as a volunteer.

Every Saturday Orren would take care of Price's chickens and feed the horses. As payment, Price gave Orren a small section of a barn to house chickens of his own, Henry said.

"Chickens have always been my favorite animal," Orren said.

Orren and his brother Willy bought chickens from Danvers Agway, set up a small heating unit using lightbulbs and made sure the chickens had adequate feed and space in the barn.

"Every day, I go over to the farm and collect eggs, change water, give the chickens more feed and play with them," Orren said. "I hold them in my hand or they sit on my head."

Parents Henry and Libby say the boys' chicken farming is teaching them a lot of responsibility.

"It's awesome for them to learn the responsibility of taking care of a living thing," Henry said. "They can't decide just not to go one day."

Orren keeps a detailed journal of his experiences with the chickens, recording any changes in behavior and how many eggs he got that day. With the prize money generated from his winnings, Orren and Willy have bought three new chickens - Sugar, Lola and Cocoa - to add to their growing farm.

"Next year, I want to win the Grand Champion title, not just the youth division," Orren said.

For the time being, Orren is using his reign as Youth Grand Champion to teach his friends at the Glen Urquhart School in Beverly Farms about the cruelty of chicken consumption.

"My biggest goal is to let people know (roughly 8 billion) chickens a year get slaughtered, so I want people to know not to eat chicken," Orren said.

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