Have chicks, will travel: Panhandle beauty queen on mission to educate youth, promote 4-H program

11-year-old Emma Weeks of Sunny Hills takes her chickens seriously – and she is working to help educate youth in the Florida Panhandle about not only the lifecycle and contributions of chickens, but also about the value of a life deeply rooted in the Florida 4-H Youth Development Program.

The Washington County Christian School student first discovered her love for keeping chickens at age 8 when she joined the 4-H livestock club and began participating in the 4-H poultry project known as the “Chick Chain.” 

“After just a few meetings and picking up my new chicks that were ordered, I knew that this was something that I would stick with,” said Weeks

Weeks states she quickly fell in love with raising her newly acquired chicks and everything that went with them.

“Since then, I have had the opportunity to become a young entrepreneur,” Weeks wrote in an article about her chicken keeping which was published in the national publication, “Chickens” magazine. “My operation started with selling my birds’ fresh eggs to family and friends, but, quickly, I became interested in more rare and critically endangered breeds.”

Weeks currently has about eight flocks consisting of Golden Cuckoo Marans, Red Shouldered, Yokohamas, Ayam Cemanis, Blue Jersey Giants, Standard Blue Laced Red Wyandottes. She is also working on her own, homegrown line of White Marans. 

But Weeks doesnÂ’t keep her talents to herself.

She has been visiting elementary schools in Chipley, Vernon, and Bay County to help educate children about embryology and to stress the benefits of 4-H.

“I speak to the students about 4-H and show them embryology and how to incubate chicks,” said Weeks. “I bring the incubator and the eggs, and 21 days later, they get to see the babies hatch. They keep them for one or two weeks, and then I go pick them up.”

Her mother, Lindsey Weeks, says 4-H involvement is a family tradition. 

“So many students we found in this area have no idea what 4-H is,” she said. “I showed cows when I was a member, and it’s a great way to learn leadership skills and responsibility. Today, many complain about kids staying on electronic devices and not going outside. This is a great way to get involved.”

As reigning Jr. Miss Northwest Florida, Weeks is making her passion her platform, in the form of her community initiative titled “The Eden Project”. That platform is all about helping spread the word of what 4-H has to offer, having quickly earned her the nickname of “Chicken Girl” in pageant circles.

Weeks says itÂ’s a title she wears proudly.

“Well, what do you call a fledgling preteen poultry entrepreneur?” laughs Weeks. “You call her ‘Chicken Girl’, of course!”

Weeks held a magazine signing at Tractor Supply in Chipley last Saturday and will also be on hand from 8 a.m. to noon this Saturday, April 24, at the Chipley FarmerÂ’s Market. 

Signed magazines may be purchased for a donation of $6, with all proceeds benefiting SparkyÂ’s Paradise Rescue Ranch in Vernon, an animal rescue for farm animals.