Some new members have joined Junee’s preschool community. But unlike their peers, these residents eat only scraps and wear only feathers.
Junee RSL Memorial Preschool took delivery of $12,000 in state funding earlier this year, which was then turned into roof solar panels and a freshly minted chicken coop.
“We’ve wanted a chook house for years, so when the grant came up we threw our hat in the ring,” said director Rebecca Hart.
“The grant means we were able to pay someone to make it look great.”
The new pets join the centre’s resident guinea pig, Snowball.
But more than the function served by the rodent, the chickens have proven to be effective learning tools.
“We’re teaching the kids about sustainability, and chickens can help them learn that,” said Ms Hart.
“We use their eggs for our cooking classes, and we’ve also got a garden going that we’re encouraging them to eat from.
“Getting the message across that things don’t have to come in packets, in fact it’s often better if they don’t.”
In return for their services, the chickens are given their fill.
“The kids are really great at composting,” said Ms Hart.
“They really get it and we use a lot of those scraps to feed the chickens.
“We must have the best fed chickens in town, they eat all our scraps,” she said.
“It teaches the kids about how we each interact together in this world, creatures and humans all together.”
Currently, the preschool hosts a variety of breeds, ranging from old English game, to silkies, bantams and several crossbreeds.
All of which were donated by the wider Junee community.
The preschool has also found itself in possession of two roosters, who will need to be re-homed as soon as possible.
“We wanted all different breeds to show the kids how they differ physically.”
“The kids are fascinated by them. They’ll station themselves on all sides of the house and watch them.
“They’re more than just fun to watch though.”
The next items on the preschool’s funding list also have a sustainability focus.
In September, the preschool received an additional $18,000 in drought-relief funding that will be used in part to set up water tanks.
“We’re always looking how to make ourselves self-sustainable,” said Ms Hart.
Being a centre of considerable size, water usage has typically been high.
“If we’ve got our own water tanks, we can teach the kids about how the rain can provide us with what we need,” said Ms Hart.
“Those are the habits that will stay with them their whole lives. It’s also something that will continue to benefit the preschool long-term.”
Since receiving the funding, the preschool’s committee has tallied a variety of feasible usages, but has found this to be the among the more worthwhile options.
“That money would disappear pretty quickly if we used it as fee-relief, and it would also leave us with the problem of who gets the fee-help.
“This way, we’ll have something that will benefit everyone and if we have any [funding] left over, we’ll regroup to decide how to best use it,” said Ms Hart.